A Guide to a new Business culture
The critical issue of business in the African world is pertinent in an era where globalization is an ever more encroaching phenomenon, and marginalization of groups failing to engage in business is creating greater economic disparity. Good business is critical for African development as well as a mechanism for self-determination.
The culture of business, while ingrained in some historical trading cultures, was one aspect of African independence stripped away via the African Holocaust (apartheid, colonialism, enslavement and even desegregation). While trade has always continued at a secondary level, primary business in Africa has left a wide enough gulf to allow every foreign force to exploit the failure of African people to develop a cognizant business attitude.
Without commerce and industry, a people perish economically. The [African] is perishing because he has no economic system– Marcus Garvey
Business, like education and health, is not an optional accessory for any society; and the neglect in business activity has left African people open to exploitation and stunted development. And all of these issues of racism have an economic root. Fix economy and racism will have no teeth. Without a base in economic superiority, the dominion of Western Eurocentric culture would have no appeal to a self-sustaining Africa.
If Africans were major owners of industry and technology, most of the issues of racism would disappear tomorrow!
So the two forces dicing Africans into pieces are racism and globalization. And while separate, there is a relationship. Sticking your head in the sand and plugging your ears, unfortunately, have not adverse effects on either system–only business does. As long as Africa is not trading it is dependent on aid. And with aid comes the exploitative agendas of everything that blows Africa’s way.
One of the great mistakes of the previous generation was they had no idea about business. How can a rich continent and a rich culture not also produce rich people? Accepting this vulgar contradiction as “noble” is mental slavery. Equitable ownership is the struggle, and if we are not struggling for this what are we struggling for? Ironically, the first generation of post-slavery liberators, Garvey, Duse, etc., were business orientated. Therefore, it is strange that business and revolution have drifted so far apart.
Business is difficult for people trained to depend and think inside of the employee model. Business is extremely difficult for those who are myopic and just need fast cash in their hands without the zeal to acquire skills and information.1)For example, give this article or any book on business to someone to read and they probably would not, they would rather plunge head first without a clue into a project that fails 4 months later when they lose interest. There is zero investment beyond how little can I do to get cash quick. So when you see most Black business they are those that require no skills, resale for example Some of us have ten times the skills of Indians and Europeans (whites) yet we continue to work for them. It is a mindset, a conditioning to fear business ownership and stay forever in the safe environment of working for someone. There is a disconnected generation since Garvey and the Nation of Islam, which has played completely into the hands of their own oppression by ignoring economics.
Many bemoan the terrible economic plight of Africans globally; the failure to own the products and services central to our lives. Yet when the issue of support comes up there is a cataclysmic
disconnected state of the exclusive relationship between that attitude of no interest-no support and the global economic state of poor ownership. There is also the prevailing myth that poverty is piety in revolution has led to a revolution lost to its own liberation mechanism, impractical and destined to fail. Revolution is a privilege for the well-fed, who can focus their concerns beyond a hand-to-mouth existence, which can resist trinkets, and stay true to the mission beyond temptation.
There is also the prevailing myth that poverty is piety in revolution has led to a revolution lost to its own liberation mechanism, impractical and destined to fail. Revolution is a privilege for the well fed, who can focus their concerns beyond a hand-to-mouth existence, which can resist trinkets, and stay true to the mission beyond temptation. Therefore, from every angle and argument, If you not including economics in every solution from cultural, to social, to political; then you just talking about slavery.
Financial success means having the disposable income to commit to great public projects, which embed and enshrine liberation values. How then is the myth of a pauper revolutionary a legitimate image of revolution? Can it ever be a more authentic experience of struggle, when it fails to grasp the objectives of struggle—end of poverty (cultural, spiritually, and material)? Is it revolution when it tightens the shackles of slavery? (Shahadah)
AFRICAN + BUSINESS
WHAT IS A BUSINESS
And there is an epic difference between being rich and being in a viable business. We see in places like South Africa the system of tokenism creates a whole host of very rich Africans who appears to be business people, they are not business people, they are a few selected individuals made rich for the purposes of a brochure of race relations post-apartheid. These people generate their wealth through every other means than skills in business. They earn great profits from say engineering, yet none of them are engineers–just middle people allowed to hand white-white transactions for the politics of BEEE. 2)Black Economic Empowerment We cannot discuss such people when we discuss business in the Africa world. Crumbs from the colonial table are not a business. These people might be rich, but they are not “business people” there is nothing we can learn from them to grow an authentic business culture in Africa. They are nothing more than the fortunate few that suck of the detritus of European poisonous opportunities. So always ask the question how did they really make their money? From skills in business (which we need to learn) or from tokenism, hand-me-downs, scraps landing in their laps, etc?
CLUELESS – POOR EDUCATION
Someone just sent me a press release with some graphics for a new film by email. It took one second to realize they do not know what they are doing. We identify “NOT KNOWING” aka EDUCATION as a fundamental problem amongst African people. And when we see the word poor education our backs go up. Because 1/2 the guilty have been to University, speak perfect English, and can hold a conversation on any political or cultural point. But why then would you email me a 20 Meg file of a poster to a film? Poorly designed at that. Is that not an educational problem, meaning you do not understand enough about emails, marketing, design to do it properly? Have you seen any film in Hollywood or Bollywood sent to 200 emails with a BCC and CC? *where all the emails are visible*? And if you reply to their poorly written email they probably do not even know how to answer professionally–if they answer at all.
On YouTube there are maybe 10,000 videos on how to market your products– why not learn from them? There are many filmmakers who have done it properly, why not learn from them? Well, that brings us to the next problem hubris. We are a race of people that claim easy victories and put ego before work. How important we feel comes before our abilities and anything that makes us feel like we do not know what we are doing is shunned. How important is your cover art? Just as important as the film/book you are doing because if the cover looks cheap then I am assuming the inside must be cheap. Then why not invest in proper graphics? Why not invest in a small but clean and clearly designed website? Why email a 20 Meg file when you can easily do a newsletter and use Sendy or Mailchimp or whatever. But not only do we as a group does not know, in a world where everyone else seems to know. But we also have this mindset that we are too small to do it right. My question is then why do it at all? You think you do not have the money, but do you have the time at least to research and do things properly.
Software like Outlook exists and do not get me started on the expensive smartphones people like to show off. Do you know you can run an entire company from a basic smartphone? So why are people owning these phones and disorganized? When there is Google calendar? Why are people struggling with finding places when there are Google maps? Why don’t people know what SEO means when there is Wikipedia? Why don’t they know how to get basic info when Bixby and Google voice will find it for you at a voice prompt? There is Whatsapp for business yet you can never get them when you want to discuss business. On and on. So all the resources are there but never or poorly used and then they have excuses. There is an app called Grammarly that helped clean up major grammatical and spelling issues on this page that would have otherwise gone amiss.
The business world is Darwinism in savage motion, it is unforgiving and truly survival of the fittest. It is a dinner table, but of diminishing opportunities, but exploitation of these opportunities requires progressive thinking, and an investment in infrastructures. The threshold and standards of work, and the quality of our work ethic become critical in competing in this new world. Professionalism is critical in all of this, and in our Pan-African space, unity ultimately means pooling resources and intelligence and taking advantage of every opportunity to advance the majority. (Shahadah)
While you might sleep on a bed, you certainly do not sleep on opportunities in business or life
Typical comment: Business is based on capitalism and the enemy in our society. I don’t even care for money its slavery disguised as freedom in our society. Seda’s mission is to develop, support and promote small enterprises in SA, ensuring their growth and sustainability in co–ordination and partnership with global partners, who make international best practices available to local entrepreneurs.
CONTROL AND CHOICE
One of the key components of a community is the ability to control what comes into, and exits out of, your community. If you are unwilling or able to do so, you do not have a community. If you do not have a community, then you live in a ghetto, racial enclave, or Bantustan: areas set aside for you by those who seek to contain, control and exploit you. Without community, we are economically and politically powerless.
The solution is complete ownership of the products/services that we use to live in a productive way. Creating business and employing our own people, and therefore empowering our people, creating wealth in the broadest sense and retaining that wealth within our own communities. The doors in which we traditionally hemorrhage wealth to other communities must be closed off.  Our communities have been sold a concept of freedom that empowers “the other.” But ownership is central to freedom and there is no true concept of freedom outside of an economic framework. So when we wear clothing, buy food, go to the doctor, buy a book or film on Africa, go the mechanic it is not freedom if not part of our own economic web.
In the business world, it seems that African people have acquiesced that we are intellectually inferior and incapable of going into business for the benefit of future generations and ourselves. Have we been brainwashed into forgetting that poverty is not a lifestyle and that mediocrity should not be tolerated? How is it that Africa is the richest continent on earth, yet has the poorest people? It is time for the colonial mentality in Africa (and the diaspora) to be squashed and eliminated for the sake of the next generation.
The failure to not only own but also to run businesses is connected to the inherited legacy of enslavement and manifested in modern mental slavery. The root symptom is a tendency towards myopic vision, and being non-committal.
DO WE OWN IT?
Your enslaved ancestors were not all field hands, not all house servants. The division of slave labor was much more diverse than that and it included: ship builders, carpenters, millwrights, etc. However, they work for one fundamental thing and that is the enrichment and profits of their masters. Consequently, even though you may have jobs and professions different from your ancestors, your work is fundamentally the same whether you make the vice president of Xerox.– Amos Wilson
Some of us see an African persons name on a company (Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, or in Africa PheZulu lodge or Umhlanga Resort). Or we see P-Diddy flashing a bottle of Cîroc , or some record label with a rapper fronting it. But that is the front end, who owns the company? Who owns the shares? Who is the Real CEO? Did we check that? Just because Rihanna is on the perfume bottle does not mean Rihanna owns a perfume company.
House of Marley is yet another example of a “partnership” where HoMedics (a Spa company) is really licensing the Marley name. So we see a new range of cool Marley branded speakers and say “WOW, Bob would be proud.” But then we needed to know what African scientist is behind all these new Marley products? What African genius creates any aspect of that brand? Turns out none; It is a White company licensing their name and giving them a cut. African people are happy, delighted even, to front. They care nothing for ownership of the entire process of production as long as their faces are plastered on the front cover of the brand, leaving the real headache of counting profits to Europeans and others.
Most of those so-called Black record labels (like Codeblack) are subs of majors and the fronters get paid a salary. We need to know this because a lot of the time we have pride in businesses we do not own. And because people are satisfied by emotional reactionary “feel good” they get pride in fronters more than real CEO who may be behind the scene. For many, it is only what you can see, and hence this exploitation is enough.
Have you heard someone tell you “I am doing a small business on the side and it is Doing well?” tell me something and as a critical thinker always start with a question. If a business is really doing well why is it still on the side? Walmart is doing well, it is not on the side. Sony is doing well it is not on the side. Yet we always got stuff on the side that will always be on the side. Taking trips to China buying stuff filling up your suitcase with goods and reselling them is not a business. It’s a hustle. You have no retail website, no Vat number, zero employees, no accounts, no assets, no manufacture, no inventory, no accountable overheads, no stocks, just a Whatsapp number on top of some pics–it’s a joke thing.
Most “businesses” for Africans exist at the hand to mouth level. Level 1. It takes nothing to do that. You need no complex business plan, you need no marketing, you certainly do not need unity. The next level which is rare is Level 2, a small shop where you need greater organizational skills, and again no complex partnerships or unity to do this. But you have to deal with accounts and other business related issues, staff, stock, etc. This level is rare for us as a people globally. You do find some Ethiopians, Nigerians, Somali at this level all over the world. The next level is even rarer and that is when we have a brand or global product or some large enterprise with staff and different departments. And why we struggle even at Level 2 is because despite being a “communal” culture somehow we do not do it in business. We certainly do not support each other or form complex enough relationships to get past Level 2. The irony is the Chinese and the Indian exist naturally at level 2 day and night in all of our communities from Durban (South Africa) to Chicago selling us basic stuff we need and a lot of nonsense we do not need.
The monkey sees monkey do ideology is how many of our people enter business. So this is how come a whole heap of us end up doing the same exact nonsense and going nowhere. Business on Whatsapp, one person does it, the next follows. But business on Whatsapp is just a means of communicating it is not the business. You are supposed to have a proper business and then use Facebook, social media, WhatsApp whatever for the business. One person starts something on social media– everyone follows them down the same exact hole. No-one stopped to ask– “does this work” or “Should I be taking this somewhere else”.
How you could sell clothes via Whatsapp and have no proper e-commerce website? So every time someone wants to make an order you need to be calling someone’s phone. One or two people get it to work but even those successful people never become anything greater. They started it 4 years ago and still doing it today without ever going to the next level. And since no fortune 500 company operates like that let us see how we create an economic empire this way.
Presentation is part of professionalism. Professionalism is part of know how. Know how is an aspect of your skillset. And skills are a fundamental part of education. People who are not properly skilled/educated often fail at presentation because they do not have the required knowledge to make what they are doing professional and therefore build confidence in their business. So when people see their work they say “Well if they can get their products so well presented then I trust they know what they are doing and have the confidence.”
If you purchased products made in Africa from 10 African business and they all broke after two days of purchase your mind naturally creates an association; African= Bad. You then purchase 10 products from European and Japanese businesses (made in those countries) and they all work for 10 years. You create another relationship Foreign = Better. Every time Africans, give a bad service, make a cheap low-quality film, make weak products, a vicious cycle of inferiority is being perpetuated. It is then critical for Africans to give extra attention to making quality products and offering exceptional services. Especially when the entire world is expecting things of African origin to be inferior.
Ten basic obstacles present themselves to the African. And these obstacles cause failure before we even start to trade.
- An inability to understand opportunities
- Lack of professionalism
- Poor confidence
- Shallow vision
- No trust
- Zero unity
- Extremely myopic
- Lack of discipline
- Very naive of the workings of the business world
- Deceived by instant gratification
What this adds up to is a general lack of representation of African People in the business world, and even where we are represented—a lack of diversity in business models. What it also means is that the level of business Africans can engage in at any serious level are always one man secondary business, rarely primary businesses. This is because solo favors the person who cannot work with others; it favors the person with no confidence to expand and no vision to see opportunities beyond the length of their nose. It is easy to have a business with yourself as the only client; i.e. a record company with one artist – the hand to mouth hawker shop on a street corner. Lack of trust prevents the street vendors from uniting and forming a larger, primary business.
Lack of confidence translates into a lack of ability to secure skills and execute them in the real world. It takes confidence to set up a PLC or a LTD, LLC or Inc. If we cannot find a way to remedy this lack of confidence, we will always be sole traders employing only ourselves and working at break even. The Africans who learn to expand out of this mental trap are always the ones able to lean into their social networks and extended families. This is why Ethiopians and Somali people thrive, especially outside of their countries because they lend upon family structures (consciously practicing unity/umoja) to grow business beyond the secondary model. They can employ their cousins and brothers with trust to manage their business while they extend into other specialized areas like travel, business meetings etc.
Professionalism is a critical aspect of business–yet many use the term without observing its basic tenants. It is shocking that many people in business do not have basic skills like even the curtosy needed when sending a buisness email.
“Do u have Dvds i could by..” or ” i want some stuff on africa”
An email should be properly formatted and be clear. People see emails like this and automatically click the junk mail button. Because what serious person sends a cold email to another business like this? Who are you, what do you want, be concise and clear, and never use ALL CAPITALS IN A MESSAGE.
There are certain things that should never happen in the business world such as:
“Oh…I thought you meant…”
How is it possible, given the complexity and nuance of language (any language), for someone to–after the fact—assume what someone else thought and meant?
The price for the laptop is $3,000 including VAT if ordered before the 21st of June
Where is there room for “I thought you said?” So there are only two possibilities. 1. The person giving instructions has not properly expressed themselves and used language to clarify their statement. 2. The person hearing is not a serious, and has some hearing difficulties. Because it is pretty simple to (in the above example) say “Oh I thought you meant I could get it for $3000 in August.”
If you do not know—learn fast. The business world is not a teaching institution. Learn on your own time, research on your own time. Read things 10 times and make sure you understand, because if you mess up, you own the debt of messing up.
You cannot move into a new and bright future if you do not address the issues in the past. If someone has a punctuality problem and it remains unresolved, it will chase them where ever they go. And the bigger the project the more exaggerated the problem will be. There is no point in just changing projects, because the problem follows. Poor communication, poor professionalism must be nipped in the bud, long before expanding any project.
When two disparate people engage in business, it is critical for the weaker partner to quickly match the standard of the more advanced person. Business moves in the direction of the greatest efficiency and best ways of doing things—they are rarely subjective.
We live in a technologically rich world. Technology is the slave of the business minded person. It makes life easy, we have Wikipedia to research terms, we have Online lawyers to check contracts, we have PayPal, Google calendar, on and on. Make use of it. Let the flashy Blackberry or Tablet be a slave and service your development by keeping your organized—this is what they were design for—not being status symbols.
Nothing says “UNPROFESSIONAL” like bad communication- emails and phone numbers that are unavailable. Communication, so important it has to be mentioned more than once. Nothing says professional more than good communication, which includes good, well-written, punctual emails. Good communication builds confidence in your ability to be available at critical times. And many business fail, not because the product/service was bad, but because they did not communicate. If you business must fail, make sure it is not for a silly reason.
Most emails should be replied to within a 2 -24 hour window. Tablets and smartphones should make replying to emails as easy as replying to text messages. Communication is a critical aspect of business, and one of the Achilles heels of the African world. No one can be do business if no effective communication systems exist. And the minute an organization/business publishes its contact page, it has an obligation to efficiency service that system. (African Holocaust About)
From Art of Revolution
Slaves and children expect things for free or cheap. Nothing in this world is free, and most people over the age of 7 know that things cost money, and that mommy and daddy have to go to work to pay for stuff. YouTube is not free; Facebook is not free. But during slavery you thought the food was free—it was not. We have this strange expectation that consciousness should be free. Especially when collective public work (like this free site) suffers because every nascent contributor, even for proofing the text on a DVD, wants (thinks they deserve) executive salaries. These same people who would not switch on a light for free, themselves demand a free world.
Free products and services is certainly not the tradition of Marcus Garvey or Elijah Muhammad for rebuilding Africa. But the tradition of those ignorant of the economics of liberation. And such ignorance is slavery, because slavery was economic. And part of its inequity was it created wealth for one group at the expense of the other group. That group—the African group—legacy is to continue to inherit the bottom graph of every positive static and the top graph of everything terrible and wrong. Therefore it would be safe to posit economics is one of the most critical aspects of the legacy of the African Holocaust.
Ignorance of economic is mental slavery. Those who fail to engage in a revolution with a capital E for economics are recycling oppression on themselves—not liberation. And who introduced this ridiculous myth of the pious pauper? Which nation used the model and entered the globalized world? Who took the African struggle from do for self, to depend on the other? Who profits from this?
We should avoid reinventing the wheel, especially when we do not even understand why the old wheel would not spin– ‘Alik Shahadah
Business may be revolutionary but it is governed by internationally recognized standards and, similar to the professional engineer or filmmaker, is attached to a certain culture, which is very important when doing good business. Business does not care about our politics, although everything about business is political. The objective of business is capital creation, market share, products, services, etc. While the politics or ideals might be in the brand (say a film), when we come to the business table they are non-items. It is necessary for the culture of business to be cold; this is what makes it efficient.
It is not an emotional space; it is a space for working on what best makes business better. Understanding this concept is critical, especially for African people who think business must be a mirror of their notions of culture—at the expense of business. So if your culture is not worrying about time—leave that culture out of your business. If culture means taking your clients on a tour before sitting down to do business, then more power to you—because it complements the productivity of business; this is the lens with which culture influences business culture. However, at the final table of business engagement clarity, punctuality, transparency, maturity, aka professionalism are international hallmarks of good business.
SOCIAL MEDIA TRUTH
How to waste money fast: spend it on social media adverts. And you can search all over and you will never find authentic experiences about advertising on social media. We rarely do it. And while on a long enough timeline it will work for someone but the point here is where are the honest stories about how it works for real businesses, as well as how it does not work for most. That is because 99% of the info out there is selling social media not discussing it from a real-world pov. When social media fails for your business 99% of the articles will tell you “What you are doing wrong. Do you know it is possible that maybe social media is just wrong? It is possible. They have roped people in and then changed their algorithms to practically stop organic growth. You might as well play lotto.
How can social media work for an African business when there is no viable algorithm for authentic African products? Allow a clarification. Islamic clothes have a powerful algorithm that can tap into a market that spends on Islamic clothes. Dead Indian people’s hair has one also. Skin bleaching cream probably has one. But does authentic handmade African clothes have one beyond people who click like and say “I need to get this” or “I want to throw my money at you”? No. One guy and there are 1000s of examples, claimed he spent $200 to advertise his music. He has 20k subs and gets maybe 23 likes per post. So what is the most important info he has not told disclosed that is critical to his business/career? So social media feeds the ego, but business is not about ego, it has to be measured in much more practical metrics.
On social media a real-world business that has a physical factory and the means of production will perform worst than a bedroom “business” selling resale Chinese items to friends. Check it for yourself. But do you know why? One reason is anyone with a real business has real money to spend on advertising and that is social media’s bread and butter. All these hand to mouth business do not mean anything to them. Their target is those who have a real company with a real advertising budgets and the minute you graduate from hand-to-mouth bedroom service you will see a shocking drop in your performance.
Think small, stay small
If all you are looking for in business is quick cash then your first hurdle will be your last
As African people, we are generally naturally a very relaxed people. And we bring this attitude into business. We also personalize things with excessive familiarity, which is good—but there is a time and place for this in business. All of this has a negative impact on professionalism. Business decisions are made in business interest, there is no point being offended because you feel your ego was negatively wounded. Business is a professional environment.
If all you are looking for in business is quick cash then your first hurdle will be your last. This is why the first month they are top of the moon until their social media buyers become saturated and profits drop off. It is not how you start, but how you carry on. Serious people in business usually go 2 years without seeing profits and still push until they win.
Reflexivity: Maturity means accepting responsibility and taking the steps to make right the situation. Failure to have reflexivity means failure to identify yourself as a problem or bottleneck in a business environment. And if you do not know yourself you cannot fix yourself.
The attitude of many Africans in business is, in too many instances, lackadaisical, content with sub-standard, inferior service delivery and having no ethics beyond making money as fast as possible. What ethics do for a business is help the management think about its image and places stress on the need to have a good image, beyond making money. The investment in good quality products, services and standards in the end always converts into dollars. A smart business develops a proficient attitude towards quality, ethics, technology and education.
When we form organizations for economic development, we should also have therapeutic sessions and begin to restructure the personality because often what destroys organizations is not the absence of money or economic knowledge, but the absence of trust, faith and coalescence. So, our first approach is that of working on our psychology and social relations—one to the other–Amos Wilson
It is better not to have a website than a bad website. Having no website can be explained a hundred ways, a bad website can only be explained one way—you are not ready!
Websites are the new offices of our generation. Companies international prestige is no longer in physical spaces but in online presences. Whether we are conducting business at the shop level or globally, websites are the new offices of our generation. A company’s international prestige is no longer in physical spaces but in online presences. The customer usually formulates their first impression after visiting a website, therefore in a digital world; web presence is equal to status and world standing. A company or organization without a professional website is a company of the Jurassic era. Cyberspace is the new domain of business.
People are making a habit of checking the veracity of a business by checking the online profile of not only the business, but also the businesspeople. Therefore, it is better not to have a website, than a terrible one. The website is a mirror of your own professionalism, attitude and understanding. A poor website communicates lack of organization, lack of resources and lack of good judgment. Their logic is why would you have such a poor site if you understood anything about the 21st century business environment? (Halaqah Media)
If someone ask about your website, and your reply is my mate is working on it for me—you are not ready! Sure he said he was a designer, but what would you know about pro-web design—are you a designer? Then leave it to renown companies. All those RGB black 1980 looking sites were designed by “mates” and over confident DIY enthusiast, and the instant you hit them you know. And those free template sites?— Just know everyone without a budget and still in high school got one to.
There are 10 thosand miles of unchartered territory between Pro and the dude around the corner. Do not take a chance for a few hundred bucks. You might not know good from bad—but your clientel will.
* Halaqah Media does websites for $350 for small African organizations/businesses in a bid to foster development.
* Website image courtesy of www.ocacia.com
TEAMS AND BOTTLENECKS
In the business world, no good work exists outside of a good team. Working alone probably means you are working of failure . No great feat is accomplished by weak effort or poor discipline. The problem with any project is, when you have on your team people who will let you down in the 11th hour, that weak link is the value of your team (lowest sub-score). Even if nine people are 9/10, that one person who is 1/10 represents your profile. It takes more energy to manage a bad link than a good link, causing you to put energy into people who produce no (or substandard) work and ruin the entire project. (Shahadah)
PAN AFRICAN BUSINESS
There are ways we can learn from each other if we allow the principles of Pan-Africanism to work within our business models: Someone has something, you have something else. It is not leap of faith to suggest tangible partnerships.
10 African business need a place to work from, why not use the power of unity to collectively rent and share resources in a mutually beneficial way? How much would you save in a shared environment? If 20 African artist get together, they can save money of studio time,(or even own their own studio) or combine their marketing in a centralized space. There is no counter logic to this argument. Then why is it not being done? Because of a lack of basic common sense— a lack of unity—and silly egos.
EXAMPLE: 4 African filmmakers graduate film school. One is an editor, one is a writer, one is a producer, and one is a cameraperson. They all have the same challenges of competing in the independent business environment. Despite the logic of forming one company and working as a team, they each go off and start 4 different companies in their area of expertise. 6 months later—all have failed. Not one of them have made a film.
Unity has other advantage; peer review, bouncing, and sharing ideas. Failure to unite, is one reason African business do not stand a chance against the globalized world. Teams will always beat individuals. And if you are a one-person company, against a 20 person company you will not last. In addition, the new ideas and new ways of doing business from experience need to be shared. So someone discovers a cheaper way to ship globally, someone else discovers an online merchant website. This information stays within the individual domain, so the person who discovers a new shipping company does not know about the new online merchant website, the person who has discovered the online website will never finds out about the new global shipping company. They lose $1000 a month from not knowing.
EXAMPLE: 20 street vendors as opposed to competing in a hand-to-mouth fashion can form a collective, increase their bargaining power, buy a space—and shop their wares. But they do not, they stay small and fight over crumbs as weak individuals.
Quality Driven Market
When people decide to buy a product or use a service, their foremost consideration is quality. What is best value for their money? Whether it is from Africa or not is certainly not a primary consideration in a world where money is so hard come by and must first function to do the purchaser good. This means that not only must African products be better, in terms of quality, than the Western offering to compensate for the lack of faith and the lack of power to market, the price must be right.
Beyond your products and friendly service, customers today want to know what will happen when/if something goes wrong. Sure, everything is fine when they are spending…but what about after the sale? A cornerstone of Good Business practices is; under no circumstances argue with a customer when you blatantly know you are in the wrong. Do not hide your errors in excuses; the only apology in business is compensation. Make it right as soon as possible. If you do, they will tell their friends. If you do not…they will tell their friends.
For our own sake, as a noble people, do not prove negative stereotypes. There is an expectation, which we have internalized, that says if it is African it must be substandard, unrefined, unprofessional, late, and scruffy. We accept it and perpetuate it, with the excuse that “we are poor”. Chances are when you think poor you behave poor; it was not a lack of money that caused you not to reply to an email. With everyone sporting Blackberry and iPhones, it is easy to see an excuse for what it is; being lazy. Only a colonized mind continues to make excuses for substandard business practices with so much information and technology at our fingertips.
A lot of African methodologies, such as laborious bureaucracy, was inherited from the colonialism. But these same “masters” today have rigorously modified and streamlined the very systems entrenched in African practice. So tools are seen as objectives. But the meeting is not an objective, it is a tool to get to an objective. If it yields no results–then it has no use.
- To track decision making ,
- Brain storm/share ideas and solutions to problems
- Track progress on a project and discuss problems
- To coordinate action
- Activities are focused on desired results
- Generate enthusiasm for a project
- Build skills for future projects
- Provide participants with beneficial techniques
Making Meetings Work
A few critical questions to answer prior to calling a meeting: Does this meeting have a clear purpose? Do I know why we are all here? Is this meeting helping to coordinate us? Are the right people here to ensure the purpose can be achieved? Do actions arising from this meeting actually happen? Is anyone following up, does everyone know what they are meant to be doing? If even one answer to these questions is unclear, reevaluate the importance of the meeting.
- Be professional never give personal excuses: I was late because the babysitter did not show up.
- If you are not a pro–do not price like one. Know your worth but balance it against your market. Do not charge dollars in a Rand economy.
- Research your business before starting it, do not reinvent the wheel or be ignorant of what else is going on in your field.
- Stick hard to your terms and conditions. Make sure they are fair and work for your set up. Do not bend them for anyone.
- Your word is your bond; your speech is your chains. Do not say it with your mouth unless you can deliver it with your actions.
- Get a mentor. And after you are successful, pay it forward.
- Don’t get sidetracked by “haters” (but also, understand that not every critic is a hater )
- Don’t be afraid to learn and try new things
- Already business is a risky thing, uncertain and hard. Do not compound it with silly things like being late, not replying to emails, phone always off, missing target dates. If you try and fail, do not fail for something as trivial and easy to correct as this.
- When you meet people for business, do not complain about how busy you are, name drop or babble about how important you are. Talk less about yourself and your issues and more about the hopes of the business venture.
- Appearances matter, it does not mean we need to wear a gold and diamond crusted Rolex but– if your phone has a broken screen, your clothes are all over the place, your glasses are cracked, your business cards are toilet paper thin, watch has Mickey Mouse strap, it does not send the right message. The question becomes; how can you conduct yourself professionally in business if you cannot take care of yourself?
- On a similar appearance note, for sisters —dress conservatively. The business environment is not the place to express yourself, with that new Brazilian weave, blonde and red 17” extensions, or 9” gaudy nails. Again—it sends the wrong message. The corporate environment is judgmental, and it is showing no signs of letting up. Do not be the stereotype of hood culture. Keep your hair natural and tidy or, if relaxed, well maintained (no new growth, and stiff backs).
- In a business environment speak English properly; always avoid slang.
- Do not be shy when it comes to spending on your business partners, especially if you need them more than they need you. Make an impression and budget for those expenses as part of your cost analysis.
- It is better not to have a website than a bad website. Having no website can be explained a million ways, a bad website can only be explained one way—you are not ready! It would be better to have one professional holding page with contact details, than a 10 page do it yourself website. Nothing lets down business more in our digital/Google age than poor websites. Under no circumstances is it professional to skimp or DIY business website.
- If you have a personal Facebook page, know it will come up when someone searches your name (and they will), so keep nonsense and stupidity off Facebook. It is an instant deal breaker to see stupid comments and ignorant interest on a profile page for someone you want to do business with…why would a serious person be talking like that, or clicking like on junk?
- Communication, so important it has to be mentioned more than once. Nothing says professional more than good communication, which includes good, well-written, punctual emails. Avoid obvious spelling mistakes, be to the point and very concise. Always write in a way that provides the necessary information at a glance and use paragraphs and headers for different topics. So if you are replying to four issues, separate them and deal with them point-by-point.
- Always take care of your customer. If they are not happy within reason, then Nairobi we have a problem. If you are wrong, offer compensation, and be snappy in suggesting it.
- Under no circumstance, break your professional tone when dealing with anyone. No matter what they say, the tone should never become personal—leave that for the customers.
- Good manners are critical, including smiles and good strong handshakes. Do not attend a business function and eat with your mouth open, or licking every one of your fingers. Have proper eating habits, if they are lacking—go and learn them. No one cares that in your culture you eat with your hands. Refinement in the business space communicates your understanding of the global world, where people act and think a certain way.
- Do not slouch, do not drag your feet, sit up straight, leave your nose alone, speak clearly. If you have any idiosyncrasy like grunting because of a sinus problem, take care of it before the meeting. These may seem minor but business is a sale, the first thing being sold is you
- Do nothing without a contract.
- Do not be so rigid as to get caught up in any of advice at the expense of the business relationship. Business is like poker you need to know when to flex, and when to firm up, when to let something slide and when to pull it up.
Africa is the richest continent—with the poorest people. We have the longest history, but Africans are the ones who are most ignorant about their history– Kimani Nehusi
Economic powerlessness is directly and inextricably tied to political powerlessness. The election of Africans to even the highest office, in America or otherwise, is useless if it does little or nothing to enhance the power of the Africans and the Diaspora community. It makes no difference if hundreds of us are ‘fortunate’ enough to gain positions of affluence, if millions continue to be marginalized and impoverished at the same time. An economic system is defined on businessdictionary.com as “an organized way in which a state or nation allocates its resources and apportions its goods and resources”. The ability to organize an effective economic system even as an ethnic minority has been demonstrated by Jewish, Arabs, Indians, and Korean in America and by whites (another minority) in Africa, regardless of voting populations. Thus, proving that power and influence are derived from effective social organization and proper use of organized wealth.
Poverty is a sin—an abomination. It is a sin to impose it and it is a sin accept it
|↑1||For example, give this article or any book on business to someone to read and they probably would not, they would rather plunge head first without a clue into a project that fails 4 months later when they lose interest. There is zero investment beyond how little can I do to get cash quick. So when you see most Black business they are those that require no skills, resale for example|
|↑2||Black Economic Empowerment|