One of the greatest testimonies to your success is when others try to do what you do, especially when they have no background in your particular area. As imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I realize it doesn’t always feel that way.
If there is one thing that I have found is a constant in dealing with other blacks in business it’s the way we consistently hoard information and look at each other as the enemy. The jealousy and contempt that we have for each other, backstabbing and protecting clients with our lives as if their budgets are only meant for us is unfortunate. To that end, I understand why it happens but things are not always as they seem.
In 21 years of doing my magazine and site Radio Facts, I am always aware of who is stabbing me in the back and using me for information, yet I often still give it (perhaps to a fault) because I don’t care. I do not want what others have because I’ve been too blessed doing business for myself but I see a lot of black folks trying to find their way in business by any means they deem necessary and others making sure they don’t succeed. This is very unfortunate.
Clients have no problem telling me how vicious “competitors” can be by calling them and asking questions like why are they advertising with me instead of them and copying my banner ads and sending it to my clients and asking “What is this shit?” when they don’t get it. In the end, the client ALWAYS tells me and they tell me they will not support the competitor because they treat them like they OWE a part of their budget to them. It used to piss me off but it doesn’t anymore. These people don’t need any help from me to destroy their own reputations. All I know is that doing something like this has never been and will never be a part of my business practice. Some competitors are so vile that they have even copied stories verbatim (copy and pasted from my site and put the it on theirs, including my cropped images) and they try to sell the client that I am copying stories from THEM (but they fail to realized there is a date stamp on all the stories).
I can certainly understand where some of this comes from, because I’ve been in business long enough to now how incredibly hard it is to convince white clients as well as black clients who are being bombarded with requests from other black companies and often angled in a way that says “Help a brotha out” or “You owe this to me because you are black.” They don’t owe you sh and these are not the streets and nobody is obligated to feed you.
There are those times when other blacks have asked me questions that certainly make you slam on the brakes. One incident was a young black man who boldly asked me if I could explain to him the entire process of how to do a radio industry blog and another time a woman asked me for a copy of my database to start her own industry business. These items are proprietary and hard-earned and NO I don’t think you should ever give info like this out as it’s the basis of your business and success. I would not betray my clients by giving out their personal information like email, phone number etc but I don’t have a problem telling someone who the point person is. If they can sell themselves, than so be it.
There is a person that I gave complete advice to on how to do a magazine and even offered his name for a television segment who is notorious amongst other industry black entrepreneurs for being an elitist and hoarding information after finding ways to take it from other black black entrepreneurs and use it for himself. Therein lies the problem, If you are not willing to help others but you are willing to use their info that’s just wrong and it’s greed. You present yourself as an opportunist who can’t be trusted.
I found that this person would call me every few months whenever I would have small successes to pick my brain and to see if I was willing to give more information. I found it was a one-way street and I realized it was a mistake so I shifted and stopped taking his calls and giving him information but I was still willing to give it to others in business.
The answer to all of this is your brand and the quality of your product will stand the test of time no matter WHO tries to compete with you. Stay the course and keep doing what you are doing and find a way to consistently improve your service and over deliver to the client. In addition, if your services have exceeded your client’s expectations and they constantly come to you (without coercion) you are already winning.
Nothing that is meant for you can be taken by someone else no matter what their intention is good or bad. Keep focusing on the finish line instead of stopping to take a look on the sidelines and you will win. You may be completely wrong in your assessment as we all have the right to do business the way we want to. THESE are the most important traits that you can have. If you find that you are constantly giving information to people who never give it back or return the favor in any way, stop doing it and spend your time more wisely by mentoring younger people or doing volunteer work or even writing a book about what you do and your experiences. Finally, when you help someone else everyone succeeds the rewards come back tenfold. I’ve witnessed it many times over.