March 14, 2007

November 27th Blog


We have some big news to share with you for this issue. This issue marks the beginning of the theme of focusing in on the strategies that can be used to enhance workforce productivity and efficiency in the 21st century. We will also discuss the upcoming documentary on the history of black businesses that will be produced in the new year. In this issue of the blog, we will also give readers a retrospective on the 2006 Entepreneurial Academy graduation, which took place on November 11th.

Quote of the Week

Before you can lead, you must first learn how to follow.

--Dr. Christopher Williams
Kent State University

10 Strategies to Enhance Workforce Productivity and Efficiency

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 3.

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.
Professor David Smeltzer, Mr. Lawrence Chance, and Dr. Bessie House to Produce Documentary on Black Businesses in Cleveland, Ohio

The Center for Minority Businesses and the School of Journalism at Kent State University have developed a creative collaboration to produce a documentary on the History of Black Businesses in Cleveland, based on the award-winning book, "Confronting the Odds: African American Entrepreneurship in Cleveland, Ohio" by Dr. Bessie House. The new collaboration brings together the talents and skills of Dr. Bessie House, award-winning author, professor and entrepreneur, Professor David Smeltzer, an award-winning film producer and professor in the Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Mr. Lawrence Chance, an Emmy-Award winning script writer.

In order to involve the community in this important project, the public is being asked to contribute copies of old business photographs, business artifacts, life histories and narratives to be included in the documentary or the newly revised version of "Confronting the Odds" which Dr. House is currently working on. The newly revised version of the book will be published by the Kent State University Press and will be released simultaneous to the airing of the documentary on public television.

The writing of the script will begin in January 2007, with final production projected for airing on television in Black History Month of 2008. Materials can be submitted immediately.

Contributions, photos, and artifacts can be dropped off at or mailed to 115 McGilvrey Hall, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio 44242 or 540 E. 105th Street, Suite 250, Cleveland, Ohio 44108.

For more information, contact Dr. Bessie House at 330-672-5307 or

The Entrepreneurial Academy's Graduation: A Retrospective

The E-Academy's Graduation was held on November 11, 2006 from 3PM to 5PM. This ceremony was open to the public. The theme for the graduation ceremony was "The Power of Collaborations: Prioritizing Entrepreneurial Development for the 21st Century".

Established in 2004, the Entrepreneurial Academy provides business training and assistance to individuals who live in Hough, Glenville, Fairfax and the Midtown Corridor of Cleveland. It is the result of a creative and innovative collaboration between the City of Cleveland Empowerment Zone, Kent State's Center for the Study and Development of Minority Businesses, the Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation, the Consortium for Economic and Community Development, The Glenville Development Corporation, and Midtown Cleveland.

The Entrepreneurial Academy is located at 540 East 105th Street, Suite 250. Dr. Bessie House serves as the Director of the Entrepreneurial Academy as well as the Director of the Center for the Study and Development of Minority Business at Kent State University.

This year’s class included 41 students from the Cleveland area. "Not only do graduates receive a certificate of completion, they leave the Entrepreneurial Academy with their own business plan to take to potential investors and a wealth of information on what it takes not only to start, but to grow a small business" says Dr. Bessie House, director of the academy. Dr. House is the author of the critically acclaimed book, "Confronting the Odds: African American Entrepreneurship in Cleveland, Ohio".

The ceremony was held at The Civic Conference and Event Center, 3130 Mayfield Road, Mayfield Heights. In order to graduate, the students must have attended 90% of all the scheduled business classes, created an extensive business plan, worked with experienced business coaches, and scored a 70% or higher on their final examination. The gradients classes attended both advanced and basic business training class. They graduated with a certificate of completion, their own business plan to take to potential investors and a wealth of information on what it takes not only to start, but to grow a small business.

The welcoming address and congratulatory remarks were given by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. The honorable Frank G. Jackson is all about Cleveland - he grew up here, attended public school here, received his associate degree from Cuyahoga County Community College, his bachelor's degree, master's degree in public administration, and law degree from Cleveland State University. Mayor Jackson is quoted as stating that he "wants his time as Mayor to be judged on what we do for the least of us."

Mayor Jackson first worked as a night clerk for the Cleveland Municipal Court while putting himself through law school at the Cleveland Marshall College of Law. He passed the Ohio bar exam and started his legal career as an assistant city prosecutor. In 1989, Jackson won a seat on the Cleveland City Council for Ward 5. Jackson's progress in Ward 5 helped him get elected Council President in 2001, succeeding Michael D. Polensek. Jackson announced his candidacy for mayor on April 7, 2005, and was sworn in as the city's next mayor at East Technical High School in Cleveland on January the 2nd, 2006.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Lester A. Lefton, president of Kent State University. Dr. Lefton became Kent State University’s 11th president in July 2006. He is respected internationally for his scholarship in the field of experimental psychology. An authority on visual attention and memory, his research has been supported with numerous federal grants and has been published widely in scholarly journals. He also is an award-winning teacher with 35 years of university teaching experience. Dr. Lefton’s introductory psychology textbook, now in its ninth edition, is used in college classrooms nationwide.

Mr. Steven Sims who is the Director of the Office for Business Development of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority was Master of Ceremonies for the graduation.

Congratulations to All Graduates: Andre Bustamante, Vera Brewer, Betty Craig, Robert Craig, Carl Green, Marlo Linen, Betty Mahone, Kevin Moses, Brian Sullivan, Brenda Greer, Ashok Gupta, Constance Haynes, Stephanie Howse, Sonya Kyle, Vivian Levert, Maria Mango, Bilaal Muhammad, Laherm Patterson, Rowena Robinson, Kim Whitsett, Vicki Acquah, Tony Allmond, Dennis Corbett, Joan Diouf, Shannon Graham, April Griffin, Melody Hardy, Sheray Harrison, Tyrone Henry, Linda Jones, Tammy Kennedy, Michelle McCoy, Tonia Mullins, Betty Murray, Leatha Slatton, Donna Stewart, Ruth Willis, Kai Wingo, Joanne Hawk, Kimberly Loyed, and Vicky Trotter.
Dr. House Receives Gifts from Students, Staff.

Dr. House thanks the E-Academy graduates of 2006 and Michael Valentine for the gifts that she has received during the graduation that took place earlier this month.

She would like to convey her sincerest thanks to the 2006 graduates of the E-Academy, who presented her with some beautiful jewlery as well as some perfume and lotion. She would also like to convey her thanks to Mr. Michael Valentine, who presented her with a dozen red roses.

Dr. House was recently featured in the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Dr. House, in the November 5th, 2006 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was featured prominently. Dr. House was featured in the "At Work" sub-section of the front page of the "Your Job" section. The Cleveland Plain Dealer is one of the largest newspapers in the United States, with a subscriber base of over 1.3 million individuals. If you are interested in receiving a copy to see this accolade, or if you would like to include information about Dr. House in your newspaper, magazine, or the like, please contact us at The Center for the Study and Development of Minority Businesses, at 330.672.5307 .

Here is the full text of the article:

At Work:

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

Best thing about my job: The opportunity that I have to constantly develop blueprints for programs that work effectively in the real world.

Biggest challenge: Making sure that we keep our work on the cutting edge by constantly incorporating new ideas and new ways of knowing.

Biggest surprise: In the world of business, things are never as easy as they might appear to be on the surface. It usually takes much more time to accomplish one’s goals when working with other people than is usually anticipated.

I worry about: Not having enough time to complete and implement all of my ideas.

Most important lesson learned: Psychological capital is the most important type of capital to possess. If you have strong levels of psychological capital, your competitors may slow you down, but they can never stop you.

Best advice I ever got: My grandmother Bessie once told me: "If it's not broken, don’t fix it."

When the going gets tough: I work harder and work smarter.

For relaxation: I listen to soothing music and read interesting books.

What I’m doing 10 years from now: I would like to be the president of a college or university, preferably in the southern part of the United States.

Parting shot: My favorite quote is "A mind that is fully stretched can never return to its original dimension."

For a larger version of the article, go here.
Dear Dr. House

Dear Doctor House

This week, we have two very interesting letters. The first comes from Dr. Aimee Griffin Munnings, Director of the School of Business at Western New England College and the second letter is from Mr. Thomas Katovsky, cofounder of Tennis Reaching Youth.

Dear Bessie:

I am the Director of the School of Business at Western New England College in Springfield, Massachusetts. Our college has a very interesting partnership between the business school and the law school. We have created the Law and Business Center for Advancing Entrepreneurship (ht tp://

While there are many entrepreneurship centers throughout the U.S., few, if any, have a law-business partnership. If you take a look at our webpage, you will see different aspects to our center. Aside from having students work with local entrepreneurs and small businesses, we host a speakers series and a conference each year

We are in the process of planning a one day, academic conference for next year on March 30th. Our first conference was successful and drew distinguished faculty from a variety of universities. At our next conference, we would like to put together a panel session on Set Asides and Affirmative Action. We would like to know if your would be interested in being a panel member at our next conference? The panel will consist of one other business academic and two law school professors from different law schools around the country. Panel participants would have the opportunity to publish an article based on the conference in the Western New England College Law Review.

Thank you for your consideration.

Aimee Griffin Munnings
School of Business
Western New England College

Dear Dr. Munnings:

Thank you so much for your lovely letter. It was a pleasure meeting you last January at the United States Association for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship Conference (USASBE). Thank you for sending the interesting information about your business center. I look forward to perusing your web site to find out more information about it.

Thank you for inviting me to be a panelist on your upcoming conference in March of 2007. I would very much like to participate in it. I have asked my secretary, Mary, to contact you to find out the details of the event and to check my calendar to find out my availability during the month of March. We look forward to talking to you more about our mutual interests in the area of entrepreneurship.

Sincerely Yours,

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

Dear Dr. House:

Thanks for your newsletters. I have forwarded it many times to Tony Searight, who started an educational investment foundation to teach kids starting at 6 years old how to open a brokerage account and start investing.

Also, we are designing an international tennis learning center in East Cleveland and would be interested in incorporating a classroom for training kids how to be entrepreneurs. We have featured Tony and Farrah Gray in our newspaper Healthy Referral.

Would also love to share the business plan for the center once finished.

Thomas Katovsky, cofounder, http://www.h
Former Men's Tennis Coach, Kent State University
Cofounder Tennis Reaching Youth

Dear Mr. Katovsky:

Thank you for your recent email. I was delighted to read about your ideas to establish an international tennis center in East Cleveland and a classroom for training kids how to become entrepreneurs. I would love to meet with you to discuss your ideas at some future point in time and yes, I would be interested in seeing your business plan for the project.

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


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