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What Would Olivia Pope Do? Business Lessons from Our Beloved Black TV Characters

I look everywhere for business coaching teachable moments. I love my favorite Black tv show nights, whether I’m keeping up from week to week or binging at the end of a season with popcorn and wine, you know, Olivia Pope-style. I love supporting Black female leading actresses, and I like the entertainment and drama, but a speaker at One Church LA said something profound in a recent sermon. He said, “God doesn’t show you other people’s mess for entertainment. Their mess is your message.” So lately, I’ve turned up my radar and I look for messages in life and business everywhere. I thought I’d share a few business coaching tips and lessons from some of my favorite Black tv shows for my sistahpreneurs on the grind.

Before you say, “that’s just tv”, or get your Judge Judy gavel out on these characters, take a closer look and make sure that they are not mirroring even a hint of some of the dysfunctions in your own business practices, relationships and decisions.

Braxton Family Values business coaching: on customer feedback.

Oh, Tamar, Tamar. I love you. You’re hilarious and I buy your music…but you gotta stop talking to people crazy. You’re 40. Knock it off. Your version of love is not everybody’s love language. Anyhoo, that was a side note – my business coaching focus for this section is actually on Trina.

Trina struggles to take feedback for a business that serves food – at a tasting designed for her to get feedback – no less! Ooh chile. I’m picky about my plate. Now, the feedback is admittedly not given constructively – but who expects Tamar Braxton to communicate constructively? Not I. Nonetheless, business success is predicated on your ability to rapidly adjust to customer needs. When taste-testers are real enough to share their views, no matter how negative they may be, take it like a champ and use it to make quick and solid improvement. Sorry, Trina. I know Tamar is a hot mess but you need to go ahead and fix them chicken wangs.

The lesson for us sistahpreneurs: Take the feedback or lose that customer, their return business, their referrals and any customers that feel the same way they do.

Queen Sugar business coaching: on uninformed investments.

Man. First and foremost a moment of silence for Ava’s brilliance. I often have to pause the show to absorb a character’s line.

As for the business coaching lesson here – it’s the episode that these mamma-jammas bought bad seeds for the farm. Ralph Angel, desperate to get sugar cane seed in time for planting, listens to an old co-worker who mentions that he has family with a sugarcane farm they’re shutting down, so they sell Ralph Angel enough seed cane for 70 acres. When Remy inspects the product, he concludes that it’s infected with fungus.The farm loses $15,000 and still has to find good seed.They were trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents, admirably, but didn’t do their homework and got hustled.

The lesson for us sistahpreneurs: inspect and research your vendors before making major investments. Study and compare pricing and quality. Look at customer reviews and BBB ratings. Don’t forget to get the refund policy in writing. Finally, ask for your partner’s’ input before making major investments! Having another opinion at the table, could have saved Ralph Angel and the Queen Sugar crew 15k (Because we all know Remy and Charley would have told him to have several seats).

Side note shout-out: How about those boss moves Charley made with investors and her ex? Now those were mogul moves. More on that for the next blog.

Mary, Mary business coaching: on shared vision.

I’ve discussed shared vision in my partner advice blog. Creating a shared vision in your business partnership is foundational to your success. Yet, it is evident from episode to episode that these two sisters are gifted, anointed and never on the same page about success. They have different work ethic: Erica is on that grind, seizing any opportunity to the point of burnout and laryngitis. Tina is about that family life, forcing her career opportunities to get in where they can fit in. They have different skill sets. Tina is the stronger voice (at least they seem to paint that perception in the show)  and she will make every hair on your body stand up with a note and while Erica’s voice is beautiful, she brings more business savvy professionalism to the table. This could actually be a good thing if they could figure out how to capitalize on their strengths. They have different goals. Erica is building an empire and is strategic about her career plan long term. Tina just wants to do what she loves while focusing on her family, and will bust out the gates with a tour that lacks proper strategy and resources out of nowhere.

The whole dichotomy is a recipe for disaster, fights and great ratings.

The lesson for us sistahpreneurs: take time to get on the same page with your partner about roles, responsibilities, goals and work ethic.


Power business coaching: on supplier chains.

So shout-out to Tasha on Power for always knowing how the money works. She understands the intricacies of their operation and was about that coin. Her husband played chess and constantly gave his partner Tommy the business when he wanted to make a rash move without considering the landscape, the competitors, the supplier chain.
The lesson for us sistahpreneurs: think strategically, consider the domino effect of your business decisions and understand cash flow.

Sistahpreneurs, I would love your perspective! Comment below and let me know what lessons you draw from these  and other scenarios from our beloved Black television shows.

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Makisha

Makisha Boothe is business coach and founder of Sistahbiz Global Network. She specializes in rapid improvement and innovation, and helps women with business startup and design.

11 Comments

  1. Sahada Sesay on April 19, 2017 at 3:10 am

    Love the new blog!
    I’m a small business owner in Denver, Co.
    I recently took a sistahpreneurs half-day business workshop.
    It was intimate, informative, and I left with real tools and knowledge without feeling overwhelmed..
    I’m excited for part-2 of the workshop and finding more tools to help build my business!

    • Kisha on April 27, 2017 at 10:09 pm

      It was a blast working with you in the goal digger workshop, Sahada! I look forward to the Ground Fitness launch!

  2. Hanifah on April 19, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    Great perspective using reality as a learning tool. Love seeing how you have taken each step on your journey to a higher level, informing, educating and sharing your knowledge.

    • Kisha on April 27, 2017 at 10:09 pm

      Thanks, Hanifah!

  3. Kadija Taylor on April 19, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Talk about real time business coaching advice! I can relate to all four scenarios but the last topic concerning supplier chains spoke directly to me. Being sure that both my dollars and my time are wisely invested in people and places that will yield significant returns means everything to me at this point in my business.

    Thank you Makisha!!

    • Kisha on April 27, 2017 at 10:08 pm

      Your very welcome! Thanks, Kadija!

  4. Natasha Taplin on April 20, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Re all the shows: Is there a take away about going into business with family? I’m considering but unsure.

    • Kisha on April 27, 2017 at 10:08 pm

      Natasha, Check out our blog on doing business with family. I would say Mary Mary and Queen Sugar have lots of real takeaways for sistahs considering business with family. Thanks for asking!

  5. Kimberly Thomas on April 27, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Love this!! I do this all the time, with All tv. These are great take aways and there are even more going on around us everyday! Keep it going!!

    • Kisha on May 22, 2017 at 5:59 am

      Thanks, Sis!

  6. Kisha on May 8, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Thank you!

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