The Capacity to Succeed

The Capacity to SucceedAre We Ready to Build The Capacity to Succeed?

The idea of building the capacity to succeed comes alive when you unpack it. It’s the business’s capabilities to get work, do work, and get paid. These are the three general capabilities that allow a business to sustain itself and prosper in its particular industry. Every successful company must have these three, and none is more important than another. Great organizations find their comfortable balance between the three.

It’s What You Can Do That Counts

Customers want a business that can fulfill their needs, depending on the interaction. If they can’t get a return telephone call, they want the company to be more responsive. If a proposal is late or poorly done, customers want the company to pay more attention to detail. If the pricing is too high, they want the company to do what’s necessary to lower the price, such as invest more in technology, process improvement, and driving economies of scale. We talk about size, but customers care more about the business’s capability to meet their needs than size. The capacity to succeed focuses on what a firm can do and less on what it has in terms of sales and employees. It thus translates into a broad view of what a firm is capable of doing.

What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There

The thinking, activities, and metrics for success that got minority businesses to this point won’t work going forward. No doubt, minority programs have provided opportunity, grown businesses, and created diverse wealth. But the market demands the minority business industry move faster and further to provide a rational return on investment and project sustainable growth into the future. What’s the core problem? The minority business system is a way of being in business but not a means to grow a business as it was intended. Current minority business rules don’t provide incentive for building the capacity to succeed, so even well-intentioned business owners who may be strapped for resources and hungry for opportunity do what makes sense under the circumstances. They seek the lowest and easiest point of entry—the one that drives the most spend and presents the least amount of personal risk. Not, typically, the best business.

The current competitive landscape demands minority business efforts create more value, be better aligned with market trends (globalization, risk management, supply chain leverage, etc.) and create a better model of sustainability. None of our current metrics recognize, reward, or even define this path. Instead, they’re focused on providing access and achieving spend goals.

Progress Rests on One Key Question

More important than anything mentioned is the answer to the question, “Are we willing?” We keep talking our way past the challenges that demand real action, but the capacity to succeed demands we change in a number of areas. But face it. Nothing I say here can make us a willing participant in change.

For some, the “success” they currently have will amount to all they want. Others won’t see the threat of using old models and will also choose a different path. Still others will hide behind saying, “We want to build capacity, but we don’t know how.” What they really mean is, “We’re not willing to do all of that, so show us an easier way that demands less change on our part—a way with a lower investment and, of course, a way that gets us there in less time.” Although good dialogue is taking place about capacity building, we’re still clinging to old myths about capacity means and how capacity is built.

Melvin Gravely photographed in the studio Cincinnati, OH. 7/23/13 © Chris ConeMelvin J. Gravely, is the President and CEO of TriVersity Construction and the founder of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking. This article is an excerpt from his new book The Capacity To Succeed. Buy your copy at and learn the details about how to build the capacity to succeed.