There is a growing trend to bring back affirmative action programs to municipalities across this country. Once the county and the school board have finished their disparity studies and the racist trends are documented and exposed, we are hopeful that our leadership at both of these entities will have the courage to finally re-implement initiatives to encourage increased buying and vendor-procured contracts with black owned businesses.
Q. Many of your member businesses are small and neighborhood-oriented. What does it take for them to be successful in this uneven economic environment?
They must standardize the look and feel of their businesses, i.e. all of their chairs need to match, etc. They must have consistent customer service day in and day out and then we (all of Miami) must support them by frequenting their businesses. The idea that they can present a competitive product for a competitive price over a long period of time is key to their success.
Q. Everybody likes success stories. Describe to us a few recent successes among your business members.
One of our members is a CPA firm that grew out of a past Big Six accounting firm employee that went out on his own. He has been able to become a virtual business manager for many small firms that ordinarily could not afford a licensed CPA as a part of the fiscal management team.
Another is a construction company that has secured major contracts due to our advocacy at the private business level. Another has increased its business contracts with the school system because of our push to change the local hiring ordinance that now exists within the MDCPS.
Q. What are the biggest hurdles for your member businesses?
The largest hurdle that small businesses face is with the banking industry. All of them have direct banking relationships with banks for checking and check cashing services, but these same banks do not lend money to these businesses.
Q. What has been your proudest achievement in this job?
My proudest achievement has been increasing the overall relevance of our chamber in this community. We consider ourselves to be the go-to organization for economic development in the black community. Our board members and our businesses are now becoming top of mind when you think about being inclusive of hiring black businesses or you are making decisions about minorities.
Q. And what have been the concerns that keep you awake at night?
The education of our children and their being prepared for the next generations of jobs and significant business opportunities. With that in mind, we started a mentoring organization called the Young Professional Network. The goal is to create an organization that will foster communication and collaboration among them. It is also a leadership development company designed to build this generation’s leaders. We constantly tell them that the future is now. We tell them that if no one is passing the baton, either start a new race or take the baton.
Q. What’s the best advice you ever got?
From my mentor David Palmer. He said “to hell with tradition, do it your way and if you are right success will be yours. And if you fail, just don’t do the same thing twice!”
Q. Tell us one thing about you that your coworkers don’t know.
That while working for a major telecommunications company that I won a national public speaking competition.