Only The Strong Survive

Only The Strong Survive

In today’s environment, B.E. 100s companies must be fit, fast, and inventive to not only survive but thrive. Whether running a mom-and-pop or a leviathan, today’s CEOs must view their companies’ longevity through a Darwinian prism.

That business paradigm has not been lost on the chief executives of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses. The BE 100S have had to compete with their peers as well as Fortune 500 monoliths. Management must create bigger and better mousetraps with fewer hands. Companies are facing a more discriminating customer base that prizes, above all else, quality, value, and efficiency.

Against that backdrop, we found a number of BE 100S companies demonstrative of this new brand of excellence and dexterity.

Among the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100, take a look at World Wide Technology, the Maryland Heights, Missouri-based information technology firm, which became a billion-dollar juggernaut and vaulted to the No. 1 spot. How did it snag the pole position? By meeting the infrastructure needs of companies such as Boeing and Dell with a no-excuses commitment to timely and cost-efficient delivery of services. Its reward: sales growth of 62.6%.

Cruise over to the BE AUTO DEALER 100 and you’ll find the same type of drive at the top level. Detroit’s Prestige Automotive expanded operations and increased sales by a staggering 241.7%, from $317.1 million to $766 million. In the process, it earned recognition as the second largest black-owned company in the nation.

For every BE 100S success story, however, there are tales of industrial/service companies and auto dealers that crashed and burned due in part to the economy and stiff competition. As a result, the sales growth of the top BE industrial/service companies and the leading BE auto dealerships was relatively unimpressive: $21.9 billion in 2003 compared with $21 billion in 2002, an increase of 4.6%. For the first time in years, the BE 100S was outpaced by the Fortune 500, which produced revenue growth of 7% for the same period.

The same no-holds-barred environment was an anathema for BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES as well. For the most part, these larger firms have had a rough time drumming up and holding on to business through recession and recovery. However, the list was balanced by small, nimble shops. For example, agencies such as Matlock Advertising in Atlanta (No. 10 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $38 million in billings) and E. Morris Communications Inc. in Chicago (No. 13 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $28.1 million in billings) were among the list’s growth leaders, expanding annual billings by more than 50% through the acquisition of premium accounts. As a result, billings for the 15 firms on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list increased 14.3%, from $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion in 2003.

BE financial services firms contended with increased competition and fewer profits, and they discovered that growth came through two distinct means: acquisitions and the bull market. In banking, the standout performer was New York City-based Carver Federal, which reclaimed the top spot on the BE BANKS list with $529.6 million in