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New Economy, new rules.

Just in case you somehow missed it: the rules have changed. The long anticipated emergence of the New Economy is in full swing, influencing everything from the equity markets and consumer habits to global trade and executive compensation. And judging by the highlights of our 28th Annual Report on Black Business, the CEOs of the BLACK ENTERPRISE 100s, the nation's largest black-owned companies, are more than up for the challenges of the new millennium.

It seems that the leaders of these companies paid heed to the heads-up advice given by the BE Board of Economists two years ago regarding what would be required of black-owned businesses in the new century ("Countdown to the 21st Century," June 1998). The imperatives they outlined: think globally. Focus on the profit motive. Invest in human resources. Adopt an acquisitive mentality. Get bigger. Get better. Seek equity financing, not just debt financing. Exploit the competitive advantages of the inner city. Seek strategic alliances with companies owned by other ethnic groups. And, above all, innovate: get outside the box--and stay there. This year's annual report, and especially our profiles of our 2000 Companies of the Year, provides ample examples of the benefits of taking our economists' advice to heart.

Radio One Inc., this year's BE Industrial/Service Company of the Year, is a perfect example of a company tapping the equity markets to satisfy an appetite for acquisitions. Led by the mother-son team of Catherine Liggins Hughes and Alfred C. Liggins III, Lanham, Md.-based Radio One completed a successful initial public offering on the NASDAQ exchange and then pursued acquisitions of still more properties to become the fastest growing company in the radio broadcasting and programming industry.

For innovation and a demonstrated commitment to continuous improvement and growth, look no further than Dayton, Ohio's Bob Ross Buick, BE Auto Dealer of the Year. When founder Bob Ross Sr. died suddenly of a heart attack in 1997, he was already established as Ohio's No. 1 Buick Dealer and the world's first black Mercedes-Benz dealer. His wife and the company's current CEO Norma Ross, along with their children, Robert Jr. and Jenell, have succeeded in building on his legacy of excellence, with a focus on customer satisfaction, employee loyalty, expansion of operations, a strong mix of products and a commitment to technological innovation.

The nation's largest black-owned advertising firm, New York's UniWorld Group Inc., showed how to make the most of an investment in human resources by assembling a leadership team more than able to steer the 31-year-old agency through an ultra-competitive advertising environment. By luring proven talents like Gregory Walker, Chuck Morrison and Valerie Graves (no relation to the publisher of BE to his agency, founder and CEO Byron Lewis secured breakthrough accounts with the likes of Microsoft and another place in history for UniWorld as the BE Advertising Agency of the Year for 2000.

Finally, New York-based Rice Financial Products Co., this year's BE Financial Company of the Year, took our economists' admonition to get better to its logical conclusion: simply be the best. Thanks to CEO J. Donald Rice Jr. and his team of "rocket scientists," Rice Financial is among the nation's top investment banks--black-owned or otherwise--specializing in derivatives, and one of the best at executing the complex securities transactions known as interest-rate swaps.

One of the most important New Economy imperatives cited by our economist is also one of the most intriguing: black entrepreneurs must seek strategic opportunities and alliances with the businesses and industry organizations of other ethnic groups, with the goal of creating what BE economist Margaret Simms of the Joint Center of Political and Economic Studies calls "economic rainbow coalitions." An example of this among the BE 100s is Essence Communication' Latina magazine venture. The publisher of Essence, the world's No. 1 magazine for African American women, is transferring 30 years of experience and knowledge (sharing a landmark anniversary with BE this year) to help create a publication that speaks to the needs, interests and passions of Hispanic women.

As we move deeply into the new century, and the long-predicted "browning" of America becomes a reality, we must build on Essence Communications' example. I am encouraged and inspired by my experiences during the course of this past year working with us the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and its president and CEO, George Herrera. Whether it was working together to protect the integrity of policies regarding the definition of minority-owned businesses or forcing corporate America to recognize and respect the consumer spending power of his constituents, Herrera is a forceful and persuasive ally on issues of critical importance to the political and economic empowerment of black entrepreneurs and consumers.

Establishing such business alliances won't be easy. Alliances, no matter who they are with, almost always come with a bit of struggle and compromise if they are to be productive and, ultimately, mutually beneficial to all participants. Both the African American and the Latino communities are more diverse than they are given credit for, with a broad spectrum of political voices and economic interests. However, our mutual economic progress--for blacks and Hispanics, as well as Asian-Americans and other ethnic minorities--will rely heavily on our ability to see past our differences to our common interest in building competitive, profitable businesses on a far-from-level playing field.

The bottom line is that the challenges of the New Economy are matched only by the number and variety of opportunities we can be exploit to take a quantum leap in economic advancement and business growth and development in both national and global markets. The rules may have changed, but the competition still requires black entrepreneurs to bring nothing less than courage, intelligence, persistence, preparation, innovation and a passion for excellence to the game. Let the BE 100s companies featured in this year's annual report show you how it's done.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:Black entrepreneurs
Author:Graves, Earl G.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2000
Previous Article:Speak up.
Next Article:Letters.

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