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A STRONG START

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Monday, January 09, 2017


Business ownership is both a privilege and an opportunity. 


As we enter 2017, a year that will undoubtedly be filled with both challenges and opportunities, are you prepared for the growth, setbacks and disruptions business owners face daily? 


Will your business crumble at the slightest challenge, negative review or comment on social media? 


Will a dispute with a business partner lead to a shutdown? Will an unexpected set back cause you to call it quits? 


As I am privileged to work with new entrepreneurs, I often stress to them that it's not just knowledge of their business that leads to marketplace success, but also strength of character. 


This past weekend my family and I went to the movie theatre to see “Hidden Figures.” The movie focused on the lives of three extraordinary African-American women who worked at NASA—Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson. Each of these women played a pivotal role in one of America’s greatest moments—the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. This was a HUGE and PIVOTAL event in 1962 that revamped America’s confidence in the Space Race with our rival, the former Soviet Union. Their brilliance was astonishing, as was their resolve to persevere against the intentional sexism, racism and Jim Crow legislation used to oppress so many bright, creative African-Americans. They had the support of their families and churches and solidarity with others in similar circumstances. They were highly skilled in their field. They also had the strength of character that serves as a model for business owners and entrepreneurs in the coming year—they didn't quit in the face of obstacles, doubt or discouragement, but perseveredTheir legacy and contribution provides a model and foundation to build on, despite being ignored by history for more than fifty years.


How can you improve your knowledge of your own business in 2017? How can you learn more about your target market? What can you do to improve your skills or the skills of your team to better serve your customers? These are all important questions to ask in the coming year. Starting strong requires an honest assessment of where your business is at and how your business can be improved.

 

But starting strong, staying strong and finishing strong requires more. It requires strength of character. What are you doing to pursue excellence at all levels? Are you modeling excellence for your team? If there are those on your team that do not share or value your commitments, it may be best to help them depart. Sideways energy is often wasted energy; it doesn’t move you towards improving.  


The brilliant skill and strength of character of three remarkable African-American women working at NASA may have been hidden from public recognition for much of fifty years, but their impact was profound. Just as a business leader's strength of character will  have a profound impact on the business, whether publicly recognized or not. 

The Good Reason for More Disruption

Grace Yi - Friday, February 03, 2012

Posted by Grace Yi

 

 

 

Earlier last month, Fast Company put out an excellent article on Generation Flux, highlighting members of today’s new psychographic group of pioneering entrepreneurial individuals who are redefining their professional careers while making a significant impact in their respective industries. GenFluxers, the magazine states, represent a smorgasbord of highly adaptable, multi-skilled, and self-determined risk-takers, catalyzing new pathways and learning curves for individuals, companies, and entire systems.

Fast-paced, chaotic and creative by nature, this new pool of professionals is throwing caution to the wind and conventional models out the window in favor of flexibility, agility, and innovation. In other words, they’re disrupting the way things have been done. And people—including companies—are taking notice.

Most of us agree that our institutions are out of date with the traditional career (and its cushy benefits) long gone.

What I love about the article is that it takes note to emphasize the type of opportunity this disruptive change affords:

This is the moment for an explosion of opportunity, there for the taking by those prepared to embrace the change. We have been through a version of this before. At the turn of the 20th century, as cities grew to be the center of American culture, those accustomed to the agrarian clock of sunrise-sunset and the pace of the growing season were forced to learn the faster ways of the urban-manufacturing world. There was widespread uneasiness about the future, about what a job would be, about what a community would be. Fringe political groups and popular movements gave expression to that anxiety. Yet from those days of ambiguity emerged a century of tremendous progress.

Today we face a similar transition, this time born of technology and globalization--an unhinging of the expected, from employment to markets to corporate leadership. "There are all kinds of reasons to be afraid of this economy," says Microsoft Research's Danah Boyd. "Technology forces disruption, and not all of the change will be good. Optimists look to all the excitement. Pessimists look to all that gets lost. They're both right. How you react depends on what you have to gain versus what you have to lose."

However, here’s the challenge, and with it a gross assumption attached, to these lessons of flux and presumed opportunity: not everyone is equipped to take advantage of these opportunities.

Meaning, there are huge populations of people who are ill equipped, lack adequate skills, and experience enormous challenges that don’t support a vision for the type of change GenFluxers believe in.

With a growing income and education gap further separating the haves and the have-nots, how are under-resourced communities to help their members gain access to these types of opportunities?

I am indefatigably energized by every new conversation and connection that has been occurring with similar, like-minded individuals and groups working to address these gaps by creating opportunities and building networks for minority groups. There is a growing movement of black entrepreneurs determined to strategically advance the livelihood and economic situation of the African American community in areas of technology and entrepreneurship.

Proper training, as Brian (the Boss Man) likes to reiterate, is what is necessary to see these communities develop and sustain themselves where opportunity awaits. The problem is the ineffective and inefficient ways in which government agencies, politicians, nonprofits, and other well-meaning groups are tackling the problem.

Ideas, initiatives, and tools in areas of technology, green economy, clean/bio tech, and entrepreneurship are significant prospects to train communities around—with groups like Black Founders, Black Girls Code, The Greenpreneur, and others facilitating modes to do so.

To see success occur in this area, StartingUp Now aims to join the revolution of GenFluxers in challenging the status quo in the ways things have always been done in the past. Raina Kumra, a GenFluxer states, “Fear holds a lot of people back. I’m skill hoarding. You keep throwing things into your backpack, and eventually you'll have everything in your tool kit."

Similarly, we want to see everyone equipped with the proper tools to put into their tool kit—but with simpler, more affordable, and easily accessible tools to help them get to where they want to be.

Simply put, StartingUp Now is determined to help successfully position people in an ever-changing economic landscape. Just as Danah Boyd of Microsoft Research says, “Learning how to embrace instability is the challenge. What do you do to get everyone engaged on this journey? We all have to learn new skills. How you react depends on what you have to gain versus what you have to lose.”

If instability is a given in this era of transition, the approach to tackle it head-on will require more lessons in flux—and training that supports its evolution. In light of Black History Month, I hope that an evolution such as this will ultimately challenge ourselves in championing more equitable, just and inclusive opportunities for every person in our society.


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