At the heart of business is relationships. Entrepreneurs succeed by nurturing relationships with their customers, suppliers, partners, and families.
But how often do you shine a light on those relationships to identify potential inclusion gaps? Probably not too frequently unless there’s a specific reason.
The current moment is causing lots of businesses to review, reflect, and take action on inclusion practices. This includes everyone from small businesses to corporations and entertainment institutions. America’s Got Talent faced backlash when actress and guest judge Gabrielle Union left the show, citing the need for more inclusion. An accusation like that no doubt impacted ratings and ultimately revenue dollars. Inclusion gaps can surface in the form of missing diverse perspectives (gender, race, sexual orientation), and they can actually damage your bottom line. In McKinsey & Co.’s “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters” report, they found evidence that inclusive practices yield a competitive advantage for companies. Diversity Best Practices Inclusion index cites companies like Accenture, Verizon, and Sodexo as leading the way in inclusion.
Entrepreneurs pausing to add diversity and inclusion as a priority will benefit from this strategy. With current racial tensions at an all-time high, inclusion is top of mind and likely to impact your business whether you like it or not. Some of the negative impacts could include unwarranted publicity and reduced sales. Conversely, positive impacts include innovative new products, favorable employer branding, and increased sales.
Proactively, here are 3 strategies for creating more inclusion in your business.
Now is the time to review your company’s mission and values to ensure that your business stands for something more than revenue. This is the right time to invest in learning more about inclusive leadership. The new customer will be scrutinizing your company before parting with their hard-earned dollars. Facebook, for example, is feeling the heat with loss of advertising revenue ($7 billion and upwards) from the momentum of the #Stophateforprofit movement. Verizon, Coca-Cola and Unilever are amongst the companies who’ve taken a stand against Facebook by withdrawing their advertising. Another example is Nike, who took a stand against racial injustice and embraced Colin Kaepernick when other brands turned their backs. Nike’s recent ad featured strong messaging against ignoring racism in America. Ben & Jerry’s and Penzeys Spices have long advocated for equality. What you stand for now will play a role in the future, so choose wisely.
Board diversity has long been an opportunity for impact. Advisory boards are guiding forces for businesses, yet too often keep diversity at bay. Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO of Ariel Investments, has championed efforts to create more board diversity. In a recent interview with CNBC, she suggested accountability, setting targets, and incentives as strategies to fight inequality. The Alliance for Board Diversity research suggests that, given the current low numbers for minority groups (Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and African American/Black), there’s plenty of room for change. Harvard Business Review suggests that taking intentional steps to recruit diverse board members makes good business sense. Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian was recently lauded for stepping down from his board role with a follow-on request to concede his seat to a Black board member. Bold moves like this are just a start on the inclusive journey. Consider the innovation that varying perspectives could yield for your business results. Create an intentionally inclusive board that takes advantage of differing gender, race, sexual orientation, and multigenerational perspectives. Some companies take the approach of having a multicultural advisory group in place to bounce decisions off before releasing products to market. This is a good way to avoid embarrassing decisions that signify lack of appreciation for inclusion.
Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone writes about the power of relationships for business success. Most business owners are keen to nurture these relationships. As you grow your network, intentionally seek out opportunities to diversify your relationships. One idea is to challenge yourself to leverage diverse vendors in your business dealings. Organizations like National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), US Pan Asian Chamber of Commerce (USPACC) and National Veteran Owned Business Association (NVOBA) are prime partners that can support you on this quest. These organizations offer structured networking, education, business growth opportunities, and more. If you’re an entrepreneur who is already a member of any of these groups, you too can spread your wings and seek to cross-pollinate in service of expanding your inclusive network.
No question about it, inclusion is here to stay. Factoring inclusion strategies into your business is a must for future growth. Choosing to turn a blind eye to non-inclusive cultures and practices will undoubtedly impact customer acquisition and retention.
By: Simone Morris
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