To Expand The Economy – Invest In Black Businesses

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For the descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States, entrepreneurship represents more than just owning a business and pursuing the proverbial American Dream. Instead, the ability for Black people to participate in local, regional, and global markets represents a dream deferred by systemic racism and discrimination.

Consequently, an analysis of Black business ownership can offer insight into the degree to which America is truly the land of opportunity. Inspired by the work of the Path to 15|55 initiative, this research explores the state of Black- (Image Credit – Brookings)                                                     owned employer businesses (hereafter referred to as Black businesses). Using the Census Bureau’s 2017 Annual Business Survey (ABS), which replaced the Survey of Business Owners (SBO), we analyzed data at the national and metropolitan levels to compare Black and non-Black businesses.

The purpose of this research is to provide the empirical context that will make way toward a set of business development goals. Future goals will provide a shared vision among key players that can drive capital to Black entrepreneurs to start, maintain, and grow their businesses. This includes capital from corporations and philanthropies, support from political leaders, investment and products from financial institutions, and venture and startup capital investment from high-net-worth individuals. The potential economic and social returns that strategic investments in Black businesses can have for individual business owners, local communities, and the overall economy warrant an analysis.

According to the most recent Census Bureau data available, Black people comprise approximately 14.2% of the U.S. population, but Black businesses comprise only 2.2% of the nation’s 5.7 million employer businesses (firms with more than one employee).

Black-owned businesses are much more likely to be sole proprietorships. According to the 2012 SBO (the last year reported), 4.2%of Black-owned businesses had employees, compared to 20.6% of white-owned businesses. Black adults are much more likely to be unemployed, and Black businesses are much more likely to hire Black workers. This shortage of Black businesses throttles employment and the development of Black communities. Furthermore, the underrepresentation of Black businesses is costing the U.S. economy millions of jobs and billions of dollars in unrealized revenues.

We have yet to experience an economy that is inclusive. We can’t predict what would happen if the drag of racism was removed from various markets, but if Black businesses posted similar numbers to non-Black businesses, the country would realize significant economic growth. We assume an expansion in the size of the economy such that no gains in Black business revenue or size come at the expense of non-Black businesses.

Read the original article at Brookings.

Ariel Alternatives’ Project Black Aims to Scale Sustainable Minority-Owned Businesses & Close the Racial Wealth Gap

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Ariel Investments, LLC (“Ariel”) today announced the launch of Ariel Alternatives, LLC (“Ariel Alternatives” or the “firm”), a private asset management firm.

This announcement marks Ariel Investments’ first foray into the private investment sphere in its 38-year history.

Ariel Alternatives’ initial strategic initiative (“Project Black” or “the initiative”) will have a mission to scale sustainable minority-owned businesses. Through this effort, Ariel Alternatives intends to invest in middle-market companies that are not currently minority owned, transforming these entities into certified minority business enterprises, as well as existing Black and Latinx-owned businesses. Project Black will forge a new class of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. The initiative will seek to position these companies as leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies – supporting supply chain diversity. Project Black aims to close the racial wealth gap by generating jobs, economic growth and equality within underrepresented populations from the entry level to the boardroom.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (“JPMorgan”) has committed up to $200 million to be co-invested alongside Project Black for future transactions. This commitment is part of JPMorgan’s previously announced plan to invest $30 billion to advance racial equity. Over the next five years, JPMorgan will seek to provide economic opportunity to Black and Latinx communities by: promoting and expanding affordable housing and homeownership; growing Black and Latinx-owned businesses; improving financial health and access to banking; and investing in a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

The Co-Founders of Ariel Alternatives are Leslie A. Brun and Mellody Hobson. Brun will serve as Chairman and CEO of Ariel Alternatives and will lead the Project Black team. Brun is an executive with over 40 years of expertise in investment banking, commercial banking and financial advisory services. He is the founder and former Chairman and CEO of Hamilton Lane, one of the largest global investment managers providing private markets solutions with over $500 billion in assets under management and supervision. Brun is also Chairman of the board of directors of CDK Global, lead independent director of Merck & Co., Inc. and Broadridge Financial Solutions, Inc., and a director of Corning, Inc. and Ariel Investments, LLC. Hobson continues in her current role as Co-CEO, President and director of Ariel Investments, LLC and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ariel Investment Trust. She is also Vice Chair and incoming Chair of the Board of Starbucks Corporation, and a director of JPMorgan Chase.

Leslie A. Brun commented: “It is no secret that the racial wealth gap in America continues to widen, day by day. While we have been encouraged and inspired by the supply chain diversity commitments recently made by large corporations, we believe that it is time to accelerate these promises with real, measurable
steps. Our work will aim to bring operational excellence, financial resources, minority ownership and leadership to these companies.”

Ariel Alternatives’ advisory affiliate, Project Black Management Company, LLC, plans to invest in existing standalone companies and corporate divisions in the middle-market that are not currently minority owned, as well as existing Black and Latinx-owned businesses, with $100 million to $1 billion in revenue. Initially, the initiative will pursue 6-10 deal opportunities. Through a rigorous review and direct engagement, Project Black’s investment team researched the needs of Fortune 500 companies across industries. Project Black plans to focus predominately on healthcare, industrial, media and marketing, outsourcing, manufacturing and packaging, technology, transportation and logistics, and financial and professional services. The strategy will continue to be informed by direct engagement with Ariel Alternatives’ network of Fortune 500 companies that are committed to diversifying their vendors. The Project Black investment team believes that through ownership and ongoing counsel, future companies would become scalable platforms with long-term growth potential.

Mellody Hobson continued: “Through Project Black, we plan to ultimately disperse opportunity throughout underrepresented communities. We want to change the narrative and foster true action and demonstrable change. Ariel’s 38-year heritage was built on a patient yet urgent approach to public market investing. The same core values will be brought to Ariel Alternatives in the private investment arena.”

Ariel Alternatives’ investment team will be led by the Co-Founders of Project Black, Frantz Alphonse and Richard Powell, who will also serve as Senior Managing Directors of Ariel Alternatives. Previously, Alphonse and Powell were Co-Founders and Senior Managing Directors of APC Holdings LLC (“APCH”), a private investment and corporate development firm. Alphonse and Powell will partner with Ariel Alternatives and Project Black Senior Managing Director Charles Corpening. Previously, Corpening served as Chairman of Joshua Partners, a private equity firm, and he was a longtime co-investor and Senior Advisor to APCH. These three senior team members have worked in similar markets over decades and bring deep relationships with Fortune 500 C-Suite executives, board members and purchasing officers. This investment team has gleaned insights through extensive research that will inform the firm’s targeted investment approach.

Ariel Alternatives will also leverage strategic counsel from its advisory board on an ongoing basis.

This group has served on the boards of several Fortune 500 companies, and advised on several M&A transactions:
• Paget L. Alves: Former Chief Sales Officer and President of Business Markets Group, Sprint Corp; Board member of Assurant, Inc., International Game Technology PLC, Synchrony Financial, Yum! Brands, Inc. and Ariel Investments, LLC
• James Bell: Former CFO, Boeing Co.; Board member of Apple Inc., CDW Corp. and Dow Inc.
• William M. Lewis, Jr.: Managing Director and Chairman of Investment Banking, Lazard Ltd; Board member of Ariel Investment Trust
• Robbie Robinson: Co-Founder and CEO, Pendulum Holdings, LLC; former partner at BDT Capital Partners
• John W. Rogers, Jr.: Co-CEO, Chief Investment Officer and Director, Ariel Investments, LLC; Board member of The New York Times Company, Nike, Inc., McDonald’s Corporation and Ariel Investment Trust
• David J. Vitale: Former Vice Chairman of Bank One Corp.; Board member of United Airlines Holdings, Inc., several Duff & Phelps investment company funds and Ariel Investments, LLC

Ariel Investments was advised by Kirkland & Ellis LLP on the creation of Ariel Alternatives.

About Ariel Alternatives, LLC
Ariel Alternatives, LLC is a private asset management firm affiliated with Ariel Investments, LLC. It is an enterprise newly conceived for the times, built on a 38-year-old foundation. The firm’s initial initiative, Project Black, will have a mission to scale sustainable minority-owned businesses which will serve as leading suppliers to Fortune 500 companies – supporting supply chain diversity. Project Black plans to close the racial wealth gap by aiming to generate jobs and economic growth within underrepresented communities. The initiative plans to invest in businesses that are not currently minority owned, as well as existing minority-owned businesses, forging a new class of Black and brown entrepreneurs. Over the next decade, Project Black hopes to create 100,000 new jobs in disproportionately underrepresented minority communities across 6-10 companies. With scale, Black and brown wealth would grow from the entry level to the boardroom.

For more information, please visit Ariel Alternatives’ website at arielalternatives.com.

About Ariel Investments, LLC
Ariel Investments, LLC is a global value-based asset management firm founded in 1983. Ariel is headquartered in Chicago, with offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Sydney. As of January 31, 2021, Ariel’s firm-wide assets under management totaled approximately $15 billion. Ariel serves individual and institutional investors through five no-load mutual funds and 11 separate account strategies.

For more information, please visit Ariel’s website at arielinvestments.com.

Walgreens’ new CEO Roz Brewer on bias in the C-suite: ‘When you’re a Black woman, you get mistaken a lot’

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Originally posted by Courtney Connley CNBC

Starbucks Chief Operating Officer Rosalind Brewer is continuing to blaze new trails in corporate America.

At the end of February, Brewer, who is the coffeehouse company’s first Black and first female COO, will be leaving her position to serve as CEO of drugstore chain Walgreens. In this new role, she will be the only Black woman currently serving as a Fortune 500 CEO, and just the third Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 firm in history. Ursula Burns, who served as the CEO of Xerox between 2009 and 2016 was the first, and Mary Winston, who served as interim CEO at Bed Bath & Beyond in 2019, was the second.

Photo Credit: Rosalind ‘Roz’ Brewer, president and chief executive officer of Sam’s Club, speaks during the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Sarah Bentham | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Prior to joining Starbucks in 2017, Brewer spent five years as the CEO of Sam’s Club, which is owned by Walmart. As a longtime executive in corporate America, she’s spoken openly about the bias and challenges she’s faced as one of very few Black women in the C-suite.

“When you’re a Black woman, you get mistaken a lot,” she said during a 2018 speech at her alma mater Spelman College, which is an all-women HBCU. “You get mistaken as someone who could actually not have that top job. Sometimes you’re mistaken for kitchen help. Sometimes people assume you’re in the wrong place, and all I can think in the back of my head is, ‘No, you’re in the wrong place.’”

During the speech, Brewer recalled the time she was invited to an exclusive CEO roundtable in New York City when she was serving as the CEO of Sam’s Club. During the reception, she said, she met a fellow CEO and introduced herself in the same way the other men in the room had introduced themselves, “Roz Brewer of Sam’s Club.” After exchanging introductions, she said the fellow CEO asked her what she did at the company and proceeded to ask if she led marketing. Puzzled by the question as the invitation to the event stated that it was a roundtable for CEOs, Brewer says she responded by saying, “No, that’s part of my organization.”

After the man continued the conversation by asking if she worked in merchandising, Brewer said she gave the fellow CEO a “side-eye” as she was actually serving as the keynote for the event. “I enjoyed the look on his face when my bio was read,” she said. “It was a good day.”

Brewer, who was listed at No. 48 on Forbes 2020 Power Women list, explained that the CEO roundtable was one of many incidents in which she’s encountered bias inside and outside of work. “If there is a place where bias doesn’t exist, I have not found it,” she said.

Recognizing that many women experience bias and gender discrimination in the workplace, Brewer said that her biggest message to women in business is to “stay steadfast” and know that “your voice matters.”

Read the complete article here.

Black Woman in Tech Creates New Fundraising Opportunities for HBCUs

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Her App is Changing the Way HBCUs Raise Money.

Although spare change technology, also known as round-ups, has been around for a few years, Dominique King, Founder of I Heart My HBCU, was the first to bridge this technology to Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) via a single mobile app. “I Heart My HBCU became the first platform where users could donate spare change to any of the 104 HBCUs in one place,” says King.

King launched this groundbreaking funding platform three years ago, in 2017, joining an elite group of black women tech entrepreneurs. This technology could have been directed towards many other areas of need, but her plan was to preserve the rich heritage of HBCUs and combat challenges that lead to the closures of some of these great  (Photo credit – PRNewsfoto/I Heart My HBCU)                        institutions, such as Concordia College in Alabama.

King is passionate about her efforts to preserve the viability of these institutions; being a HBCU graduate herself, of the prestigious Howard University in Washington, D.C., she knows first-hand the importance of not only the cultural significance of HBCUs but the vital role that the education she received at Howard has played in the many successes she has earned in her life to this point. In her consistent and constantly evolving spirit to give back, she toiled tirelessly to develop a novel way to support HBCUs in their efforts to continue producing scholars and leaders of today and tomorrow. It was out of this spirit of selflessness that I Heart My HBCU was born.

In as little as 2-minutes, users can download the I Heart My HBCU app in iOS or Android stores and link their bank account. The I Heart My HBCU app rounds up each credit or debit card purchase to the nearest dollar. The spare change will then be donated to the user’s five favorite HBCUs.

Read the full article at PR Newswire.

How Hip-Hop Superstar Travis Scott Has Become Corporate America’s Brand Whisperer

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Three years ago, Scott made the 30 Under 30 based on his music credentials. Now he’s helping major companies rethink their brands—and changing how celebrities and corporations interact.

The afternoon after Election Day, Travis Scott pilots his Lamborghini SUV, a rolling hotbox, down Melrose Avenue, the thudding beats of his friend, fellow rapper Don Toliver, keeping him awake and aware.

 

Image Credit Travis Scott Fortnite by EPIC GAMES | Forbes

Like the rest of America, he’s been following the vote totals (“Looks like Biden, right?”), and political discord seems everywhere, his Los Angeles streetscape largely boarded up. Hip-hop’s lyrical currency is a metaphor, and Scott can’t help but notice the sight. “They’ve got to have understanding,” he says of those anticipating civil unrest that never came. “It’s bigger than these stores.”

Arriving at a recording studio, Scott seeks to clear his mind before getting to work. He grabs a basketball to avail himself of the hoop in the parking lot, sparks yet another blunt (a regular activity for him), and eventually pulls out a glass beer bottle filled with a clear liquid.

“Tell me what you think,” he says, handing it over. According to the plain white label affixed to the bottle, it’s a preliminary batch of Cacti, a forthcoming—and until now, top-secret—hard seltzer he’s been working on with AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer. This one’s purportedly strawberry; it tastes generally crisp and fruity. “We’ve got other flavors,” Scott says. “Like lime. I was actually just trying it. I kinda like it.”

Continue to the Forbes to read the full article.

Reginald Miller becomes the new chief diversity officer at McDonald’s

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Popular fast-food chain McDonald’s has recently hired a new chief diversity officer, Reginald Miller. He will be replacing Wendy Lewis, who retired two months ago and is believed to be an integral part of combating racial bias allegations that were made earlier in the year.

“I’m proud to be joining McDonald’s at a time where diverse voices and perspectives are not just being celebrated,” Miller stated, “but engaged in accelerating meaningful change. I’m looking forward to getting to know the McDonald’s business through the lens of the people who impact it every day in countries and cultures around the world.”

Miller previously worked as the chief diversity officer for VF Corporation, the producer of brands such as Vans, Jansport, and the North Face. He officially began his new position with McDonald’s on November 9.

The chief of human resources at McDonald’s, Wendy Lewis, said of Miller, “Reggie and I share the same goal: that in order to move forward, we must move away from the notion that the responsibility of diversity lies with one person, one department or one group.”

Source: McDonald’s

Minority-Owned Firm Partners with Microsoft to Launch $250 Million Fund for Business Owners

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Siebert Williams Shank Co. L.L.C. (SWS) is partnering with Microsoft Corp. to launch the Clear Vision Impact Fund L.L.C., with an initial $25 million seed investment from the software giant.

The nation’s largest minority-and-women-owned financial firm, SWS reports that the investment fund will have a target size of $250 million. It will invest growth and operating capital in small-and medium-sized businesses, with an emphasis on minority-owned businesses, to maximize social impact.

SWS reports the “fund” is the first of its kind created for minority-owned firms, including black businesses. It expects to focus on small and medium-sized businesses, with an emphasis on those that are minority- and women-owned, that, in general, have enterprise values of less than $100 million. SWS added the investments look to target companies demonstrating an operating track record, with sustainable business models, companies that operate in or serve underserved markets, and companies
fostering inclusive growth initiatives.

The objective of the partnership between Microsoft and SWS is to mitigate the deficits in capital access that minority-owned businesses often encounter, thereby enhancing the positive impact that these companies have on the communities in which they operate.

“We are extremely pleased to have Microsoft’s critical support in delivering the commercial and social resources necessary to strengthen underperforming communities,” Chris Williams, chairman of SWS, stated in a news release. “Our role in helping to implement Microsoft’s vision of community support is a recognition of the vital role that small businesses play in their communities, particularly during this period of widespread economic distress.”

The fresh funding is needed. Gaining access to capital to start or expand businesses has long been and continues to be an ongoing challenge for minority-owned firms.

Tahreem Kampton, assistant treasurer and CIO at Microsoft, stated, “We’re pleased to continue our 10-year relationship with Siebert Williams Shank to partner together to create new opportunities and expand access to capital for minority-owned small businesses. This is just the first step to building a more diverse and equitable playing field and we look forward to the opportunities that this investment will help create.”

The fund expects to deliver value beyond providing capital solutions to financial sponsors and entrepreneurs. It aims to do that by leveraging both SWS’s national network of relationships and its visibility and reputation within the minority business community.

Source: globenewswire.com

Inclusion at the Forefront: Letter from the Editor

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Anthony Anderson on the cover of the Black EOE Journal

By Samar Khoury

We are celebrating milestones every day, and this issue of Black EOE Journal is full of them. Inclusion surrounds this issue, as it is at the forefront more than ever.

For example, our Best of the Best lists recognize the top HBCUs and Colleges & Universities for their commitment to inclusion. This issue is also filled with firsts: Senator Kamala Harris, the first black woman of Indian descent to formally accept a vice president nomination; Jeanette Epps, the first black woman astronaut to join the international space station crew; Michael V. Drake, the University of California’s first black president; and much, much more. These are only scratching the surface. Even better news: A new law has been passed requiring large corporations to diversify their boards.

Our cover story- actor, activist, and comedian Anthony Anderson- sees value in inclusion and continuously pushes for justice. A prominent figure in the Black Lives Matter movement, Anderson makes it his mission to advocate for a more inclusive future. “I have to build my own table and seat. We don’t have to sit at other peoplpe’s tables. We invite people to our table,” Anthony says.

Read more about his efforts and inspiring story on page 48.

We’ve also rounded up a list of influential figures who aim to make a difference in the world. From Tyler Perry to Yara Shahidi, these people are inspirations.

Read about these figures on page 30.

You, too, can make a difference, and that is by voting during the upcoming presidential election. Have your voice heard, and advocate for change. Your vote can be what the world needs. So, get out there and vote! Every vote counts.

Last but not least, job opportunities are still present among the pandemic and we’ve presented them for you. Every issue of Black EOE Journal strives to give the best job opportunities and tips while navigating these unprecedented times.

While times are changing, one thing isn’t, and that is the importance of inclusion. So, follow in Anthony Anderson, Senator Harris, Jeanette Epps, and many more influential figures’ footsteps, and make your own change.

Supplier Diversity—Part of a Black Chamber’s DNA

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By Bobby McDonald, President, OC Black Chamber

The Orange County Black Chamber of Commerce, for over 36 years, has prided itself for providing Access to Information. Our mission has strongly supported our minority and diverse communities.

We at the Black Chamber are always looking for ways to help our business community improve, enhance and grow their business.

In 2001, Supplier Diversity became an integral part of the Orange County Black Chamber and its membership.

Southern California Edison created a supplier diversity and development team that outreached with events that identified diverse suppliers for potential business opportunities.

It was easy to follow their new innovative playbook because they understood it wasn’t just the idea of doing the right thing, but supplier diversity made good business sense.

Networking, matchmaking events, business forums, “how to do business” workshops and now, the Edison Entrepreneurial, Development, Growth and Education (EDGE) Programs, offer potential members to learn how to participate, gain experience, learn the nomenclature and variance of degrees of supplier diversity, and how to prepare to do business effectively.

As far as certification goes, we at the Black Chamber have partnered with Department of General Service, who offers training and certification for small business to businesses in California. A small business certification supports the pursuit of contract opportunities with the state and helps the state meet its 25 percent goal.

The Dept. of General Services also offers certification for Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises. The chamber offers a yearly certification training event for veterans in conjunction with the California Employment Development Department.

One our biggest success was to have a two-session certification with the DGS, where 33 individuals came to get their business SB and DVBE certification. After the training, we were informed that DGS confirmed seven individuals had garnered successful certification.

The chamber has found and truly believes that corporations that set minority procurement goals that are supported by top management can achieve substantial progress in narrowing the opportunity gap between minority- and white-owned businesses.

We are now currently involved with supplier diversity programs with Southern California Gas Company, Semper Energy Utilities along with AT&T, to name a few. It’s now part of our chamber DNA.

We totally realize and understand the value of supplier diversity and how it enhances and creates proactive business and encourages the use of minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, LGBT-owned, service-disabled-veteran-owned, historically underutilized business, and Small Business Administration (SBA)-defined small business concerns as suppliers.

 

How We’re Surviving through the Pandemic

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By Connie Russell | C. L. Russell Group, LLC

L. Russell Group, LLC (CLRG) is a woman-owned small business full-service workforce training company. Specializing in workforce training, content development, performance assessment and quality assurance. CLRG, like many other small businesses, is learning to persevere in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here, the founder and CEO, Connie Russell, shares her inspiring story of how using creativity, connection, and a lot of driven faith to navigate her business survival in the face of adversity.

Initial Impact

Although the services we offered were adaptable for COVID-19, we still had a few challenges. Training is not a new industry, and it is very competitive. We discovered many businesses who were in other industries and trying to survive like CLRG also tapped into the training industry to save their company during this turmoil. We found ourselves not only a small company competing with other training businesses (large and small), we are now competing with businesses from other industries taking advantage of the training industry opportunities as well.

COVID-19 Pandemic Impact

Undeniably, this has been the most difficult moment CLRG has faced since our five-year tenure. Our sales decreased more than 80 percent, and that was just the beginning. The severity of the Covid-19 crisis put our business, the community and many families in what some would consider uncharted territory. Even though our services initially included virtual training among other services, we were still majorly affected.

Many of our clients who valued the professional training services we provided for their employees, had to step back and reassess their organization’s essential needs during the pandemic. Unfortunately, professional training services were no longer an immediate essential service for many businesses. Many of our clients had to redirect their training funds to meet essential needs aligned with health, safety, and government regulations. Increasing our virtual and on-demand training services kept us optimistic—a high percentage of our sales came from instructor-led training. This required face-to-face training, and lack of social distancing. So, when employees began to quarantine at home, we immediately lost 100 percent of our instructor-led training services for the second quarter and counting.

Since health concerns and government pandemic policies directly impacted how people can gather for the unpredictable future, I knew CLRG had to quickly reassess our existing services as well as pivot our business model. It was time to seriously bootup.

CLRG shared a few tips that helped them pivot their business during the pandemic below.

Pandemic Pivoting

As our team brainstormed over innovative marketing tactics, we decided to focus on utilizing two (2) Cs of marketing: Customer Solutions and Convenience. The two Cs of marketing put the customer’s interests (the buyer, our clients) ahead of the marketer’s interests (the seller, CLRG).

 

  • Customer Solutions, Not Products: Understand your client’s needs as well as find solutions to their problems. Customers want to buy value or a solution to their problems. CLRG collaborated with other small businesses as well as community organizations to help identify essential needs. This allowed us to broaden our services not only from a business perspective but from a community professional trainer provider. CLRG also identified the trending industries affected by COVID-19 and aligned essential training services to meet those needs as well.

 

  • Outcome: Focusing on customer solutions allowed CLRG to expand in new industries such as the Health Industry. This industry was one of CLRG’s goals for our 2020 opportunity list! Connecting with the community allowed us the opportunity to offer complimentary virtual skills training courses to individuals who were unemployed during the pandemic or simply wanted to use this time to enhance their skills. We discovered possible ways to be a part of the solution, not just for businesses, but the community as well. This was a healing process for everyone.

 

  • Convenience, Not Place: Customers want products and services to be as convenient to purchase as possible. Design your products/services so the customer feels confident when utilizing your services. Customers do not want to embark on additional work to use your products/services. Putting yourself in the place of the customer when trying to decide how to design a more efficient service isn’t always the best route. You already know your products/services so it can be challenging to discover new innovative designs. Try ideation sessions with external stakeholders to discover innovative ways to serve your customers. CLRG wanted to ensure the experience during this sensitive time was beneficial to our customers. Since this was a very unpredictable time, CLRG designed a service that was convenient based on our client needs, with the option of flexibility.

 

  • Outcome: By initially inquiring with our clients about their ‘current’ needs, and not focusing on what we had to offer; CLRG was able to design services that were timely, convenient and flexible during the pandemic. When you demonstrate to clients that you are flexible when meeting their needs (especially during a pandemic), this is when true customer relationships are developed.

Remaining Optimistic into the Future

Ridiculous faith has become my mantra during this pandemic. I refused to believe the pandemic would be the reason CLRG closed its doors. I must admit, I have been truly blessed with an amazing team. As the saying goes, ‘what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.’ We truly discovered what a real shoestring budget feels like, but it has also shown us our true colors of perseverance. There were times my team members would ask why I continued to go into the office. Although my verbal response was ‘because we’re still paying rent’ I was actually thinking of the words my mother would often say to me: ‘continue to move forward as if it is.’ We will continue to strive for excellence, seek innovative solutions and humbly serve. CLRG will continue to believe we have a purpose here and will continue to positively impact the workforce industry for businesses, the community, and families.

Lessons Learned

As a professional development training company, we found ourselves receiving just as much training as our customers during this pandemic. There were so many lessons learned thus far during the pandemic, and I’m sure more to come. But if I had to think of two it would be leadership and relationships. True leadership is demonstrated during trials. On many occasions, I found myself serving in several roles. But it was through this experience I was able to discover new ideas and see my business from different perspectives. When you’re always serving as the leader, sometimes you miss these opportunities to get your hands dirty…literally.

Relationships are key, period. During challenging times, it was very important to stay connected with our customers and associates. Simply sending a hello to let them know you’re thinking about them and hoping they’re doing well says a lot. It demonstrates your sensitivity to the situation at hand and acknowledges that you’re authentic about your relationship. Our customers appreciated this. We will continue to stay optimistic and believe a silver lining is on the way. Until then, we are preparing for the new norm.”

 Click here to view the source: CL Russell Group.

Avoiding Workplace Word Wars

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A napkin with conflict resolution solutions wrtten on it, sitting next to a cup of coffee

By Lorie Reichel-Howe
Founder, Conversations In The Workplace

If you work with people, it’s inevitable that you have felt the sting of cutting words, the stab of sarcasm and the sickening silence when a coworker is verbally attacked. When workplace word wars occur, people become casualties, relationships are strained, and morale plunges downward.

Unless people effectively and confidently respond to verbal outbursts, culture will erode, productivity will plummet, and attrition will skyrocket.

In my consulting work, I’ve observed that unaddressed behaviors become workplace norms. When hurtful behaviors are tolerated, people are dehumanized and verbal offenders multiply. On the flip side, organizations that prepare employees to effectively respond to workplace zingers, jabs and verbal bombs, establish a safe workplace culture.

Unfortunately, wanting to speak up when a verbal assault bomb is dropped doesn’t mean you know how to speak up, or even what to say so here are a few communication strategies you can implement. Instead of simply describing the strategies, I will demonstrate how to implement them in a workplace scenario where a frustrated employee, Jolene, blurts out a negative comment about the Help Desk department.

Scenario

Upon submitting a request for support from Help Desk, Jolene was informed that, due to complications with the new system software installation, that there will be a two-day delay in receiving technical support. Angry at the delay, Jolene blurted out:“The Help Desk department should be renamed the Helpless Department.”

Request clarification

In a calm and firm manner, ask Jolene to share what she meant by “renaming the Help Desk Department to the Helpless Department.” In taking a curious approach, you invite reflection of the meaning of one’s words. Asking questions prevents you from accusing, lecturing or judging the actions of others.

Acknowledge the needs or concerns of the other person

Acknowledging someone’s concern is a great diffuser. People commonly breathe a sigh of relief when their concern is recognized. When we feel angry or hurt and believe someone has crossed a line, our human tendency is to become defensive. Acknowledging the other person’s challenge is not instinctive. Even so, learning to acknowledge instead of telling someone what you think of their outburst, can become a patterned response with repeated practice. While acknowledging is not a solution to the problem, it opens up a dialogue where a solution could be explored. Rest assured, acknowledging someone’s concerns doesn’t mean you approve of their behavior, it simply means you understand what motivated their behavior or outburst.

Communicate positive wants (for everyone involved)

When people hear that you desire a positive outcome or solution to their problem, they see you as an advocate, not an enemy. It’s assuring to know someone cares about you even when you’ve acted impulsively or spoken inappropriately. It only takes a few seconds to communicate to Jolene that you want her to obtain the technical support needed to complete her work. Share that you want Help Desk to successfully implement a new system upgrade that improves everyone’s working experience and that you want other departments to support Help Desk in their improvement efforts. Lastly, include your desire for a positive work environment for everyone where concerns and needs are respectfully communicated.

Bring awareness of the impact of words and actions

To help Jolene understand the impact of her words, tell her that when you hear her say that the Help Desk Department should be renamed the Helpless Department, it comes across as an attack on a team within the organization. Share that negative comments like these, instead of unifying the organization, separate and divide. It only takes one match to ignite a fire and once negativity spreads, it’s hard to stop.”

Ask questions to spark brainstorming a solution

Successful communicators empower others by asking them questions. They avoid directing or dictating what others can or should do. Ask Jolene if there are technical support resources other than Help Desk. This moves her from attacking a department to finding another resource for technical support.

Get a commitment

To ensure that negative comments are not made in the future, ask Jolene to commit to discussing her concerns in the future without attacking a team or individual. Documenting Jolene’s agreement is helpful in case of a repeated offense. It takes discernment to know if a reminder is adequate, if an apology is appropriate or if consequences should be imposed.

If the behavior continues

If the behavior is repeated, reference the earlier commitment and identify that you are now holding an accountability conversation to address a behavior pattern. Make it clear that this is not a first-time offense – this person has a history. Pattern behaviors erode trust because they cause you to question whether a person has the ability to uphold their commitments.

Create safe and positive workplaces

It’s not enough to inform people of workplace policies, people need to know what to do when policies are violated and when employees become causalities of a toxic culture. Organizations that develop a positive and safe workplace understand that telling or expecting people to address negative behavior is as helpful as a medical diagnosis without a recovery plan. These organizations invest in training all employees, managers and teams in effectively addressing harmful workplace zingers, jabs and verbal bombs.

Lorie Reichel Howe is founder of Conversations in the Workplace. She leverages over 20 years of expertise in communication and relationship management. She equips managers, teams and business professionals to have “safe conversations” – transformative dialogue that uncovers hidden workplace issues. Whether issues are challenging team dynamics, mismanaged expectations or good old-fashioned bad behavior, “safe conversations” foster greater innovation, inclusion and collaboration within organizations.

Click here to learn more about Lorie’s impact.

Rihanna Joins ‘Forbes’ List Of America’s Richest Self-Made Women

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Rihanna on professional women's magazine cover wonder woman of the year.

Forbes has unleashed its list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women and there are plenty of recognizable names.

According to the outlet, the entire ranking of trailblazers are worth a collective $90 billion and have “have started or helped expand companies that do everything from build rockets to create snowboards to make Covid-19 tests.” At the top of the ranking is roofing entrepreneur Diane Hendricks, co-founder of ABC Supply, one of the country’s largest wholesale distributors of roofing, siding and windows. She tops the list for the third year in a row with her empire, which reportedly exceeds $8 billion.

Meanwhile, Rihanna makes her first appearance on the list at the No. 33 spot, courtesy of her cross-genre ventures. In addition to her Fenty Beauty line, the pop titan also has her Savage x Fenty lingerie line, as well as her music ventures, racking up an estimated $600 million for her earnings across the board in 2019.

Among the other celebrity appearances include Kris Jenner, who nabbed her first entry at the No. 92 spot with a net worth of $190 million. Oprah Winfrey returns to this year’s ranking at the No. 9 spot with a net worth of $2.9 billion, while Kim Kardashian took the No. 24 spot with her net worth of $780 million and little sister Kylie Jenner took the No. 29 position with a net worth of $700 million. Lady Gaga and Jenniffer Lopez both snagged the No. 97 spot with their net worth of $150 million.

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