It’s been said (and proven in many cases) that black people have to work twice as hard to get half as much as our white counterparts. Many of us know we pay the inequitably high black tax invisibly assessed upon us through biased hiring practices, pay disparity, unequal promotion, unfair housing, urban renewal projects, and on and on.
We constantly fight for equality and equity. It has become an innate part of our culture. But, as a culture, we are also adding a shady tax on top of the black tax and now we are being double-taxed.
So, what is the shady tax? Self-sabotage. Greed. Unprofessionalism. You get it. Many black-owned businesses have the reputation that we don’t conduct business correctly or professionally, so customers and potential customers either leave or decide not to do business with us. It is easy to avoid having this reputation, however, if you follow these basic principles.
Five Areas for Improvement
Look at these five areas. Where can you improve?
- Follow Through. Do what you say you will do. I have reached out to several black-owned firms in the last couple of months that I would love to give business to. Although every conversation ended with them sending a proposal, not one firm got back to me in the time frame in which they said they would, if at all.
- Come Correct. Upon first interaction, in some cases, your skin color is already a caution sign for some. Don’t allow your appearance to compete with that. I can’t tell you how many people have walked in my door for employment with wrinkled clothes, uncombed hair, and without the skill set needed to fill the position. Remember, dress for the job you want not the one you have. Come correct or don’t come at all.
- Excellence. Be professional. Grammatical errors on documents make my skin crawl. Make sure that all your paperwork is in order and that your proposals entail what you will do for a prospective client. We are being held to a higher standard whether we should be or not. Mediocrity has never gotten us that next big promotion or that new client. If it has, you won’t keep them long.
- Own Your BS (bias synapse). We all have BS. Know what your biases are toward others whether its race, sexuality, gender or something else. You have to identify it so that you aren’t interacting in a way that could be harmful to your personal or professional goals. Besides, when you treat people badly based on their diverse characteristics, it is BS.
- Best Business Practices. This is a big one. Whether you own your own business or are climbing the corporate ladder, your business practices need to be on-point.
- Pricing. It should be consistent; it can’t change from month-to-month or person-to-person. Everyone should have the same price for the same services. It shouldn’t change based upon how you feel about a person or your customers will feel like you are making up your prices as you go along.
- Time. If your sign says you open at 8 a.m., you need to be open at 8 a.m. and ready to do business.
- Customer Service. All deliverables to clients should be turned in on-time or early, treat your customers with respect, whether you believe they are right or not and work quickly to resolve the situation. Lastly, answer the phone professionally.
- Legal. Make sure you are a legal business. The last thing you want to do is work hard to build your business only to find out that you are not properly licensed or don’t have the right corporate structure or permits needed to continue.
- Office Space. Whether it’s a home office or located in another building, it should look professional and inviting. Half-eaten food should not be sitting out on the counter-tops. The music shouldn’t be so loud that your customers have to yell to speak with you and your employees shouldn’t be making inappropriate comments to customers.
Diversity and inclusion strategies are being undertaken and implemented by many corporations. If you are running your own business, big corporations looking for diverse suppliers are on the rise. Hopefully, we will begin to see the black tax dissipate. In the meantime, do yourself (and the rest of us) a favor: cut out the shady tax immediately.
Black Enterprise Contributors Network