August is Black Business Month. Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off on September 15. These are important moments to celebrate diverse communities here in the United States. They’re also powerful mile markers throughout the year that should serve as reminders to businesses that diversity isn’t a surface-level commitment. It can transform organizations and open up lucrative new markets.
Diversity as a core function of business is a stance that we’ve taken since the beginning. It’s a view that hasn’t been fully realized by corporate America yet. In the wake of the protests and public outrage over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis at the hands of several police officers, diversity quickly became a priority with Chief Diversity Officer hires and other initiatives happening across a range of companies. While positive overall, it’s a trend that is under pressure now as corporations struggle with an uncertain economic environment. Herein lies the problem: most organizations haven’t successfully integrated diversity into their business strategy even though the opportunities are immense.
Take, for example, our work with the wealth management division of a large multinational bank. As with nearly all wealth management businesses, the clientele has traditionally been older and predominantly white. Leaders within the organization realized that a growing class of nonwhite wealthy families could form the cornerstone of a future client base. The problem? They struggled to communicate outside of their usual target audience. Our work has focused on the right media strategy, tailored events, and overall messaging to drive an entirely new clientele. This is the type of approach to diversity that works best – one that is fully integrated into a profitable strategy.
Even as we consider legacy businesses looking to pivot to put diversity to work, let’s also focus on the importance of supporting minority-owned businesses. For example, U.S. Census Bureau stats highlight a significant gap – Blacks make up 14.2% of the population but only comprise 2.3% of business owners. The economic impact is still significant, though. Black businesses generate more than $140 billion in revenue and employ more than one million workers in the United States.
Often it feels that as we roll from one cultural recognition month to the next, we’re being asked to stop and start – to consider a diversity-oriented business strategy for a moment or to stop supporting one group and start supporting the next. But in reality, these periods are reminders that each day when we are about to spend or invest a dollar, to consider for a moment about the communities and the businesses with that we can impact with our support so they can continue to build, create more opportunity and thrive to make a more robust society for all of us.
In this way we’re all winners.