March 14, 2007

February 5th Blog


This blog marks our 17th issue of the Entrepreneurial Alternatives Newsletter and our second issue of 2007. I would personally like to thank so many of you who have sent us so many wonderful letters of encouragement along the way. I am delighted to see that we are connecting with the pulse of our readership. In upcoming issues, we will continue to provide you with important news and information about economic self-sufficiency and empowerment. We invite you to send us specific questions about your businesses and their development so that we can answer them in the Dear Dr. House column.

In this edition, we provide you with the conclusion of the 10 Strategies to Use to Enhance Workforce Productivity, our "Dear Dr. House" section of the newsletter, and James McQuiston's Top Ten Tips for Internet Businesses.

Quote of the Week

"I want to say something very special to Dr. House because she reminds me of what we all must become as Black people in the 21st century. She is a servant leader..... and our servant leaders are the most humble, they are the most relevant, they are the most open, they are the most teachable, they are the most respectful, and they are the most caring leaders in our community. And, we love you for that. Thank you for committing your life."

---George C. Fraser---
bestselling author and entrepreneur
President and CEO, Frasernet

10 Strategies to Enhance Workforce Productivity and Efficiency
by Dr. Bessie House

We now live in a time period of unprecedented workforce volatility and unpredictability. What this simply means is that the American workforce has dramatically changed from what it was several decades ago. While in the not too distant past, workers could be assured of long-term employment opportunities with firms in which they were allowed to grow and experience upward mobility over time, our current workplace environments are now characterized by frequent downsizing of companies and their employees by domestic and multinational corporations, the outsourcing of many jobs to other countries where workers will perform the work for lower wages, and an overall lack of job security for men and women of the 21st century.

Through the years, I have hired a number of employees to work in our centers and I have given several job references for some of them who moved on to other positions for a variety of reasons. As I have received calls from their prospective employers, I have been asked many questions about the types of jobs they performed in our offices, the quality and quantity of their work performed, their ability to work under pressure, and many other questions. But, by far, the most important of these questions has been whether, if given the opportunity, I would hire these individuals back. For me, that is indeed, the most important question. If the employer can enthusiastically answer this question in the affirmative without any hesitation whatsoever, it is a good sign that the employee was successful in his/her previous job assignment. If the employer cannot answer in the affirmative, it suggests to the listener that perhaps there was a disconnect between the job description of the employee and his/her ability to adequately perform the work to a satisfactory degree.

In the next few editions of Entrepreneurial Alternatives, we will provide 10 strategies that can be used to enhance workforce productivity and efficiency in the 21st century. In this edition of the blog, we provide strategies numbers 1 through 6.

Strategy 1. Make sure that you hire individuals that bring value to your organization. During the interview phase and when checking employee references, it is important to ask questions that are behavioral in nature in order to elicit information about particular skills and talents the prospective employees have and actual accomplishments they had in their prior jobs. Ideally, there should be a match between the skill sets that prospective employees have and the job description that has been developed by the director of the organization. Remember that the gap between these two areas will have to be bridged in ongoing training sessions for the employees.

Strategy 2. Make sure that you give new employees thorough training sessions. With the wide diversity of skill sets currently available in the current workforce, the best rule of thumb is to assume nothing when it comes to prior background of potential employees. It will therefore, be necessary to reiterate what your expectations of your employees are with a realistic timetable for their learning curves.

Strategy 3. Hold ongoing staff meetings where employees are given a micro level analysis with regard to their individual jobs and assignments as well as a macro-level analysis in terms of showing them the "big picture" of the organization and how each person and unit fits into the overall scheme. Remember, that no organization can be stronger than its weakest link.

Strategy 4. Make sure that your employees are given every available opportunity to improve their skill sets. This can be done by encouraging them to attend professional improvement workshops and various conferences where they can acquire the latest information and strategies that can be used in their various job assignments.

Strategy 5. We live in a world of vast technological development. Make sure that your staff are provided with opportunities to learn about how to use their computers effectively and how to use internet technology. Many companies are also moving from the use of physical copies of reports to keeping their records online. Make sure that all employees are skilled in knowing how to access online invoicing systems as well.

Strategy 6. Develop a thorough and detailed employee manual for your organization and make this manual available to your staff. This manual should be as detailed as possible listing down the rules and regulations of your organization as well as the penalties that will incur if certain behaviors take place. This information should be covered several times in ongoing staff meetings to ensure that everyone is knowledgeable about the operations of the organization.

Strategy 7. Make sure that the supervisors and managers of the organization have ongoing interactions with staff members in order to help them to succeed in their tasks. Performance evaluations should be performed pursuant to the guidelines listed in the employee manual. These evaluations should provide an analysis of the strengths of the employees as well as their weaknesses. When weaknesses are identified, steps should be worked out with the employees to implement to effectuate a positive change in their performance.

Strategy 8. Build a system of accountability in your organization. This means that both managers and staff have to be held accountable for their behaviors. There should be a process outlined in the employee manual which lists the process through which serious actions will be taken when unethical or unprofessional behaviors of a serious nature take place. The system of penalty action must not only be clarified by the management team in the employee manual and in staff meetings, but they must also be implemented as well. In this way, all members of the organization will take the process seriously.

Strategy 9: Hold periodic staff retreats in a location outside of the normal work environment in order to help the staff members to meld together as a team. These retreats can be used to develop long and short term strategic planning strategies for the organization and various mini-seminars can also be provided which help staff members to develop methods to work together as a viable team. As best-selling author and entrepreneur George Fraser has so eloquently stated, "It takes team work to make the dream work."

Strategy 10: Develop a yearly calendar for the organization listing in advance the times of all staff meetings, retreats, fund-raisers and other essential activities of the organization. This process will help the organization to continue to build it's infrastructure for future activities.

Top Ten Tips for Internet Businesses
by James McQuiston

The Internet has an economy that is ever increasing. It does not take much work to receive considerable funds from the internet. In some cases, individuals can make more in the way of funds from the internet than they can running a brick and mortar store. I have operated an internet business since 1998, with the online version of my magazine, NeuFutur ( ) . Here are some tips, to be given out in the next few weeks.

1) Create a website for your business. The cost to buy a domain (the "name" of your website), coupled with internet hosting (the space where all your files reside) is much less than individuals would think. When I purchased a website for our own Dr. House, for example, the total bill was around $50 for one year’s worth of service. That was using . However, one can find a slightly better deal at, where an equivalent package costs around $40 One should choose a package based on the level of comfort that one has with the company.

2) If you have tangible goods, use eBay ( ) as a way to pander your goods. eBay is a great service for individuals to connect to individuals that may want your goods, but are removed geographically from your brick and mortar location. For example, I run a magazine that receives CDs for review. By putting the CDs that we have reviewed up online, we are able to generate revenues around $600 a month.

If you sell clothing, art, or anything tangible, eBay could be an easy way to supplement a brick & mortar location’s rent. eBay revenues can be enough to supplant a brick and mortar location. Just think about it this way, an eBay business requires nothing in the way of set up costs beyond having a computer, internet access, and a camera to take pictures.

3) Sign up for PayPal ( ) and Google Checkout ( ). These services allow individuals that use some form of monetary transaction to go forth and receive funds. While the use of Paypal and Google Checkout is typically tied to individuals that have goods to sell, non-profits can also elicit funds from individuals through Paypal. Google Checkout is a service that is in beta (which means that the service is stable, but is still being tested by engineers) but provides new sign-ups with a $10 credit towards any purchases (office supplies, for example). Regardless of the promotions tied to them, they are both good services with which to be familiar.

Please tune into this column next issue where James lists tips #4 through #6. Contacting the e-mail present at the end of the blog is a good way to get in touch with him, should anyone have questions about his tips.
Entrepreneurial Alumni Association is Established For the Participants of Our Centers

Entrepreneurial Alternatives is pleased to announce that the Entrepreneurial Alumni Association has been established. The current leader of the Association is Ashok Gupta, who is under the tutelage of Dr. Bessie House. This organization was created to keep attendees of the Entrepreneurial Academy and the CSDMB linked together, and to allow further networking to take place after our new business start-ups become established.

Membership in the Entrepreneurial Alumni Association is limited to those individuals that took part in classes offered by the Entrepreneurial Academy. Outside organizations are more than welcome to provide their resources, time and energy to the members in the Alumni Association.

To be added to the elite ranks of the Entrepreneurial Alumni Association, please contact Ashok Gupta at, Dr. House as, or call 330.672.5307.
Dear Dr. House

Mrs. House, I met you several years ago at your first graduation reception in Akron, Ohio. I have tried from that time until today to locate you, so finally I came in contact with Ms. Martha Banks. Ms. Banks and I finally figured out where we had met one another the first time which was the first graduation ceremony that you held. How elated I was to hear your name spoken, I felt relief from that very moment when my life shifted into another gear. Just the sound of your name, "Bessie House" carried the ring of victory.

I'm backed up against a wall, and people are talking about me, saying that "I won't make it", and "what a waste". I've even been told to move because I'm not wanted here, and the list goes on.

I now own a beautiful store called Gloria's Custom Embroidery, and DO NOT KNOW HOW TO ACCOMPLISH PLANTING A SEED FOR PROSPERITY, AND GROWTH. I thought I could do well from what little I thought I knew. Unfortunately, this is not the case at all, I know nothing about business. Without the proper training, I'm hopeless. All of my life savings is invested within this business, now I'm in the terrible position of losing it all, in one year's time.

I'm a strong black female entrepreneur that is the sole owner of Gloria's Custom Embroidery located in Wooster, Ohio and have the determination, dignity, and respect for myself to make it in spite of. When asked of various ones here in Wooster about grants, loans, or any kind of assistance, I'm turned away. No one will help me. Do you have any Minority Business classes scheduled for the upcoming months that I may attend, and what is expected of me to do so?

Please I need your help.

Gloria Cantleberry
Owner, Gloria's Custom Embroidery

Dear Ms. Cantleberry:

Thank you so much for your recent letter and your very kind complimentary remarks. You have an excellent memory to have pinpointed exactly when it was that you and I first met and it was several years ago. I was sorry to hear of your current problems as they relate to your establishment of Gloria's Custom Embroidery business and the subsequent problems you have encountered in making the business operational and the lack of support that you have received from various segments of the community. Although all of these issues are significant ones, in my more than 11 years of experience in both performing research on African American entrepreneurs and starting several businesses myself, I can honestly say that these problems are not uncommon. In other words, you are not alone. One of the major reasons that African Americans do not start businesses in larger number is that they simply do not get the appropriate business support that they need at the most critical periods in time. As my third book, "Confronting the Odds: African American Entrepreneurship in Cleveland, Ohio," has indicated, lack of access to capital is still today one of the major deterrents to large-scale business formation by African American people. Indeed, these are some of the most important reasons that I established the Center for Minority Businesses at Kent State University almost a decade ago and the Entrepreneurial Academy in Cleveland, Ohio. The mission of these centers is to provide high quality business training programs to existing entrepreneurs such as you and newly emerging entrepreneurs and to help them to acquire financial capital. Thus far, we have helped to generate more than 51 new business start-ups in recent years and have helped many existing businesses to take their work to another level.

You have indicated an interest in taking our business training classes and we will be happy to enroll you in our upcoming classes that will begin later this year. We are currently in the process of moving The Entrepreneurial Academy to another location and will announce our new location and our upcoming schedule of business training classes. I must admit that we currently have more than 250 people on our waiting lists for classes at both the Center for Minority Businesses and the Entrepreneurial Academy and the process is very competitive for these seats. I will ask my secretary to contact you to add you to our list and look forward to seeing you in our business training classes. Getting the formal business training that you will need in order to achieve success in the economic marketplace is a vital necessity. Too many entrepreneurs enter into business using a non-traditional route and this can have devastating consequences with regard to their ability to achieve success.

Making the decision to go into business should be a very deliberative process and developing a business plan will be absolutely essential. A business plan is simply a blueprint for the development and expansion of the business across time. This will be absolutely essential for you with regard to your company, Gloria's Custom Embroidery. Numerous questions need to be answered in the business plan such as what am I going to do? Why am I going to do it? Why do I need to do it now at this juncture in history? What types of products or services will my company offer? Who are my main competitors? How much capital will I need to start the business and how will I acquire it? How will I attract my clients? How will I price my products? Where will I locate my business? These are only a few of the questions that a good business plan should answer. We will be happy to assist you in the development of your business plan in upcoming months.

In closing, let me say that I am very proud of you and the efforts that you are making in trying to provide opportunities to enhance your own avenues to attain economic independence. As the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. has so often stated, for African American people, the economic frontier is the most important one at this point in time. Thank you again for writing to me and I look forward to seeing you again face to face in the not too distant future.

All the best,

Dr. Bessie House
The Entrepreneurial Academy
And Executive Director and Founder
The Center for the Study and Development of Minority Businesses
Kent State University

Quick Links
# E-Academy
# B. House Communications, Inc.
# The Dr. House Minority Business Blog

In Closing
Finally, we at the Center For The Study and Development of Minority Businesses and Entrepreneurial Academy want to make a call out to any former student of our Center. If you move or have some other method of contact, please notify us! We love hearing about your new businesses, business plans, and any other successes that you might be experiencing. If you could send us a recent photograph and a small description of your success, we will include them in one of our upcoming editions of Entrepreneurial Alternatives.

There are individuals in our class that we have not heard from since they stopped attending; keep in touch! Contact information is at the bottom of this blog.


Dr. Bessie House
Director, The Center for the Study and Development of Minority Businesses
Director, The Entrepreneurial Academy
phone: 330-672-5307


Post a Comment

<< Home