We often bemoan the level or type of service you are likely to get from the average black business. We complain about quality, competence, tardiness, professionalism. These complaints are so ubiquitous that even as you read this article you know of the exact sentiment I am trying to express without my having done so.
Today, I was given the most amazing Christmas present: an ambitious, knowledgeable black African entrepreneur with an acute appreciation of quality, customer service and people management.
Problem: I have been having gardeners intermittently attend to my garden. I am painfully particular. I like my garden (in truth my cars, offices, books, files, golf clubs, shoes, suits, shirts, you get the point) clean, organized and meticulously kept.
Solution: I need a professional gardening service but I insist that the gardener must be black.
Fast forward fours years, and its been an on-again off-again disappointment.
Enter Madaniri. He was referred to me by another gardening service in my estate. They were already too full to take on more work so they referred to me this unknown entity, Madaniri. I spoke to Madaniri once on the the phone. We agreed he would arrive at 7am, his fee would be dependent on the size of my yard. In truth, my expectations were another poor representation of black business.
Man was I in for a surprise.
1. Arrived Early
He arrived at 6:40am. He then spent 10mins surveying the garden, taking notes carefully on his customer notebook, looking at the size of the yard, checking my landscaping as well as what seemed like the condition of my soil, grass and plants.
2. Manage People
He then rallied his team around and briefed them on their roles and responsibilities as well as what they should be careful of.
As his team set-off, he spent his time meticulously paying attention to detail of his team. Calling them back where he felt they had missed a spot, and correcting their behaviour.
3. Feedback before price
Before we discussed price he felt it important to tell ask me what I thought of the service. What did I think he could do to improve? What I satisfied? Would I recommend him to a friend?
Before he left, we agreed on when next he would return and what he would spend his time doing. He also made recommendations to get my garden in a better condition and agreed to carry out the work.
What a superb display.
I end the year with hope restored. Here is an example of what black entrepreneurs are capable of. Excellent service. Customer focus. Expert knowledge of the services they render.
I maintain my view: black businesses must define themselves as business first then black second. Consumers are drawn by value, customer experience and quality. Race plays a distant second.
Side note: We ALL holds these mental models. Whether by design, through experience or default, we are ALL guilty of holding these biases. What is important to act on principle: support black business.