Business Strategist Reveals How to Attract & Retain Corporate Contracts by C. Daniel Baker

Diversity-Business-Strategist-Shayna-Rattler[1] Only 2% of women and minority owned businesses break the $1 million revenue mark One week after the national celebration of Small Business Week, Diversity Business Strategist Shayna Rattler is waving the flag for women and minority business owners.  She shows them how to attract and retain lucrative corporate contracts. Rattler says that only 2% of women and minority owned businesses break the $1 million revenue mark. Of those, 56% of their sales come from corporate clients. The trouble is, most women don’t know how to make a winning approach to earn or retain the business. Guiding clients on both sides of the equation – corporate decision maker and small business owner to make solid connections to advance profits, gain efficiencies, and support economic development – is Rattler’s focus. As CEO and founder of Supplier Diversity Academy, her speaking and training programs have helped create scores and scores of winning connections to invite new possibilities, enhanced performance, and greater rewards since 2008. “The list of things to start, stop and keep doing to earn serious consideration and rewards is long, and the upside for those who take action is huge,” Rattler says. For example:
  • When pitching new business, stop tossing your needle in the haystack with hopes of scoring pay dirt. Narrow your search for the right decision maker by visiting the “Contact Us” section of the website and finding the right name and department to make your first point of contact. For example, training and human resources departments are good places to start to pitch indirect purchases. Procurement and supplier diversity are good places to start to pitch direct purchases.
  • Pay attention, customize, and personalize. That means watching the news media, reading the corporate communications, and reviewing the corporate social responsibility report to determine how your services, philosophy, and approach are a great fit before making an approach.
  • Timing is everything. “The urgent issue always trumps the important,” Rattler says. “A company contending with sexual harassment lawsuits is going to be in the market for training to solve that problem right now.”
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of your business financial health when pitching corporate contracts. Rattler says that corporate clients will check Dun and Bradstreet and other risk profiles to determine that potential vendors pay their bills on time. This is especially important for small business owners with fewer than three years of operations.
  • Take care to demonstrate sound operational health, as well. The tools, systems, and staff supporting the enterprise need to be well honed to execute flawlessly. “Be prepared to describe and demonstrate processes and results in specific, terrific terms to earn client confidence that you have what it takes to deliver as promised,” Rattler advises.
  • Price your proposals fairly to be taken seriously. “Steer clear of being the low cost provider. Be the BEST VALUE and BEST RESULTS provider so you never leave good money on the table.” Rattler suggests.
  • Start communicating your value from the first point of contact so the benefits you offer your client are crystal clear.
  • Practice the fine art of follow up. This applies to both pitching the business and servicing the client after the sale. Get clarity around how much communication, reporting, and follow up the client expects from the start, and aim to meet and exceed that expectation with winning results.
  • Deliver a unique experience that is memorable, remarkable, and worth talking about. In doing so, you earn the privilege to obtain repeat business and referrals to new business.
  • Continue to invest in your own professional skills and development to bring best practices to life for your client.
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Business Networking Tips to Kick Off 2013 by Kelly Price

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  1. Arrive time:  You want to make the most of an event?  Stay late.  Why? Not everyone arrives early or stays late. Arriving early and staying late gives you the opportunity to meet professionals with varying schedules and you have more time to get to know the people you just meet.
  2. Remember, business relationships are a two-way street:  It’s OK to talk about yourself but the best compliment is to ask a lot of questions about the person and their business.
  3. Ask open ended questions and listen: This highlights ways you can add value and meet needs other professionals might have. It’s like dating:  the more questions you ask the more the person feels a connection with you.
  4. Stand.  Why? Sitting signals that you are having a private conversation, or otherwise busy with your iPhone. Sitting should be reserved for serious conversations and follow up meetings. Don’t be a wall flower.
  5. Know your current perspective:  Connecting with like-minded professionals can give you inspiration, insight and the inside scoop on emerging trends and needs within your industry.
  6. Wear a nametag:  Why? Everyone attends a networking event to meet new people, so don’t be shy!  Say hello, mingle and introduce yourself. Make sure your nametag is written clearly with your name and business name for others to read.
  7. 50/50 rule: Spend an equal time with people you know and meeting new people.  The more people you meet the easier it get when you attend your next event.
  8. Pay it Forward: the best networker is a connector, someone that refers business to other people without thinking about themselves but thinking about helping others in networking. This will help you in the long run by getting more business and contacts in the future.
  9. Elevator Pitch: Have several Elevator pitches ready for your event.  This way, if someone already heard your last pitch they can hear another one which might help them find you more business and or know more about you and your business.
  10. Volunteer: The best way to meet everyone at an event is to volunteer at the front sign-in desk. This way you can meet the people you want to talk to and it will save you time.
  11. Share relevant news: Sometimes we all like to talk about ourselves but knowing about current events, business news and other relevant events will give you something to talk about.  By doing this, it will make you more memorable.
  12. Networking groups: A good way to grow your business is to join a Chamber, to increase your business and get your name out there. It’s just like customer service the more you have contact with your current and past clients the more likely they will refer more business your way.
  13. Network, network, network: Try to visit at least one event a week. The more you network the more business contacts you gain which will result in more business.  If you don’t network, your business won’t grow and no one will know about you and your business.
  14. No limp handshakes and eye contact: the worst thing you can do is to give a really bad handshake, remember you want to give a good first impression. Always have eye contact with the person you’re talking to, by not looking in their eyes it could show that you’re not telling the truth or hiding something.
  15. Have a professional looking business card: If you break out a business card, make sure it’s high quality. Don’t start a conversation by giving a person your card first, it’s really tacky.
I hope for some of you is to network more for 2013 and by reading this I hope you’ll be a more prepared networker for your next event. Networking is about spending time getting to know people and getting your name out there. Continue Reading
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Minority-Owned Businesses the Numbers

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy releases annual reports that detail the demographics of business ownership. An interesting fact: Self-employment surged over the last decade, especially among minority and female business owners, which now total approximately eight million. See how the demographics compare and where the highest concentrations of minority-owned businesses exist in the United States. It time for to use this moment in time to begin to rebuilding our great American dream again.

David Foster

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How to Build a Business from Scratch by Nach Maravilla

Going into business — whether home-based or not — is always inspired by our desire to be the boss, work at our own time, and of course, make more money. You start a business hoping that its profits will be greater than what you received while working for somebody else. Or maybe, you suddenly have this brilliant idea that you think could work and even become profitable. Sometimes, entrepreneurship becomes an option when you suddenly find yourself walking in the cement jungle looking for a job after your boss fires you. There might be other reasons for wanting to start a business. But whatever they are, going into business often means working it out from scratch. Businessman working on laptop, talking on phone.As an entrepreneur, the first thing you must have is GUTS. As the old adage says, “No guts, no glory.” To poker players, they say, “guts…to open”. With guts, a bright idea, a little start-up fund and lots of luck, who knows, you might be a winner. Follow your instincts but don’t forget to take notes as you go along. First, decide on what kind of business you will put up. If you plan a home-based business, you can save on the up-front rental and lease money. With a smaller overhead cost, you can plow more resources into building your business. On the other hand, if you intend to open a small store, observe the area of your desired location and see if the place could attract the kind of market that you envision for your business. Check the kinds of people who frequent the area and study its demographics. Note that the quality of the neighborhood could affect your business. Then conduct a simple survey of your market. Know the buying habits of your target market. The more you know about your market, the better you can tailor your product offerings for them. Let us consider a sample business, say a photo shop. Our reason is simple: everybody loves memories. Despite the advent of digital cameras, people still love to take pictures everywhere, day or night, either in color or black and white. To be a successful entrepreneur, it is imperative to understand what your business is all about. In the photo business, for example, you are not selling pictures or films; rather you are selling mementos and keepsakes of important events in people’s lives. You are not selling a product, butAQH4034.TIF you are selling the means to fulfill your customers’ needs. Knowing what it is that you are really doing can help you a lot in properly branding, marketing and selling your product. Location is everything in a brick-and-mortar business. You want to be in the middle of your market, not in some faraway place where dozens of your competitors can get to your customers first. For your photo business, you may want to find a store in a strip mall, near a school or a busy intersection. Once you have found the right location, negotiate your rental and the up-front fees with the landlord. Excellent negotiation skills are essential to any businessperson. Look for a soft spot in your landlord during negotiations. Somewhere, somehow, you might be able to convince him to give you a one-month free rent while you are starting-up. Landlords also need your business and most of them will consider giving you little incentives if you present your situation, honestly. At this point, you can negotiate by just asking to pay one month in advance and pay the security deposits and others in succeeding months. Remember, nothing is impossible; you just need to try. By now, you should have decided what name you should call your shop. Name your store with something that correlates your product with the words. The theory is to create a name that customers can easily visualize and relate to their needs. This is following the footsteps of products that has become by-words, like Colgate for toothpaste, Tide for laundry detergent, Coke or Pepsi for soda, Bud for beer, or Kodak for pictures. So, let’s call our photo shop “Color Mat.” Does the name signify something about photography? The word Color gives the idea of a rainbow and connotes a happy sound. Mat is a carpet. Color Mat therefore means a carpet with many colors. And photography is color. In business, creativity is crucial, particularly if you have little funds. If you do not have sufficient funds for your initial inventory, try talking to a competitor nearest your shop and borrow some of his stocks. You can tell him that you will buy your supplies and inventory from him if he gives you a little credit. To be more convincing, you can even tell him that you will give him your payment from your daily sales before he goes home at night. Take him to your store to give him the assurance that you are indeed serious, except you lack cash. Some entrepreneurs are more than willing to help out other start-ups. If you don’t succeed on this approach, you can put a little amount as a deposit where he can deduct the merchandise that you get every time. The guy has no reason not to help you out because your offer will increase his sales. When you are up and running and he notices that your sales is growing, he might even forget that you no longer have a deposit. Try to save as much as you can from the profits you make and pay your suppliers ahead of time to give you a good credit standing. You will need good credit references when you start negotiating for bigger volumes. Starting a business with little resources is like playing baseball with only you covering the whole field. You are the pitcher, the catcher, the first base, the runner and the umpire. Your store will start to grow, although at a snail-pace. Be prepared to face a lot of challenges, and patience and a lot of hard work will be your best allies. Most start-up entrepreneurs even find that they need to shift to a simpler lifestyle as all their resources are channeled into the business. Even your time for leisure will be dramatically cut. Be careful in protecting the trust and support that you have earned along the way. Total devotion to your business, honesty and sincerity to the people that you deal with, will take you to higher levels and allow you to branch out in a matter of time. There will be a lot temptations and pitfalls that you need to be prepared for. Starting a business is a complicated process. Hey, no one said success is easy!   Continue Reading

From Prison to the Boardroom: A Story of Career Success

By Tracey D. Syphax It’s been 20 years since I left Rahway State Prison. For my last conviction, I received a 4-year sentence. Prior to entering Rahway I had already found myself in Mercy County Youth Detention Center at 17, where two detectives delivered my High School diploma and gave me strict instructions to never enter Trenton Central High School again. From 1980-83, I served time in Yardville Youth Reception & Correctional Center for possession with intent. Once released, I used my street smarts to start my first business on paper, Capitol City Roofing. It was a front to run drugs up and down The New Jersey turnpike hassle free.  I was 23. Within 3-years time I was headed back to Yardville.  An altercation during my bid landed me in lockdown 23 &  1 for 365 days in ad seg (administrative segregation) at Rahway State Prison.  That’s when my official pursuit for the American dream came to life. Unless you’ve been under a rock the past 10 years then you should be well aware that the prison industry is the second largest employer in state government. Prison stocks are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The industry consists of over 10,000 employees and continues to grow as approximately 60% of inmates are arrested within 3 years after their release.  I was one.  I remember an older guy telling me during my 80-83 bid that I would be back. I figured out how the old guy knew I’d be back once I spent one year on 23 hour lockdown living the lyrics to Beanie Siegal’s 1999 album release “What Your Life Like.” Standing in my cell, those 16 words were poignant to me. Those 365 days in ad seg allowed me the opportunity to grow mentally, evolve as a man and recognize my weaknesses. I decided to seek out something different for my life. I became involved in a group that taught on African American studies.  I read about powerful black leaders – like Madam C. J. Walker and A.G. Gaston – who had strong entrepreneurial spirits and gained great inspiration from the words of W.E.B Du Bois. Du Bois was dedicated to the higher education of his race.  Entrepreneurship and education would be my focus upon re-entry into the community. Continue Reading

Lesser-known Emancipation Document Gets Spotlight

WASHINGTON — Issued 150 years ago this week, President Abraham Lincoln’s initial proclamation that he would free the South’s slaves is enjoying a public showcase to match its increased profile among scholars. Lincoln released his lesser-known preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862 – 100 days before the final version. The first of the two documents has gained importance among historians as a turning point in the Civil War because of a change in thinking over the past 50 years. Slavery and its abolition were once treated by historians as minor parts of the story behind the Civil War, but that began to change after the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, said historian Edward Ayers, president of the University of Richmond. Since then, the steps that led to emancipation have been recognized for their importance – with the Sept. 22 proclamation being a prime example. “All our thinking about this has undergone remarkable recasting over the last 50 years,” Ayers said. “People begin now with slavery as the fundamental fact and emancipation and less with union as being the sole focus of attention.” Commemorations began Monday with a forum moderated by Ayers at the Smithsonian Institution discussed the steps leading to emancipation. The discussion was broadcast to 100 schools, museums and libraries. The National Endowment for the Humanities also organized readings at the Lincoln Memorial. Meanwhile, the only surviving version of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in Lincoln’s handwriting will make an eight-city tour of New York state this fall. The official government copy from the National Archives will be shown beginning Saturday in New York City at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Other exhibits will feature copies of the final version in the months preceding the Jan. 1 anniversary of its issuing. The preliminary proclamation served as a warning that if the Confederacy did not end its “rebellion” against the United States and voluntarily abolish slavery, then Lincoln would order the slaves freed on the first day of 1863. Lincoln believed it was a way to use his military powers to push to end slavery. Lincoln drafted the preliminary proclamation over the summer of 1862 but held off on releasing it because of Union defeats. He felt there was enough of a victory when Confederate forces turned back after the Battle of Antietam in late August that he went ahead. There was once skepticism among historians about Lincoln’s deliberate approach. For example, neither version of the proclamation covered five slave-holding Union border states that were freed in separate federal actions. But Ayers says most scholars now view Lincoln as shrewd. “What we used to see in some ways as a kind of political calculation, we now recognize as a necessary political ability to get things done,” Ayers said. Slaves also had decided by the time Lincoln was drafting his proclamation in the summer of 1862 that they had a role to play in the war, said historian Thavolia Glymph of Duke University. They were flocking to Union soldiers to declare allegiance with the North. “The preliminary Emancipation Proclamation essentially confirms, affirms what the slaves have been saying all along – that you can’t win it without us,” Glymph said. “Lincoln agrees.” Even before the preliminary emancipation, Lincoln floated several ideas about how to end slavery. In 1861, he put out a plan for Delaware and other border states that would pay people to free slaves they owned, though it was never enacted. He also was studying ideas about encouraging slaves to return to Africa or Central America to separate the races, historian Eric Foner of Columbia University said. His declaration that slaves would be freed was a turning point in a long process, Foner said. “No one person or one moment is responsible for the end of slavery,” he said. The government issued miniature copies of the preliminary emancipation that were distributed widely to soldiers in the field. Some survive and have been traded by collectors. The official U.S. copy with Lincoln’s signature was a paper booklet held together with a ribbon. It’s in relatively good condition at the National Archives but is rarely shown. It has been handled less than the final proclamation, which has endured long-term exhibition and exposure to light in the past, said Catherine Nicholson, an archives conservator. In recent years, researchers visiting the National Archives have become increasingly interested in seeing records related to emancipation, from the federal government’s Freedman’s Bureau and pension records for U.S. Colored Troops, said archivist Reginald Washington. Views on the history and impact of emancipation continue to evolve, Ayers said, while at the same time many people still separate black history and white history. “What historians have shown us over the past 50 years is that these are all part of the same history,” Ayers said. “Listening to just one of those stories is like listening to half a conversation. You can’t understand what was going on.” Visitors to the National Mall on a recent day, though, generally didn’t know much about Lincoln’s initial warning on slavery. Ray Morrison, a 64-year-old architect from Irvine, Calif., said he was familiar with the final version of the document but not its precursor. “I do recall that it was a tactic to focus the Civil War, because there were some defeats, to make it not a war of rebellion but a moral issue,” he said of the Jan. 1 document. Daniel Smith, 21, a student at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, said he had only been taught about emancipation coming in January 1863. “Nobody really knows what caused Lincoln to do the emancipating, so this gives more insight that he was planning on doing this,” Smith said. “This is just more knowledge we should know about.” By BRETT ZONGKER   Continue Reading

Take the Juneteenth Challenge

Can you name 5 African Americans who helped end slavery–besides Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman?

Today is Juneteenth. This holiday, which commemorates the end of slavery, tells us as much about what America means as the Fourth of July, Presidents Day, or Memorial Day. What distinguishes the United States is our nation’s persistent struggle to make real a set of ideals that have been contested and contentious from the earliest days of the republic. It’s particularly worth remembering Juneteenth this year, as people across the country mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Not that all Americans are drawn to commemorating that anniversary. Before the war began, over four million African Americans were enslaved. When the war ended, three-quarters of a million soldiers were dead, and slavery as an institution had crumbled. And yet, as Ta-Nehisi Coates recently observed, few blacks study the Civil War. Coates’ astute historiography demonstrates why, as he traces how both popular and scholarly accounts of the war have for 150 years downplayed the centrality of slavery to the conflict. Even today, he argues, the Civil War too often remains “a story for white people–acted out by white people, on white people’s terms–in which blacks feature as stock characters and props.” Even Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated by far more blacks than whites, can obscure the centrality of blacks in the struggle to end slavery. Juneteenth marks the anniversary of Union General Gordon Granger announcing in Galveston on June 19, 1865, that the Civil War was over, and that any slaves in Texas were thus free. The root of the holiday involves blacks waiting to be told their enslavement was ended. But nearly 200,000 blacks served in Union regiments, and still more contributed to the struggle as civilians. A century and a half later, their contributions are nearly all forgotten. Nearly all–in the spirit of multiculturalism, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass have been given prominence in children’s books and school curriculums, at least in recent years. But as inspirational as their lives are, focusing solely on these two individuals reifies a sense of their exceptionalism, further obscuring the myriad roles countless blacks played in ending slavery. So, with all due respect to Tubman and Douglass, as we mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, it’s time to enlarge the pantheon of anti-slavery heroes we celebrate. Here are five examples of soldiers and civilians whose remarkable but little-known contributions exemplify what Americans should celebrate on Juneteenth: 1. Robert Smalls, the enslaved wheelman on a Confederate blockade runner, impersonated the ship’s captain one night to commandeer the ship, bringing the rest of the enslaved crew and their family members to freedom. After surrendering the ship to Union forces, he served as a pilot and captain for the Union navy. 2. Mary Bowser, born into slavery in Richmond, Virginia, was freed by her owner and educated in the North. After serving as missionary in Liberia, she returned to the South and became a spy for the Union Army–by posing as a slave in the Confederate White House. Inverting the assumption that blacks were incapable of intelligence, she provided critical intelligence, as part of an espionage ring run by her former owner. 3. Susie King Taylor, who as a young slave attended clandestine schools, was only in her early teens when she fled to the Union lines and became the first black teacher in freedman’s school, in St. Simons Island, Georgia. After marrying a black noncommissioned officer, she traveled with his regiment, serving as nurse and teacher to the soldiers. 4. David Bustill Bowser was a free-born artist active in both the Philadelphia Underground Railroad and in efforts to restore voting rights to black men in Pennsylvania. During the Civil War, he designed flags for at least seven and possibly as many as eleven different units of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), which served to rally black soldiers as they charged into battle. 5. Garland White escaped from enslavement in Washington, D.C., making his way to Canada. During the Civil War, he returned to the U.S. and helped raise enlistments for black units in New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Indiana, eventually serving as chaplain of 28th USCT. When the regiment entered Richmond, Virginia, after the fall of the Confederate government there, he was reunited with his mother, from whom he’d been sold away years earlier. These five individuals exemplify a breadth of activities, from education to political organizing, from surreptition to military service. Although you probably don’t have the day off, haven’t received a greeting card, and won’t be wished a merry or a happy, I invite you to celebrate Juneteenth by sharing other examples that further broaden our understanding of the active part blacks played in ending slavery. The Civil War and the abolition of slavery are neither white history nor black history. They are our American history. On Juneteenth, of all days, all Americans should remember the varied and critical parts that both free and enslaved African Americans played in ending an institution that was fundamentally at odds with the liberty and equality that are the center point of our nation. by Lois Leveen Author of The Secrets of Mary Bowser Continue Reading

Kicking Black Boys Out of Class, Teaching Black Girls a Lesson

A little girl growing up in Oakland, California climbs into the backseat of her mother’s car and closes the door.  As she fastens her seatbelt and answers her mother’s questions about her day and what she learned at school, she looks out the window at a group of her classmates chasing each other around aggressively on the front lawn of her elementary school. They are Black boys, and though Black boys don’t make up the majority of the school population, they are at the front of the popular social order of their school. They have the coolest (or at least the most expensive) shoes and they’re known by everyone. They’re fourth graders but they swear and talk about sex. They know about a lot, except reading, basic math, and self-control. Some are even violent and it is common for adult teachers both male and female to be physically afraid of them. Yes, physically afraid of a fourth grader. Of course, it isn’t fair to pin these generalizations on every Black boy at the school, but it is applicable to a large enough majority of them to have a general expectation that is unfair, racist, and detrimental to their development — yet tragically accurate. Their state of ill-behavior and inability to perform academically is not their fault though. These boys have been birthed into a community under the boot of centuries of oppression and deliberate assault by it’s government.  Toppled with a cocktail of horrible or non-existent parenting and dangerous neighborhoods, they are in a state of subconscious and conscious trauma.  This trauma manifests in their behavior and is greatly misunderstood and not acknowledged by the school system that measures and judges them. Black boys under the age of 12 are constantly being removed from class and even arrested for non-violent acts of defiance, all in plain view of their classmates. The Southern Poverty Law Center released a study in 2010 that revealed that in a national sample of more than 9,000 middle schools, 28.3 percent of black males, on average, were suspended at least once during a school year, nearly three times the 10 percent rate for white males. Black females were suspended more than four times as often as white females (18 percent vs. 4 percent). During the academic school year of 2011/2012, Black boys in the Oakland Unified School District (Oakland, CA) made up 43 percent of the suspensions district wide, according to research reported by Chris Chatmon, Executive Officer of the African-American Male Achievement Officefor Oakland Schools. This is an appalling figure seeing how Black boys only make up 17 percent of the district population. Mr. Chatmon encourages a focus on the positive. “Our district is the first district in the nation to not only acknowledge that there is something wrong happening with the over-suspension and referral of Black boys, but to take a step beyond that and commit to doing something about it! The forming of the African-American Male Achievement Office puts Black boys back in the classroom consistently and our Manhood Development Program proved to have an immediate impact by putting these boys in classes facilitated by Black men. This district is tackling the achievement gap head-on as well as reducing the suspension and incarceration rate of our boys. That’s a point of great inspiration.” But this article isn’t really about Black boys or their behavior. I’d like to focus on another concern: How Black girls observing the way Black boys are regarded in elementary school impacts their perception of Black boys, thus their relationships with Black men later in life, thus the Black family. There’s a boatload of studies and statistics that reveal the staggering percentage of Black children growing up without a father in their home. This is another factor in the depth of impact that excessive kicking out of class and negative chastisement has on a Black girl’s perception of Black boys. Without a present and healthy example of a Black man in the home, this little Black girl has no counter narrative to challenge the overt and inadvertent negative message she is being given at school about Black boys. America in general has staggering divorce rates across racial lines, but let’s be clear — that is not nearly the same thing! First of all, at least the average kid with divorced parents has witnessed an attempted union between their parents. Ask any Black person in America and they’ll tell you they’ve been to far more baby showers than wedding showers and sadly more funerals than weddings. Then there are all the stats around Black male incarceration, dropout rates, and unemployment. For a moment, let’s put all the graphs and charts aside and look at that little Black girl sitting in an elementary classroom. When she looks over her shoulder and sees Donte, Jabari, Shaquille, or Jontay — who does she see? When she constantly sees them being kicked out of class, suspended, or yelled at, what does she think? When her teacher who she regards as a source of knowledge and guidance seems to have an attitude of contempt towards the Black boys, what does she learn? I propose that what she is learning, or better yet what she is given, is a personal and real time validation of the message that is fed to her through media and society at large: Black men and boys are naturally monsters. They are untrustworthy, irresponsible, and have no self-control. Black men and boys are undesirable, unreliable, and most obviously — you should have a low expectation for them. This is her view of the boys that will grow up to be her potential mates and colleagues. White girls her age constantly witness their white male counterparts being validated and encouraged. White boys never have to be included into the learning environment because they are naturally a part of the fabric of the school. Young white boys and girls grow into their adolescent years without the mucus of discrimination and distrust between them that plagues young black teenagers. Undeniably, this has a positive effect on their ability to form loving partnerships and unions. The little Black girl will grow up with three options regarding her attitude about being in relationships with Black men: 1.  Struggle to unlearn the foul sentiment she is given about Black boys and men. 2.  Accept the notion that Black boys and men are naturally monsters who are untrustworthy, irresponsible, and have no self-control. (This doesn’t mean she won’t be with Black men, it just means she will see unacceptable and or abusive behavior from her Black male partner as normal.) 3.  Date and marry men outside of her race. Statistically she is far more likely to be in a position of hiring one of these Black boys for a job or admitting him into a school than a Black man will. So we must ask ourselves a key question: How does the mass suspension and referral of Black boys impact future generations of the Black family? It is important that teachers realize that we are not only preparing our students for their futures in education and careers, but also in their development into fatherhood and motherhood. Every time (yes, every time) we are kicking a Black boy out of class or writing him a referral we are adding to the demise of the Black family. In the inversion of the situation, every time (yes, every time) we struggle with these little brothers, every time we elevate what a great job they are doing, every time we reward them, we are contributing to the revitalization of the Black family. I am not for one second discounting the need for discipline in the classroom nor the fact that this student demographic can be extremely difficult to work with at times.  Surely there are behaviors that warrant a child being removed from a class or even suspended.  However, I am saying that before removing a student from class it is important to fully understand the implication of that decision. I smile at the idea of that same little Black girl smiling at her classmate, a young Black boy named Donte, Jabari, Shaquille, or Jontay as he is being patted on the back and told how smart he is. She notices the respect he was just given, how nice his shirt is, and how he reads the same books she likes to read. From there, before they are noticing each other’s bodies and curves, a new day and hope begins. Ise Lyfe Author of the forthcoming ‘Get Off the Fence’ Continue Reading

Why Failure Is the Foundation of Innovation

Here’s why you should celebrate your mistakes and foster a culture that dissects mistakes for learning purposes. Whether you believe it or not, mistakes can often be used to create insights and stimulate innovation. Honda’s founder, Sochiro Honda, said it well: “90% of success is failure.” Many winning products have their origin in failure. McDonald’s Hula Burger (1962), Apple’s Lisa (1983), Coca Cola’s New Coke (1985), or Corning’s DNA Microarray (1998). Mistakes allow for variation far beyond what was expected–you make a wrong turn but find a better road to your destination. Thanks to mistakes, we now have such medical innovations as penicillin, smallpox vaccine, pacemakers, Viagra, and many others, all well documented in the book Happy Accidents. It shows that half the advances in medicine had an accidental origin. This is why it’s so crucial for companies to foster a culture that celebrates productive mistakes, the kind that can stimulate thoughts and generate new paths. If leaders do not allow failure, they also kill innovation. But as my latest book, Brilliant Mistakes, emphasizes, to get those productive failures, you need to tolerate some silly and even stupid ones as well in your mistake portfolio. As with stocks, if you want to get a few big returns, you need to be willing to accept losses as well.

The Truth About Failure

James Joyce noted rather poetically that “mistakes are our portals of discovery.” They stimulate us to look beyond our narrow cocoon and encourage lateral thinking. They invite a fuller exploration of the periphery, that vast domain outside our area of focus where treasure may be hidden. Thomas J. Watson, Sr., who founded IBM, understood this deeply when he said: “So, go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can, because that’s where you will find success: on the far side of failure.” But these great examples are the exception to the rule. Research shows that most organizations are not very good at accepting failure. Most just want to eliminate errors altogether. This is because most managers pray at the altar of results rather than innovation. Think about it: Do you promote your employees on the basis of results or on their process, even if the outcome isn’t so good? I know a very successful options trading company that evaluates its traders not on how much money per week they make for the company but on how good their reasoning was going into the trade. Successful companies must strike a balance between performance and learning cultures. A key obstacle is our deeply ingrained aversion to failure. Your psyche registers pain more strongly than loss. So we need to work on reframing failure as perhaps “time-released” success. Just view it as the bitter medicine that we need for innovation, and then take a few gulps. Handling Failure, So, honestly, what is your typical attitude toward mistakes? I have listed five mutually exclusive responses below. Select the one that comes closest to how you actually feel and behave when confronted with setbacks or failures. If you doubt your ability to be honest about this sensitive matter, just ask others which answer most closely describes you. 1. I hate mistakes, hide them quickly, learn little from them, and will likely repeat the same error again in the future. 2. If I can’t hide the mistake, I do try to analyze what happened and whom to blame; so, some learning occurs, but it is mostly finger pointing and ego protection. 3. I generally welcome well-intentioned mistakes in myself and others; I strongly feel we should give recognition awards at work to people who failed for the right reasons. 4. I rank long-term learning higher than short-term results and fully accept that embracing mistakes is part of the package; I try to celebrate insights gleaned from errors. 5. I have actually made mistakes on purpose at times, by trying things that went against my best judgment, just to see if my thinking was perhaps flawed in this case. The higher the number you circled, the better you are in dealing with failure in a positive way. To provide some benchmark data from a survey we conducted at Wharton Executive Education, people’s choices were distributed as follows: 3%, 32%, 42%, 22%, and 0%. Most people (74%) circled answers near or below the middle of the scale, namely 2 or 3. Clearly, many managers still have some ways to go, with few having reached the highest plateau of making mistakes on purpose to learn something really new. Paul J. H. Schoemaker: Founder and Chairman, Decision Strategies Intl. Speaker, professor, and entrepreneur. Research Director, Mack Ctr for Technological Innovation at Wharton, where he teaches strategic decision-making. Latest book: Brilliant Mistakes Continue Reading

New Rules of Getting a Small Business Loan

The worst of the economic plummet appears to be over. Use this upswing to your advantage with these tips on getting the money your business needs. It would be an understatement to say small business lending has taken a significant blow over the past few years. The rocky economic climate of the recession all but froze access to credit for entrepreneurs. According to a 2011 SBA report, the total value of small business loans in 2010 was around $652 billion—a staggering drop from $712 billion in 2008. The good news: Recently, government initiatives, such as the Small Business Jobs Act, have bolstered small businesses and freed up lending lines—and the proof is in the numbers. In Capital One Bank’s 2011 survey, 85% of U.S. small business owners said they were able to get the financing they needed. But experts are still cautious. “The level of risk aversion is still extraordinarily high,” says Barry Sloane, CEO and President of The Small Business Authority. The primary concern is one word: collateral. “It’s almost like a bi-polar world,” says Ami Kassar, CEO and Founder of the business loan advisory company Multifunding. “If you’ve got a strong small business and a lot of collateral, banks are going to fight to get you a loan.” But if you don’t, like many small business owners whose collateral comes from the equity in their houses and commercial real estate, you’re looking through a narrower, albeit still viable, scope of lending possibilities. “The recession has decimated so much of that collateral that now most small businesses have to go out and seek alternative financing because traditional or SBA loans aren’t an option for them,” says Kassar. Here, a few experts weigh in on how to navigate this new loan landscape. New Rules of Getting a Small Business Loan: Factoring In factoring, businesses sell their invoices at a discounted rate to a third party or “factor.” The business gets immediate cash flow and the factor assumes all liability of the debtor. Unlike a loan, factoring focuses not on the creditworthiness of the small business owner, but that of the debtor and also the value of the invoices. “This way you don’t have to commit to some 3-year line of credit with big fees where every time you sneeze they’re charging you,” says Charles H. Green, Executive Director of the Small Business Finance Institute. Keep in mind, however, factoring isn’t the wisest choice for all small businesses, says Kassar. Be sure to assess the whole picture: Will the factor charge a service fee and/or interest? Or will the rate of return from selling discounted invoices be worth it in the long run? New Rules of Getting a Small Business Loan: Private Lenders If you have sufficient collateral tied to real estate and want to avoid the rigid credit policies often associated with bank loans, going through a private moneylender may be your best bet, Kassar suggests. Dig Deeper: What Loan Officers Really Want You can find private investors directly or, better yet, through a loan officer who would serve as the middleman. Since they aren’t “packaged deals” like bank loans, it’s important to note that the terms of a private loan will vary case to case depending on what your loan officer has available. Before settling on this method of financing, Kassar warns that private loans bear high interest rates and are riddled with additional costs, such as document preparation and referral fees. New Rules of Getting a Small Business Loan: Small Business Administration (SBA) “The SBA is the best source for long term capital financing for a small business,” says Green—namely, the 7(a) loan program. With the Small Business Jobs Act upping the guaranty against default to 90% and also raising the maximum loan amount to $5 million, the 7(a) loan was revamped to make banks want to lend to small businesses and to entice small business owners to actually apply for the loan. New Rules of Getting a Small Business Loan: Small banks The other popular route for acquiring a small business loan is to go directly through a bank—and in this case, size does matter. Dig Deeper: How to Fill Out a Loan Application When shopping around for a bank loan, think “small with a capital S,” Kassar advises. “You’ve got to find an entrepreneur-friendly local or regional bank in your community that’s going to be more flexible,” he adds. While larger banks are better at delivering “cookie-cutter” financing options, smaller banks offer entrepreneurs more of a personal, hands-on experience. No matter which bank you decide on, however, be very cautious of spin. “Oftentimes the bank will nurse your story along for several weeks before they finally turn you down,” says Green. “What they’re not telling you is that they knew the day you walked in there they’re not making the loan because they don’t have the capital.” Check the bank’s Texas ratio—a formula that measures the health of a bank based on its credit troubles. “If a bank has a score of more than 150%, they might already be suspending most lending activities,” notes Green. “Also check FDIC.gov to determine if a bank is under any kind of consent order, which may indicate extra regulatory supervision and financial weakness.” New Rules of Getting a Small Business Loan: Do you really need it? “One of the best financing techniques is to not need money,” says Green. A seemingly obvious statement, yes, but many entrepreneurs are too quick to seek out a loan before taking into account what they already have, i.e. bootstrapping. Think creating a home office instead of renting a space, or outsourcing projects or hiring freelancers instead full-time employees. Both are simple ways to reduce the amount of outside funding you’d need to start or grow your business. “The first thing you should do is look at your own resources,” says Sloane. “If you have X amount in savings and you wanted to start up a business, ask yourself if you can afford to lose it all. This way you’re taking a risk on your own business and you don’t have to pay back principal or interest. KC Ifeanyi is a freelance contributor for Inc.com and Fast Co.Create and has worked as writer, editor, and social media manager for Fortune Small Business, Time, Inc. Content Solutions, and Howcast. He lives in Brooklyn. @kcifeanyi   Continue Reading