If you haven’t been to Atlanta, you may not be aware that it is THEE HUB for dope and thriving Black-owned businesses.
Atlanta is home to mega-brands like Slutty Vegan, The Gathering Spots, Support Black Colleges (just to name a few), and has endless resources and communities offering both free and paid support for budding entrepreneurs. If you are in Atlanta or have access to the internet, you should be taking advantage of a season that will surely go down in history has the rise of Black equity in finance and business.
As many of you know, the rules have never been fair for black people or women (especially Black Women), but one thing that we’ve always had to our advantage is that there is strength and power in community. Building community can look different from where you are in life, but it should have the same impact. The African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together” applies in business too. When you look at moguls like Lebron James and Issa Rae, you see them build and grow with some of the same people from beginning to end. Obviously, everyone isn’t meant to go with you but find the people who are and get to it.
Here are a few tips on how to leverage someone else’s wins and failures to get where you want to go faster.
1. Identify the people in your life that are already wining in areas you want to win in.
Both Lebron James and Issa Rae looked at the people around them and saw potential in what they could do together. You would not believe how many times I hear, “You can’t work with family,” or “You can’t work with friends.” Wrong. There are people across the globe growing and building with the people around them because they have dope people around them. If you don’t see value in the community around you, you probably need to consider a new community. Let that sink in. Even if you aren’t going to build with those people who already love and support you, you will certainly need their encouragement along the way.
For the people that can be a potential resource, you want to make sure you identify them AND identify their skills sets. What do they have that you don’t? What can you learn from them? Is there a way to collaborate on something that they want to do too? You should have a basic understanding of what partnership could look like and who is already around you that can partner with you.
2. Figure out what a win-win scenario looks like.
This is the thing that people have a hard time doing. Yes, you should leverage your community but don’t be a leech. Anytime you are leveraging information or a skillset, you need to understand this should always be an exchange. In order to keep these relationships they should be mutually beneficial. Creating a win-win situation should not be weird. When you make your ask, make sure that you also communicate what you will give in exchange. For example, I’m always texting my group of advisors and saying, “Hey, I have a problem that I need you to help me solve. Can I buy you lunch or would you prefer me to pay you for your time?”
Why? Because people get paid to share their thoughts and ideas all the time. We all are literally paid for our time and expertise in our 9 to 5’s or business ventures. You understanding that information is power and time is money is a sure-fire way to garner respect from the experts around you. And honestly, most of my friends and family turn my money down and will barter my expertise instead. Why? Because community wins every freaking time. But, I would also gladly pay them, so don’t act funky if someone wants money for their time.
Also don’t forget that if you don’t have certain expertise in your circle there is both free information available and paid services to have an expert’s time and wisdom. When you can’t create a win-win with the people around you, pay for it. Hire a consultant that already has a system built-in to understand your problem and help you journey to an effective solution. Either way, it’s a win.
3. Come to the table with a clear understanding of where you are and what you want.
Come to the table prepared. Let me say that again. Come to the table… PREPARED. Whether you are meeting with friends or a professional consultant, understand that they are not magicians. They can’t build your business for you and they can’t solve a problem that you don’t even fully understand. For example, you need support increasing sales, so you reach out to someone to help you strategize. As you are explaining the problem, the expert has questions but you don’t have the answers or enough confidence to make a quick speculation. This will lead to an ineffective meeting. You will be working to collect the information during your time instead of focusing on the solution. The truth is: you were not prepared.
If the person is a professional, they should already have questions or things you can do to prepare for your time. If not, this is something you will need to do. Bring information and data around your problem to be sure the person will be able to ask the right questions and offer the best solutions. In the same vein, anyone who doesn’t ask for more information or offers generic advice as a one-sized fits all should get the squinty eye.
Y’all. I mean this as disrespectfully as possible: Stop wasting people’s time. You have to be willing to implement strategy and try new things if you are going to ask for someone’s time and energy. By no means do I believe you should take what everyone says word for word, but I do think that you should leave the table with something new that you actually implement. If you keep going to the same people for the same problem, when you haven’t implemented what they said previously- that’s one way to frustrate your community. Value peoples time and energy towards your business by listening and applying at least some of their input.
5. Create opportunities for others.
Last but not least, be sure to return the favor. In order for this to work on a larger scale, you have to find a way to share what you’ve learned over time. I’m not saying that you should spend two years in business and become a coach, but what I am saying is that as you truly master problems and create tried and true solutions, find ways to help others go further faster.
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