Does Race Play a Factor in Business Value and the Salability of a Company?
Does race play a factor in business value and the salability of a company? You wouldn’t think that it would, there is empirical data and anecdotal rationale as to why a gap in value exists between black and white businesses. After my conversation, it seems not for the reasons you might guess. It is because of history, education, and the lack of access to capital and my guest today and I talk about it. Jamar Cobb-Dennard permitted me to ask all of the questions a middle-age white guy would want to ask about how to be a better leader to get opportunity and capital to this underserved entrepreneurial population. After all of these episodes, there are two pillars of business value according to the guests: How to get that business owner out from running the day to day business and employees. And in this case, how to make your diverse workforce work better together so that it increases employee satisfaction which translates into higher value and salability? Jamar, the community leader he is, shared his webinar “Bye Bye Business-Bias” that he is providing to serve as the catalyst to start or further conversations.
I hope you enjoy my episode with my friend and colleague, Jamar Cobb-Dennard!
0:48 – Can you talk a little bit about who Jamar is and how you’re serving business owners?
3:28 – On the topic of racism, is it happy Juneteenth?
6:08 – How do white people start conversations with the African Americans and not be scared to say something stupid?
8:50 – Do you think we’re progressing from being racists besides the tragedy that happened?
12:59 – Why don’t African Americans buy businesses but instead start businesses, regardless that if they get a loan, they pay on average 32% higher interest rates?
17:33 – What’s your thought on African Americans starting businesses and not buying businesses?
20:53 – Is it more prudent to save than risk for the opportunity to be wealthy?
23:51 – Do you believe that minority owned businesses are valued differently?
27:45 – When an African American business goes up for sale, does the buyer pool all of a sudden become limited because we look different?
33:40 – How do you fix that, that an investment is an investment regardless of the color of your skin?
41:11 – How do small business enterprises become more sensitive to diversity?
48:57 – Can you talk a little bit about micro aggression?
54:39 – Business owners’ hearts are in the right place but the fear of I don’t want to offend, I don’t want this to come off wrong and they would rather do nothing, what’s your thought on that?
1:00:15 – How would you tell someone that there’s more to the story than what they saw in the tragedy?
1:04:34 – Can you talk about your program, Bye, Bye Business Bias?
1:06:21 – what is the one thing that a business owner can do to eliminate bias in their business?
Can you talk a little bit about who Jamar is and how you’re serving business owners?
I started my career in Indianapolis in 2003, and professional services and business services and have really taken that that trail over the course of the last decade and a half by also getting my law degree and running for mayor of the city of Lawrence primarily on making sure that we had really great environment for small business to thrive. So now I get the distinct pleasure of working with you on a daily basis, selling small businesses. But it’s really been a great combination. Or I should say, convergence of my background of doing leadership and small business consulting and sales consulting, and also my legal training, to be able to make sure that we get more small businesses sold, especially since there’s so many retirees right now who are looking to exit their businesses. And obviously, this is the time the next decade or so to make sure that there’s a great wealth transfer. Small businesses driving our economy and so we’ve got to make sure that continues into the next generation.
On the topic of racism, is it happy Juneteenth?
You and I think a lot of other people who are open minded and ready to take on what the next Generation needs from leaders who care about making sure that there’s equity in our businesses and equity in workplaces, you’re up all night thinking about this stuff. You’re spending time doing the research, you’re digging into what Juneteenth is and being sensitive enough to even ask the question, is it happy? Because there’s a lot of folks who say, this is hogwash, it doesn’t affect my business, it doesn’t affect the value of my business, and they just dismiss it. But as leaders like you and others that I’ve talked to in the past two or three weeks, who have really, really been impressive to say, “Hey, we’ve got to do better as humans to each other, and this is how it starts.” So I’m really appreciative and impressed.
How do white people start conversations with the African Americans and not be scared to say something stupid?
So one, I would just go ahead and start them. It’s okay to sound stupid or say something that you don’t know. And you don’t even have to apologize ahead of time or bumble over. And you’re not the only person who’s thinking this and feeling this. Like, I feel like I’ve had a very similar cadence of conversation with other non black or non minority leaders over the last two or three weeks and they’re like, “I just don’t want to say the wrong thing.” Well, the fact that you’re concerned about saying the wrong thing means that you care enough to have an open conversation. If you’re talking to somebody, especially with me, you’ve got an ally for white allies, if that’s the best way to put it.
I was the only black person in my elementary school for two years and they have this thing called predominantly white institutions or PWI’s. So essentially, unless you’re going to a historically black college university or work in a black business, which there are less of those than any other type of business, if you’re going to be a professional in America, you’re in predominantly white institutions. So the African Americans that we as professionals, whether you’re black or white, but you come in contact to are used to being around people who don’t look like them, who didn’t grow up like them, who don’t or may not engage in the same entertainment that they do or etcetera. So it’s okay to say the wrong things. And if it’s like egregious, I’ll tell you in a nice way most likely, I’m just happy that you’re open to have this conversation. And you’re okay with being uncomfortable. That’s great.
Do you think we’re progressing from being racists besides the tragedy that happened?
This tragedy is different. I was even talking on another call last week, that in the early 90s, we had Rodney King. Can’t we all just get along? And we watched the video of this guy being beaten by multiple police and there were riots and people were upset. And then here we are 30 years later, and we’re seeing the same thing and they’re still riots and people are upset. But I think the turning point here, the difference is two things. One, we saw from beginning to end and if you look, The New York Times actually did a really great recap of the George Floyd incident. It’s time stamped, it uses three or four different videos from the Chinese restaurant across the street, a couple of the bystander videos and I think security cam footage, some 3d modeling of where people were and what happened. And then you see almost all the entire eight minutes of the police officer’s knee on George Floyd’s neck. Regardless of the conversations around George Floyd’s background and his felonies, what America saw, what the world saw was a man who wasn’t fighting back, he wasn’t fleeing, he didn’t have a weapon and he was dragging for his love life, just give me air. And I think what touched so many people’s hearts was the fact that there was a lack of humanity in that moment. So that’s one turning point is everybody got on the same page, and that’s the human page regardless of race.
The second thing that’s different about this is that it’s not just black people who are mad. It’s all races, all cultures; all creeds across the world are upset. And I heard this quote, last week and it really struck me because I never thought about it this way, that to fix bias in the world, or to even address bias in the workplace, or just bias in business ownership and business value, black people and minorities aren’t going to be the ones who have the capacity or the ability to make the change. All got to work on it together. And it’s got to be led by the people who have the money and the power and the influence, which for the most part aren’t African Americans in our society. And I think that’s the turn here is now we’ve got everybody’s attention. And people like you who are leading organizations, who have access to business owners to have capital and leadership in their communities and a voice to those people, its people like you, they’re going to be the ones that really help our culture turn the corner.
Why don’t African Americans buy businesses but instead start businesses, regardless that if they get a loan, they pay on average 32% higher interest rates?
Part of it is background and legacy. And we can talk about this, I think in a number of different contexts today. But the first is how many African Americans you know, whose great grandparents owned a business? It wasn’t that many because they weren’t allowed to, or they didn’t have access to capital in the early 20th century, or segregation prevented them from running businesses or they had that business but it wasn’t passed down through generations. So that’s one piece.
The other piece and the biggest is funding. You and I chatted about this really briefly yesterday, and you ran down some of the statistics, 1% of venture capital is invested in black businesses only 2% invested in women. The number of black businesses and minority businesses is increasing in the United States, but their value is decreasing. But the funding issue is really at the core. So some of the statistics from the United States Department of Commerce, say that businesses owned by African Americans that are less than half a million dollars are less likely to get approved for a loan. The applicants have less net worth, therefore, they have less cash or capital that they can use to secure a loan. And then like you just said, the loan amounts tend to be smaller. There’s higher interest rates assigned to those loans because the bank see them as a risk and they get shorter term. So then the payments are higher. African Americans can certainly get loans now from banks, but in underwriting are there still some unspoken methods of placing and keeping African Americans from getting loans.
What’s your thought on African Americans starting businesses and not buying businesses?
Capitalization is not taught, whether it’s how to leverage cash to get an SBA loan or to have enough cash leftover to fund working capital. The other piece of this is just psychologically for African Americans, so we’ve only had money for two generations, and the generation that is slightly older than you. Parents age 60 and 70 years old now, they were taught go get a job, keep the job for 30 years, save your money, retire. Don’t risk it, don’t let anybody take it from you and invest it in the safest way possible. So for somebody to take $100,000 or $200,000 out of their retirement savings or out of any type of savings vehicle or get a home equity loan to fund that type of thing, culturally, that’s not something they would do. But to say, “You know what, take 10 K and go open up a little coffee shop on the corner and see if you can make a go at it while you keep your job.” That’s more than mentality. Part of it is teaching and training. And then the other piece is even in talking to young entrepreneurs who are looking at acquisitions now in our business, I’m having to go through the education process of saying, “Here’s what you would need for an SBA loan, here’s the cash that you’ll need to fund your first six or 12 months until you start to get cash flow ROI from your debt service. Here’s how to think about debt service and managing that stuff.” Unless you have an MBA, it’s all new for these folks.
Is it more prudent to save than risk for the opportunity to be wealthy?
That was the time where you had like this black Renaissance happening and it happened in music, it happened in art in the early 20th century 1910, 1930 even stretching to the for days, but it’s like the madam CJ Walker, the WEB Du Bois time where Langston Hughes where there was literature and music and business and because of Juneteenth and slavery disbanding, you’ve got this black boosh was a culture of evolving where suddenly, African Americans were free to have money and their own culture. That’s kind of that same time period and the thought process behind that time. But, yes, once we got to the 50s, and Jim Crow really kind of started to strangle that growth, the mentality was and this is especially the people who were born in the 30s and were at the tail end of the spurt of post slavery time, but also in the throes and heat of Jim Crow. It was, again, get the job, save your money, do not risk this or you’ll screw it up for yourself because you’re not in control. Now on the flip side of that, and a lot of people don’t talk about this, but there’s a school of thought that desegregation in the 60s actually dismantled African American self sufficiency because you had to have your own basically as a community in order to thrive because you weren’t able to go to the places that were segregated, or weren’t able to have the same access to the places that were segregated. So at that time, pre, or during segregation, you had to take risks, you had to open your own business, you had to invest in yourself in your own community, but now you don’t have to. There’s also this mental shift of now we can rely on the credit systems, we can rely on keeping our small savings and don’t risk it. So yeah, that black Wall Street juxtaposition is really interesting with how life is now because African Americans don’t have to be self sufficient in America, and that’s decreased our risk tolerance.
Do you believe that minority owned businesses are valued differently?
Actively, I don’t think that black businesses or minority businesses are valued differently. I think there would be very few people in the professional class that would say, “Well, that’s a black business. So instead of a 3X, we’re going to give them a 1.5.” But because of how that business is structured and the knowledge of the business owner, we could come up with a different value consistently across the board. So here are a couple thoughts on that. One, we talked about this, but there’s a legacy issue. So I have a jury’s doctorate. Did you know that black people literally weren’t allowed to be attorneys until the middle of the 20th century? Straight up couldn’t do it. So that has an impact on cash because attorneys and CPAs and doctors, the professional class were able to enter the middle class at a higher rate and higher level than other professions. So generational cash, there’s no money being handed down or inherited through generations has an impact on knowledge. So next week, my kid, she’s nine, she’s going to go to the kids lawyer camp for a day. That wasn’t happening generations ago. So how does it impact the next generation, there’s an impact on long term value and a track record of success because you don’t have a business that’s been a business for 80 years. It may be 10 years.
We talked about access to capital. So if that business had to grow organically, or they didn’t have the knowledge of how to leverage capital, or capitalization have secured instruments in order to grow their business, that’s going to decrease value. Also financial literacy, then being able to even put together or run their P&L and cash flow statements and balance sheets themselves or know who to go to, to get those things done or know what to ask, access to professional that goes to that too, good accountants, good attorneys, good financial planners, and having a wide enough network of those people to get to the ones that are really going to help you and give good value. And also risk management knowledge, what type of insurance do you need to protect the business? What type of insurance key employee policies and what other type of life insurance vehicles can use to reinvest your assets? So all of those things are knowledge that aren’t widely known. There are a lot of African Americans, who know this stuff really well, but the majorities don’t and part of it’s because our families don’t know those things and we’re not passing it on.
When an African American business goes up for sale, does the buyer pool all of a sudden become limited because we look different?
When an African American business goes up for sale, does the buyer pool all of a sudden become limited because we look different?
Let’s look at this in two ways. Let’s go to the highest level of professionalism here. We’re not going to talk about the chit and chat at 38th. That was super biased. So let’s talk about a business that I know it’s located downtown in one of the towers in Indianapolis. It’s a technology company. They’ve been in business 25 ish years, maybe even 30. They’ve got 50 employees, they do technology integrations for governments across the United States. And they’re worth 20, 30 million bucks, but almost all of their employees are African American, the owner’s African American. He’s made an intentional decision to hire the most talented African Americans that he can to surround himself with, but also to bring up to the next level. What would you think about buying that business, good financials, good marketing, good track record, but you know that everybody in there is Black?
My concern would be that that I don’t possess the same leadership skills as the owner. That doesn’t look like me, even though it could be status quo, I’m not going to change anything. We’re going to keep doing business as usual, I don’t know if they would see me the same in the same leadership capacity. That would be my initial thought because you don’t know me and that would cause me to look at it that the investment had greater risk.
You’d have the same leadership skills, but you wouldn’t have the same leadership context. Black people or minorities in predominantly white institutions, organizations come with additional context that non blacks don’t have. That’s the type of thing that people of color, think about all the time. I’m in an elevator with a white woman. And this is like a micro aggression. And she might stand a little farther away and get her purse. I remember I was in Switzerland, studying piano in 1997 and I had practiced too long in the practice room. I had to go to the bathroom, really super duper bad. And so I was basically running down the hall of the conservatory and see on Switzerland and there is this white French woman who was walking down the hall toward the bathroom as well. They had genderless coed bathrooms it’s Europe. But I was running behind her and you should have seen her looking eight times behind her and kind of walking faster and getting nervous because I was running up to her right but I just had to go to the bathroom.
Or in parking garages having to think about if there is especially a woman that’s different color walking behind her or flashing the lights on my car, so she knows that I’m going to my car and not trying to approach her. And I’m wearing a suit and tie and have a $300 co hands on, but that’s the kind of stuff that contextually leader that’s not African American would have to think about in those businesses. On the flip side, I’ve talked to a handful of black buyers. One of them is in the real estate industry. He came to me and said, “Hey, I’ve saved $100,000 cash, I want to buy a business. So let’s walk through some stuff.” So one of them businesses we talked about was in a mid size rural ish town in Central Indiana. And he said, “Yeah, business numbers look good. Yes, it’s strategically related to my business. But all the staff is white. They’re from a rural area, and I’m really concerned, will they respect me and respond to me as a black investor in that business?” And that was the concern that took that deal off the table. I think you’re right it.
How do you fix that, that an investment is an investment regardless of the color of your skin?
You’ve also got to think about actually being able to go in and lead that business. Unless there’s a manager in place and you’re silent and just running money in the background, but what small businesses running like that?
How do small business enterprises become more sensitive to diversity?
In this environment of COVID-19 and then also racial prejudice and bias, hyper awareness, and you actually posted this article recently and I have repost it because it talked about how valuation and business analysis has changed for buyers. And one of the things that was in that article said, that buyer should now look at what the company’s risk management plan is, and also their disaster preparedness and recovery plan is. Is that plan documented? How’s it been implemented? What changes have come since COVID-19? And how has the company responded? The same thing goes for bias and diversity plans, especially in again, this hyper aware time. So as buyers we’re considering and looking at companies, not only is COVID-19 a piece of that analysis, but also diversity, race and inclusion should be a piece of that analysis. And part of that analysis is how the company thought about three things, one implicit bias. Second are micro aggressions. Then third is creating a value based KPI, essentially. We can attack this and I’ll hit the third thing first, we can attack this like affirmative action and say, “Well, if we hire not just three African Americans as mailroom guys or custodians or secretaries but three professionals who have a seat at the table in decision making capacities, then we’re good.” Still not good, because then you’ve got to deal with implicit bias and micro aggressions.
First is implicit bias. And that is thinking everyone is the same and treating them that way. But the reality is that we’re all different, regardless of our skin color, we’re all coming from a different context. Implicit bias doesn’t necessarily show up as active racism or active prejudice because rarely do we see that anymore. Most people, especially in our culture and environment would say, “That’s pretty disgusting Bob.” You don’t say, you turn that channel or that person off because you don’t want to be around that kind of human being. But how this shows up in the workplace is very slight, like. So you’ve got an annual retreat, and part of the annual retreat is a golf outing. Well, if you are an African American who was the first person in your family to go to college, and you grew up in a urban low income area, how many opportunities that you have to learn when you’re a little, right. So either you show up to the golf outing, and you don’t know how to golf, you wear the wrong clothes, you don’t have the equipment, you feel uncomfortable in the environment because if all those things put together, or you don’t go at all, and then what do they think of Jamar who doesn’t show up to the team event? Jamar doesn’t want to be part of the culture, Jamar isn’t the team player, Jamar isn’t showing up the leader in our organization. No, he’s just uncomfortable because he’s never done this before and should want to make a fool of himself. So that’s something to think of. I’m not saying don’t have the golf outing, but just think a little bit more broadly about how this is impacting not just people of color, but also women or people of different ages.
We’ve never had Martin Luther King Day as a day off in the office, what’s your thought on that?
Martin Luther King Day Off doesn’t do anything for our corporate culture for diversity. What would be better for corporate culture for diversity is getting more young black brokers or young people of color who are brokers in the industry because I’ll tell you what, in our office and in the state of Indiana and the youngest and blackest thing and broker across the country, we are in a super minority. What can we do to bring more people in the business? And part of what gives me fight to do well in this business is I’ve got to seat at the table in something that one, very few people have an opportunity to do, regardless of their background, but especially people who are young and people who are of color. The other thing is, what can we do to intentionally bring the best knowledge that we have to African American communities? What can we do to advocate and make sure– like you and I were talking about this idea yesterday that there are a lot of African Americans who don’t have the down payment for a new SBA loan. They can’t get funding because they don’t have money, but they don’t have money because they can’t get funding. So what can we do to advocate with all of our banking relationships and say, “Hey, how can we figure out a low to no down payment loan for business acquisition specifically for minority communities? There are some grants out there, but again, you got to be on top of your finances.
I remember trying to get a small business grant through BOI through the Indy Chamber and their financial guy came to my office and looked through three years of my financial statements in order to get that done. But it’s because I had them and I had a good accountant, and I was ready for it. So, one day isn’t going to make the difference in terms of the culture of our office, but how are we actively engaging new, more leaders, not only in our business, but in the community?
Can you talk a little bit about micro aggression?
Second, our micro regressions as a thing to think about in terms of corporate culture, and how that impacts who’s able to take on your business next, or your analysis of a new business that you’re about to add to your portfolio. And micro aggressions are essentially comments or acts that aren’t meant to be racist, but are. We talked about some of micro aggressions earlier, shopkeepers watching African Americans shoppers more closely. How you feel when a group of black teenagers is in an elevator with you whether you’re a man or a woman? What kind of rises up inside of you? Statements like I had a black friend once or you speak so well, or you’re not a thug like the other guys, some of that stuff may come off well meaning, I want to say the wrong thing. Those are the wrong things to say.
Business owners’ hearts are in the right place but the fear of I don’t want to offend, I don’t want this to come off wrong and they would rather do nothing, what’s your thought on that?
If you’re afraid to stick your neck out, one don’t be afraid because it’s the people with hate that are going to win if the people who have good hearts that want to do right by our community and we want to make our business community better and want to bring value to other businesses. What other way to bring great value to the African American community than to buy a high performing business and inject money back into those families. So don’t be afraid and take a risk. And if you need help ask for it. I’m a good conduit for a executive leadership conversation with a team. I’m a good conduit for professional associations and delivering the same type of content to have real but comfortable, but also emotionally vulnerable talks. Go get help, whether it’s from me or from somebody else. I’ve had professional associations that I work with send me emails and say, “Who can I get to talk about this because we want to learn?” I’ll share some resources toward the end of our conversation here about how to become a better ally. There’s so much stuff online, if you Google, how to be a better ally. This is just a list of stuff, but I’ll give you the top few that I really did some baffle thinking around what’s actually impactful? But let’s go back just a minute. We’re talking about truth work and you said, all things work together for good but the rest of that scripture is all things work together for good to them who are called according to His purpose. So one, there’s got to be love in our hearts for this. This is about humanity. And as business owners, the best leaders are those who are vulnerable and vulnerability takes love. The second thing is those who are called according to His purpose. And as Christians, we’re called to pray. And this is a heart thing. We can’t change people’s hearts. We can’t erase prejudice and racism by legislating our way out of it. So the way that we’re really going to get to the next level, is we’ve got to have the people who know how to pray, who are called to lead pray and get through to the person who can actually change hearts. And that’s Jesus.
How would you tell someone that there’s more to the story than what they saw in the tragedy?
Two or three Sundays ago, a friend of mine called and they live on the south side, it’s a white family, and he said, “Our daughter is 12 and she is consumed with Tik Tok and the internet and just being angry about what’s happening in America right now.” So I said, “You’re probably not the only family dealing with this. Let’s have a zoom call.” And I gave people 22 hours notice and we had 22 families, 22 people on a zoom call to talk about race. And it was really about the kids. We played the George Floyd video, we played protest videos, we played videos of police working with protesters and creating peace. So the kids got a full scope. Then we said, “What do you think?” And the kids took it over. And they cried and they yelled, and they spoke eloquently, and they spoke from the heart, right? I mean, it was incredible what these kids shared and what your kids are sharing too.
So the great first point is that a lot of these kids are speaking from a place of again, just humanity, seeing mistreatment of another human being. But my wife, who for those who are on this podcast, don’t know is white. She’s from Southern Indiana, very small town, grew up in a country farm, four each kid. She stopped everybody on the call and she said it’s not enough to not see color. See the color. See the disparity. I don’t know if we talked about this statistic earlier Ed, but African Americans are 32% of our population, but only 18% of business owners, see that disparity. So yes, we’ve got to see the humanity and be good human beings and not treat people differently, but also understand the context this is different. Slavery only ended 200 years ago. Juneteenth means that slaves didn’t know that they were free for a number of years after that. So if you take the 200 years, and I think it was Joe Rogan that may have said this, but if you take the 200 years, and then take an average 80 year old, that means that we’re only three generations or so away from slavery. That’s three Nana’s ago, she may have owned a slave. Or three Nana’s ago who were slaves. Parents of yours and mine were legally segregated, black water fountains, white water fountains, black restaurants eating white restaurants eating mixed marriages like mine were illegal, against the law, go to jail, illegal 60 years ago. So that’s the kind of context that we need to make sure that we have and that there’s more history like Medgar Evers. There’s more history like Emmett Till, there’s so much context that they don’t teach in and social studies that we have to share with the families.
Can you talk about your program, Bye Bye Business Bias?
We talked about a lot of the key points in Bye Bye business Bias, one is identifying implicit bias, what it is, how it shows up in organizations. Second, what are micro aggressions? How do they show up in organizations? But third and most important, how do we create a value based system of KPIs that we can drive our companies with not just let’s hire three black people and call it a day? How do we create a culture that has checks and balances within itself that we really not only value diversity, but have values that support anti bias and that supports equity in organizations. So that can show up in one of three ways. One is internal workshops with teams, I’ve had a lot of business leaders call me directly and say, “Hey, how do I work through this thing?” And let’s sit down and work through it as a team and develop that anti bias KPI. Second is the associations that I mentioned earlier and really thinking broadly and industry wide about how bias showing up in organizations and how we can create equity. But third, there will be some public presentations of this program. Just keep an eye on email and LinkedIn promotion for some public access to this as well.
What is the one thing that a business owner can do to eliminate bias in their business?
I think is what you’ve done, and its listening act, and don’t be afraid, have the courage to really look this thing in the face. I heard an interesting quote that you don’t tell victims to fix the abuser. And we talked about this earlier about who really it takes to fix some of the issues that we’re seeing in America. And it’s the people with the power and the money who the majorities are not African American. So Google ally resources, Google what and how do we address micro aggressions, Google the implicit bias test, Google Eddie Moore’s 21 day racial equity challenge to look these things in the face, and really start to self educate and figure your way around this stuff, because whether you’re building your business for sale, and one, make sure that it’s strong and can transition if you have a diverse workplace, whether you’re evaluating a business for sale, and you want to make sure that you’re not purchasing a risk, because there’s inequities in the workplace, or if you’re looking at the finances, and really trying to figure out why this business may have a higher or lower multiple than you expect. These are the things and part of the contexts that we’ve got to think about when we listen and act. Don’t be afraid and face this stuff.
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