100% Black or White owned?

2 min read

This week, a new 24-hour news channel went live on DSTV channel 405 here in South Africa. The company is being described as a 100% Black-owned channel. This description “100% Black-owned” caught my attention. It always does but not for the reasons you might think. 

100% Black-owned? What does this mean? 

Does it mean that it is only Black people who own and run this business? If so, will they attribute the success or failure of this business to the fact it is 100% Black-owned? If Black-owned, does this mean they won’t be able to consult other races for input in running the business? Can a qualified White, Indian or Colored presenter work for the business? When the business needs a capital injection (which it will need), can a White, Indian or Colored person make this investment? If this business accepts this capital injection, will that be construed as diverging from the core identity of the business? Can White people claim their business is 100% White-owned? Do White-owned businesses succeed or fail because they are 100% White-owned?

Notice where this line of thinking leads to…

When racial connotations are attached to businesses of any kind, it sends shivers up and down my spine. Why attach a racial connotation to a business venture? Why do we fall into this trap, all the time?

We do so because we attach our significance and value to our race rather than our competence. We do it all the time. It’s the proverbial monkey on our shoulders which puts us under pressure from the onset—pressure we need not have. Once we attach any connotation of a race to a business venture, the onus is on the people of that particular race to make sure the business succeeds. This is a recipe for failure from the word go. 

There is also a sense that the racial labelling of any business is an overreaction to injustices of the past, and in our particular case, apartheid. Justified? Not really. What if it is a ploy from masterminds of the industry to hinder the influence that a particular business may have in the future. If you label my business Black-owned, the assumption of the man on the street is this—we only cater to a certain demographic. If you are White, Indian or Colored, you will stay away from this business, hence my business will not have a global reach—all people. This also opens a door for other races to label their business as per their race. This leads us down a path that is treacherous to say the least.

Race has nothing to do with the success or failure of a business venture. In actual fact, emphasis on race will inhibit the success of any life, business, marriage, and even a nation.

If you only have Black people in a business and they do not have character nor apply sound leadership and management principles, that business will fail, dismally.

If you only have white people in a business and they do not have character nor apply sound leadership and management principles, that business will fail, dismally.

Conventional wisdom on running a successful business

Conventional wisdom states that a business fails or succeeds based on character and competence—sound leadership and management principles. Period! 

This business will be successful not because it is 100% Black-owned. It will be successful if the visionaries exhibit two qualities—character and competence. If the visionaries of this business have rock solid character—trustworthy, honest, loyal, kind, stable, patient, etc., (intrinsic values), and are competent—sound leadership and management skills, etc., (extrinsic values), then this business will flourish. These two time-tested qualities work regardless of race.

These two qualities could work out like this in practical terms……Build your business and work hard at it. Plan well. Pay your employees well and on time. Plan for the long haul. Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. Get mentors and coaches to help you. Invest in technologies. Get the right people on the bus in the right seats. (Jim Collins – Good to Great) Know your core products and services. Diversify your employee stratum (all colours, all genders, all religions, etc.) Serve the community by ploughing back (your profits—at least 10%) into disadvantaged communities—help the vulnerable and marginalized. Above all else, Christian businessmen and women should trust God’s chesed or favour and do this one thing—the tithe.

You do all these and more and your life, business, marriage, and nation have a good chance of making it, bigly. 

That’s what grace looks like


Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash