On the scale of what we have and what we don’t have, what we don’t have seems to weigh more heavily. Whether it’s money or time to go to college or number of bedrooms in the house or opportunities to do business or financing to get a business going, the list of those things lacking just seems longer. OK, I realize it’s human nature but it is so unproductive and I’m hearing it even more as it relates to minority business development. There are not enough educational opportunities, access to decision makers, nor enough “qualified” minority firms. My new favorite questions are how many should there be and how many do you need? No one can answer the questions with anything other than, more! These two questions expose the reality, there is likely enough for you to succeed. There are enough qualified minority firms for you to increase your spending. There are enough entrepreneurial training programs for you to develop your skills. There is enough access to decision makers for you to grow your business. Shouldn’t we lean more toward how we can and less on why we can’t? To acknowledge the possible doesn’t demand you agree things are perfect. The point is not the absence of real issues and additional challenges. There is work to be done and additional strides to be made. I get it. But I also get the most driving messages in the discussion about minority business development are “they aren’t serious about doing business with us” and “they aren’t ready to do business.” These statements are both true and equally false depending on which side of the scale you’re on. Does it mean no minority firms are ready to do business? Does it mean no buying organizations are really committed to doing business with minorities? Of course not. These common themes really mean we put too much weight on the wrong side of the scale. While I’m lamenting about what I don’t have it’s difficult for me to work with what I do have. While some organizations and diverse business owners are working with what they have, others are waiting for what they think they need. Working or waiting, that’s the choice. So what am I suggesting?Three simple steps:
1.Focus on the specific situation. Not “they” but “that one”.
2.Identify the specific gap and work on it.
3.Measure your progress in lasting terms. Not just securing a contract but a new, mutually beneficial business relationship.
Minority firms are developing relationships and building businesses bigger and better than at any other time in our history despite our out of balance focus. More and more communities and buying organizations are seeing the long-term economic benefits derived from thriving minority businesses. It is quietly happening while others are more loudly fixated on what’s missing. There is a role for everyone to play and without everyone playing their role we likely would not have made the progress we have. So I understand (and support) the need to continue to push for more…more access, more support systems, even more capable minority firms. I am just asking for a bit more balance on the scale.