Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Art Of Black-Owned Business, Part 3: Are You Money-Minded Or Ego-Driven At Work?

Let's discuss in greater detail the topic raised by Part 2 of this series. So far, I've mostly focused on the irrational things going on in the minds of many consumers (particularly African-American consumers). Let's turn to some of the irrational things going on in the minds of many African-American business owners.

Decades before the Rich Dad/Poor Dad books, there were several excellent books that discussed similar ideas within an African-American context. One of these books was Black Folks' Guide To Business Success by George Subira. He discussed the fact that African-Americans often go into business for reasons other than seeking economic prosperity. He said:

"Reason #1: To Be the Boss

Black people have historically been slaves, laborers and workers. There has always been a White overseer, bossman, foreman or supervisor looking over our shoulder to see if we were doing the job they wanted, the way they wanted us to do it. It's not surprising that a certain portion of this working class, both male and female, become fed up with this routine and start their own business---to be free from the hassle of a "boss." There is nothing inherently wrong with this feeling.

But too often this new businessperson has a life-long chip on their shoulder and they now substitute their own tyrant-like ways in place of the supervisor they have just left. In other words, these business people need to show everybody that enters their place of business that they are the boss and they are in control.

[Khadija speaking: We don't just do this as business owners. Too many of us do this whenever we become supervisors and managers on our jobs. In fact, the vast majority of African-Americans go buck wild across the board whenever we get even a smidgen of authority. I discussed this "Head Negro In Charge syndrome" in this post http://muslimbushido.blogspot.com/2008/10/art-of-majesty-part-1-avoid-head-negro.html]

This seriously affects their ability to be friendly, courteous and serve the people. Instead, customers pick up a kind of hostility, disagreeableness or apathy almost from the moment they enter the establishment. Many of these types of businesspeople could not possibly view themselves as servants of the public or as having a responsibility to the public. As a matter of fact, the attitude of a "Me Boss Man" type of owner is almost the opposite of a money-minded business owner. For example:

Money-Minded Owner [MMO]: Greets customers with a smile whether they feel good or not.

Boss Man Owner [BMO]: May or may not greet customer depending on how they feel.

MMO: I must prove to the people that we are the best, the friendliest, cleanest, the cheapest, etc.

BMO: I ain't got to prove a da** thing to anybody. Those days are over. [Khadija: {chuckling}]

MMO: The customer is always right. [Khadija speaking: Hmmm. . . I wouldn't say that. I would say that "We are here to serve the customer's legitimate needs and wishes to the very best of our ability." Unfortunately, Black-owned businesses have to be extremely cautious with Black customers. African-American customers will often come to Black businesses with disruptive behavior, violent behavior, and scams that they don't dare approach non-Black businesses with. Many African-American consumers will go out of their way to try to exploit and cheat a Black-owned business. Also, African-Americans often take kindness for weakness (and an invitation to prey on the kind person) when the kindness comes from another African-American.]

BMO: If you don't like it, you can leave now and you don't have to come back in here anymore.

MMO: I must set an example for my employees and not ask them to do anything I can't do.

BMO: If they don't do like I tell 'em I'll fire 'em; simple as dat."

Black Folks' Guide To Business Success, pgs. 74-75.

Although we're specifically discussing our mental preparation to build and maintain our businesses, this issue actually applies across the board with most African-Americans.

One of the many pathologies of conquered, subjugated people is their inability to be gracious when they find themselves in positions of authority. It's time to break that slavery-derived mental habit.

*Audience Note* Please don't submit comments detailing horror-story-experiences with Black-owned businesses, I won't publish those sorts of comments. We've all had those experiences, and that's not what I'm getting at here. We do this across the board. Including while working as employees on our jobs---many of us like to match wits with our job's customers. [I got a lecture the other day from a Black female postal worker who took great pleasure in making sure that I knew that I lacked a proper understanding of the U.S. Postal Service's procedures. {chuckling}]

I'm hoping to encourage some introspection about the mindsets that create those problems.

8 comments:

ActsofFaithBlog said...

This book you mention certainly captures that mood perfectly. I have also found this to be the case with white female supervisors. Being mentally disciplined takes a concentrated effort!

Khadija said...

Faith,

Yep. Mr. Subira's books are often quite funny in addition to accurately capturing the mood of certain situations.

And yes, it does take conscious effort to avoid falling into some of these nonproductive attitudes. It's easier to just not bother doing periodic introspection and self-checks.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Karen said...

I admit I have to chuckle a bit as I have seen the "Me Boss" behaviour and I always thought they expend more energy trying to let everyone know who is boss instead of leading by example and setting high standards for performance.

I was recently asked why even when irritated (read: mad), I do not lose my cool or ability to be gracious to recover the moment.

I answered that I knew that I did not have the "luxury" to behave badly. Each move I make or action I take will have some consequences in that moment and in the future. I was raised with it not being about "just me" but that I was "representing the race". I knew what kind of future I wanted and had to have the mental discipline to get there.

I was one of the few managers that actually requested (and received) honest critique of my performance as a manager. I did not always like what I heard but I worked on the issues presented and became a better manager and had a loyal staff. They knew that they could be open and honest and would receive the same in return without malice.

I think anyone plan to be in a business venture that involves working with others or having others work for them must never forget that any business is only as good as the people who work for you or with you...

If they deal with you because they "have to" versus "wanting to", then there will be many unnecessary problems down the road.

I certainly don't have all the answers but am only sharing some of the things I have learned along the way.

Khadija said...

Karen,

You said, "I answered that I knew that I did not have the "luxury" to behave badly. Each move I make or action I take will have some consequences in that moment and in the future. I was raised with it not being about "just me" but that I was "representing the race". I knew what kind of future I wanted and had to have the mental discipline to get there."

I was raised the same way. My parents constantly stressed the point that tacky, petty, PUBLIC behavior is an unaffordable luxury item. ["If you've just got to do something unsightly, do it behind the scenes, and in a way that's not traceable to you." In other words, "throw a rock and hide your hand" for negative behaviors.]

A lot of AAs don't understand that engaging in these sorts of public behaviors are a large part of why their careers stall at a certain point.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Southland Diva said...

The actions of a great many managers and supervisors are governed by such factors as: having suffered under poor management themselves; being power-hungry; not receiving any supervisory/managerial training.

Properly executed, neither ownership nor managerial responsibilities diminish the people being supervised.

I am loving the series as I am in the process of launching my own business. The 'strawman' idea was had already crossed my mind.

Perception in not reality, but we need to acknowledge people's perceptions, especially if they are our target demographic, adjusting our efforts accordingly.

I've got the Sun Tzu and Subira books on my list. Thanks for the info!!

Peace

Khadija said...

Southland Diva,

You're welcome! I'm also enjoying the business series conversations.

You said, "Properly executed, neither ownership nor managerial responsibilities diminish the people being supervised."

Exactly!

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Ifetayo said...

This series is excellent! It underscores the importance of getting your emotional support in other areas of your life (self-care in general) so that when it's time to deal with business, your mind is clear and you act rationally.

Khadija said...

Ifetayo,

Thank you for your kind words about the series; I truly appreciate it. I also enjoy the business conversations. I plan to get back to the business series in September.

You said, "It underscores the importance of getting your emotional support in other areas of your life (self-care in general) so that when it's time to deal with business, your mind is clear and you act rationally."

Exactly! People do a lot of harm to their careers and their businesses when they use their jobs and/or businesses as a forum for working through their personal problems and issues.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.