Everyone I associate with is a black entrepreneur, but only two are true black entrepreneurs, and they know how to explore opportunities.
You may ask what a true black entrepreneur is. It is someone who is unafraid to grow, take their experience, and expand their knowledge. What can you do? I can use myself as an example.
One of my recent college classes was Speech, one required before you can move into your major. I was defiant. My ego kicked in hard time. I thought I already knew this. I am a radio jock by trade and have excellent communication skills; I was insulted that the teacher wanted me to prove something I had already proven for over 20 years. But the joke was on me. Read on, and you will see why…
The minute you stop learning, you stop growing. Don’t ever think that you know it all. We get older, things change, and eventually, we become out of touch. When that happens, and you want to continue doing what you have been doing and are still making money (why keep doing something that you have to beg for clients for?), hire someone who can duplicate you. Someone younger who knows your industry from a different angle. Once you learn the formula, you don’t have to keep grinding. When you make money, it’s time to spend it on the business, but not frivolously.
Surrounding Yourself with older people in your profession to Teach you valuable lessons
I attend two types of industry events where people my age go: those who are very successful and still in the loop, and those where people go who never grow and are stuck in yesterday and what used to be. Some people work in the industry and are well into their 60s, but most of that small population is extremely successful.
Others hang on, waiting for another basic opportunity at 50. They eventually become bitter and/or sad, feeling as if the industry threw them away. But the truth is, they were not prepared, and it’s very depressing to watch. Had I not started my own business, for example, in my early 30s, I would not still be in the music industry today.
There was no way I would have allowed myself to be a 50-year-old DJ unless I was Rick Dees or Casey Kasem. But there are 50-year-old DJs and older who are still where they were 20 years ago. That may be perfectly fine for them, but it would not have been okay for me. A few years ago, I went to a party for a man who was leaving LA.
He had worked in the industry for 40 years and was ready to retire and move to another state. I went to his event, and many older people were there in their 60s and 70s. It was literally like an old folks home. They were just sitting there as if someone had stolen the life out of them. They were barely talking or smiling; they were just sitting there. These people were huge in the music industry 20 or 30 years ago, but the industry was done with them, and it was like they were lost without the industry. Someone whipped out a stack of photo albums from 30 years ago, and those people lit up like Christmas trees.
They Were Laughing, Singing, Dancing, and Having an Amazing Time by Connecting to What Was instead of what IS
It was terribly unfortunate to me, but I was glad to see them happy. At the same time, I realized I did not want that to be me when I got older. When I get older (God willing), I want to still work, produce, and connect to great current things and people. If you want to see who you will become in 20 years by doing what you are doing now, talk to one of those people and see what kind of advice they can give you based on where you are now. I’m willing to bet you they will tell you to diversify your talents.
What Else Can You Do with What You Know?
Being a Broadcasting professional with excellent communication skills makes the sky the limit, but only if I am willing to explore the opportunities. I am often amazed at how many minority radio people never step outside the radio realm. Excellent communication skills are key to many things: motivational speaker, actor, voice talent, TV host, event host, and media contact for a corporation. The list goes on and on, but a lot more than radio.
I left radio in 1999 before I was 40 and have not regretted one day of it. I knew it was time to make room for new talent, and I didn’t enjoy it anymore. We must understand that we cannot do the same thing forever unless we love it that much, and even then, it is not promised if a corporation wants to bring in someone younger.
Education Is Not Only Key, but It’s also Business Life and Death.
There are always seminars and events happening. Here in LA, I learn about things in the paper on Thursdays, and because I have a leading industry site, I get invited to many events. Next year, I hope to go to the Cannes Film Fest for the first time. I’ve been invited several times to many events, but I would rarely go. I was burnt out from doing the industry scene for 20 years. But then I realized as long as people invite you, you should go because you never know who you may meet to bolster your career.
It’s time to take advantage of these things; people are watching you. Even though you may not know it, they are watching. And if they perceive you as having value, you will notice that you will start getting invitations to events. If not, go on your own and make contacts or call and ask them to put you on the list. The more people you meet who do what you do and beyond, the better.
Surround Yourself with People Who Are Smarter Than You…
There was a time when I found myself being the go-to guy for other Black entrepreneurs. It was very frustrating because nobody was feeding me while I was feeding everyone. I was drained, and it took me a while to realize I had to change my social circles because I had conquered my ability to do what I do. I was now an expert, and I would either move on or remain stuck, which will inevitably destroy your business because current clients don’t last forever, and you must always search for new clients. I had outgrown this group of people; there was no room for growth, just stagnation.
ELIMINATE THOSE ENTREPRENEURS AROUND YOU WHO REFUSE TO GROW
Once again, this is saying the same thing as I said before. One trick I pull on what I call “lazy Black entrepreneurs” (people who are always looking for something for free, then they can’t understand why they can’t grow) is if I need the advice of a publicity person, for example, I will take them to lunch. That blows them away because they are not used to someone treating them like that, just to pick their brain. I think it shows supreme respect for what they do, and I am indicating that I want to be treated the same way.
When I do that, they stop calling and asking me for free things because I have raised the bar for them. They can’t, don’t, or perhaps won’t usually match the offer in kind, so they would rather just not call at all, which is fine with me. Usually, I remove their number from my phone, but I keep it in my computer’s address book in case I need them again, and I will do the same thing. But I have learned that when you call a lazy Black entrepreneur for a friendly conversation, you open the floodgates to be used for free again. Choose your Black entrepreneur friends WISELY and treat them how YOU want to be treated.
TAKE SPEECH CLASSES OR OFFER TO SPEAK ABOUT YOUR BRAND AT AN EVENT
Community colleges offer so many courses for next to nothing or absolutely free. I’m telling you. I have used parts from all the classes I THOUGHT were useless, and I am glad I took them because they DO help to grow your business. When you are in your 20s and you are a college student, there is no way you can see or use the value as much as you can when you are older.
Almost everyone I know who went to college after high school and got their degrees… none of them are using it. They are all doing something else. Do any of us know what we want to do after high school? Probably not, but we do know what we want to do as adults, and we are in a better position to take advantage of learning because we have probably experienced these situations in real life by now.
Check out your local colleges and see if they have something you might be interested in taking to help you grow your brand. Another benefit, if your brand is youth-driven, this is a GREAT opportunity to connect with younger people and have something in common with them that can open the doors to getting more information about trends.
JOIN REAL SOCIAL NETWORKS FOR YOUR HOBBIES
Many people take Facebook and Twitter to useless new levels. They get way too personal, posting WAY too much info about their personal lives, kids, jobs, events, homes, hobbies, parents, hospital visits, personal problems, and more. I almost got caught up in that once because it’s so easy, but I had to stop when someone busted me, revealing too much. Facebook has a way of telling too much about you, and it’s not a good place for Black entrepreneurs. I don’t have time to debate someone’s religious or conspiracy theories or watch old videos from the 80s.
The journey of a genuine black entrepreneur is characterized by a commitment to growth, embracing change, and expanding knowledge. It is an ongoing process that requires adaptability and a willingness to explore new horizons. As we have discovered throughout this narrative, remaining stagnant and resistant to learning can lead to being left behind in an ever-evolving industry.
To thrive as a black entrepreneur, it is crucial to cultivate a network of individuals who inspire and challenge you. Surround yourself with people with greater expertise and diverse perspectives, as they can propel your business to new heights. You create an environment that fosters success and innovation by forging meaningful connections with those who are driven and committed to personal and professional growth.
Education plays a vital role in the life of an entrepreneur. Seek opportunities for continuous learning through formal education or specialized courses. Stay informed about industry trends and developments, and actively engage in seminars, workshops, and conferences. By embracing a lifelong learning mindset, you position yourself as a dynamic and knowledgeable professional in your field.
Furthermore, remember that your own growth and success are intricately linked to the growth of your community. Support and collaborate with fellow black entrepreneurs, leveraging collective strengths and resources to uplift one another. However, exercise discernment and surround yourself with individuals who share your passion for growth and advancement. Avoid those who resist change and perpetuate stagnation, as their mindset can hinder your progress.
Finally, be mindful of your online presence and the social networks you engage with. While platforms like Facebook and Twitter can provide avenues for connection and information sharing, it is essential to maintain a professional image and safeguard your privacy. Use social media strategically, leveraging it for networking, industry insights, and building meaningful relationships with like-minded individuals.
In essence, the journey of a true black entrepreneur is marked by continuous growth, a thirst for knowledge, and a commitment to personal and professional development. By embracing change, expanding your horizons, and surrounding yourself with a supportive network, you confidently navigate the ever-changing business landscape and carve out your own path to success. Remember, the key lies in remaining adaptable, curious, and open to endless possibilities.