Analyze the Future
COVID-19 has negatively affected Black and Brown people disproportionately vs White people. This is a fact. Not only is COVID-19 negatively affecting our health, but it’s impacting our ability to advance economically. Companies have accelerated their digital transformation by multiple years because of the effects of social distancing. They do so by embracing The Cloud, Mobile, Marketplaces, AI and eCommerce technologies. These well capitalized companies have the resources needed to move quickly and adapt to the new realities. We become dependent on these systems which aren’t run by us and a lot of times we’re not even in the room where critical decisions are made. So what do we do?
The thing we must absolutely NOT do is hate! The system works the way it works and you can’t change that easily. However, we can benefit from the same systems if we work as a collective. Working as a collective can germinate network effects and then you have something. It’s a multifaceted approach with multiple levels of abstraction. I don’t believe you start with building a cloud provider like AWS, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud. I consider those services utilities that we may impact with legislation.
We start small. For example, start a digital marketing business that targets popular Black and Brown small businesses. Take the time to understand their businesses, identify success metrics and help them to compete. Black and Brown owned businesses, if you see one of your own trying to build their digital business give them a shot. We need to develop expertise in the new economy and we’re not going to do so by playing a chicken and egg game. So you like the idea of becoming a digital marketer but don’t know where to start? Take an online class on Udemy. They usually have sales promotion so you can probably learn everything you need to get started for less than $10.00.
So you own and operate a shoe store. You’re able to sell the latest kicks and when you have a new, exclusive design people line up around your store. Nike (NIKE) recently announced in an earnings call that 30% of their revenue was direct-to-consumer digital. This was their 2023 goal! So their future has essentially been accelerated by three years and now they’ve increased their 2023 goal to 50%. What does that mean for Black and Brown small businesses?
It means that consumers are going to make purchase decisions based on the best digital experience. This experience needs to be personal and trusted so it protects consumers’ privacy. Your relationship with your customers should no longer be transactional but relational. In practical terms, if you sell a product or service, provide resources that create value. If you sell a shoe, create content around ways customers can care for their shoe so that it lasts longer. Promote complementary products like shoe cleaners. Send your customers promotions and ask what you could be doing better to serve them. If you want an example of someone who understands building relationships whenever she releases a product, look no further than Beyoncé.
Assembling the pieces to compete when technology isn’t your core competency isn’t easy. In the black community we’ve lacked the educational opportunities to develop our technological muscles. That’s why it’s important for those of us who did have the opportunity to establish a technology career share our knowledge. It’s tough to know where to start though. It’s like opening a new puzzle and trying to fit the pieces together. Let’s follow the principle of keeping things simple. Start with a website.
There are numerous companies that specialize in simple website builder technologies. My thesis is that although they’re easy to get started, they perpetuate the cycle of inequitable opportunities for Black and Brown technologists. Instead, seek out web design businesses owned by Black and Brown people and give them the opportunity to grow their businesses. Giving Black and Brown owned businesses an opportunity to earn your business will help to foster relationships vs transactions. By supporting Black and Brown technology businesses, you’re doing your part to keep your hard earned dollars circulating in our communities.