August 1, 2004
Reputation Equals Profits
Soul Food: 52 Principles of Black Entrepreneurial Success by Robert L. Wallace is a motivational book designed to help today’s business owners succeed in this dog-eat-dog world of commercial exchange. Each chapter offers advice to entrepreneurs looking to build a profitable enterprise. This particular excerpt is from the chapter titled “Week 1: Leveraging the Gratitude Principle.” For aspiring entrepreneurs, Wallace recommends expressing your gratitude to people. It’s called good old-fashion customer service, and if you have it, you’re off to a great start.
The writing is fairly straightforward and brief, its message simple: Treating people with respect and showing your gratitude is as valuable to an entrepreneur as having an excellent product or service. In this case, we follow Karen, a young woman who ended a failed marriage and an unfulfilling career as a secretary to start a graphic design company.
Despite getting her business off to a slow start, Karen remained grateful, cheerful, and positive. Her story teaches us all that kindness and a positive attitude are assets we should value more than our business’ bottom line. Karen used her reputation to leverage a business opportunity, and it ultimately paid off.
Most women in the neighborhood looked up to Karen. Although many of them were either unwed mothers or substance abusers, Karen exuded a sense of hope that was important to them, and she provided a role model. In [a] neighborhood of rat-infested dwellings; drug-dealing corners; and nervous, trigger-happy police officers[where she was raised], someone like Karen was indeed a breath of fresh air.
Although it didn’t show in Karen’s outlook and appearance, she emerged from rough beginnings. After graduating at the top of her class from academically advanced Eastern High School, she had her choice of college scholarships. [And although Karen had the choice of any Ivy League school, she chose to bypass her college education and marry her high school sweetheart. She enrolled in the local community college to take courses during the evening while she worked as a secretary with the city Department of Social Services. Soon after, she gave birth to her first child. When her marriage ended, Karen reinvented her life.]
Starting her life afresh in a new city, Karen assessed her skills to see what kind of work she could pursue. Although she was a fine secretary, she felt it was not her true calling. But art interested her. She remembered that teachers had often remarked on how gifted she was in graphic design. She did it very well and truly enjoyed it. Consequently, she found a job at a small graphic design shop in the downtown area and launched her new career.
While working for this firm during the day, she quietly started her own graphics design business on the side. Karen had the entrepreneurial spirit. She soon generated enough clients to leave her full-time job to cultivate her business.
One reason Karen was able to launch her business so quickly was that she had earned a reputation for appreciating even the smallest things people did for