Janice Bryant Howroyd is helping others after making history herself.
She’s the founder of recruitment firm ActOne Group, which pulled in $2.8 billion in revenue in 2017 and 2018 — and she expects to cross the $3 billion mark in 2019. Her company’s earnings are impressive in general, but with that achievement, Howroyd also became the first black woman entrepreneur to ever surpass the billion-dollar mark with her business.
And hers is a far-reaching venture, as well as a profitable one — according to Black Enterprise, The ActOne Group’s more than 2,600 employees serve over 17,000 clients in 19 countries.
Now, Howroyd is reaching back to help others up, in part by offering them entrepreneurial advice through her new book, “Acting Up.” In it, she takes readers through her tough childhood as one of 11 kids growing up in a North Carolina town that still had segregated schools — until she became one of the first black students to attend a local all-white high school, that is. Rather than discourage her, she says these struggles helped form her into the successful woman she is today.
But there are other lessons, besides perseverance, Howroyd learned along the way to entrepreneurial success. Until you snag your own copy of “Acting Up,” here are three bits of advice she has for business owners trying to get on the billion-dollar track:
1. Know Why You’re in the Game
Purpose is powerful, Howroyd says. Entrepreneurs should “be clear about why you’re doing [your work] and honest to those who invest in it.”
In our reporting, we’ve found that women entrepreneurs are particularly motivated by purpose — a full fifth of the women who took part in our 1,000 Stories research project cited it as a main reason for starting up. And being able to articulate what drives you can help keep you on the right track. It certainly proved to be a winning strategy for the women on our Passionate & Purposeful list, each of whom thrived after launching ventures with missions that personally drive them forward.
2. Have a Plan
Always know what the next step is, the billion-dollar-preneur advises, and be open to finding new ways to expand your reach. For example, she is now building out AllSTEM Connections Inc., an extension of her staffing empire that will find opportunities for marginalized candidates.
Writing that business plan out — and in essence, trying to predict the future — can seem intimidating, but as Deborah Sweeney of MyCorporation.com points out, “no entrepreneur has the preternatural ability to accurately calculate how their business will fare.” She recommends thinking of it “as a blueprint instead.”
Sweeney notes that a business plan not only helps you strategize for tomorrow, but also helps you feel more secure today. “Once you have a better idea of the foundation your business is built on, it’ll make it much easier to make subtle changes and revisions since the existing foundation is already solid.”
3. Don’t Just Help Yourself
Howroyd points out that “the inherent challenges minorities and women face are not dispensed based upon size, and often — surprising to many — grow larger as the businesses grow.” So it’s important for members of marginalized communities to help one another find success in the business world.
Some have even found professional success in doing so — like Georgene Huang and Romy Newman of women’s job search site Fairygodboss and the cohort of Ugandan women farmers who banded together to found the Network of Women in Agribusiness and Development.
“For us, it’s a way of giving back,” says Anna Otedor Kusiima of NoWAD of the group’s work teaching local women how to work the land. She adds that “we have been able to improve our lives,” and points out that “if a woman is empowered, the entire community benefits.”