The rate of African American businesses failing today is at an all-time high. We all know that 80% of businesses crash and burn within the first year.The rate of African American businesses failing today is at an all-time high. We all know that 80% of businesses crash and burn within the first year. Not to mention, when starting a business the last thing you want to hear is why or how you could fail, but addressing the reasons for failure up front, you’ll be much less likely to fall victim to them yourself. I can proudly say every last point listed I have either failed at or wasn’t aware of. With the entire entrepreneur plane-crashing going on, what have we learned? Have we been paying attention to the gigantic amount of failure in small businesses to apply to our own business goals or aspirations?
With hopes of reaching my large network of aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs who are majority black, this list will give you a large scope of perspicacity. 8 out of 10 fail within the first 18 Months according to Bloomberg; But, with the right people, research, planning, accounting and flexibility, businesses have a better chance of succeeding. In my personal opinion here are some of the biggest mistakes by African-American startups, but keep in mind these reasons can fit into any minority-owned small business.
- LACK OF ADEQUATE RESEARCH
My mother uses a variety of proverbs to incorporate life lessons she wants her family to live by. Her favorite, “Look before you leap,” holds true to not only those seeking life guidance but for those seeking to become the next big entrepreneur. Never start something without fully understanding what you’re getting yourself into. Starting a business is an eye-opening experience. According to Forbes, many new business leaders start off bright-eyed and bushy-tailed thinking that pure drive and determination will set them above the rest. While it is important to start off a business with a lot of stamina, all that hard work will go down the toilet if there is no concrete plan or prior research to the new venture. Think about it, do you think Steve Jobs just “went with the flow?” Absolutely not. He researched teams, consulting firms, etc. to figure out the best practices to make his company into the lucrative one that it is today. Companies, especially black-owned companies, need to sit down and have a solid course of action for their new business. Find out what works and what doesn’t work. What do the customers need? How can market your business in the right way? All of these things are essential before you start your business.
2 INSUFFICIENT FUNDS
Most mistakes people make is gathering enough funds to start a business and not enough to keep business regulating. In order to stay in business, your start-up capital should cover your business for at least 12-18 months after opening. According to David Goldin, CEO, and president of AmeriMerchant, the No. 1 reason people fail is because they run out of money. A 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report echoed his sentiment by revealing that the top reason for a company to go out of business is “problems obtaining financing and lack of profitability.”
- FAILURE TO ADAPT
It was the Wal-Mart of all video stores. It put the T in TGIF nights. No kid of the 90s can deny that exhilarating feeling of seeing those blue and yellow hollow boxes in Blockbuster and going home the happiest kid in the world. Blockbuster did what no other mom-and-pop video store could do. It took the place of the relatively small, limited-selection video store and turned it into a mega house of video selections, both old and new. The company capitalized on the fact everyone in the 80s and 90s who had a VCR at home. Where they failed, however, is they forgot to keep up with the times. They got too complacent with the norm and thought the fast-moving Internet would be just a fad. Man was they wrong. Technology is forever changing. What’s the fastest option today may not be tomorrow? So it came as no surprise that competitors such as Redbox and Netflix crept in the night and stole their reign. You must stay relevant with technology if you want any shot at being a true contender in the marketplace.
- FAMILY MEMBER, NOT BUSINESS PARTNER
Blood is not always thicker than water when it comes to doing business. Even with the best of intentions and aspirations, what starts out as a seemingly “safe” mutually beneficial project or interaction can turn into anything from a minor embarrassment to a major nightmare. African-Americans tend to lean towards family and friends for staffing. Who wouldn’t want to do business with close ones at risk-free, rewarding pleasure? Even sometimes it works out fine, but majority of the time it doesn’t. As with many things in business, it is helpful to try to anticipate the worst-case scenario and consider the alternatives. Decide if it’s a risk worth taking and if you can live with the possible consequences.
- NO CONSISTENT VISION
Everyone has a job to do in order to build a successful business. It is the CEO’s job to convey their vision to the masses in a clear and concise fashion. If there is no concrete vision or plan, how do you expect the consumer to understand what you are trying to sell? Let’s look back in history. The Great Depression hit businesses at an unimaginable level. Thousands of banks, businesses and corporations fell victim to one of our nation’s darkest moments; however, there were a handful of businesses that weathered the storm. Proctor and Gamble and Chevrolet survived the unthinkable because of one thing – they had a plan. They were prepared for the long haul. They had the vision to make their company last during good times and bad. That’s the test of a company.
- NO EXPERIENCE
Try and start a company revolved around something you have experience in. Someone who spent their whole life painting shouldn’t start a tech-consulting firm. Stay within your scope of interest when starting a company. Starting a business is by no means an easy task. There will be loads of obstacles along the way, and if you have no idea of what you are doing it is almost certain that you won’t have a successful outcome.
- FAILURE TO PROVIDE GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE
For years, there has been a dark cloud that has hovered over many black businesses. It leaves consumers uneasy and reluctant to patronize these establishments. That cloud is none other than poor customer service. It would be unfair to say that black businesses are the only entities that have less than desirable services. Try calling your local phone carrier or credit card company on a Friday night and see the similarities. However, the major difference is as African-Americans, we become the poster child for the negative stereotype, unlike our lighter counterparts. Although unfair, African-Americans must work harder to break down this portrayal, because let’s be honest, too many of us know that one black business that we don’t want to deal with because so and so hates their job and wants to take it out on the consumer. It should be common sense – good customer service leads to referrals, which leads to more business, which leaves to what? More money in your pocket!
- FAILURE TO MARKET ONLINE
Just about every business or company needs to market online. The ability to reach a large target audience and potential customers all over the world are all reasons why black-owned businesses should market online more. Businesses can customize their marketing to those specific audiences to attract those cultures. Failure to do this will ultimately lead in your company failing.