7 Lessons I learned from the Top Black CEO’s in America
In the world of entrepreneurship, you have to learn how to be successful in order to be successful. Striving for success in every aspect of your business should make your heart pump, and getting your hands on anything that will help your business grow should be a top priority. In my spare time, I am constantly reading books and came across a gem, Black Enterprise Lessons from the Top: Success Strategies from America’s Leading Black CEO’s. After reading the masterpiece I came up with 7 takeaways.
Keep costs as low as possible
One common theme every CEO expressed was keeping costs as low as possible and I agree. Costs are one of the few factors you have control over. Squeeze value out of every dollar you earn. ( Tweet This). Create a yearly budget and monitor your spending on a month-to-month basis. Outside of focusing on the numbers, we all need that one go-to person that will give us the lay of the land.
“Find a ‘Rabbi’ to Teach you the Ropes” – Russell Simmons (Tweet This)
Finding someone that gives you insight on the in’s and out’s of a business is crucial to surviving in your industry. That’s how Russell Simmons accelerated his success. One of his strategies included partnering with people that were well established in industries he wanted to venture in. It was an intangible cornerstone that allowed him to make Phat Farm and other businesses flourish. If you do plan to partner with someone, know what they bring to the table. Robert L. Johnson said it best, “We look for strategic partners that can bring something to the equation. I believe that two plus two should equal 5.” Which brings me to my next point.
Soak up as much knowledge as you can about the business
Every CEO within the book learned as much as they could about the business they were in. In fact, most of them worked within the industry they loved for several years before making the jump into entrepreneurship. Soak up information about the industry and learn all the nuances that coincide it. Ask tons of questions, and don’t just ask why things are done a certain way, ask how it’s done, who does it, and what role it plays in the operations. As you gain knowledge, the best way to apply what you learn is by developing a plan.
“Plan your work and work your plan”-Clarence Smith (Tweet This)
I’m not just talking about a business plan, I’m talking about the strategies needed take your business from point “A” to point “B”. Strategy and execution was key to the success of these CEO’s for the volatile times they experienced during their careers. C. H. James & Co was founded in 1883 by Charles H. James III’s great grandfather. The company was able to persevere through the 1900’s to present day which is an amazing feat! Planning was key to the company’s success as it still thrives today in Chicago. It also took grit.
Don’t be afraid to get dirty
Do whatever it takes to get on top (legally). In order to be successful, you must step out of your comfort zone. So if your someone that is very independent and like getting things done alone, that means asking others for help when you need it. Put your pride aside and allow others to help you grow. You won’t be able to do it on your own. Even though we all need help at some point, always play to your strengths.
Discover your strengths
Every chief executive outlined in the book had their own unique strength; they were innately good at something which gave them a competitive edge. As each year passed, they continued to hone their individual skills. Robert L. Johnson, Founder of BET, was the king of networking and relationship building. He leveraged his connections in taking BET public and ventured off into starting other successful businesses. Think about what your strength is and how you plan to use that to get ahead. And last but not least my final take.
You can do well while doing good
You can run a successful business while positively impacting your community. Founder and CEO of the United Bank of Philadelphia, Emma Chappell, mission was to provide capital to minorities through banking. By tapping into her network and the black community, Chappell raised $6 million within three years. After raising the funds, she provided bank services and educated customers by holding financial seminars, teaching over 2,000 about money management. The United Bank of Philadelphia still thrives today and since it began in 1992. Chappel is only one example of a businessperson doing good things in her community. Tons of other companies are doing the same and you can too! As you continue to run/start-up your business, please keep these lessons in mind as they will help your business flourish. Without further ado, I leave you with an outstanding quote that should resonate with all of us.
“Money has no color. If you can build a better mousetrap. It won’t matter whether you’re black or white. People will buy it.” – A. G. Gaston