"This is a Black Stream of Thought"
Vol: 6a, June 2022
Are Black Enterprises facing new and more Competitors in the Changing Business Environment?
Taking advantage of the small slice of opportunity provided on behalf of Black businesses by the corporate world and various governments, Black enterprises have begun to show their ability to survive, grow, and compete with all companies within their industry.
The MBE/DBE programming has begun to reframe itself into a competition between the groups for resources rather than simple subcontracting opportunities. Whether this is intentional as a social construct or not, the whole idea of sub-equal participation is being challenged. The relationships between the various groups deemed minorities, including women, disabled, veterans, and others within a growing list of groups that receive additional support for their business development efforts while never healthy, are now on their sickbed. Since the slice of the pie representing support for these groups has not significantly grown, the re-designing results are creating competition among these clusters and opening the doors for more competition from White businesses and through others such as Veterans, Women, and LGBTQ among a growing list of fabricated minorities utilizing the Black imprimatur founded in racism. It has been said that these fabricated assemblies get double benefits when they are classified as aggrieved minorities and compete against Black for public recognition and financial resources.
Black businesses are being created everywhere as the opportunity to establish new local Black-Wall Streets has begun to flourish and grow. Not that these businesses have received overwhelming help and funding! These business owners have continually utilized their abilities to overcome the condition and achieve. And Black companies are now competing with the others within the ethnic pot and the minority definition for business.
The fact that various programming categories were initially created for Black businesses demonstrates the cunning of corporate America. Those newly defined business categories are updated forms of Benign Neglect, which began during the Nixon presidency and was designed to throw the focus off Black folk on to other things. In doing this, the government could downplay the importance of Black business and Black folk and deflect any opportunities required to address issues supporting the Black community's concerns.
Resolute and courageous, today's Black businesses are not necessarily located in one location but spread across communities. All one must do is read the newspaper and other communications. You can see the emergence of new Black-owned businesses of all types entering and succeeding in their industries. I am sure that the various industries are taking note of these new business entries as they begin to place themselves among the competition for supporting the operational success of other companies or governments as suppliers and contractors. You are now seeing Black owners' products or services included in the catalogs and on the shelves of major enterprises. You also see Black entrepreneurs entering into formally untapped markets where their ethnicity and abilities have advantages. An example of the brilliance and fortitude of Black entrepreneurs is Michael Hollis and his creation of Air Atlanta. Air Atlanta was a full-service airline created and fathered by Mr. Hollis as a competitor in the air travel industry. His short-haul strategy was unique, and he overcame many hurdles to get the business off the ground. However, the idea that a Black man would dare create a real competitor in a White market was clearly unacceptable. Thus, various accounts have it that those within the industry did everything possible to stop Mr. Hollis and ground Air Atlanta over time.
Another example is my own efforts to create a concrete manufacturing business, SGG. This business competed within the highway infrastructure and building manufacturing industry. In short, once it was clear that our company had the capability and knowledge to be a full-fledged competitor, the entire industry turned against us. They no longer saw us as a small minority business meant to be controlled But as a company with the capability and insight to influence others. It was clear to the industry that we could carve out a substantial piece of a very lucrative market and become a full-fledged competitor. The relational culture of the industry going back decades had to be protected against interlopers, especially Black ones.
Air Atlanta & SGG demonstrate growth in opportunities. The new circumstances create the potential to become solid economic engines as Air Atlanta created hundreds of jobs in various cities and SGG in a smaller town. These business examples ran headlong into the industrial barriers they had not been exposed to and had difficulty overcoming. Nevertheless, the businesses philosophically united and collaborated with others to develop new Black mechanisms that enabled them to last as long as they did. Such innovative actions included building new, more vital forms to protect themselves. Additionally, their pride of achievement, even while not surviving, proved that Black entrepreneurs could be involved in industries that seemed unavailable and resulted in a source of encouragement for their Black communities and the employment of hundreds of Black people for a short period.
This obvious potential must be within the previously unrecognized ability among Black businesses to meet the new industry challenges other than individual business success that these new growth Black businesses must address.
Many of today's Black businesses are even designing themselves to give back and support their Black communities and people. Many success models are being developed in the marketplace today to assist those willing and able to make money and support the community. These opportunity models must be expanded. In addition to hiring Black folk, reinvesting in the resources base of Black communities is equally profitable. Providing community leadership and speaking up about local community conditions while leading through participation will bring other investors. The new Black businesses leaders can offer a Return-on-Investment opportunity and exemplify the reality of a purported accounting adage, "First in Still Here."
Yes, Black businesses still ne
ed financial assistance and market opportunity, but within this reality is the potential for business competition. It is a potential that informs business owners that even with success, they still have a long way to go, and constriction exists the closer you get to the top and throughout specific industries. For example, business owners will find more firms entering their market when competing with other ethnic minorities for industry or community development as entrepreneurship surges. In the event the competition is with a more prominent White firm for benefits, the past involvements held by the older established white business and built on long-term relationships and culture become important; thus, are challenges to be addressed.
I do not believe that competitive businesses will continue to underwrite the development of their competition. Therefore, this growing Black business environment will have to adjust to compete with the others deemed minority and majority suppliers and offer marketplace changes to gain any advantage. As I have said many times before, "Thereis going to be a fight," a competitive fight for the market and those who think they have the right to any unique market spaces. It may not be tomorrow, but it will happen!
In the world of business competition, if you have what is needed, the market will find you, and race will lose its identification. However, this reality is a long way off, and other marketplace changes must happen before its truth is exhibited. This growing world of competition does not mean racism is evaporating. Still, competition is the enabler and a long-established barrier creator. These barriers may take various forms, including racism, to protect the gains of the affected parties. But none-the-less, these newly developing Black entrepreneurs will have additional challenges currently not recognized as existing.
The business and governmental changes demand innovative approaches and thus new thinking and new business designs. This requires that Black firms become more competitive not just for themselves but also for the communities wherein they exist. The world of minority business is changing and ultimately will be enfolded into regular marketplace practices as soon as the majority business world can figure out how to make money off the change. These changes will possibly create newfound forms of competition and still be encapsulated in the past practices of racism, sexism, etc.
As Black businesses become even more competitive, our major cities must learn to integrate them. The new ones are being built into positions of importance. Competition between ethnicities and races is becoming commonplace for that little bit of market share designed for minorities. These competitive businesses must be included as equals, not subrogated to any view of less status. These businesses must learn to collaborate with one another and not try to endure the marketplace challenges as a single enterprise without supporting the benefits they can bring through the uniting of their unique cultural abilities and causing change. Additionally, fabricated minorities who do not have the race face are invading the contracting arena as de facto members of the minority market, further cluttering the minority slice of the pie. Therefore, competition from no matter the source will have to be met! Therein, the rationale for the existence of Black business programming as a response to historical discrimination in the marketplace is about to become a political effort with whoever can mount the most vital minority position will be the winner versus the original design.
We can suppose one only has to understand why Black business and their Black communities have survived even in the face of racial and other conditions and without practical assistance and will overcome. In those cases, lessons may have already been developed, and tactics to pass on to future generations available. As Dr. Claud Anderson says, I paraphrase: The Black business future is in its past! And some of the methods utilized in the past can be brought again to the forefront of the battle. However, we must continue to break new ground for change to occur. We cannot continue to be restricted to past business and community development methods as times and tools for success are being created if Black businesses are genuinely competitive.