Increasing African-American homeownership is important to economic progress

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By:  Cerita Battles, SVP, head of Retail Diverse Segments, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

Black History Month celebrates the achievements of African Americans and the progress that has been made to achieve racial equality in this country. This also is an important time to recognize work that still needs to be done to achieve that equality.

One area is homeownership, where African Americans lag behind all other ethnic groups when it comes to owning a home.

People from rapidly growing diverse communities represent the majority of growth among potential first-time homebuyers. According to the 2010 Census Bureau, of the 14 million new households expected by 2024, 75 percent of those will be diverse. For many Americans and particularly African Americans, homeownership is an integral component of the American dream, and a way to build security and wealth for families.

However, the African-American homeownership rate does not align with the significant desire to own a home. The current homeownership rate for African Americans, about 42 percent, is the lowest among all ethnic minorities.  As one of the nation’s leading lenders with a team of mortgage professionals dedicated to helping customers achieve the dream of homeownership, Wells Fargo stepped up its efforts to positively impact African-American homeownership. During Black History Month in 2017, the company announced a 10-year commitment to help increase African-American homeownership that includes: $60 billion in purchase lending to create at least 250,000 homeowners; a focus on increasing the diversity of its sales team including African-American Home Mortgage Consultants; and dedicating $15 million toward homebuyer education and counseling initiatives. To achieve this important work, Wells Fargo is proud to have the support of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the NAACP and the National Urban League.

It has been two years since we made that announcement. We continue to make progress on that commitment, helping more customers become educated about and prepared for the homebuying process and guiding and supporting them as they travel the journey to become homeowners.

Our commitment to increase African-American homeownership is part of Wells Fargo’s overall Advancing Homeownershipsm effort, which brings together people, partners and resources to create new opportunities for long-term, successful homeownership.  In addition to the African-American lending commitment, this effort includes programs like Neighborhood LIFT®, which helps low- to moderate-income families achieve homeownership with homebuyer education and down payment assistance. Since, LIFT programs have helped to create nearly 20,000 homeowners.

Even though we are making progress with our African-American lending commitment, we realize there is still much work to be done to raise the homeownership rate of this segment of the population. Like many Americans, African Americans desire to own homes, but are often challenged by industry barriers like affordability and lack of inventory. And even though we have seen improvements in the economy, underemployment and unemployment are factors in the inability to own a home.

In addition, there are misconceptions about homeownership and lack of knowledge about the process that create perceived barriers to owning a home. One of the most-believed myths is that is takes a 20 percent down payment in order to qualify for a loan. That’s not true. Many lenders, including Wells Fargo, offer financing options with a low down payment.  Another myth is that borrowers need perfect credit.  It’s important for aspiring homeowners to speak with a lender to separate the myths from the facts when it comes to purchasing a home. Homebuyer education and counseling are key in helping aspiring homeowners avoid myths, and create more confidence and knowledge when it comes to pursuing homeownership. That’s why investing in education is such a critical part of the African-American homeownership commitment.

Wells Fargo views homeownership as a pathway to financial success for our customers, a source of stability in communities and a key driver of our economy.  We want to help people find the place they will call home – the place where their lives will happen, where they will create memories, spend time with friends or raise their families.  We are dedicated to helping those who want to achieve homeownership, and our African-American commitment is one way we are working to do it.

For more information on home mortgage, visit WellsFargo.com.

7 Myths About Saving for Retirement

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by Andrew J. Tudor, Financial Advisor with Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company. It’s always a great time to reevaluate your financial goals and dreams for the future. Whether you are decades from retirement or only a few years away, many people have misconceptions about how achievable retirement is, how much they’ll need, and what resources are available to them as they prepare to retire. There is also the universal tension between living for now and saving for later. These factors create a lot of anxiety around preparing for a secure future.

To empower people to make the most of their financial futures, I have compiled several retirement myths below, as well as insight to dispel those myths:

Myth #1: It’s too late. I’m too old to save for retirement.
While you may not have started saving earlier in life, there are still opportunities to accumulate savings now. Take advantage of the catch-up contributions permitted by the IRS, and make sure you’re collecting all your company’s 401(k) plan matching contributions. Additionally, you can open an IRA or Roth IRA account to supplement your retirement savings.

Myth #2: Retirement means not working.
People are increasingly engaging in phased retirement, second careers or part-time work after their first career ends. One reason for this is that people are living longer, healthier lives. The longer you live after work, the larger your nest egg needs to be. Some are phasing their retirement for financial reasons, while others realize a second career or part-time work can make their golden years more fulfilling.

Myth #3: I won’t be able to rely on Social Security.
While the Social Security Administration projects that the trust fund for retirement benefits will be depleted by 2034, it believes it will be able to pay roughly 75 percent of benefits through at least 2092, and that’s if nothing happens to change the system. While Social Security is likely to continue to provide a base of income for many years, it’s a good idea to have supplementary income available in retirement. IRAs and 401(k)s are a good, tax-advantaged way to supplement social security income.

Myth #4: If I save enough to live to age 85, that should be enough.
It is true that expected lifespan is 75-85 years, but with advancements in medicine and health care, living to 100 is becoming more and more common. It’s essential your retirement plan provides income to support you until you die. It’s better to have more money at the end of your life than to have more life at the end of your money.

Myth #5: I’m too young to have to worry about saving for retirement.
You’re never too young to start saving for retirement. Starting early makes it possible to take advantage of compound interest which grows exponentially. For example, let’s say you have $5,000 saved by the time you’re 25. If you let that money compound at a 7 percent annual rate of return, it will be worth more than $81,000 by the time you retire at 65. That’s compound interest.

Myth #6: What’s in my retirement account is all mine.
While traditional IRAs and 401(k)s are critical tools in saving for retirement, it’s important to understand the tax implications of those accounts. A dollar in those accounts has never been taxed, but it will once it’s withdrawn in retirement. For example, at an effective tax rate of 15 percent, a withdrawal of $10,000 will only get you $8,500 after taxes. With Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s, taxes are paid as the money goes in, so you don’t owe any more when drawing on those funds.

Myth #7: In order to work with a financial advisor, I need to have extra money to invest.
A financial advisor can be a helpful partner for anyone, regardless of their financial situation, and his or her expertise goes beyond simply saving for retirement. An advisor can help you live the life you want now while still saving for later. Whether your financial goals include paying down debt, setting up a budget, opening a retirement investment account or recommending 401(k) investment options, an advisor can guide you through the process and help you make informed financial decisions.

Magic Johnson will provide $100 million to fund loans to minority-owned businesses

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Magic Johnson may no longer be playing in the NBA, but the Hall of Fame member is still making valuable assists. Johnson announced that EquiTrust Life Insurance Co., of which he owns a majority, is providing $100 million in capital to fund federal loans for minority and women business owners who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

EquiTrust will work with MBE Capital Partners, a lender that specializes in asset-based loans for minority-owned small businesses, to distribute the loans through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

The loans are aimed at supporting people of color and women who operate businesses in underserved communities, according to a news release.

The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“These are incredible businesses, small businesses, that have been the pillar of our community that also employ a lot of black and brown people in our community,” Johnson said Sunday on MSNBC. “… We wanted to make sure that minority-owned businesses got small business loans through the PPP program.”

Concerns about people of color accessing loans

The partnership was borne out of a concern that women and people of color were having difficulty accessing the loans offered by the Small Business Administration’s emergency coronavirus relief program — part of the federal government’s massive stimulus package.

“Johnson’s EquiTrust is providing critical financial support to underserved communities and businesses that have been traditionally neglected,” EquiTrust and MBE Capital Partners said in a joint news release. “These small and diverse businesses often have difficulty developing strong lending relationships with big banks.”

The goal is to help 100,000 businesses secure resources that will sustain them through the pandemic, MBE Capital CEO Rafael Martinez said on MSNBC.

Continue on to CNN to read the complete article.

Meet Brittney Nicole: Navy Veteran Turned Fashion Entrepreneur

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Transitioning from military life back into civilian life is a challenge for any veteran. While there are many different approaches in choosing a career, one U.S. Navy Veteran decided that she would approach her career choice by following her passions.

Always having a love for fashion, Brittney Nicole decided to open her own clothing business, Coco’s Wardrobe, upon her retirement from the U.S. Navy.  The New Orleans based boutique designs, manufactures, and sells women’s clothing that is meant to look as good as they feel, blending comfort with style. All of the clothing in Nicole’s shop has a women’s desire to feel confident and comfortable at the forefront of everything that is produced.

In addition, Nicole has also began selling uniquely designed face masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meet UCLA’s First African American Athletic Director

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Martin Jarmond, the first and most recent athletic director at Boston College and the youngest director to ever be in the Power Five Conferences, will be breaking another record with his newest position.

On May 17, it was announced that Martin Jarmond will become the new athletic director of UCLA. This will make Jarmond the first African American man to hold the position in the school’s 101-year history.

Having an extensive background in sports both on the court and in his studies, Jarmond has quickly been able to move up the ladder of sports administration and is speculated to be the perfect fit to help UCLA fix the financial debt of the previous year’s $18.9 million deficit.

Continue on to the L.A. Times’ Website to read the complete article.

Photo Credit: Stephen Senne/Associated Press

United Airlines appoints First African American President

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Chicago based United Airlines announced Brett J. Hart as the company’s President. The number two leadership role being filled by Mr. Hart is part of the company’s leadership succession plan that was announced in early December.

“I am honored and energized as I take on these new responsibilities to lead this incredible team that I am convinced will build United into a thriving industry leader,” Hart said. “The path forward will not be easy, but I am confident that Scott and I will continue our partnership to lead United through the extraordinary challenge posed by COVID-19. United’s bright future is only possible because of the commitment of the most talented airline professionals in the world who serve United and our customers every single day – and I could not be prouder of them.

Hailing from the southside of Chicago Brett J. Hart was educated at the University of Michigan and received a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Chicago Law School. Hart is the first African American to become President of United Airlines in the airline’s 94-year history.

Hart was a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in Chicago. Before that, he served as a special assistant to the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C. Later he would go on to work for the Sara Lee Corporation as the executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, where he directed global legal operations. Hart joined United Airlines in 2010. Over his 10-year career with United Hart has taken on significant responsibilities within the company. Hart has previously worked as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for the company. In 2015 he stepped in and served as interim CEO for six months while the then CEO Munoz recovered from a heart transplant.

As President of United, Hart will continue to lead the company’s public advocacy strategy, including the Government Affairs, Corporate Communications, Legal and Community Engagement teams. He will also continue to oversee business-critical functions like the Corporate Real Estate team and manage United’s industry-leading environmental sustainability efforts. His responsibilities will expand to include managing the Human Resources and Labor Relations teams.

Hart taking this position comes as he, along with other executives, are waiving their salaries for a time as the company struggles financially. Like others in the airline industry, United is trying to deal with the losses from Covid-19.

Continue on to Chicago Defender to read the complete article.

How Sean Combs is Supporting and Protecting Small Businesses

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On April 23, Sean Combs, previously known as “Diddy” in the music industry, released his newest project, Our Fair Share, which aims to help minority-owned businesses obtain the materials needed to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

A benefit that primarily goes to businesses that have the proper “connections,” Combs wants to ensure the small businesses that we love and depend on have the same opportunities as the bigger corporations.
“COVID-19 is devastating our communities, and without access to stimulus funding, we risk losing critical businesses that create jobs and help build opportunities and wealth in our communities,” said Combs. “I created Our Fair Share to help entrepreneurs play on an even playing field and give them a chance to survive with the hope to thrive.”

To do this, Combs’ new program has teamed up with National Bankers Association, a group that represents minority-owned financial institutions. Through Our Fair Share, the National Bank Association can connect their clients to financial technology companies that will be able to provide the PPP materials and loans needed.

To learn more about Our Fair Share, its origin, and its purposes, click here for the full press release.

Proof that Diversity and Inclusion Must Continue Now more than Ever

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Publishers Note: These last few weeks have been anything but normal. Many, including DiversityComm, have taken to working from home, and it’s difficult to not worry about the future. As the days go on, I’ve been facing the reality that life in COVID-19 has become a new normal of sorts and the possibility of a recession isn’t completely off the table.

Having been in the business for over thirty years and the complications that came with the 2008 and 2011 recessions as well as the events of September 11, 2001, I have learned that diversity and inclusion are and continue to be the keys to keeping business moving. Studies show that racially diverse companies are 35% more likely to see an increase in financial returns in comparison with their competitors while companies that have a more cultural and ethical variation in their boards are 43% more likely to experience a higher income. Groups of diverse thinkers of three or more members have also tested to be more successful than an individual 87% of the time.

All of this being said, how does this work? And how do these diverse connections keep business working?

  • Have Empathy
    1. COVID-19 is hard on everyone, but other groups of people will be experiencing this in a different way than others. Check in on your clients and employees on how they are doing during this time. Listen to what they say and educate yourself on how this situation is affecting their lives. People want to work with people who truly care about who they are and understand them on a real, human level. When they feel like they are genuinely being heard and cared for, they will remember your willingness to help and want to strengthen their connection with you. The same goes for employees. When employees feel they are being cared for, they are encouraged to increase work efficiency and less likely to contribute to the turnover rate.
  • Re-Focus Your Goals
    1. As the world seems to be on “pause” lately, this is the perfect opportunity to plan for the future. What projects and aspects can you invest in now to setup your business for a higher success rate in the future? Once you refocus your goals and have a plan for what projects you want to carry out, then you can start building a team of qualified individuals. You will want a team of people that have expertise in a variety of areas so that every aspect of the project will go above and beyond the call of duty. If your team consists of a group that all have the same background, culture and life experience, the chances that something will be left out will increase. Will your project be accessible? Does it meet the standards in every area? A diverse group can ensure that all these questions are handled.
  • Learn and Grow
    1. It’s easy to look at your past experience, available data and old traditions as a template for how to run your business. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is critical that we continue to learn and grow with the times. We are in a digital age and there are so many opportunities that can be seized through it. Though a digital form of business was almost nonexistent several decades ago, the willingness to keep up with the times is key for a business in today’s age to succeed.  Listening to a variety of opinions from varying backgrounds and experiences will not only show you how to more effectively work your business, but will increase creativity and innovation in the workplace. The more educated we become, the more expanded our ideas and strategies will become.

The times are changing and uncertain, but when we focus on our team, employees, clients, partners, and connections while keeping an open mind to the changing times, we will succeed and we will get through this. We find strength in diversity and inclusion.

The Minority Business Development Agency Announces New Inner City Innovation Hub Grant Competition

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The U.S. Department of Commerce and Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) recently announced the award of two competitive grants for the launch and operation of the Minority Business Enterprise Inner City Innovation HUBs.

MBDA intends to award $2.8M over two years to support and fuel economic innovation of minority-owned start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in inner cities and urban areas in any U.S. state or U.S. territory with high concentrations of minority populations and minority business enterprises

“The Trump Administration is doing its part to support economic growth by providing access to capital in communities with the greatest needs,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “We are tremendously proud of the Minority Business Enterprise Inner City Innovation Hub initiative to spur entrepreneurship in inner cities and economically distressed neighborhoods.”

The minority population of the United States is 129 million, or 38 percent of the total U.S. population. Although 38 percent of the population in the U.S. is minority, only 19 percent of businesses are minority-owned.[1] In inner cities, 76 percent of the population is minority, but only 23% of all inner city businesses are minority-owned.[2]

“Minority-owned businesses are increasingly representing the core of economic activity in the major metropolitan areas, so it is critically important we provide them with the resources and funding they need to grow and stay competitive in the global economy,” said Henry Childs II, MBDA National Director.  “MBDA is trying to create critical ecosystems for minority-owned businesses in major metropolitan areas by supporting existing organizations and leveraging private sector capital at the local level.”

MBDA is seeking proposals that support research and technology transfer, digital innovation, use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and entrepreneurship in support of minority-owned start-ups and entrepreneurs with innovative products or services.

Applications are due May 15, 2020. More information can be found on at grants.gov or https://www.mbda.gov/page/grants-and-loans. A pre-application teleconference will be conducted April 29, 2020 at 2:00 PM ET to provide background information and answer questions about the program and application process. Details are on .mbda.gov.

About the MBDA: 

The U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency (www.mbda.gov) is the only federal agency solely dedicated to fostering the growth and global competitiveness of U.S. minority business enterprises.  MBDA programs are focused on economic empowerment and leading minority business enterprises through business transformation. For 50 years, MBDA has helped minority-owned firms get access to capital, contracts, build scale and capacity, and expand into new markets.

The More Diverse the Management, the Higher the Profits

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By Stacey A. Gordon

A financial study of 1,000 large companies by McKinsey & Co. found that the more diverse the management, the higher the profits, compared with companies composed of less diversity.

Companies in the top 25 percent with the most ethnic executives outperformed other firms with profits 33 percent higher than those in the bottom 25 percent with fewer ethnic workers. Firms more inclusive of women in management showed 21 percent more revenue than those with fewer women in executive roles.

Corporate hiring and training in the field of Unconscious Bias and Diversity and Inclusion is on the rise. Before Virgin America was purchased by Alaska Airlines, they offered my LinkedIn Learning course on Unconscious Bias in their in-flight entertainment to spread awareness of workplace diversity—which can be a difficult subject to talk about at work.

Approximately 96 percent of men enjoy executive positions where they unconsciously promote other men. Given even a slight 1 percent bias in favor of males, research shown in the Unconscious Bias course determines that promoting men over and over due to unconscious bias can leave women and minorities losing out approximately 60 percent via promotions over 20 years. This costs companies not only money, multicultural expertise, and outlook in our global economy, but also compels experienced female employees to opt out when they learn how certain companies select candidates. The Unconscious Bias course opens our minds to how we filter out the biases we’ve grown up with and the complicity of the treatment we see happening in the workplace.

So how do we succeed in hiring a more diverse workforce, while ensuring employees feel like they belong in the environment?

The first step is to be aware of language. As an example, I participated in a Diversity and Inclusion Summit where one of the speakers, a CEO of a large insurance company, was asked how she ensures the company’s recruiters employ hiring practices that result in diverse candidates. She stated there was no need to do anything differently because experienced and skilled candidates will apply and make their way through the system—because those hiring look solely at skills—not race or ethnicity. Yet, the fact that there are so few black, Latino or LGBT employees at her company is not due to a lack of skill. The meritocracy argument has been proven time and time again to be a feeble excuse for maintaining the status quo. Unconscious bias creeps into our review process as well as our decision-making by giving us the impression we’re being fair, when really, we are making assumptions. Assuming a candidate deliberately omitted information rather than simply forgot is one way our language betrays us. As an alternative, to “It’s unfortunate that you lied,” try, “This probably was an oversight.”

The second step in gaining greater awareness is to stop assuming that hiring women and hiring professionals of color check the same box. If every time the word “diversity” is mentioned at your company, you are actually talking about “women,” then it’s time to broaden your outlook.

When I was a manager at a Fortune 100 financial services company, I was the only black female manager on the entire west coast, and only one of three black managers. I dreaded participating in the management retreats because the only time anyone would listen to me was when I spoke about the Women in Financial Services annual event. No one seemed to care that my management style resulted in the recruitment and retention of one of the most diverse and profitable teams in our division. I wanted to be recognized for my successful contribution to the company’s bottom line, not simply because I was spearheading a women’s event. Our voices need to be heard, and we want to be noticed for our contributions, not merely for the box we check at a company gathering or on an EEOC report.

Third, don’t be the organization that makes statements like “I don’t want to lower the bar.” It’s insulting and racist by definition. What can be inferred from this statement is that the person hiring does not want to deviate from the current organizational structure or process because “It has worked so far.”

The bonus phrase, “We just want a good fit” is just as disastrous. It can be replaced with “We can’t find any qualified [Black, Latino, Asian, female, LGBT, disabled or veteran] applicants.” But the result is the same. No change.

Why change at all? To avoid the blunders we see repeated around the globe, to reap the financial benefits of diverse workforce and to create an inclusive organization that isn’t lowering the bar, but raising standards of behavior for everyone, leadership included.

We all want to work somewhere that makes us feel that we belong. If you’d like your company to be one of those workplaces, maybe it’s time to review your policies, your goals and your behavior toward current and future employees. By stopping to reflect on how you can think and act differently, you will be well on your way to cultivating a more diverse workforce.

African Roots is a Big Part of the Roots Java Coffee Company

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African Bean Company is the first nationally certified, African-American-owned coffee supply company providing national distribution. The company’s coffee is branded Roots Java Coffee.

From small communities on the Mississippi Delta to Brownstones in Harlem, African Americans have historically been devoted coffee consumers—helping to drive this multi-billion-dollar industry. African Bean Company, founded in 2010 by Dr. Fitzgerald Hill, is making history as he and his partner, Clifton L. Taulbert (President & CEO) ensure that African Americans are now on the owner/supply side of the industry.

The company’s rich tasting coffees are the result of beans grown by independent Rwandan farmers in the fertile, high mountain region of the country. These farmers, many of whom survived the horrific genocide, are now transforming their lives and their country by growing and harvesting the most sought-after coffee beans in the world.

Taulbert, who heads the operations of this national company, always smiles when asked about their market receptivity. “It’s not easy to tackle a market that is dominated by major international corporations with little or no room for a start-up company to play,” Taulbert said. “However, African Bean Company is here for the long haul. Using entrepreneurial tactics and plain ol’ hard work, they are making their way into homes (Online) with their signature 12 oz. bags of Ground and Whole Bean, along with their cases of filter and fractional packs for hospitals, country clubs, restaurants, and academic institutions commercially delivered across America. The premium brand’s smooth taste is rapidly becoming a highly sought-after item for holidays and special occasion gift giving and corporate gifts by loyal customers worldwide.”

Taulbert spoke to Black EOE Journal about his journey and his advice for black entrepreneurs:

“While growing up on the Mississippi Delta, embracing Entrepreneurial Thinking (ET) was a necessity if one were to move beyond the cotton fields that sought to define our lives. I was fortunate in that ET became part of my life early on—though simply called gumption—through the life lessons I learned at the Glen Allan Ice House, which was owned by my Uncle Cleve. Watching him chart this ownership path for himself was not lost on me. I wanted what I saw. As a young man who was part of the last migration North, gumption came North with me and eventually to Oklahoma. And to that extent allowed my company to be part of the Oklahoma team that introduced the then unknown Stairmaster Exercise System to the world.

Years later, my involvement with Stairmaster caught the attention of Dr. Fitz Hill, who convinced me if I could sell Stairmasters that no one wanted, surely, I could sell coffee. The rest is history; we became partners, and I became the president and CEO of African Bean Company LLC. Just as with Stairmaster, I knew nothing about coffee, but I learned at the Ice House that learning more is living life.

African Bean Company is a great story of unselfish leadership and the diversification of the coffee supply chain. This business has taught me more than imagined. The journey is long between the Beans of Rwanda and your cup of Java. Aligned with an incredible international supply chain—our beans are sourced from the country of Rwanda. Our company is self-funded, which has its restrictions, but we are creative and innovative. Uncle Cleve had to be…owning the only Ice House in a strictly segregated community. I packed his mindset in my small suitcase more than 40 years ago, and it continues to serve me well.

One of our entrepreneurial stories is having the opportunity to provide our coffee on a regular basis to Virgin Islanders for their growing retail coffee businesses. And not to forget BMW, who chooses to use our coffee each year at their North American Headquarters when they host their national supply diversity conference. Our Roots Java brand has become their brew of choice. One of our well-kept secrets is that we value hard work and keep our word to our growing customer base. We are moving out of the start-up phase with great hope for the future.

My advice to entrepreneurs about succeeding in their businesses and in life are five strategic tips that we share globally:

  1. Embrace inquisitiveness
  2. Accelerate your imagination
  3. Question your present reality
  4. Choose the right mindset
  5. 5. Ensure the presence of RAI in all you do: Respect, Affirmation & Inclusion

My greatest dream will be the day when no one is surprised that we exist.

I want every young African American to fully understand that they are endowed with the qualities that are essential for global success. Uncle Cleve could only go so far…but he left me the blueprint to go further. In 2010, Uncle Cleve became a book that is now on nearly every continent and was the subject of my talk at an international innovation conference held in the Assembly Hall of the United Nations. The book to clearly understand that the impossible is possible is, Who Owns the Ice House? Read the story while drinking your cup of Roots Java Coffee…the taste unforgettable.”

Source: Black PR Wire

Diversity as a Competitive Advantage

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A collage of multi-colored crayons

By Jawn Lam, Ed.D. and Le Anne Harper

You may have heard this adage: “Problems can’t be solved by using the same kind of thinking that created them.” When we apply this principle to organizational workforce planning, it means a perpetual stream of fresh perspectives is an absolute must if businesses want to stay agile in a dynamic market. Accordingly, talent management strategies should proactively seek diverse perspectives. This concept intuitively feels right, however, it isn’t always easily accomplished. Let’s take a deeper dive into the business case for diversity to understand why attracting and inspiring new perspectives is a true competitive advantage in a competitive marketplace.

Contention Can Be a Good Thing
A study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Stanford showed that heterogeneous groups generate more ideas than their homogeneous counterparts do. But the upside doesn’t stop there. Creativity is only one advantage of a diverse team. The researchers found the two types of groups tackled problems differently, not only with the number of proposed ideas for final implementation but also in their approach to the initial analysis process.

Sure, a group of like-minded individuals can work more economically and produce deliverables more quickly than a motley crew can. When you and your colleagues are synchronized in your work style and thinking patterns, it’s easier to distribute workloads and trust the outcome will be as you expect. Familiarity has benefits. It reduces stress and puts everyone at ease. But there’s a tradeoff to that amiability.

Among groups of like-minded individuals, the study identified the following common behavioral pattern. When someone has an idea (on how to approach the analysis or solve the problem), everyone else quickly agrees. No one else questions. There is little, if any, contention. And if there is no contention, there can be no synthesis. And without the synthesis of thoughts, there will only ever be one perspective. Innovation cannot grow in that type of infertile ground.

Authentic Innovation
Collaborating with people who have similar values, priorities, and perspectives will reduce cognitive friction in our workflow. It’s much easier to interface with an agreeable clique. There are appropriate times for those types of monolithic groups. When speed and efficiency are of paramount importance, such as times of crisis, you want a well-trained team that operates like a deployed special forces unit.

Typically, the introduction of new members into a group jostles the dynamic, making working in a diverse group more cognitively expensive. The costs come in the form of the lag and debate that emerge as interpretations and interests are tested and argued as a result of this divergent thinking. The natural reaction to the dissonance felt in polarized settings is to raise shields and adopt a stance of self-preservation. However, over time, the interactions will find a steady state as long as we take a step back from the intensity of emotionally uncomfortable scenarios. We can then reap the benefits of heterogeneous groups: robust ideation, more authentic social connection, and innovation.

There is a misconception that new members are the fountain of fresh perspectives for a stale group, but the researchers discovered this is not always the case. Still, while new members may not be the sole source of novel ideas, they are often the catalyst that unlocks everyone else’s stagnant creative juices.

The Collective vs. The Individual
Knowing this, let’s embrace the value of our differences and exploit their advantages for our collective benefit rather than conforming to existing corporate norms. Magic happens when we all accept that there is not a single person in the organization (no matter how smart or how high in the org chart) who has a monopoly on truth or genius. Once we accept that no one individual will ever be as good as the collective “us”, then we can level up our organizational capabilities.

Companies that want to win the race aren’t leaving this to chance. They’re engaging external experts to facilitate diversity transformations, including educating the C-suite and gaining buy-in, training and empowering line managers and their HR partners to drive cultural change. In our in-house work building D&I programs in corporate America and external consulting, we’ve seen companies make deep and meaningful commitments to diversity and inclusion that extend well beyond legal compliance and positive PR. Some companies are creating D&I programs from scratch and others are creating headcount to ensure company-wide, ongoing diversity inculcation.

Many of our clients realize the practical value of this diversity work and engage us strategically to advance their internal efforts. In recent years, entertainment companies have come under fire for inaccurate casting choices (aka whitewashing) and stereotypical, derogatory depictions of various minority groups. They leveraged our expertise to identify and introduce them to diverse creative professionals from under-represented talent pools who could add authentic first-person legitimacy to their narratives. In less than 3 months we found more than one hundred film, television, and digital creatives who represented new possibilities for one studio client—LGBTQ, female, LatinX, and African American perspectives. With a bold, but simple, commitment, an exclusive hiring legacy was disrupted, horizons were broadened, and the studio’s trajectory changed for the better.

Tangible Benefits
This studio’s leadership recognized that far beyond diversity being just a “politically correct” value to embrace, this was an investment in tangible revenue opportunities. According to the MPAA’s 2018 report, per capita movie attendance in 2017 was highest among Latinx and Asian audiences. At the time, the highest-grossing superhero movie ever was Black Panther; this record-setting film, with a predominantly black cast, cost approximately $200 million to make and grossed more than $1.3 billion to date. Further validating the viewing audience’s appetite for diverse perspectives, Frozen II, Disney’s animated sequel featuring two female leads, has grossed more than $1.2B in the months since its release.

Well trained leaders and industry experts know how to draw out the mixed experiences of each individual on the team to everyone’s advantage. Helping each person understand where everyone else is coming from requires more time and patience, but the ROI is well worth it. Companies are finally capitalizing on the profound financial and business benefits offered by well-managed diversity efforts.

Leveraging Your Diversity
Left unmanaged, differences in education level, economic status, gender, race, cultural background, upbringing, personal value systems, and a variety of other factors can become reasons for division or excuses to maintain the status quo. However, with the right internal framework, organizational awareness, and leadership support, those diversity dimensions can instead become compelling competitive advantages that lead to greater organizational performance.
If you’re ready to take a closer look at how effectively you’re leveraging diversity as a competitive advantage, here are some questions for you to consider:
● Legal compliance is the price of admission for companies to stay in the game. What does  your company do above and beyond what’s mandatory to enable and inspire new ideas  and drive innovation?
● If you assess each business unit in your organization, how balanced and varied is the mix  of perspectives? What can you do to shape your line manager’s practices, beliefs, and  comfort levels around diversity to ensure maximum performance and contribution of  everyone on the team?
● How well-equipped are your leaders to identify, attract, and retain diverse and under- represented talent?
● Do your brand and marketing efforts convey a commitment to inclusive hiring?
● What existing internal resources, external advisors, and best practices can you leverage to  evolve your company’s diversity efforts and ensure long-term viability and competitive  advantage?

Jawn Lam is an organizational effectiveness consultant with expertise in change management and leadership development who helps companies strengthen their vulnerable corporate governance policies. His professional passion is helping leaders navigate enterprise politics, obtain legitimate authority, and sustain organizational influence which he does as Principal Strategist at DurableLeadership.com.

Le Anne Harper leads the Diversity & Inclusion practice at Katalyst Group, a talent advisory firm that finds unicorns and purple squirrels for industry-leading companies like The Gap, Samsung, Nike, and Sony. She is a talent consultant and diversity evangelist who has spent 20 years helping companies transform and thrive by recruiting and cultivating the world’s best talent.

JPMorgan Chase Announces Brian Lamb as Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion

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JPMorgan Chase recently announced that Brian Lamb has been named the Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, a newly created position at the firm. Lamb, who will report to the firm’s Co-Presidents, will be responsible for executing a strategy that builds on the firm’s existing work and further incorporates a diversity lens into how the firm develops products and services, serves clients, helps communities and supports employees.

“Brian’s deep experience is precisely what we need to help our firm build on our diverse and inclusive culture, and drive it into every corner of our company,” said Gordon Smith, Co-President for JPMorgan Chase and CEO for Consumer & Community Banking. “Building a culture where all employees and customers are treated equally and feel welcome is a business imperative, and we’re fortunate to have Brian’s leadership in this critical area.”

This new role will strengthen and improve coordination of the firm’s existing strategy to support underserved communities as well as elevate the firm’s existing Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, including Advancing Black Pathways, Advancing Black Leaders, Military & Veterans Affairs, Women on the Move, the Office of Disability Inclusion, Global Supplier Diversity, and regional and line of business diversity functions. These focused efforts to-date have strengthened the firmwide culture in important and measurable ways.

The firm recently identified a number of areas across the company that, with enhanced, scaled or new programming or processes, would serve to ensure the firm’s culture is not one where racism can live or thrive. Those include enhancing the employee feedback process, making it easier for customers to access products and services in all branches, bolstering hiring to build a stronger pipeline of diverse talent, implementing additional required diversity and inclusion training firmwide, and increasing the diversity of businesses the firm partners with across the world.

“I’m excited to join JPMorgan Chase and help to further foster a culture where diversity and inclusion are a central and driving force,” said Brian Lamb, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, JPMorgan Chase. “A company that is diverse and inclusive can better serve our customers, employees and communities – and that is good for business.”

“Applying a diversity lens to everything we do is critical to running a successful business,” said Daniel Pinto, Co-President for JPMorgan Chase and CEO, Corporate & Investment Bank. “We are more effective when we take a diverse and inclusive approach to our work, and with Brian on board, I believe we’ll be more successful all around.”

Lamb joins JPMorgan Chase from Fifth Third Bank where he served as Executive Vice President and Head of Retail Banking. His 13 year career there included time as Head of Wealth & Asset Management and Chief Corporate Responsibility & Reputation Officer, where he was responsible for building the comprehensive strategic framework for the Bank’s civic commitments, inclusion & diversity and reputation management.

Throughout his career he has remained passionate about diversity and inclusion. Notably, he partnered with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition to launch a $30 billion community commitment that focused on access to capital for small businesses, first-time home ownership and educational opportunities for underserved communities and people of color.

He currently serves on the United Way Campaign Cabinet, Greater Cincinnati Urban League and is Vice Chair of the Florida Board of Governors. He previously served as Chair of the University of South Florida (USF) Board of Trustees where he also helped to lead a campaign to close the graduation rate achievement gap between women and people of color as compared to white students. While at USF, he mentored hundreds of women and minority students and established a scholarship fund for first-generation minority and female college students.

Brian also served as Chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership and held board positions with the Florida Bankers Association and Florida Council of 100.

Lamb holds a graduate degree from the Stonier Graduate Banking School at the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree and MBA from the University of South Florida.

To learn more about JPMorgan Chase’s Diversity and Inclusion efforts, please visit jpmorganchase.com/corporate/About-JPMC/diversity.htm.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.7 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of customers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at jpmorganchase.com.

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