The B.E. 100s: Bloodied, But Unbowed

A year ago, I told you that our most recent economic downturn, one of the most devastating in decades, would swiftly and definitively separate the wheat from the chaff at all levels of industry, from global corporations to mom-and-pop shops to e-commerce ventures. I was right. I also predicted that in 2009, we would see our economy begin to recover, thanks in no small part to the leadership and policies of President Barack Obama. Though a lot more work needs to be done to achieve a compete recovery, it has.

And finally, I said that the challenges of a difficult economy would show us what we are made of; that the best of us would emerge leaner, tougher, stronger, and better prepared than ever to face the challenges and exploit the opportunities of the future. As I look back over the trials and triumphs over the past year, I am more convinced of this than ever. To be sure, black-owned businesses—and Black Enterprise is no exception—had to battle for every piece of business in 2009. Yet once you finish reading this issue of BE, featuring the 38th annual listing of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses, you’ll come to the same conclusion that we have: the standard bearers of black business leadership are bloodied, but unbowed. The BE100s continue to distinguish themselves as among the best and brightest in American industry, showing that there’s nothing like a fight for survival to inspire financial discipline, operational efficiency, industry innovation and, ultimately, performance excellence. For evidence, we need look no further than our 2010 BE100s Companies of the Year.

For example, Thompson Hospitality, the Herndon, Virginia-based food services business led by CEO Warren M. Thompson, has generated double-digit year-over-year revenue growth each year since it was founded in 1992. And despite an economy in which most companies lost revenues, Thompson Hospitality continued its streak, with a 15.5% increase in annual revenues in 2009. This consistent growth, through good economies and bad, is due in large part to the company’s willingness to reinvent itself to match the realities of the marketplace—evolving from a strictly retail-restaurant strategy to a diversified food business with management operations in corporate dining, colleges and universities, and K–12 school districts, as well as restaurants and even a gourmet convenience store. Thompson Hospitality’s consistently strong performance, both in 2009 and over nearly two decades, has earned our recognition as this year’s Industrial/Service Company of the Year.

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