By Ron Busby,
President, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.
Sometimes it feels really good to have GREAT news to report! It was especially satisfying to learn this month that World Wide Technology, Inc. (WWT), the St. Louis-based firm led by David Steward, has eclipsed the SIX BILLION DOLLAR revenue threshold!! To get this news during Black History Month just adds a little extra “spice” to life, when most news about growth opportunities for Black-owned businesses is far from rosy.
This month, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Mr. Steward as well as participate in a panel alongside him at the Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) STEM Conference in Washington, DC. I was perfectly happy when he shared the news about WWT’s record earnings. But when Mr. Steward told me that his firm spent nearly TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS with minority owned firms, I hit the turbo boosters! This is exactly what truly successful Black-owned businesses do – figure out how to open doors of opportunity to others. It is clear that when he wrote, “Doing Business by the Good Book,” David Steward wasn’t just going for a catchy title, he was writing a blueprint for success for other business owners to follow.
“There’s no question that we have a responsibility to each other.” Steward noted, while clearly convinced that the more he helps others, the more his business grows. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to spend time talking with Steward, a man whose track record qualifies him to be a little arrogant, but who is not in the least! He’s not flashy, not cocky, not greedy; but totally down-to-earth and at ease with his commitment to others.
Just for balance, I can’t tell you the number of events – small and large – that I attend on behalf of and hosted by Black businesses and organizations that appear to make NO effort to include African American vendors as suppliers for their events. As incredible as this sounds, and in light of the facts as reported in Black Meetings & Tourism magazine “…the African-American travel market is a $48.6 billion a year business and much of that business is rooted in conferences and conventions…” we absolutely must work harder to emulate David Steward’s example. If we just did the simple math and used Steward’s formula, that nearly $50 billion would net almost $2 billion for Black vendors and suppliers. That $2 billion represents thousands of jobs, paychecks, mortgages, etc. in our neighborhoods across the country and adds serious muscle to the bottom lines of this nation’s 1.9 million Black businesses.
As we wind down Black History Month 2014 and ramp up our commitment to making history everyday, let me leave you with two thoughts straight from the pages of David Steward’s “Doing Business by the Good Book”:
“Give, and it will be given to you… I live my life by these words. My objective in business is not driven by how much money I may make. I seek to serve and to give to others…. The success of a business owner is dependent upon his or her desire to serve others. I believe this philosophy of servitude epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit.”
“It takes conviction to resist the demands of short-term thinkers. Indeed, guiding a business takes patience, because great businesses are not built overnight. Nor is excellence achieved in one fell swoop. Attaining excellence is not a strategy; it’s a process – a never-ending process that demands continual improvement.”
Keep service first, pursue your ambition with conviction, exercise patience, demand excellence and never stop improving… that’s a Black History business lesson for the ages.
In the Spirit of Success,
Ron Busby, Sr.
U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.