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Often, when someone genuinely criticises some of our conducts, we ascribe it to racism. I used the word, ‘our’ because as a black person, I cannot separate myself from the pending and lingering issues befalling our community. I was forced to write this article, not as, maybe, not having something to feature on my blog, but because I feel that one of us should add his voice to, not just criticise the way we do things, but also proffer solutions, as that is the basis of my intention when I started blogging.

For years, I have looked into the way we run our businesses. Having lived in two separate continents (Africa and Europe), I have concluded that except we change our styles, we may continue to be the race with the highest consumption rate, while at the same time, hardly producing anything.

Recently, I was in a workshop sponsored by London Office of the Commonwealth and a host of other organisations. Its main topic was on Small and Medium Enterprises in Nigeria. One word continually repeated by the resource persons was ‘challenges’. Every one of them agreed that there are huge business opportunities in Africa, but the challenges are enormous. Most of the challenges mentioned are not technologically inclined but are due to human factors. What I have realised is that these human factors seem to be the common issues among our community. Why?

I accept that years of slavery, colonisation, and present day direct and indirect discrimination are the subtle contributors to our inabilities to make certain things work. But, if we have the will to succeed, no amount of intimidation should stop us from doing things right.

Having said that, what should black businesses recognise as major challenges that need urgent attention?

Structure: two people were given the task of climbing a tree in 5 minutes. When the whistle was blown, the first person quickly rushed onto the tree, while the second waited for about 2 minutes. People around were hailing the first guy as he attempted to climb; others were calling the second, a lazy man. After 2 minutes, the second guy moved closer to the tree and in a jiffy, was on top while the first was still struggling. What did the second do in order to finish first? He apportioned the 5 minutes into thinking, planning, and strategising. With that, he developed a structure.

What most black businesses lack is structure. We easily run down to do things, without first and foremost thinking on the best method of doing it. Without knowing the best method, you will use the most difficult method.

Where there is a structure, the system is not easily abused. Let there be structure in what you do.

Function: sometimes, there are structures, but those structures are either sleeping or dead. A sleeping or dead structure cannot function. On other occasions, those structures may even function but are by-passed. How then, can it work when for one reason or the other, someone has decided not to use it?

Communication: for two years, I have been contacting some businesses within our community, but the most frustrating thing is that they don’t respond. A couple of weeks ago, I contacted one of our newspapers because I wanted to place an ad, but to my utmost surprise, they didn’t respond. I went to their Facebook page and posted a comment about my intent, yet, there was no response. So I concluded that it may have been a ghost posting their Facebook updates.

What is most shocking is that some of our big businesses especially in Africa don’t have online presence, and if they do, they either don’t have email addresses attached to them or never respond to messages. When you call, they tell you to send email; when you send email, you don’t hear from them.

Our businesses must realise that for growth to occur, our attitudes toward communication must change for good. I don’t understand why some businesses worth a million dollars will not endeavour to have a website, have working email addresses, or have someone, who will at least be in charge of communications. It is so frustrating. What makes it more frustrating is that the issues being trashed shouldn’t actually be problems as there are free services on the internet for anyone to use. The problem is the mindset, and it must be changed if we must measure up with thriving businesses.

Emotion: you don’t need to hire your brother if he’s not qualified to do the job, but do you know what? Out of sentiment, we put our relatives to be in charge of jobs that they can’t do. Then, in a couple of years, that is if it gets to years, the business is dead and gone for good.

Network: if you don’t know how to do it, ask someone who knows, but for you to see who to ask, you must step out of your shell. Many black businesses are still in their shells. They hardly come out to ask questions. They simply die on assumptions, and then blame witchcraft for messing up their businesses.

Sometimes, it is wrong network that gets us caught in the wrong web. Your association must be connected with your need. If it isn’t, you will get the wrong advice.

Envy: if you can’t do it, rather than envy someone who can, please ask the person to teach you. Simple!

Black on black envy makes everyone want to do his own thing. On your own, you can achieve very little. You need people. You need contacts. You need values. Envy depreciates values; it reduces your worth. It makes you earn less than you should. If you put envy aside, and humble yourself to learn from those ahead of you, in one year, your value will sporadically enhance.

Let us, as black and potential black business owners do the best we can to defeat the minor challenges that befall us. We can compete with the bigger world because we have the intelligence and willpower to achieve it. Together, we can win. Let us go ahead and win!

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Ken is a leadership Motivation, Strategy and Personal Development Writer, Blogger and Speaker. He writes for a number of magazines and blogs. He is also a mentor and published author of several books.

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