[Tip of The Week] Buy Black, Sell All?
For the growing black entrepreneurial segment, the goal to expand and grow may include a more encompassing business model. Buying black is a phenomenal tool for collective economic empowerment but true exponential growth increases when we cooperatively buy black and sell to all people. Well established corporations have grown to immense sizes by using diversified techniques to expand their consumer base. A quick stroll through Harlem displays prime examples of corporations that have predatorily taken the roots out of Harlem and firmly planted their economic vacuums in Harlem’s heart, smack in the middle of 125th street. This of course is all in the name of increasing profits. Billionaire corporations and multimillionaire CEOs have been plotting this course with precision for years. More recently, there has been immense pressure to subsidize public housing in East Harlem for privatized commercial use. Take a look at the Nielson report that helps corporations understand the black consumers. This report has been funded by and used by the same corporations that occupy our gentrifying neighborhoods. The same businesses that have exploited prison labor and broken countless labor regulations in the southern states, most notably effecting our Mexican and Haitian immigrants, are working to widen their consumer markets by plowing through Harlem’s history. Expansion is a great business strategy but corporate expansion is not good for the surrounding community when you consider wage gaps, gentrification and the fact that corporations have an uncanny ability of taking more money out of a community than investing money back into it, “Most surprising, many corporations pay negative taxes, actually receiving tax rebates despite making large profits. In addition to reducing their taxes, corporations can also exert political power to obtain public subsidies and tax breaks, referred to by critics as ‘corporate welfare’” says Brian Roach from the Global Development And Environment Institute at Tufts University.
The philosophy to sell to all people is a sound business model. The movement to buy black is an impactful weapon for economic equality and a public call that many of us folks have answered. Black centric businesses and products aimed at redirecting afrocentric consumers is a booming business. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Our support for our own creations is necessary. But like the stereotypical middle eastern corner store owner, the white liquor store owner and the Chinese guy killing the fried rice game in afrocentric neighborhoods, black entrepreneurs would see greater returns if they could widen their market to include varying demographics. Moreover, buying locally from a smaller black owned business has a greater positive impact on the community than that of a purchase towards a multinational corporate brand.
This is a multi-marketing feat not so easily accomplished. How does one stay true to their fan base without being labelled a sellout? Is there a middle ground? Is this really just business? The Harvard Business Review writes that successful entrepreneurs realize that the personal is professional. Our brands, both new and established, are a living organism that is molded by our marketing as well as our consumer makeup. As such, it takes a conscious and concerted effort to appeal to a wider audience. Imagine if the world was made up of 100 people. 20 of them Black, 20 Latino, 50 White and 10 Asian. If our 2017 black owned businesses only market and sell to black consumers than our market will only be as healthy as the 20 black people that encompass it. We’ll maintain our wealth by spending within this 20 person segment but we will not grow collectively at an exponential rate. In order to truly redistribute the wealth gap in America, we’ll need to have a wider appeal and targeted efforts to galvanize interests in all walks of life. This is not a strategy to ‘sell out’, business is just business and the health of black owned businesses as a whole may depend on our ability to be adaptive and competitive in a growing global market. The ability for our black owned brands and creations to stay true to its heart yet appeal to a wider market takes considerable thought and strategic planning. It may consists of creating various marketing materials for varying demographics. Take a look at the malleable and forever evolving Nike brand. They have been able to diversify their marketing campaigns to attract faithful folks from different generations and cultures. For business leaders looking to Buy Black and Sell to All, take a look at some of the pointers directly from the Harvard Business Review Start-Ups That Last:
Defining Specialized Roles
As founder and entrepreneur you’ll do every role in the beginning. As you grow you’ll need to siphon off portions of the responsibilities to new positions and hires.
Seek specialization in select functions like human resources, marketing, R&D, and manufacturing. Be sure to provide the appropriate onboarding training and hands-on supervision earlier on.
Cultivate a learning mindset amongst new team members.
Adding Management Structure
As you grow new staff will want feedback; they want direction. When you double your current staff, you’ll need more hierarchy and managers and processes to accommodate the needs of employees and the overall business.
Companies that complement formal structures with informal mentoring and feedback can keep motivation intact. That’s because those things foster a learning mindset, helping employees grow right along with the business. Clearly defined roles and areas of authority also enable people to make faster, smarter decisions locally. They streamline the process, rather than slow it up, and promote individual development. The more decisions people are empowered to make on the fly, the more they learn and the more accountable they become.
Planning and Forecasting with Discipline
Sales and inventory planning enables your business to learn whether a product/service is going to be a success or a failure.
Setting clear goals and guidelines, systematically gathering and sharing information to shed light on performance and enable better forecasting, and creating processes instead of relying on key individuals to craft one-off solutions—all these promote efficient, smart decisions, especially when the world around you is in flux.
Sustaining the Culture
Culture may be most important during periods of growth.
Clearly articulating their cultural values in their mission and vision statements and in job descriptions. That makes it easier to recognize cultural drift before it goes too far. It also helps the organization keep its values alive by hiring for cultural fit and rewarding desired behaviors through recognition and compensation.
Meeting regularly with norms, objectives and sharing updates that are in line with the company culture.
“Scaling doesn’t mean that ventures should disavow their start-up identities and embrace large-company dogma once they’re poised for growth. But those prepared to manage that growth—and to learn new ways of operating and behaving—stand a much better chance of making it in the long term.” Harvard Business Review