The new book, Black Faces In White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, written by former Rhodes Scholar and winner of season four of NBC's The Apprentice Randal Pinkett, Ph.D. and business scholar Jeffrey Robinson, Ph.D., makes the compelling case that, until recently, African Americans focused primarily on strategies and skills necessary to get into professions, businesses and institutions previously closed to them -- to break the color barrier, to shatter the infamous "glass ceiling."
But now, in an era of growing inclusion, say Pinkett and Robinson, black achievers face a new challenge, namely to thrive in the environment on the other side of the barrier. They argue that it's no longer just about breaking the glass ceiling, but about learning to play the "ever-changing game," pointing to the example of President Obama as the ultimate expression of this new reality.
“It’s no longer enough to just get through the door, gain admission to the club and be the ‘first and only.’ In fact, it probably never really was,” says Pinkett, who is also Chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, a Newark, N.J., based IT and management consulting firm. “However, now, more than ever before, everything hinges on your performance after you earn positions of visibility, power and authority.”
At first glance, the use of symbolism such as “breaking the glass ceiling,” long associated with the lexicon of success at major corporations (as in “climbing the corporate ladder”), would imply that these new strategies are aimed exclusively at career professionals trying to find the fast track to the corner office. Nothing could be further from the truth, according to the authors.
“The fact is,” Robinson, assistant director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development at Rutgers, explains, “black entrepreneurs who want to thrive now have to brave industries and markets -- including those outside of the United States -- and relate to clients, partners and customers with whom they may seem to have little in common when looking through the lens of race.”
Pinkett and Robinson identified five specific strategies that black entrepreneurs must master in order to thrive:
1. Establish a strong identity and purpose aligned with your passions and gifts.
This, ideally, will be the driving force behind your entrepreneurial endeavors. The goal is to move away from viewing your African American identity as a limitation or liability, and to use it as a starting point, a cultural foundation to your identity (who you are) and purpose (why you exist). This is key to the entrepreneurial principle of self-determination,” says Robinson, “using your identity as an asset and your purpose as a source of power.”
2. Actively engage both mentors and protégés.
The active pursuit and establishment of developmental relationships, including mentors and protégés, as well as coaches and sponsors, is key to establishing a well-rounded portfolio of expertise, information and resources (professional support), your emotional well-being and confidence (“psychosocial” support), and access to decision makers. All three are critical to sustained entrepreneurial success.
3. Find strength in numbers.
The age of the rugged individualist going it alone with no need or regard for the agendas of others is long gone. Your ability to use group relationships, ranging from the informal (family, friends) to the formal (partnerships, organizations) is critical to gaining the social capital that is the life-blood of profitable, game-changing businesses. Specifically, you must be able to establish strategic alliances, partnerships, joint ventures, consortia and mergers.
4. Understand and apply the entrepreneurial mindset.
True entrepreneurial success goes beyond merely creating a job for yourself. Too many entrepreneurs become the boss and then adopt the complacency of an employee, sitting passively in the passenger seat as the business idles in neutral -- or worse, drifts aimlessly into the traffic of a competitive marketplace. “You must dare to be in the driver’s seat of your destiny,” Pinkett insists. “The mindset of passion, creativity, resourcefulness and resilience is not just the recommended mindset of the 21st century; it is the mandatory one.”
5. Reach scale and expand scope.
The measure of success of any business is not profitability, but impact; without the latter, the former can hardly be established, much less maintained. The goal of black entrepreneurs must focus on achieving the broadest possible impact by actively looking for ways to grow by working synergistically with other organizations, moving beyond isolation and competition to cooperation and collaboration. Pinkett and Robinson point to Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Inc. or David Steward’s World Wide Technology Inc. (two of the nation’s largest black-owned companies) as excellent examples of creating businesses with broad impact and significance.
In order for black entrepreneurs to build larger businesses serving more diverse markets, “they will increasingly find themselves in environments that require them to expand their relationships beyond the comfort zone of predominantly black social networks in order to embrace new opportunities,” Robinson says. “Simply put, to build companies of scale and significance, black entrepreneurs must also excel as black faces in white places. This will require new strategies of doing business that weren’t often required of earlier generations of black business owners.”
For more on the game-changing strategies covered in Black Faces in White Places, visit RedefineTheGame.com.