Fifty years of minority business development and the basic script has not changed.
Access to markets. Access to technical assistance. Access to capital.
I call it the Sacred Trilogy of minority business development. It's not that this approach has not made progress. It has. The question is... are we still making progress? The signs suggest we're not.
Minority businesses are still seen as less prepared, with less capacity and overall less competitive. The hyper-competitive business environment demands suppliers have size, scale and reach. There are still very few minority firms that have this combination of characteristics. The Sacred Trilogy was important but our minority business development efforts simply haven't kept up.
So what's the new script for growing minority firms? Simply more focus on the entrepreneur and less on the Sacred Trilogy. You can't assist everyone. There must be an underlining expectation that a business owner and their business will progress. Minority business support systems must become a means to get businesses to some better place not an ongoing way of life. The new script says you invest your time and attention supporting entrepreneurs of color who can provide a return on your investment. Invest in those who are listening, learning and growing.
No training, access to markets or access to capital can improve minority businesses without the entrepreneur being engaged. Too often we in the business of helping minority firms grow have been trying to do it without (or in spite of) the minority business owner. It can't happen no matter how much it makes us feel better for trying. The success of the business doesn't depend on the ethnicity of the owner but the authenticity of the business. Invest in minority entrepreneurs who understand this is the real color of their opportunity. That's what I think. What do you think?
Melvin Gravely II, Ph. D.
Dr. Melvin Gravely is professionally dedicated to developing capacity and opportunity for minority entrepreneurs. He is the author of the popular books, The Lost Art of Entrepreneurship, When Black and White Make Green, and Getting to the Next Level: Business, Race and Our Common Goal to Be Competitive. Gravely is a sought after keynote speaker and respected advisor to major corporations, chambers of commerce executives, urban city leaders, and NMSDC affiliates.
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