By next year, Janice Bryant Howroyd has ambitious plans to boost revenues to $3 billion at her staffing solutions firm, ActOne Group. If realized, that would be a $200 million revenue gain for the nation’s largest certified, woman-minority-owned full-service staffing agency.
Howroyd’s business is a BE 100s company, capturing the No. 2 spot on the Black Enterprise annual listing of America’s largest black-owned businesses. It maintained that ranking with $2.8 billion in yearly revenues for 2018 and 2017. In her new book, Acting Up: Winning In Business and Life Using Down-Home Wisdom (Lioncrest Publishing, $22.99) out this month, she details growth tools and strategies for her California-based company.
“At the ActOne Group, we are a company of entrepreneurs all working under the belief that together, we win,” Howroyd says. “The key thing is having an inclusive decision-making team who, once a decision is made, rally to it.”
A businesswoman and entrepreneur for over 40 years, Howroyd is the first black woman to break the billion-dollar revenue mark with her company. Her book provides an inside look at how she made the transition from humble beginnings–growing up in a family of 11 children in the segregated South–to become one of the country’s richest African American women with a $400 million fortune.
She has evolved to become a top executive in the multi-billion-dollar staffing industry. Her firm is a global enterprise, offering employment, workforce, and procurement solutions to a broad range of industries, Fortune 500 organizations, local and mid-market companies, and government agencies. It operates in 19 counties, has 17,00 clients, and employs more than 2,600 people.
The book includes vital advice on how the next generation of entrepreneurs can tap into their own roots to achieve success. In Acting Up, Howroyd also chronicles how her ride to extraordinary success was not a cakewalk, including reflecting on barriers and adversity she faced. She offers a look at the philosophy she lives by and continues to practice as a leader. Also a mentor, educator, author, ambassador, and speaker, Howroyd shares how she strives for good, growth, and innovation in her business and family life. Further, budding and seasoned entrepreneurs can gain insight from the book on how to disrupt, innovate, and overcome in the challenging business world.
Black Enterprise connected with Howroyd via email to get a glimpse of her fresh book.
BE: Where do you see future growth coming from for your company?
Bryant Howroyd: One of the areas of growth I’m pumped about is our newest staffing brand, AllSTEM Connections Inc. As a diversity certified staffing agency, AllSTEM streamlines job fulfillment through expert-level recruiting and sourcing specialists who understand the nomenclature, nuances, and screening methods necessary to ensure we are delivering leading STEM talent to our clients.
AllSTEM fulfills the work and the dream I have engaged in guiding careers and transforming a business! It was only natural I turned to one of my most valuable executives, Peter Carvalho, to lead this initiative of creating a multi-generational talent stream of uniquely-skilled jobsters to connect with companies worldwide.
It’s not just exciting for me to ‘play’ in this STEM sector; it’s a mission. Ensuring minorities and women are getting the champion career sponsorship and guidance that we are so good at means a lot to me. AllSTEM offers direct hire and contract opportunities to the diverse community working population, of which I am a part.
What are among the biggest ongoing challenges for your company and how do you overcome them?
The inherent challenges minorities and women face are not dispensed based upon size and often–surprising to many–grow larger as the businesses grow. One area that is as rich in challenges as in opportunities is making the right technology decisions. Develop, buy, or aggregate? This is a very green space; and for any company not engaging true technologists to help make decisions, obsolescence can quickly occur. This is an expensive decision area, as well. So, I, like any leader, must keep learning in this iterative area.
As a noted top executive in your industry and a towering inspiration for many black entrepreneurs, what prompted you to write the book now?
Over the last two years, I’ve visited many campuses and attended many conferences. The questions I’m most asked at these are the ones I answer in Acting Up!
What are the biggest obstacles that halt entrepreneurs from becoming profitable and how can they overcome them?
The obstacles halting entrepreneurs from becoming profitable are as many as the misses. They include, but by no means are limited to, not valuing good financial advice when their own skillset may not lean there, not knowing when to pivot or break, poor hiring practices, and not creating strong banking relationships that respect them.
You talk about leadership philosophy ranging from empowering teams, running a business in challenging times, staying positive despite setbacks, and dealing with success itself. How can exercising those principles help business owners experience and sustain growth?
While these philosophies certainly help to sustain and grow businesses, they help to sustain and grow the individual. Too many big, successful businesses are being led by small, unhappy people. It doesn’t have to be that way.
You have been phenomenally successful as a black woman entrepreneur. What top advice would you give to the next generation of black entrepreneurs before they open or expand a business?
The advice I’d give to the next generation of black entrepreneurs on opening or expanding a business is the same I’d give to any entrepreneur: Be clear about why you’re doing it and honest to those who invest it in. Have a vetted, banked recovery plan for year two that sustains the business if it’s expanding. Respect the power of technology. Share the rise. Keep your Black Enterprise subscriptions updated and followed! And…for black entrepreneurs: Racism isn’t dead, but don’t you help to keep it alive!