23 Feb

RACE IN BUSINESS, DOES IT STILL MATTER?

Posted by Marck E. Estemil

I was debating for several weeks whether or not I should share this thought that has been racing through my head. It is Black History month and you're probably already tired of reading about the racial question and how it shapes business, and business strategy. I promise, at least I hope, that this post will help us look at this issue from a unique perspective. Okay, let's begin.

I belong to an organization that happens to have predominantly black members. This organization is not setup to exclude other race outside of the black community but it happens to be that all of the current members are Black men and women. There was an occasion when the organization needed to entertain proposals from several potential vendors. The presentations varied and they did their best to win our business.

This one particular vendor caught my attention and is the cause of this article. This business owner was a Caucasian male and he decided to bring a Black male employee to present his proposal with him. The Caucasian owner clearly indicated that this Black employee was an expert in his particular field and had almost as much experience as the owner that was presenting. Bringing a Black male employee to present would not be much of an issue if this person had substance to add to the presentation. But in this instance, this was not the case. The Black employee did not say a word and his only value was to handout papers under the direction of the owner.

Clearly this owner brought this employee because he knew the membership of our organization consisted of all Black members. This Black employee's true value was for the organization to sympathize with a familiar face that was different from the Caucasian owner, and with a face that the organization can relate. Almost all of the members immediately came to the same conclusion immediately after their presentation ended, and we all wondered why this owner thought it was necessary for him to bring this employee. Other vendors of all race presented, some solo, and some with partners who contributed to the presentation. But this vendor's method seem almost deceptive by his choice to bring this Black employee.

The organization did not allow the business owner's presentation to deter us from choosing the best qualified vendor. The vendor in question was ultimately not chosen but it had nothing to do with the race of the Caucasian business owner, nor his Black employee. His proposal was simply not as solid as the proposal that was chosen as the finalist, regardless of race. I can understand from a strategic standpoint what this Caucasian owner had in mind, but was it necessary? Where did he go wrong? Maybe you believe that he did the right thing? I'd love to get your feedback, was the Caucasian owner's decision to bring a Black employee a good business strategy to help him win the bid?