Many young African American leaders are giving the economic foundations of the African American community a reboot through entrepreneurial success. One standout is Dante Lee (@dantelee), CEO of Diversity City Media and founder of BlackPR.com and BlackNews.com. His book Black Business Secrets: 500 Tips, Strategies, and Resources for the African American Entrepreneur breaks new ground by fusing insights from past leadership with those from new entrepreneurs who have staked successful claims. I learned about his book while browsing a bookstore, and picked up a copy for review.
All-in-one small business coaching
Lee opens the book with history and statistics on minority startups, then segues into a Q&A with established business leaders such as Bob Johnson, founder of BET, Wally Amos of “Famous Amos” cookies, and George Fraser, founder of the FraserNet conference. He also wisely highlights Frarah Gray, the youngest black business millionaire outside of entertainment; Tom Burrell of Burrell Communications; Nadine Thompson, founder of Warm Spirit; and Gwen Richardson, founder of Cushcity.com. There’s also a foreword by Randall Pinkett, author of Black Faces in White Places (see the review), so a cross-generation of leaders appears throughout the segment and book.
Black Business Secrets is written to coach a person starting out in entrepreneurship. It is not extremely deep in subject matter, but as perspective-packed as it is in a 289-page paperback format, it’s not supposed to guide your every step in a specific industry. Lee offers a number of resources appropriate to the topic, be it freelancers, consultants or those seeking government grants. Secrets is a great gateway for readers who are approaching business building from many lifestyles.
Understandably, Lee’s forte–online media–shows in the chapter on cyberpreneurs. He clearly understands today’s entrepreneurial landscape. For example, Lee cautions against obsession with hits, an argument I have read many times online, but Lee frames the right explanation of how measuring hits has no relationship with serving your customers: “Nobody cares how many hits your website gets.” Moreover, the suggested resources are perfect for businesses looking for an African American online audience but unaware of which sites are best for potential engagement.
Gain entrepreneurial acumen in down-to-earth language
Some of Lee’s advice can seem too anecdotal, especially in the opening segments, but it is meant to summarize material that may be best studied in a longer book. Take, for example, a comment about offering a product or service that can be copied by competitors.
“Running a business that can be easily duplicated is dangerous…the real solution is to lock it down.”
Lee does go on to describe five ways to lock it down. But books like Service Innovation, which examines how to dissect services to discover new offerings to customers, expound using actionable details and methodologies.
Yet the advice that is better served with further detail segues into meatier, straightforward segments on best business practices, finance, and marketing tips. Lee grounds these tips with seasoned business acumen. As a result, chapters read in down-to-earth language and convey brilliant experience, rather than the “Top 10 blogpost outtakes” found in many books today. The business grant information is particularly useful, eliminating the myths and highlighting the facts.
Lee’s best comments provide answers to situations with detrimental outcomes. When addressing family and friends who want the free “hook up” he provides a solution:
“Create VIP discount passes for friends and family. Explain that they are truly VIPs because they are committed to helping you create a strong foundation for your business or professional services.”
Another tip directs our attention to bad clients and the value of time to good clients:
“Most of us – particularly those who offer services instead of products – seek loyal customers, but loyalty is overpriced when it begins to consume too much time and energy – and thus destroys profits…. Consider how much business he actually adds to your bottom line versus how much he really costs your company – be the cost money or time spent in expensive do-overs or mediating unnecessary dramas.”
Lee also offers splendid tips aimed at authors who seek media promotion for their latest release. How-tos on press releases also provide value. And Lee also includes contributions from other professionals. In the case of the client value comment, he adds a few words from G. Richard Shell, a professor of legal studies at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
With Lee’s straightforward advice, Black Business Secrets unlocks the entrepreneur mind-set in its readers. So if you are a new small business owner, add it to your reading resources. You’ll find your odds for success improve with each page and will soon begin taking each word to heart.