we did $3.6 million — and [in 2001] we were expected to do somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million to $6 million. We ended up doing $3.9 million.” Looking ahead, Leffall says his goal is to at least match 2001’s revenues.
Leffall, 34, who started the business back in 1996, began battening down the hatches at the first signs of turbulence. “Probably about four months prior to Sept. 11 we had noticed a slowing down in terms of the types of job orders we were getting.” He and his four full-time employees looked for ways to cut corners. They began marketing their services on the Internet, rather than paying to have brochures printed, and they put more effort into networking independently, avoiding registration fees and other costs tied to participating in job fairs.
Despite the slowdown, he sees positive signs ahead and remains “cautiously optimistic,” echoing the sentiments of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. “In the past four to six weeks we’ve noticed an increase in job orders,” Leffall explained. “A client that we haven’t heard from in months is calling us for temporary positions. We’re a little more optimistic now versus a couple of months ago.”
BE economist Thomas Boston points out that, in terms of parity, African Americans still have a way to go toward increasing black business ownership. “We still have to address the broader societal issues, in and of themselves, and as those issues correct themselves — to whatever extent they correct themselves — then we’ll begin to see more parity.” He recommends looking wit
hin black communities to identify areas of opportunity in which existing black-owned businesses or potential entrepreneurs could participate. “We just have to begin to sort of put [together] a laundry list of areas, in the public as well as the private sector, where we can begin to involve entrepreneurs.” Boston also suggests that black business owners should forge strategic alliances and partnerships with larger major corporations to become suppliers or partners.
The board advises entrepreneurs to take systematic steps to identify and pursue profit opportunities. “A business should be driven by profit opportunities and frequently I think people start businesses because they have a desire either to have a business themselves or they have one or more broader social desires,” says BE economist Darrell Williams.
“What does a recession mean to the average African American and what actions should we take to survive it?” — Annie T., Memphis, Tennessee
African Americans are more likely as a group to be unemployed or to lose their jobs as a result of a recession, according to Simms, because of race neutral considerations like seniority. “It’s also because some of the crowding that takes place, in terms of the kinds of jobs that African Americans have, tends to be in industries and businesses that have wider swings…with regard to changes in economic activity.” For example, Sept. 11, which impacted the travel industry dramatically, affected many African Americans who serviced travelers as taxi drivers, hotel maids, and redcaps. When the travel industry slumped, they lost