(ThyBlackMan.com) For decades I have owned businesses full time and dealt with people from almost every continent on this planet. That being said, even as an African American, I have found African Americans to be the worse people to do business with overall. You may not want to hear that. You may say that is my opinion. You may get offended. But you and I both know it’s true and in this article I will tell you why. If you get offended, maybe it’s because I am speaking about the very ways, thoughts, habits or practices you need to change. So this article is a message to the buyer and the seller, the customer and the dealer. It is a message to every African American in business, every African American planning to start one and every African American who buys or uses any product or service. That includes all of us.
African Americans have the worse small business reputation in this country.
Nobody of any race, ethnic group or gender is perfect and I am well aware of that. Nor do I think I am anywhere near perfect. Each group has its problems. But I am more concerned about African American problems in business because I am an African American (not black, black is the color of my car tires). Yet we need higher standards and expectations for ourselves, our businesses and those we do business with. It’s time to raise the bar, give others a chance, stop scamming and scheming, be fair, do business honorably stick to what we say. More of us need to make a stronger effort.
We should have no patience for willful ignorance, slothfulness and lack of follow through. Expect more from yourself then expect more from other African Americans.
African Americans need to do business with each other. But that is provided that we do good business with each other on both sides of the coin. We own practically nothing in our communities, including hair stores, nail salons, restaurants, jewelry stores, gas stations, flea markets etc. And yet our people seem content to drop our dollars into the hands of those who take the money out of our communities and right back to theirs. Sadly, sometimes we are left with little or no choice because African Americans are not offering those products and services, price gouging or offering inferior quality. This has to stop.
Keep your word and expect it of yourself. It has been said that your word is your bond. At the very least, keeping your word is about building credibility, dependability, reliability. Sadly, all too often I see African Americans failing to follow through unless they would get in legal trouble or lose a job. It is sad that so many of our people think nothing of breaking their word. I don’t have a right to expect you to do what I say because you do not work for me. But I have every right to expect you to do what you say, excuses aside. And while no customer is always right, concerns should be fairly addressed.
The African American community needs a kick in the butt and a wake- up call towards how we do business, how we do each other and how often we fail to support each other.
Maybe you told someone you were going to buy something but then neither followed through nor called. Maybe you thought it was no big deal TO YOU. But shame on you if you did that because you did not keep your word and you lost credibility. What if your job did that to you regarding your next paycheck? Before you say “that’s different”, know that it is exactly the same in principle. And you have no idea whether you caused the other person inconvenience or not.
Provide a good product or service. I am aware of the fact that both the Asian and African community often provide substandard merchandise and the people from India overprice their gasoline or mix it with a higher amount of ethanol than mainstream gas stations. Of course this is not true of all Asians, Africans or Indians, but it is true of many. Yet African Americans still spend money with them as if we are receiving top quality products and services.
Stand behind what you sell or offer. Simply put, if you would not buy something, don’t sell it to someone else. I have seen too many African Americans in small business selling low quality products at top dollar prices. I have also seen many of our people selling fakes and authentic. And maybe you have experienced one of our own trying to lure you to a multi-level marketing “opportunity” without even telling you what it is. Yet if its such a booming company, such a turn-key business and such a life-changing product, why don’t they just say what company it is up front? African Americans are not the only group that does this, but rather the only group I am most concerned about.
STUDY THE EXAMPLE OF BLACK WALLSTREET ONCE IN TULSA, OKLAHOMA
Stop being so skeptical and pessimistic when dealing with your own people. Before you say it, I know there are many African Americans who run scams, play games and set people up. I have seen it a dozen times and even experienced it first hand. Yet I have never done any of the above and I know a hundred of our people who can say the same. Plus scams, games and hustles are not unique to African Americans, but all too common. But that happens in every ethnic group. Yet woe unto our people who do each other like that because karma is a monster. But more importantly, if an individual, business or organization has not given you a specific reason to distrust them, it says more about you in a negative light if you distrust them anyway without specific cause. Distrust of one person or business is never justified simply because of what someone totally different did to you.
A good rule of thumb for dealing with anybody of any race, ethnic group, gender, business or organization is to never risk what you cannot afford to lose. Some risks are bad, not all.
Don’t run a hustle or a game – run a business. This one foot in/one foot out hustle half-stepping attitude and approach is killing the African American community’s ability to do good business. Karma is a monster and you will reap what you sow. If you overprice an item, sell a lemon, offer poor service or run a scam, know that it will come back to you like a boomerang at the worst possible time. There is enough money out here for all of us to make a profit doing business the right way – not any kind of way we can get away with.
Allow yourself to be corrected. Some of you reading this article have already thought of a dozen reasons to discount and discard what I am saying, largely because you do not want to be corrected. You may say I am judging. You may say I am not perfect either. You may even say “who are you Marque Anthony to tell me anything”. But none of these responses change the fact that African Americans have to do better in business – much better. We have to correct each other constructively but firmly – and we have to learn to listen and receive it, like it or not.
Price your products and services fairly. Some of our people want to overcharge for their products and services, ignoring market rates and industry standards. It is not always a good idea to charge as much as you can because doing so places you into a different competitive market. And even if it didn’t, there is a different between making a modest, well-deserved profit and just plain greed. As a rule of thumb, we should never charge our people more than we would be willing to pay. All of the realizations lead me to my next point.
Be willing to beat the competition. This needs to be true on both sides of the coin. As African Americans supporting each other in business, we need to be willing to pay a little bit more. As African American business people, we need to be willing to provide the most for your dollar, offer giveaways, referral incentives and special promotions. We need to offer the best wages we can afford to pay, wages that we would feel comfortable making. Wages that allow our people to live, not just survive.
Be willing to pay a fair price if you are an African American buyer. If you would pay the Caucasian community, the Asian community or the corporation a set price, be willing to do the same towards an African American business. Negotiating the best price is fair and should be expected. But playing games, trying to lowball African American businesses or expecting something for nothing is simply wrong.
You can criticize me, if you like. But do so justly and with valid points or objections, not simply because you do not like that I am bold enough to speak the truth. I am constantly trying to find ways to improve myself and my business, looking in the mirror and revising policies to create win-win scenarios. I not only receive constructive criticism in my seminars and workshops, from my clients and from my peers, I ask for it and I count on it. What about you?
Staff Writer; Marque-Anthony