Re:think Business: Be 100s CEOs Revamp Their Companies to Reap Profits through Global Business Strategies, Emerging Technology, and Training a More Competitive Workforce

Black Enterprise, June 2011 | Go to article overview

Re:think Business: Be 100s CEOs Revamp Their Companies to Reap Profits through Global Business Strategies, Emerging Technology, and Training a More Competitive Workforce


39th Annual Report
on Black Business

B.E. 100s Overview
Trading Places
Industrial/Service Companies
Industrial/Service Company of the Year
Auto Dealers
Auto Dealer of the Year
Advertising Agencies
Advertising Agency of the Year
Financial Services Companies
Financial Services Company of the Year
Business Lessons from a Titan

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

AGAINST A SLUGGISH RECOVERY, A rough-and-tumble business environment, and a ferocious battle for revenue growth and market share, the CEOs who operate the BE 100s--the nation's largest black businesses--confronted all of these unyielding forces in 2010 and expect to contend with more in years to come. To borrow an oft-used phrase: "Fortune favors the bold." That's the attitude adopted by chief executives as they rethink business models to stay competitive. They've redesigned enterprises by venturing into new lines of business, employing the latest technology, exploring global opportunities, and creating unassailable workforces. For the BE 100s, success today will come by way of revolution and reinvention.

After surviving harsh blows from the Great Recession, CEOs in 2010 were better able to maneuver and reposition their companies for an economy in recovery. What's the backdrop for all of this? An economic climate that's warming. The U.S. economy grew by a healthy 3.1% in the fourth quarter of 2010 versus a scant 0.2% in 2009. Unfortunately, economic growth has slowed to 1.8% in the first quarter of 2011. The Consumer Price Index rose 1.6% for 2010 as families continued to pay higher prices for food and gas. On the other hand, personal income advanced 3% in 2010, reversing a 1.7% decline in 2009. America's jobless rate held at 9.6% in 2010 compared to 10% in 2009. "We can stop worrying about growth because the economy is doing fine," says BLACK ENTERPRISE Board of Economists member Thomas D. Boston, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Economics at Georgia Tech and CEO of EuQuant, an Atlanta-based research firm. "Barring a significant natural or man-made disaster, economic growth will soon reach or exceed 4%."

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This was good news for companies tied to industrial and automotive manufacturing, such as Detroit-based Bridgewater Interiors L.L.C. (No. 2 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE COMPANIES list with $1.6 billion in revenues). Over the past year, revenues for the automotive supplier that builds high-quality seat systems for Ford and General Motors vehicles grew a whopping 46% due to a surge in the volume of hot-selling models such as the revamped Ford Focus. CEO Ron E. Hall Sr. says the company has doubled work shifts to keep up with the demand for fuel-efficient cars.

Selected as BE'S 2011 Industrial/Service Company of the Year, Bridgewater represents one of last year's top performers. Although economists such as Boston believe the worst is over, they warn entrepreneurs to proceed with caution. Countless companies continue to be punished in the anemic housing, advertising, and banking sectors. Healthier, nimble firms still remain in cost-cutting mode as they pounce on new opportunities. Here's a look at how the BE 100s have responded to today's business environment and how some have successfully expanded into new, fertile territory.

Industrial/Service: Retooling for Growth

Over the past year, the nation's leading African American CEOs had to adjust to challenge and change. As a result, the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE COMPANIES posted a 4.66% boost in revenues to $18.7 billion and a 16.51% decrease in payroll to 56,271 employees.

Forward-looking entrepreneurs such as Sid E. Taylor, president of Warren, Michigan-based SET Enterprises Inc. (No. 18 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE COMPANIES list with $222 million in revenues), have restructured operations or pursued new ventures--which include planning a southern expansion. In fact Taylor completed a business makeover in 2010, diversifying his steel metal processing and assembly services operation by launching two new units: SET Duct Manufacturing Inc. …

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