Dr Boyce Watkins: Black people must build structured organizations, not one-man, mom-and-pop shops
by Dr Boyce Watkins
I recently attended an event where I bumped into an angry man who felt that I’d “dissed” him. He said, “I’ve been trying to get you on the phone for months and you never called me back.”
The thing was that I didn’t really know the brother, and I had only recently found out that he’d been trying to call me. But it did turn out that several members of my team had reached out to him, to no avail. From what I was told, the conversations all hit a brick wall when he insisted on speaking to me personally.
I am not sure, but I got the sense that the man felt that he’d been insulted by hearing from one of my team members instead of hearing from me directly.
I wasn’t angry at the brother for feeling this way. When you’re a man who gets a certain degree of attention, you often attract unwanted competition, animosity or perhaps even jealousy from other men who might be compelled to believe that you think you’re better than they are. These situations don’t bother me all that much, because I’ve never believed that I am better than anyone.
But here’s the thing that the brother didn’t seem to understand: I receive thousands of messages, emails, phone call requests, business proposals, love mail, hate mail, informative mail and crazy mail every single week. On one hand, it’s good to hear from my people because a) I love intelligent black people and b) it shows that my work is having an impact.
But one downside of hearing from so many people is that you run into a zillion different personality types, from the incredibly gracious, to those who hate you for no reason, to those who clearly suffer from some kind of mental illness. In some of these messages, there is inevitably going to be that person who hates your guts because you didn’t “keep it real” by responding to their quest for a personal one-on-one meeting.
When I first became an entrepreneur, my goal was to always work as hard as I possibly could. Life is short, so I didn’t want to waste time. As time went on, I went from wanting to work hard, to trying harder to work smart. I knew that in order to build an adequate company, I couldn’t possibly operate as a one man show, where I was the secretary, the CEO, the accountant and everything in-between. Instead, I learned that in order to scale up to a certain level, I had to learn how to delegate.
So, when I receive those thousands of messages each week, everything is delegated to someone on the team. Tasks are distributed broadly to those who can keep me from becoming the bottleneck in my own organization. Most phone calls and/or emails are returned, but I’m not the one returning them. This allows me to do what I do best: Teach classes, do my videos, give speeches, hold meetings with team members and write articles like this. I can’t do all these things if I am spending 90 hours a week on the phone and responding to email.
So, how does this link back to the anecdote I mentioned at the start of this article? It means that black people don’t need one-man shows in our businesses, we need institutions. A one-man corporation dies when the leader is gone, but an institution can last a thousand years after the founder is dead.
Simultaneously, we must respect the institutions built by others and not have our feelings hurt because the CEO doesn’t have time for a phone call. There is a ton of work to do and not much time to do it. We can be far more productive when we aren’t getting emotional because we feel that we’ve been “dissed” by somebody else. In fact, when I invited David Banner to speak at The All Black National Convention, I didn’t expect us to speak personally until the day of the event because I know he has a busy schedule. While I could have demanded a personal phone call in advance, I respected the hierarchy of his organization and only needed my manager to speak to his.
That’s how things can get done.
So, if you want to build a company that is lasting and productive, learn how to develop an organization and not a mom-and-pop shop. We must operate based on structure and not just the politics of personality. By building structures and systems that scale and allow for adequate team building, we are not only able to get more done, but we can hire and support members of our community. This is how we can leave our children a true economic legacy.
Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and founder of The Black Wealth Bootcamp, a popular online course for those seeking to get off the corporate plantation. To learn more, please visit TheBlackWealthBootcamp.com.