BlackTrac To The Future - An Analysis

by David Rambeau

I was pleasantly surprised to find that about one-third of the attendees at Detroit's Tech Town annual, all-day business seminar, FastTrac to the Future, held in May were African-American. Of this group I would estimate that a slight majority were women. In a community where about half the people are unemployed or underemployed, and way over eighty percent of the city's residents are black, learning how to start and grow a small business should be at the top of everybody's agenda. I guess it isn't.

Why the event wasn't filled to overflowing I really don't know since I haven't done any research to ascertain the causes. It couldn't have been the fee since the sponsors didn't charge for admission, the lunch, the printed program or the conference materials. You didn't have to register in advance since I just walked in at leisure and registered at the desk though others had registered in advance and had passes waiting for them which went unutilized. Maybe it was because of inadequate targeted public relations or advertising aimed specifically at the black community. Maybe black folks are simply interested in jobs and not in developing businesses. Maybe the 3,000 or so black churches in Detroit weren't involved in the recruitment process. No one and nothing from Detroit's all-black, nine member City Council was represented. Maybe Detroit's elected officials had rallies to prepare for and speeches to give, or press conferences to convene. I really don't know. Whatever the reasons were, they all missed a valuable, informative, thought-provoking series of solo and panel presentations, net-working and sales opportunities.

Of the twenty speakers who made either a solo presentation or were part of a panel discussion, only one was black. Of the thirty-four community partners for the affair, none were black, though some had black representatives at the vendor tables. I couldn't find any signs of black business oriented media, i.e. Black Enterprize Magazine, the Detroit Black Pages, or the Metro Business Information Guide. However, when you got to the young people who were walk-around hosts, once again you found a recognizable number, about a quarter were African-American. I suppose the organizers thought having a black keynote speaker, Clifton Taubert, made up for this comprehesive imbalance, given that about 85 percent of Detroit's population is black. Even though the conference was held at Wayne State University in the heart of Detroit's cultural center, affirmative action was not the order of the day.

There was a buffet of workshops which included Social Media, Intellectual Property, Service & Lifestyle Businesses, Money Tables, Role in a Start up, Franchising, Team Building and Networking. In other words, something for virtually every business need, all of it underwritten by foundations and presented for two days, so that if you missed overlapping workshops you could come the next day and catch what you missed. I did. I also collected a ton of literature from the vendors to use and reference and to follow up on after the conference. So far, so good, no better than that, so far excellent.

No Sales People
Now this was a business conference, and as you know if you don't make sales you're out of business. Well, I was at the conference for two days and nobody, not a single person, ran a sales pitch on me. Sometimes I would just hang around waiting, almost hoping to receive one. No bet. So I would run mine on folks. A part of my pitch is, at the proper point, to tender a prospect my 4x5 BAIT business card and either wait for the person to give me theirs, and if they don't offer to do so, to ask for their business card. You know 80% of the people I asked, outside of the vendors at tables, didn't have business cards or literature to give me. At the vendor tables most of the reps didn't offer their literature or cards, I would ask and then initiate my pitch. Everybody would talk, but nobody would sell.

I know selling is tough, and nobody wants to do it, even those in business or planning to go into business. If you're already in business, you know this as well as I do. People don't go into business to sell a product or service; they go into business to have a product or service. That's why so many businesses go out of business. It costs to have a product; it pays to sell a product.

BlackTrac To The Future - An Analysis by David Rambeau

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