Archive for July, 2017

Contributing to one another — July 2017

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman July 31st, 2017

What is so hard about sharing our money with one another? And when we do share, it’s for a moment; it’s not sustained. Any person who is relatively aware of how things get done in this world knows that whatever our goals, missions, or objectives, somewhere down the line it will take money to bring them to fruition. Understanding that, it is perplexing that many of us refuse to contribute to one another’s causes in any sustained manner as well as in a timely manner.

Unfortunately, many of us who give a few dollars, say $10.00 or $20.00, are the first ones who want a full report on what is being done with our money. And some who don’t give at all have the nerve to want the same information—from Black causes, of course. Yet they contribute to traditional organizations or causes and never ask for any accountability.

Immediately after the Million Man March in 1995, folks who didn’t even attend, were asking for an accounting of the funds we collected there. Can you imagine that?

Some say it’s a lack of trust for one another; I don’t know if I believe that entirely. I think it’s simply jealousy and/or that old bugaboo, “If I am not leading it, I am not going to help it.” What’s the issue with giving a few dollars to help your own people and ultimately to help yourself? As much money as we waste every day and spend willy-nilly with other groups, even if the cause to which we contribute is not fulfilled we won’t go broke. For me, it’s good to know that I did my part.

We are so good at counting the “potential” of our collective dollars. You have heard the various scenarios before, “If 10,000 people would give $100.00…” or “If one thousand people gave $1,000.00 each…” The biggest word in those prescriptions for our success is the smallest word: “If.”

I made one of those “if” statements in 2004 after visiting Piney Woods School in Mississippi. While there I heard that in 1954 Ralph Edwards, host of the TV show, “This is our life,” after interviewing Dr. Laurence Jones, Founder of Piney Woods, was so impressed that he asked his viewers to send at least $1.00 to the school. They raised $750,000!

Then here comes naïve Jim Clingman, saying if that much could be raised in 1954, we should be able to raise a million dollars in 2004. Silly me. I actually thought the 200,000 readers of my column would send $5.00 each, directly to Piney Woods, thus raising $1 million. I issued the call. We managed to raise a few thousand dollars but nowhere near a million.

Thereafter, I pressed forward with the goal of 200,000 persons to sign up as members of what I called the Blackonomics Million Dollar Club (BMDC), simply by adding their e-mail addresses to the BMDC Mail List on the my website and subscribe, at no charge, to the mailing list called “The Whirlwind.” Five times per year members would be asked to recommend recipients to which each member would send at least $5.00. It was just that simple; maybe it was too simple. No middleman, no administrative costs, just a postage stamp and a check.

All funds – let me say that again for all of you doubters and for those who are still fighting against the power of self-denial, all funds were sent directly to the recipient, not to me. One of our members even set up an online channel for making BMDC donations. What could be simpler and easier for those who were serious about supporting our own organizations and initiatives?

Most of the members sent far more than $5.00, (one sent $1,000.00 to a school we selected) even though that was all we asked for, $25.00 per year, brothers and sisters. How can we allow those “other” organizations to take money out of our paychecks before we see it and yet refuse to support our own organizations?

The BMDC never reached 200,000 members or $1 million dollar contributions, but we assisted several African-centered schools across the country, and one in Nigeria. We donated to the Haitian Relief Fund, the William Mayo Defense Fund, the D’zert Club, and various Black museums such as the Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee and the Harriet Tubman Museum and Home in Cambridge, Maryland and Auburn, New York, respectively.

Here’s the application. Two goals of “THE One Million” (see: www.iamoneofthemillion.com) are to help fund the initiatives of other conscious brothers and sisters and to create more “Conscious Millionaires.” If we could move beyond the silly barriers that prevent us from believing in our righteous causes and put a little money up, we could fund anything we want and move to full economic empowerment. See video (2007) on BMDC below.

 

 

Reciprocity in the Marketplace — July 2017

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman July 22nd, 2017

We hear a great deal of discussion about the percentage of money Blacks spend with Black businesses versus how much we spend with White businesses—and others as well. It is said that 90%+ of Black dollars are spent at non-Black businesses. Obviously, that leaves about 10% for our businesses. What are we getting for that 90%? Blacks must drastically change our spending habits and/or leverage what we do spend.

The average annual revenue (sales) for Black owned businesses without employees is $58,000 and for those with paid employees it is $948,000, both of which are much lower than other so-called “Minority Groups.”

A report published by the U.S. Small Business Administration, titled, “Minority Business Ownership: Data from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners” by Michael McManus, Regulatory Economist, had this to say about Sales Disparities:

“Evaluating disparities using per-firm sales average shows the stark difference between minority and nonminority firms. It also highlights key variations between minority groups. For example, [Black]-owned firms average about $58,000 in sales per firm, while Hispanic firms generate two and a half times this amount; Asian-owned firms, 6 times as much; and nonminority-owned firms over 9 times this amount.”

One can reasonably extrapolate a couple of things from that point: Black businesses must grow to the point of being able to hire employees; and Black businesses need a great deal more support—from Black consumers as well as other consumers—to reach parity.

One other point of consideration is the industry in which we choose to start a business.
The report states, “While the number of minority-owned businesses is growing rapidly, disproportionate amounts are in the lowest 20 industries in terms of sales. In aggregate almost 58.9% of all African American-owned businesses are in the 20 lowest sales-generating industries…”

Finally, as I have cited many times, of the more than 2.6 million Black businesses only 111,000 have employees. Do the math and see why we must grow our businesses in order to make them more viable in the marketplace. In order to have more of our $1.2 trillion flowing through Black businesses we must have larger ones in more profitable industries. Make sense?

Now here’s the rub against us as consumers of Black products and services from Black entrepreneurs. Paradoxically, while we must have more sustained growth and we must venture into more scalable business ventures, many Black consumers are buying from other groups and some are even refusing to do business with Black firms, for one reason or another. Add that reality to the fact that other groups do not support our businesses to any great degree, which could be due in part to the industries we select, and Black business is stuck on a treadmill, expending a lot of energy without moving forward, multiplying but never growing.

Top all of this off with the fact that we hold our entrepreneurs to a higher standard than we hold others. We want reciprocity from them, and we want them to “give back,” which is quite reasonable and appropriate. However, we do not demand the same level of reciprocity from the other businesses that we support virtually every day. Don’t agree? Then tell me, where is the balance of our $1.2 “trillion” annual income when we deduct the $188 “billion” in annual revenues earned by Black businesses, not all of which comes from Black consumers?

Let’s face it, Black consumers could never spend all of our $1.2 trillion with Black owned businesses; we do not have enough businesses for that ideal to become a reality. We can certainly increase the amount we currently spend, but until we establish and grow more businesses, which will take at least a generation if we concentrate on it, we will continue to spend vast sums of money with businesses other than our own. So why are we not seeking reciprocity from them?

We must use collective leverage that can be given or withdrawn at a moment’s notice. Understanding that Black consumers cannot get around spending dollars with non-Black companies, the Collective Banking Group of Maryland, http://www.collectiveempowermentgroup.org/Partners.html and its local chapters, work with White owned and other companies, in mutually beneficial strategic partnerships, to obtain reciprocity. Banks, furniture stores, carpet stores, automobile companies, restaurants, movie theaters, supermarkets, and many other companies that profit from the Black dollar should reciprocate to their Black customers beyond sponsoring a dinner or a youth baseball team.

If we are going to spend tremendous sums of money with White owned, Indian owned, Chinese owned, and Arabic owned businesses, then it’s up to us to initiate and negotiate reciprocal agreements that benefit both groups. One side of that equation is already complete: We benefit them. Since we inevitably will keep spending our money with them, don’t you think we should complete the equation by getting some benefit ourselves?

 

 

It’s your money. — July 2017

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman July 17th, 2017

Yet another report, the Nielsen African American Consumer Report, was released in October 2016. Titled, “Young, Connected, and Black African American millennials are driving social change and leading digital advancement,” it points out various issues related to how Blacks spend our dollars, with an emphasis on our young people. To put it bluntly, this report is about your money—how much you earn, what you spend it on, and how it can be obtained from you in exchange for products and services. Yes, it’s your money, but for how long?

Since most of us will not read a 56-page consumer report, I am going to draw heavily from its contents in hope that you, the Black consumer, will learn to teach your dollars how to make more sense. Information is only power if you use it appropriately. The Nielsen Report contains a lot of information, but the question is: Who will benefit from it?

The report states, “African-Americans are exuberant and reflective—optimistic about present-day advances in income, education, entrepreneurship and healthcare, and determined to forge a better future as influential leaders and catalysts of social awareness against discrimination and social injustice. With incomes steadily rising at a rate that outpaces that of the general population, African-Americans’ ‘buying power’ is expected to grow 21.6% between now and 2020, by which time it will reach just over $1.4 trillion…” Is it Black buying power or Black buying weakness?

Nielsen says, “African-American consumers are focused on ‘eating well’ and ‘looking good,’ over-indexing across a wide variety of product categories, ranging from beauty products to fresh foods and ingredients that reflect their proud heritage and cultural traditions. ..There is a ‘clear opportunity’ for innovation and new-product development in the convenient-healthy eating space.” Are Black people taking advantage of the “opportunity” we have created?

In a section titled, Valuing the Beauty Within, the report states, “Personal image is highly valued and is regarded with an immense sense of pride in the African-American community. African-American millennials have higher buying rates (per household) for hair care products and personal soap and bath products than their millennial counterparts.” Do you think they are talking about Black manufactured products?

Another section, Feeling Proud, Looking Good, and Spending More, points out that, “Personal image is highly valued and is regarded with an immense sense of pride in the African-American community. Consumer product companies have long been aware of the ‘dedicated consumption’ of personal healthcare items by Black consumers. African-Americans of all ages show higher buying rates than non-African-Americans for women’s fragrances, grooming aids, personal soap and bath needs, deodorant, sanitary protection, family planning, and feminine hygiene…The long history of personal care spending has led many consumer products companies to offer highly-developed lines of popular African-American cosmetic, fragrance, and hair-care products that cater to the wants and needs of African-American men and women.” Is that why L’Oréal has purchased Black hair care and cosmetic companies? As their commercial says, “Because [you’re] worth it.”

Uh oh, here it comes, the pièce de résistance: “Optimism about the future. In 2012, for the first time in American history, African-Americans had the highest rate of voter registration and turnout of all races, 66% versus 64%. And while the majority of African-Americans are optimistic that the country is headed in the right direction, there is an ongoing need in their communities for more affordable housing, healthcare, childcare and higher education.” Does that seem a bit oxymoronic to you? Besides, what did we get from all that voting?

The report says, “In 2015, African-Americans ‘controlled’ $1.2 trillion in buying power, 8.6% of the nation’s total, and a 21% increase over 2010…The gains in Black buying power reflect not only African-Americans’ population growth, but also their increasing education and entrepreneurship, as well as their advancing into their peak earning years.” Our money is “subject” to our “control” but we are not appropriately controlling it; we do not leverage it.

Finally, the report says, “Nielsen has provided these reports to better illustrate the ‘unique’ qualities of the African-American community, the ‘business opportunities’ that exist, and the best methods for a productive and successful ‘connection.’ As business executives look for opportunities to grow their businesses and gain market share, it is critical to measure and evaluate the opportunities.”

Dr. James Lance Taylor points out that Black millennials, many who earn $60,000 to $85,000 straight out of college, are migrating to the south in record numbers. Armed with that kind of money they must take full advantage of it, collectively, and build something for themselves and their progeny—something they “control.”

Black consumers are the most studied segment in this nation, because as Willie Sutton once said when asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is.” It’s our money this report is talking about, Black folks; are we accessing the opportunities therein?

 

 

A Timeless Strategy — July 2017

Articles | Posted by Jim Clingman July 9th, 2017

Before we are able to make the kind of meaningful progress necessary to bring about a change in our economic status, we must educate ourselves in the areas of collectivism, mutual economic responsibility, and the advantages of supporting one another in our endeavors.

Economic empowerment does not have to be shrouded by confusing economic terms nor as complicated as many of us think it is. Economics, for our purposes, must be brought down from the lofty heights of academia to the “street talk” with which we are all familiar. It too must become a part of our vernacular, because at that level we will be able to deal with our concerns, our complaints, and our problems with the only ammunition that is effective: Our Dollars.
During the sit-ins of the 1960’s, while we were seeking equality and the right to integrate socially, we began to lose sight of the economic advantages we did have, the most important of which were Black owned businesses; they soon began to fade away. As we explored our new found “right” to buy the same products and services we had always bought, only now we could enter through the front door instead of the back door, we forgot about our own businesses. Another boycott was about to begin—that of our own businesses by our own people.

This is not to discredit the sacrifices we made to bring about our civil rights; those were some of the most important and significant times in Black history. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who helped make it possible for many of us to have the things we have today. But now, with the so-called “New World Order”, with all of our political and social progress, we are even more behind, economically, than we were a generation ago.

Why is this true? One reason is the political complacence that sets in after we elect Black people. Black Mayors and Black Congresspersons do not necessarily equate to Black economic prosperity. Our African-American politicians can only do so much, and sometimes that’s very little, to relieve the plight and blight of our communities. After we have helped them get into office, we cannot then sit back and wait to see what they are going to do “for” us. We must continue to help them so they will be able to do something “with” us.

Our politicians, at least the ones we helped get elected, must be accountable to us, and that will only happen if we abide by the one rule that counts in politics: The money rule. Unless African Americans are willing to support our candidates with our dollars as well as our voices, we will have neither accountability nor influence in the political arena.

We, as a national community, are generally well skilled in making our points when it comes to social issues. But, we are sorely lacking in our knowledge and execution of basic economic strategies for our local communities. Politics is important but first we must support one another, demand reciprocity from those with whom we do business, and work together toward ownership of our communities. Politics will fall in place when economics succeeds.

Collectivism was a very positive precept of our African ancestors. Today, in some circles, that principle has been put forth as the sole reason for the dearth of African-American entrepreneurs. Some say that because we are a communal people, we are reluctant to seek the individual path of entrepreneurship. This may be partially true, but it does not have to prevent us from using that same spirit of communality to support those of us who are entrepreneurs. Can you imagine how empowered we would be if we drew upon our basic natural inclination to be a real community? We would be well on our way to economic, social, and political parity.

Right now, we don’t count. Can you imagine that? We spend a trillion dollars, and we don’t count. Why? There’s no need for the majority to deal with us in any serious manner, especially economically, because we do not act collectively. That’s not to say that we should all think alike and act alike and never disagree. It simply means that we should consider one another first and not be so willing to push one another aside for own individual advancement.

In this country, for Blacks, economics must be collective and cooperative. Witness all of the mergers, buyouts, alliances, and conglomerates occurring today among other companies. African Americans must practice the principle some of us only celebrate one day each year: UJAMAA (Cooperative Economics). If we do that, we will count, we will be empowered, and we will prosper.

Note: Believe it or not, with the exception of two updates, I wrote this article in March 1993.