Earl G. Graves Jr., President & CEO of Black Enterprise
On a number of occasions, you’ve probably heard me refer to technology as “the great equalizer.” It’s true. Proper and effective use can enhance the sales, financial, and marketing performance of any company; deepen customer and personal relationships; and enrich all aspects of our busy lives.
I have only to look to my own daily interactions to fully demonstrate the benefits of a tech-driven lifestyle. Running a business like Black Enterprise requires a 24/7/365 focus, so I find it vital to have the essential tools to track developments of each division, immediately access contacts, stay abreast of my finances and investments, and regularly touch base with family—especially with three kids attending out-of-state colleges. (Have any of you ever had the experience of calling your kids and having them text you back or being declined as a Facebook friend?) Clearly, I find my Blackberry and iPad critical to managing my business and life.
Over the past few years, I have witnessed that an increasing number of African Americans—especially those among the Millennial set—have become plugged into tech, largely due to the fact that we own more cell phones than any other demographic group and our Internet usage has grown exponentially. Moreover, African Americans have used these devices to dominate social media networks. In fact, the most recent Pew Internet study revealed that African Americans over indexed on Twitter: Blacks represent 25% of Twitter traffic but comprise 13% of the U.S. population.
While narrowing the digital divide should be viewed as a most positive development, I find too much of our social media chatter has been focused on celebrity gossip and ridiculous commentary on reality shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta. I believe that a far more effective use of social media should be tied to information related to personal and financial advancement, especially for entrepreneurs. Business owners should apply social media strategies to connect with customers, gain visibility, and promote products and services.
We must also realize that there’s more to tech than using Twitter or liking an item on a Facebook page. As I have stated in previous columns, technology levels the playing field. A small firm can operate with the same effectiveness as a corporate giant and engage in global marketing through the Internet. We have continuously shared such examples on the pages of our Tech section as well as the small business and tech channels on BlackEnterprise.com. The truth of the matter is that most small companies operate in the 21st century business environment with 20th century tools. For instance, the National Small Business Association found that only 41% of firms use automated payroll services. And too many African American entrepreneurs are simply being left behind because they haven’t made basic investments in new technology—for example, opting out of a back-up storage system for critical information is a recipe for disaster.
As for Black Enterprise, I have charged our senior management team and MIS department with looking for ways to upgrade our operations with the latest hardware and software. I know if we engage in thorough planning and execution, our company will realize a considerable return on investment. Our recent upgrades have resulted in greater collaboration and cost savings in content development, audience outreach, and customer service across our print, digital, broadcast, and events platforms.
As entrepreneurs, we must engage in continuous learning while employing technology to sharpen our companies’ competitive edge. We must identify applications and innovations to more efficiently develop products, effectively deliver services, and precisely target customers. By doing so, we will increase market share, build revenues, and take our enterprises to the next level.