Each year, Black Enterprise ranks the largest black-owned businesses in the nation. While a monumental undertaking, it truly is a labor of love for us to report the state of black business in the U.S., highlighting the achievements of intrepid entrepreneurs at the helms of top-flight organizations and informing our readers exactly how these be 100s CEOs and their teams build and maintain sustainable enterprises.
This year’s theme, Rethink Business, is not just the banner for this issue’s package of articles—it’s a directive to current and future entrepreneurs. It is also echoed in our 2011 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo hosted by Nationwide held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel from May 22–25. Little more than a decade into the new millennium and it’s clear that entrepreneurial success in the 21st century requires an entirely new approach. Things taken for granted—increasing real estate values, stability of established global financial institutions, and unassailability of the automotive industry—can no longer be assumed.
The wayside is littered with the remnants of ventures whose management teams made fatal assumptions. Those that survived understood past performance is no guarantee of future success and that as business conditions change and the economic climate shifts, so must their companies. And in the digital age, knowledge truly is power. This is one reason we continue to chronicle the state of black-owned business and highlight the successes (and missteps) of their CEOs—to keep our audience informed of not only the business climate but also how companies are evolving to succeed within it.
Entrepreneurship has never been for the faint of heart, and that’s truer today than ever before. Today’s leaders must be fearless, tenacious, and adaptable in the face of a changing environment. The entities that vaulted to Company of the Year status make a strong case why it’s important that you adopt a new approach to conducting business.
Take Bernard Beal, CEO of this year’s Financial Services Company of the Year, M.R. Beal & Co. As a brash child, he was so sure of himself that he once took an exam that required 66 out of 100 questions be answered correctly to pass. Beal answered only 66 questions and left the rest blank. Each one he answered, however, was correct. Whether it was confidence or arrogance that fueled him, Beal went on to excel on Wall Street before launching his highly successful firm that eventually landed one of the largest minority-led municipal bond underwriting deals in New York City history.
Our Auto Dealer of the Year, Bob Ross Buick/GMC and Mercedes-Benz is a profile in the strength and tenacity of a family business. Many entrepreneurial ventures fail following the death of a founder. But Ross’ wife, Norma, and daughter, Jenell, along with his son, Robert Jr., took up the reins and continued to grow the business. When Norma took ill and passed away during the worst downturn the automotive industry has ever seen, Jenell stepped in and not only kept the company afloat but also added a new brand to its list—Italian automaker Fiat.
“At Black Enterprise, we embrace stories of entrepreneurs that beat the odds to achieve great success or develop the mousetrap that was once unthinkable,” says Editor-In-Chief Derek T. Dingle. “How do we do it each year? We have our own daring editorial and events teams who may rethink our approach but never lose sight of providing information, instruction, and inspiration for our audience.”