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Next-Gen Entrepreneurs

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I recently had an opportunity to spend some time around a group of young people. It was very enlightening for me, because although they were very talented, they did not have the adult attention, guidance, and supervision needed to help them grow and develop in such a way that would allow them to maximize their gifts and abilities. Unfortunately, this is the plight of many of our youth today. So much of their talent goes unrealized, because they don’t have the right people in their lives to help pull the greatness out of them.

Personally, I consider myself more of a late bloomer as it relates to thinking entrepreneurially. Growing up I wish I had had someone to teach me the basics of entrepreneurship versus just telling me that best way to achieve success in life was to advance up the corporate ladder. If I only knew then what I know now about being able to create one’s destiny through entrepreneurship, the path I have taken might have been very different. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the experience, knowledge, and skills that I have been able to accumulate in corporate America; however, I definitely would have approached my career much differently.

This has led me to think creatively about possible ways to help our youth prepare a future that can have multiple paths to success, not just one. Here are some proactive steps that we can take to better prepare the next generation for a lifetime of success:

  1. More mentoring of our youth is needed in business, entrepreneurship, personal finances, and otherwise. These mentors should focus on helping our youth discover, develop, and maximize their gifts, abilities, and talents. They need to see the applications of skills that are both profitable and legal. They need to see positive role models that are making money and having a positive impact in their communities.
  2. Teach them what it means to be a true leader. Teach them how to apply leadership principles from a business and community perspective. Ethics along with social conscience must be at the center of these lessons.
  3. Develop them to be entrepreneurial thinkers. They need to learn to be problem-solvers, issue-resolvers, solutions-providers, and wealth-creaters. This will help to defeat the victim mentality that many of our youth have today. Learning to think like this is very important, because even if someone chooses to pursue a lifelong career in corporate America, they should still be entrepreneurial in their responsibilities and endeavors, providing a valuable return on (employee) investment to their organizations.
  4. Establish programs that can be integrated with their education that teaches entrepreneurial skills. If they cannot be integrated effectively in schools, then they must be community based. We need more thought leaders that can contribute innovative and creative ideas to the development of these types of programs.
  5. Help youth to start their own businesses. Current entrepreneurs should be on the forefront of this initiative, donating their time, talent, and resources to see that the next generation of entrepreneurs early on gets the knowledge, information, and other essentials needed to be successful in business and life. This will have positive economic and social benefits throughout the community.

If we look at various people groups around the world, and particularly in the U.S., part of their entrepreneurial success has been the fact that their businesses have been transferred generationally, allowing the next generation to continue to expand the wealth base that had already been created. African-Americans need to establish our own legacy of passing down profitable, successful businesses from one generation to the next in order to create generational wealth. We need to catch the vision and not just think about our own success, but of the future opportunities for success for our youth. Intentional action must be taken by those with the talent, resources, skills, and influence to position our youth to carry the mantle for generations to come, so that we will be able to realize the promise of the “latter house truly becoming greater than the former house” (Haggai 2:9, paraphrase).

Tags: , entrepreneur, leadership, youth entrepreneurship, youth ministry


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Thankful

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There are so many things to reflect upon at this time of the year for which we should be thankful. Especially, when we think about the pioneers and leaders that blazed the trails before us, such as DuBois, King, Malcolm, Vivian, Bethune, Mandela, Tubman, Parks, and many, many more that I would not attempt to name here, we would not have the opportunities in business that we have, let alone being able to exercise and enjoy our basic rights and freedoms as human beings.

Also, as we think about the predecessors in our own families, they may not have had famous names, but they each contributed in their own way to the myriad of opportunities that are open to us today to succeed and create generational wealth. The reason this is important to me is because my parents soon will celebrate another wedding anniversary. They have been married over 30 years. Although they may not have taught me how to be a businessman per se, they did teach me how to be a real man. And that will carry me a lot further in business than just knowing marketing, finance, purchasing, etc.

So, enjoy your turkey day, don’t get too stuffed, and don’t forget to thank God for the people he placed on earth to open the doors that have allowed the rest of us to succeed.

Thanks Mom and Dad!

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Not-So-Surprising Economic Impact from Immigrant Businesses

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In new research, Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter discovered that immigrants who live in inner cities are key catalysts to economic growth and urban investment. One quote of his in particular is very interesting:

The immigrants "change the very face of entrepreneurship in inner cities" and "provide a much-needed shot of economic vibrancy to distressed neighborhoods."

His study seems to validate what many of those who actually work to build up these communities have already known for a long time, which is minority entrepreneurship and small business development is a critical driver for economic growth. It's time to stop studying these issues and start making strategic investments into these communities in order to accelerate the economic impact and help alleviate some of the problems that exist there today. It's time for those with the resources and ideas to come together to create effective and long-lasting solutions that help these businesses grow. Small business growth is one of the key factors that will help to lift these neighborhoods and communities out of the conditions that they are in. This will not only benefit those communities, but also those who make the commitment to invest there.

Check out the rest of the article at USA Today.

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New Growth Strategies Needed

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The following excerpt is from a press release made by The Boston Consulting Group concerning the state of minority-owned businesses:

Impressive gains made by minority-owned businesses over the past few years stand to be squandered unless new growth strategies are adapted to compete in a rapidly changing business market, according to a new study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The report, The New Agenda for Minority Business Development, sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Kansas City, Missouri, argues that minority businesses are not maintaining pace with the larger U.S. business community and that a change of "mindset" is required to ensure sustained growth. The study further states that it is necessary for minority businesses to work with corporations as well as government agencies to better adjust and take advantage of the changing global marketplace.

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I believe that it is necessary reality that small and minority-owned businesses need to start thinking globally, not just locally. The world is getting "smaller," which means that it's also getting more competitive. With corporations able to get just about any product or service from just about anywhere around the world, small businesses need to be aware that their competitors aren't just down the street, but the are also across the globe. In order to stay in the game and succeed, these entrepreneurs need to start thinking beyond geographical boundaries and start thinking about how they can expand their products, processes, and delivery systems to serve the needs of global corporations. This is no longer a option - it has become a necessity for large and small companies alike.


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Suggestions for Small Biz

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In my work, I have been fortunate to see the good bad and ugly of small businesses. Based on my experiences and interactions with small businesses and large corporations, I have listed some thoughts and considerations to help increase your opportunities for success and growth:

  1. Define your core competencies. You can't be all things to all people.
  2. Based on your core competencies, develop a business strategy model that complements them. Get some help developing a comprehensive business plan. This allows you to put some feet to your faith and a deadline to your dream.
  3. Understand your target customer's business model to make sure that it's a good fit with your business model. You may have the flexibility to deal with different customers, but be careful. You might have to specialize in an industry rather than generalize across many.
  4. Understand that particular industry's business culture. Understand also that different companies within the same industry can have very different personalities.
  5. Become solutions oriented. Research and understand the challenges that your target companies are facing, and develop products and services that provide solutions to those challenges.
  6. Build relationships with key decision makers. The RFP process is too late to start that process. Sometimes there are long sales cycles, so be patient and work hard to establish a good rapport with those in purchasing and business units.
  7. Join industry trade groups of those companies that you are targeting. Often times relationships are established and strengthened at their yearly events. These events are also good occasions to learn more about the issues, challenges, and opportunities faced by industries and specific companies.
  8. Identify strategic partners that allow both of you to leverage your strengths, positioning each of you for larger and better contracting opportunities. Consider strategic alliances, 2nd tier, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions. It's better to get a piece of a larger pie than none of a smaller pie. Be creative - don't think that you always have to go it alone.

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Profitable Corporate Social Responsibility

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An area that is often overlooked when people discuss the profitability of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives is minority business development, i.e. Supplier Diversity. This is an area that has not been fully mined to discover innovative ideas and practices that not only serve to have a positive impact on minority communities, but also can provide a positive ROI back to invested corporations.

Supplier diversity often gets placed in the category of affirmative action as it relates to negative connotations of what the true purpose of these types of initiatives really are. Nevertheless, tangible value can be obtained from the performance of diverse suppliers. High performance organizations understand that supplier diversity is more of a supply chain issue than it is a diversity issue. Accenture completed a study that identifies the definitive link between supply chain performance and the bottom line. Therefore, healthy supply chains lead to healthy companies.

The ways which minority/small businesses can impact an organization's supply chain include but are not limited to:
  • Lower costs due to less overhead
  • Innovative solutions
  • Specialized services
  • New technology
  • Increased flexibility
  • Key insights into target markets

Furthermore, the impact of doing business with these companies can be linked back to a company's revenue potential. One must remember, that these suppliers are often current or potential customers. The more advanced and effective a company's supplier diversity initiatives are, the more positively that translates to influence that a company can have within certain market segments. Companies that take a more proactive, innovative approach to their supplier diversity initiatives will reap the benefits on both ends of the value spectrum. Now that's CSR at it best!


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