If there is one thing I hate it’s when Black people speak ill against Black businesses and boast about only doing business with other racial groups. I am a strong proponent of Black-owned businesses, and I believe we should work with and support one another’s businesses. But I recently had a not so pleasant experience with a Black-owned business that caused me to rethink a few things. I give you fair warning that I will be venting.
My brother’s and I decided to remodel our childhood home. After receiving a few bids, we selected a Black contractor who provided a proposal that we accepted and immediately started on the work. My first concern was that this contractor whom I will call “Lewis” brought in a crew and began work without a signed contract in place. We’re honest people and had a budget set aside, but having been a professional for years, I never would have started a project with anyone without a signed contract.
We finally got an official contract in place and after the work was supposed to be completed, according to the timeline, it was far from complete. I was raised in a family of contractors and understand that this isn’t totally uncommon. A few weeks past the deadline, Lewis called to let us know the job was finished. When my brothers and I went to our house to inspect the work, we were shocked at the shoddy job that had been done: paint drippings left on the floorboards and carpet, windows that had been painted shut and could not be opened, nail imprints on the ceiling that had not puttied over and smoothed which left a bumpy finish, new light fixtures poorly installed that were dangling by wires, shoe prints with paint on the carpet, and more.
After much back and forth, including hiring a different person to clean up paint drips on the floor and fireplace that Lewis and his team missed, the job was finally finished. Both my brothers and I agreed that we will never again work with Lewis. My brothers and I had been so excited about the prospect of working with a Black contractor as the Black population in our town is quite low and we are strong proponents of supporting Black businesses.
I wondered if Lewis and crew had been working for an Asian or European family would they have been more careful in their work or would have stuck more closely to their timeline. I know that not every Black contractor or business owner behaves like Lewis and his crew. But having heard other Black people complain about the shoddy or underhanded services they’ve received from Black businesses; I can honestly understand where they are coming from when they say that they will no longer work with Black people and will only work with professionals from other racial groups.
Although I understand this sentiment, I don’t share it. The experience that my brothers and I had with Lewis was painful and frustrating to say the least. But it will not be the last time that I work with Black businesses. In fact, I intend to double down in my quest to work with Black business owners who are professional, and I will do a much better job of vetting the Black businesses with whom I work.
I was once told by an Ashkenazi Jewish friend that his people prefer to work with one another, but they closely examine who they will work with in their community, and if they don’t find anyone who fits the bill, they look outside of their community. But with all things being equal, they prefer to work with their own, but won’t lower the bar.. This sounds wise to me. I prefer to work with my own community and keep money with my own people. Although my experience with Lewis and crew was sobering, it won’t stop me from looking within my own community to do business.
I’ve been thinking about how to bring serious Black professionals and business owners together who will bring their A-game to our community and not do a “Lewis.” If you’re one of those business owners with an A-game, hit me up at email@example.com and tell me about your business.