Here is an excerpt from my book Mind Your Own Damn business. These are some of the biggest mistakes I have seen many black business owners make and the lesson’s I’ve learned the hard way over the years. PLEASE NOTE, this is not applicable to all black entrepreneurs but these are the entrepreneurs that I personally steer clear of. The bottom line, don’t ask anyone for something you are not willing to give yourself. Enjoy… (click “Next” above or below to see more)
We’ve got some GREAT ideas…but
I’ve seen and heard some of the most remarkable ideas from black potential entrepreneurs. Everything from music production to publishing to specialty restaurants to wedding planner to hair and make-up break-thru formulas. There are many fields where African American’s dominate but have little or no control of the business. The most prevalent of those area are: Sports, Entertainment, Hair and Specialty Foods. Why are you giving your ideas away when the business could be YOURS? And where is the implementation? We have ideas but no way of implementing them and no plans as to how it can be done. Before you tell ANYONE what your plan is, figure out how you can do it FIRST.
Hook a Brotha Up!!! (how incredibly annoying)
These are the people that you usually only hear from only when they need something from you…they only call on people for favors in business but expect to be paid top dollar when they give help to someone else. We don’t want to be ripped off or taken advantage of but a lot of the time, it is exactly what WE do and worse yet to our black contacts. We dare not ask our white contacts to “hook us up?” We want special treatment again and again or we deliver half backed goods for a fully cooked price. Please know that while people will do you favors from time to time, it becomes annoying when you are CONSTANTLY calling them for favors. We don’t often know when to be classy about the exchange either. I’ve had “friends” call me for concert tickets not just for themselves but for 3 other people too. That’s tacky and nobody wants to be used. Moreover, if you keep calling in favors the person you are calling will eventually stop taking your calls. Then we often accuse them of “going Hollywood” and “forgetting about where THEY came from”
“The world REALLY does not owe you anything”
It would be nice if the world was our never-ending credit card, streaming endless currency to us whenever we wanted it. Just because you have struggled in the past, it does not mean the world owes you something in return. I myself thought this too which was why I started my first business. I thought people should buy from me FIRST because I’m Black… WRONG! People should buy from you first because you area great resource for them and provide the services they need. Complaining ALWAYS looks like sour grapes. Even if there is legitimacy to what you see in racism or favoritism, the people you are accusing of it don’t and will never see it the same way YOU look at it or they will shut down on you and not deal with you. Yuu will look like the bad guy. There are just some things that are KNOWN and don’t need to be said. Do you really think someone is going to give you an opportunity after you attack them? HELL NO, they are not…. and I guarantee you that you will get very old and very bitter, very quick waiting. I’ve seen it happen time and again.
Use Your Current Job as College or Temporarily Work in the Field You’d like to Start Your business In
No matter how much we hate our current jobs the best way to look at the situation, I’ve learned, is to start using my jobs as “college.” I used Urban Network that way when I worked there many years ago. There was a lot of strife, in-fighting and power struggles amongst the management. I let them beat the hell out of each other while I learned how the system worked. When they fired me, which I knew they would eventually, I took what I learned and started my own industry trade magazine and there was nothing they could do about it. My employer became my competitor and my brand is still around. I’m not bragging, I’m making a point. Look at your job as I’m taking a course and I’m getting a stipend for learning. I give the job a certain amount of time to complete the required courses and when I’m done, I’m ready to graduate to earn my next degree in business. If I wanted to open a coffee shop, I’d go and work at Starbucks for a year. What an invaluable experience and education that would be FIRST HAND…. AND I would be getting paid for it? Instead of going broke going to some overpriced college that wants me to take out student loans to learn how to do it for 2 years. Then I owe for my education when I could have gotten it, not just for FREE but PAID for it? I’m sure you get the point.
“Never tell anyone your plans, goals and dreams UNLESS they can help you”
As black people, we have such a dire need for approval. Mostly because it drives not just us but the human race. But we must realize that people will never see for you what they can never see for themselves. If a young awkward looking, tall thin black girl tells her family or friends that she wants to be a model, they may laugh at her and she may accept that they are right and forget about her dream. Even though she grows up to be outrageously beautiful and her dream could have very well been a reality. The people she depended on didn’t believe in her which caused her not to believe in herself. This is why black entrepreneurs would never tell someone else they can’t do something. Because we learn through doing business that anything is possible and our confidence to have our own businesses skyrockets to a level we never thought possible. If the potential model pursues that goal without telling her family, they will usually be the same people who will say “I always saw something special in her, I knew she would be a star” My cousin used to tell me “Everybody Loves a Winner!” and they want to be associated with them, even if they have nothing to do with their success. That’s our need for approval on the reverse. We want to take responsibility for all that’s great and shy away from what is negative. That’s not just black people, that’s the human race. So in essence, it is best to pursue your dream and keep your mouth shut, especially if the people you want to tell have no understanding of what you are pursuing. I have to tell the truth about my people, we can be some of the most negative people when it comes to encouraging each other.
It’s all in the Presentation…
This is probably one of the MOST important things you will see in this guide. P-R-E-S-E-N-T-A-T-I-O-N! The picture is another kind of presentation which is also important but I’m talking about how you present your idea before you get to this point as well.
I don’t care what kind of business you have if you don’t present it, yourself or your documents right, you are almost DESTINED to fail. The first line of presentation is your idea. Just the other day a gentleman called me with an idea he had for a magazine. He was all over the place. I kept asking him if he had a business plan, you really don’t nee a FULL plan but just some idea of what you want to do. I also asked him about start up capitol. He kept skirting around the questions. I asked him about investors and he didn’t trust anyone. As he went on and on about how he was going to get his business off the ground and the team he had in place, I lost interest. His lack of direction just sounded like someone mumbling after a while. It sounded like he was confused…. and if he sounds that way to me, how will he handle the business and how will he sound to anyone else that he presents this idea to? He made several common mistakes potential black business owners make they are as follows:
- Disclosed his idea to me without the pieces in place.
- Refused to listen to or even act like he was interested in hearing my advice based on my experience in already DOING what he is trying to do.
- Shot down every idea I had for him to get his venture off the ground because he already has it all mapped out. (Then why is he talking to me?)
- Expressed his lack of trust for everyone which makes me wonder if he trusts me or MORE important…. if HE can be trusted.
- He already knows it all so I already know this is going to be a difficult situation to work in and usually the way you start out is the best indicator of how you will end up. If he won’t listen to me now, he never will.
- This is his idea, he doesn’t trust anyone, he wants it done a certain way, he needs my help and/or advice and he has no money? This, mind you, is something that it has taken me almost 15 years to learn.. If you put yourself in my shoes, even for two minutes, you can see how this is not going to work for me. What is the chance that you think I will do business with someone like this? If you guessed never, you are right.