Self-publishing has taken me on a incredible journey full of new people, places, and experiences. I found support from unexpected places, and this has done my heart good. On the other hand, I am continually stunned by the lack of professionalism of our people. I don't want my comments to turn into yet another racist diatribe against Black people which merely blames the victim. I know that our lack of professionalism stems in most part from internalized racism. Yet, there comes a time in every people's history when they must take responsibility for their destiny even as the powers that be continue to oppress them. This means, oftentimes, starting with the "small stuff" that we can control, such as the manner in which we do business with each other. I won't get into the specifics here, the particular incidents that have inspired this post, in which i tried to do business with people of color and almost had to force them to take my money, because that would ultimately degenerate into the type of "hateration" that our people find so distracting that we usually miss the opportunity to learn from the criticism. Instead, I would like to suggest the following:
1. Return phone calls promptly! Every phone call is a potential customer. If you are too busy to return a phone call, you are too busy to get paid! So why even bother to have a product to sell! For instance, I had to hunt down a bookstore owner this week to make over one hundred dollars worth of purchases from him! What the heck is that about?
2. Choose your staff wisely! Your staff represents you when you can't! If that person is unprofessional, it makes you look the same. Example: I had to force someone to write down a phone message for her boss. I doubt the boss got the message. That company lost a customer. I am not calling back.
3. Never miss an opportunity for publicity, no matter how small! You never know who will see your name and follow up with you! For instance, an article I wrote led to a book signing. I wanted to include others in the article, but they either did not respond or responded too late.
4. Treat people equally despite their status! For example, I am not one to drop names or go into detail about who I know, who I am, etc. I shouldn't have to...I'm a customer or I'm someone who's going to give you customers. Yet, I've found that unless I announce my title, I am given the brush off! Folks, you never know who is who, so treat all people with the same respect.
5. Take complaints seriously! Your friends won't tell you the truth because they don't want to hurt your feelings! The point of doing business is to do it well. If you don't accept criticism, how can you improve? When a customer complains, be gracious, not defensive. If you are defensive, you could lose money. For instance, I decided to stop doing business with a company I have patronized for over ten years because of this. Little do they know, they not only lost my business but any business from the college where I work.
6. God helps those who helps themselves! African Americans must learn to support each other. We must learn to give as well as take. It is through giving that we receive. For instance, I went to local businesses requesting donations for a community center fundraiser. The donations are all tax deductible, plus the company receives free publicity at the event. The only company who jumped at the opportunity was white-owned and operated! What is it that black business owners don't get about doing business? Bartering is a time honored way of doing business, but black folk don't seem to get that! We don't realize it's bartering. We think it's a freebie and so we refuse to give. Again, you must give to receive!
7. Last but not least: BE ON TIME!!! I'm not even going to get into this one in detail. As a customer, why should I wait around to give you my money? You are not doing me a favor by taking my money! I, for one, am done waiting. There's too much competition out there. I just go to the next company or person instead of waiting.
8. My favorite: Under promise and over deliver! A man is his word! A woman is her word! If there is even the slimmest possibility that you will be unable to fulfill an obligation, don't even make it! Sure, "spit" happens, but for some of us, making promises we can't keep is how we operate. I've done business with several black promoters of self-published books and not one of them lived up to their contracts! Not only will they never get business from me again, but I will never refer them to any potential customers.
There are a lot of African Americans who think of themselves and portray the front that they are professionals, but they are not professional at all! I know, because I am a real one! How can you tell? A real professional NEVER USES THE WORD!!! THEY JUST LIVE IT!