- Patricia Neuray
Overcoming Adversity in Business
If COVID-19 has taught us anything as businesspeople, it’s the importance of being resilient. That's why it's so helpful to hear how other organizations have dealt with the inevitable ups and downs. BCT Partners is proud to be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and like other successful companies, they have learned a lot along the way. They have always prided themselves on making a positive social impact both locally and nationally and are always looking for more ways to give back. The webinar that they recently produced was meant to do just that. They wanted to share some of their insights with other entrepreneurs on ways that they can weather this current storm and come out stronger and hopefully wiser.
The conversation was moderated by Alfred Edmond Jr., who is the Senior Vice President and Executive Editor-at-Large at Black Enterprise. The participants included the four founders of BCT Partners, Dr. Randal Pinkett, Lawrence Hibbert, Dallas Grundy, and Dr. Jeffrey Robinson. Having not only survived but thrived over 20 years as both friends and business partners, they share some of the valuable lessons they have learned over the years. To listen to the full recording, access it here. Below are some of the key highlights:
Choose the right partners
This is important in both business and life, but many of us don't use the best judgment when it comes to either one. The founders were asked how they came together and what has kept them together. As Mr. Edmond stated, “You can have a group and a team, but not every group is a team.” The common denominators that all four gentlemen pointed to included: a common background having all started as engineers at Rutgers University, a shared value system of believing in hard work and tenacity, and the fact that they formed deep bonds with each other that were beyond casual friendships. As part of the same college organizations, they each took on leadership positions, which helped them understand their strengths and weaknesses and prepare them for the roles that they eventually took on when they started the company. As Alfred Edmond summed it up, “A business can have all the resources, credentials, capital, etc. but without healthy relationships, it’s almost impossible to be successful. And honor, esteem, and respect are the three things necessary for all healthy relationships.”
Play to your strengths
It's essential for each person to understand how they can best support the group. As Lawrence Hibbert pointed out, "Just like in basketball, everyone needs to know their position in the team and recognize the importance of everyone’s roles.” Business partners also need to be clear about their objectives. All four founders at BCT knew they wanted to build a long-term enterprise together, and they always kept that goal at the forefront of every decision they made. The broader mission was more important than their individual egos. That doesn't mean they agreed on everything, but in the end, they were always able to come to a consensus that was ultimately best for the business.
Be agile and ready to evolve
One of the things that helped BCT Partners succeed was the ability to be nimble and recognize when they had to pivot to keep the business growing. As Randal pointed out, “Andy Grove (founder of Intel) talked a lot about being paranoid and always worrying about what your competition is doing. Don't ever get too comfortable. Businesses like Polaroid, Kodak, and Blockbuster became obsolete because they got too comfortable.”
Diversification is vital
You can’t have all your eggs in one basket. You have to have a healthy paranoia even when there are not outside forces driving it like COVID-19. And you have to be willing to change when you recognize that the market or your customers are changing. BCT had to evolve and develop new business lines over the years to survive. They had to be nimble enough to recognize and take advantage of opportunities that arose. Lawrence went on to say, “We needed to shift and develop new skills. Learn, unlearn, and relearn. And we did it as a team. It’s important to stay emotionally engaged with other people through tough times. Even if you’re a sole entrepreneur, seek out mentors, other business leaders, or friends that can be a sounding board." Jeffrey continued, “We had to ask ourselves the tough questions. How do we leverage our technical background? What are other trends that could help us develop new business lines? Where do we go from here?” Unfortunately, many companies will not be able to maintain their current business model as a result of the pandemic, so reinvention will be imperative for them to survive.
When four college friends started their business 20 years ago, they had no idea what the future would hold. But they had the drive, the faith, and the common goals that enabled them to deal with the ups and downs that businesses need to navigate in order to persevere. Recently named by Forbes as one of the best management consulting firms in the country, BCT Partners has not only survived, but they have flourished. Not only have they built a successful business, but most importantly, they have remained close friends. They were asked their secret, and Dallas summarized it best when he said, "Each individual has to build their own leadership capacity. They have to be more for the company so the company can be more.”