Always ask. Don’t assume someone or some organization is going to decline. In fact, the worst they can say is no, and if nothing else that is another person that knows about your company that didn’t before. Also, what if they say yes? Sometimes it only takes one yes.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Black Men In Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danilo Batson.
A young man born and raised in Southern California who sought to make an impact in his community. Through his work and network, he was able to create his own lane on how he planned to be impactful in the world of social justice. He is working to continue his message and is looking for those who want to help grow that mission.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Yes, growing up in Southern California as a black man I have had my share of experiences that led me on my path to becoming passionate about social justice. With that, the common thing that comes up is many people feel like they don’t have the platform or the resources to help. After an abundance of people kept reaching out to me asking how they could help out I was able to put a plan in motion and create our organization, Spicy Green Book.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
To me, the most interesting part is the huge waves of demand and support. This was supposed to be a local venture. Then I had so many people from other states, countries, and continents reaching out asking me who they could help or if we could extend our reach to their area. It was so humbling and encouraging to see that all these people believed in the vision.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
To my knowledge, I don’t think I have made any really big mistakes yet. Hopefully, that doesn’t mean one is on the way. What I have learned is that no one will see your vision as you do. So, you have to sell them the dream and make them believe in it. You have to be the driver of the passion and keep everyone around you motivated. I work with volunteers so they can come and disappear at any time so it’s my job to show them why they work is so important and remind them how grateful I am to have them working on this.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
The hard times for me has been feeling like I am not doing enough. Watching black men and women get killed every day is hard. It made me want to get out of my house and make work to change this. I had to keep reminding myself that in the long run what I am doing will achieve that. That I have my role in this and even if it is just me and my laptop at the moment, this will make that change happen.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have so many people wanting to help out that I couldn’t possibly name everyone. We have over 300 volunteer applicants and we are only three months in. Some people have stayed and some people could only afford so much time for this. Regardless, they all made a huge impact and Spicy Green Book wouldn’t have made it this far without each and every one of them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I like the quote “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”. I faintly remember reading something saying not many things compare to what we feel when giving back. I feel excited about the work we are doing and feel fulfilled. I can’t say I had that feeling before and it drives me every day.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
The boiling point is not being heard. So many people are getting hurt and ignored today. Communities are crying out for help and instead of helping our people in the positions of power say well don’t ask for help in that way. Somewhere a lot of our humanity was lost. We have been so preoccupied with being right and winning the argument on social media and forget about the real families being affected.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
I cannot. To me its blatantly obvious so nothing I say is going to change that person’s mind. The way I see it is why would I want to run a business and have a bunch of people who think like me surrounding me? How am I going to have a different perspective on possible strategies? I see these businesses selling to a target audience they don’t identify with and constantly fail when you try to pitch to that demographic. There is an obvious benefit on just becoming more well-rounded but even if you are only it for the bottom line, having a diverse group will increase your reach as you try to reach different audiences/demographics that you are not a member of.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. It’s hard to be satisfied with the status quo regarding Black Men In Tech in Tech leadership. What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
Well, it starts in education. Who is teaching these young Black men how to gain the skills to pursue a career in tech? This curriculum isn’t widely presented as far as I can see. Mostly presented in education systems that aren’t majority Black. Moreover, if you are living in poverty you may not even be able to afford the technology to keep up to develop such skills. I don’t see tech in these communities being widely taught, available, or accessible to our youth.
We’d now love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
Spicy Green Book is helping small Black-owned businesses. We help them increase their digital presence by connecting them with creative volunteers that can produce high-quality content for their online use. This helps their company reach a new audience. All the more prevalent with a pandemic going on causing reduced foot traffic. Businesses have to survive by being marketable online.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company stands out by not just being a listing service. We are invested in their growth. We are offering all these professional services in marketing and creation all for free. I’m not seeing a lot of companies do that. To which all these services are being put out by professionals to get you premium content. Helping small business owners who know they need it but simply can’t afford to pay for these services or don’t know where to look to find these professionals.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Every day is exciting. We are trying to expand all the time. We continue to hit new markets. We are currently in 13 states. We just made our way into Toronto, Canada which I couldn’t be more excited about. The company is spreading wide and fast reaching from California all the way to Rhode Island and all the states in between. We are seeing a lot of growth and participation.
What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
The biggest thing I’ve seen is that your supporters want to see you. On social media, we try to be engaging, very responsive, and they get to see behind the scenes. People want to support the story. So, we let them in and see where we are and where we are headed. Not just hide behind a logo.
Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
We aren’t in sales so I can’t really speak to that specific pitch as we are a nonprofit. But my answer is still that human connection. So many people I have never met have promoted us just because we try to connect with them on social media. That promotion and spreading our message via word of mouth is invaluable. I can’t say enough about the support. They have been such a huge part of our growth. It has been humbling.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
We have taken the approach in letting the work speak for itself. People see the growth and the community rallying behind it. One client tells another, and it multiplies. In the end, you will hear it better from someone you know instead of a stranger pitching it to you. We live off of referrals and have been fortunate enough to get them thus far. We work to continue to allow those referrals to take us into new markets. I’m happy we have people out there who want to support Spicy Green Book.
Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
Yes, be engaging, be accessible, and express your gratitude in their support. Connecting with the human. A lot of times I support and buy from companies not because I need the product, but I know it will mean something for the person. When I was a teenager, I used to work at a candy store and I was talking to a customer and told her I got a new job at a hat store. She told me that she was going to start coming there to buy hats. She doesn’t even wear hats or want them but told me because of how I treated her, she wanted to come support. That connection can make an organization successful.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
I have noticed that. People who have been with you for a long time have every reason to want to stay. Still, we want to add more to our community of supporters at the same time. I would like to believe the people who have been there feel like they are a part of your success. Through their efforts that the company made it to where it’s at whether or not that company formally employs them. Part of that is letting them in. I want to let my supporters know what is happening behind the curtains. I want them to also get excited about new moves and together we celebrate accomplishments. Someone owns a company only on paper. Without people out there sharing your story and talking to you would that company attain that much success? I say no. I say I owe it to them to try to keep them updated and excited, so they know they are appreciated and that I want to keep them around. Together we work to gain new supporters to add to the family.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Have a consistent voice, do as many favors as you can afford. It will pay you back in so many ways down the road.
- Take the time to make your logistics efficient. It will save you time, headache, and future loss if you have it running smoothly.
- Always ask. Don’t assume someone or some organization is going to decline. In fact, the worst they can say is no, and if nothing else that is another person that knows about your company that didn’t before. Also, what if they say yes? Sometimes it only takes one yes.
- Networking is much more valuable than anything else you can work on so spend the time to strengthen that network.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have a simple answer to this one. Be reliable. That’s it. Show up when you said you would. People work with others because they can trust that person more than anything else. Talent will only take you so far. The most talented actor/actress in the world is going to miss opportunities if they aren’t reliable. They aren’t showing up to events they said they were going to be at is cost some company or companies time, money, and effort. Someone had to pay for studio time while they decided not to come, or they arrive late. I like to think people want to work with me because I am reliable, and they can trust if I said I was going to do something I am going to do everything I can to get It done.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Yes! Michael Render better knowns as Killer Mike. He wears so many hats but does so much in being an activist. I learn so much from him and he had a lot to do with the inspiration of this organization. As I was thinking of starting this company, I was watching his show on Netflix and as he was working to promote Black business it inspired me to put it all in motion. I would love the chance to connect with him. He seems like an overall great human being and not to mention I know we have similar passions in wanting to see good done in our community.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!