Everyone that I associate with is an black entrepreneur. BUT only 2 of them are TRUE black entrepreneurs. You may ask what a true black entrepreneur is, it is someone who is not afraid to grow and to take his or her experience and expand on his or her knowledge. What is that you can do? I can use myself as an example.
One of my recent college classes was Speech. One of those classes that are required before you can move into your major. I was defiant, my ego kicked in hard time, I thought I already know this, I am a radio jock by trade, I have excellent communication skills and I was insulted that the teacher wanted me to prove something I had already proven for over 2o years but the joke was on me. Read on and you will see why…. (click “NEXT” or next number above or below to see the rest of the story)
You’re NEVER too Old to Learn Something New
The minute that you stop learning YOU STOP GROWING. Don’t EVER think that you know it all. We get older and things change, and eventually, we are out of touch. When that happens and you want to continue doing what you have been doing (AND) you 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 doing the grind. When you make money it’s time to spend it ON THE business but not frivolously.
Use older people in your profession to teach you a valuable lesson
I go to two types of industry events where people my age go, those who are very successful and still in the loop and to those where the people go who never grow and are stuck on yesterday and what used to be. There are people who work in the industry who are well into their 60s but most of that small population are extremely successful.
There are others who hang on waiting for another basic opportunity at 50 years of age. They eventually become bitter and/or sad and they feel 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 OK 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 he was ready to retire and he was moving to another state. I went to his event and there were many older people 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. 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 get older. When I get older (God willing) I want to STILL be working, producing and connected to great current things and people. What I am basically saying is, 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?
For me, 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. Having excellent communication skills is KEY to SO many things, motivational speaker, actor, voice talent, TV Host, Event host, 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 I have not regretted one day of it. I knew it was time for me to make room for new talent and I really 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 it’s 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 a LOT of 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 SHOULD go because you never know who you may meet to bolster your career.
It’s time to take advantage of these things and 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 that you meet who do what you do and beyond, the better.
Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you…
There was a time that I found myself being the go-to guy for other black entrepreneurs, it was very frustrating for me because while I was feeding everyone, nobody was feeding me. 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 was either going to move on or remain stuck, which inevitably will destroy your business because current clients don’t last forever and you must ALWAYS be in search of new clients. I had outgrown this group of people and 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). 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 on 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 on 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 the way 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. Just about everyone that 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 that 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 get 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 cause 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.
Many people on FB are desperately seeking validation, by getting likes and support from others a study showed, and it’s true. After a while its a waste of time and effort when you could be making REAL social connections with people FACE to FACE not face to facebook. On top of all that, where does this information end up that you are posting? I personally don’t really trust social networks as much as I do a face to face meeting where I can gauge who I dealing with.