You’re a boss.
Bruce Springsteen, George Steinbrenner, Diana Ross…; to be named ‘boss’ puts you in special company. To quote William Earnest Henley, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” For African Americans, becoming a boss is a mark of success, an opportunity to utilize God-given talents to create their own financial independence. Entrepreneurship is one of the purest and rewarding forms of leadership, and many of us are pursuing this position, be it via a home-based catering company, a franchise location of a popular chain, a record label, etc.
The road to running a successful business is uniquely challenging and there is no GPS device to get you there mark-free. Hard as it may be, if you combine your passion with hard work, research (you can’t be a Wikipedia scholar; take the time to learn the field you have chosen) and diligence, you can make your boss dreams come true.
Here are 5 unconventional, but crucial tips I share with fellow entrepreneurs.
1) Support Is NOT Guaranteed- As I ventured into writing, I ASS-umed that my friends and family would graciously participate in my projects. Yeah…about that. Besides my inner circle, Mom, and siblings, initial assistance was at minimum. Make no decisions based on expected support. Your kids might not show up and they came from you. When asking for help, make your favors few and far between (Ex: “Can you watch this video?”, “Will you follow my business on Twitter?”) Work on improving your product/ service, and support will grow organically.
2) Channel The “Triple H:” Hunger, Humility, and Honesty- In the late 1990s, Wrestling reached new heights in popularity, spearheaded by characters like The Rock and Hunter Hearst Helmsley, better known as “Triple H.” He was a champion, known for his incredible hunger, unmatched work ethic, and straightforwardness. Personality traits like these translate well when starting your own business. Entrepreneurship requires late nights and early mornings (and not the kind Marsha Ambrosious sings about.) Hunger pushes you forward, while humility and honesty earn you respect. Become a student of the game; you can never know enough about your industry. Despite society’s clamors for drama, ignorance, and cockiness, choose to be humble, kind and thirsty for knowledge.
3) Watch Out For The Groupies- As even modest success comes your way, folks new and old will develop interest in both you and your product. It is truly important to acknowledge these folks’ interest without succumbing to every tug of the arm. Secure both an accountant/lawyer to HELP manage your finances and a close friend to offer protection from unneeded distractions, such as shady figures and affairs. Men and women of all ages, races, and creeds are drawn to power and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Be cautious of attempting to capitalize on your newfound recognition.
4) Keep The “Hook Up” To A Minimum- Percy “Master P” Miller is best known for his ascension from the rough streets of New Orleans to his role as rap mogul. Miller built an empire and improved the living conditions of himself and others along the way. The negative lies not in his story, but in the title of one of his songs. When running a business, or being a one (athletes, see the film Broke), everyone wants a hook up, something for free. As a budding entrepreneur, you’re rarely—if ever— in position to give products or services away, nor should you be spending your modest earnings to treat others. Create a list of close family/friends you feel are special enough to eat on your tab, and budget appropriately. In doing so, consider this: If you’re paying for everyone to participate, how are they “supporting” you?
5) Beware The Fake Experts- Upon starting a company, you will realize 3 out of 4 people you interact with SUDDENLY have a background in marketing, law or some other specialty that makes them authority in your field. Accept their assessment gracefully and determine whether the words fall in line with your business objectives. If it does, jot it down; if not, thank Uncle Ernie for his suggestions, and let them know you will consider it. Though many of these bits of ‘advice’ are useless, and almost always unsolicited, most people are just trying to help. Sometimes, you may find golden suggestions beneath the fluff. Just learn to identify the difference.
Cedric Perry is a producer, writer, and author of the novels In Line for Love and Homecoming. Currently he produces the web sitcom “We’re Just Talking” and hosts “Pick 6″, a talk show which discusses everyday issues, highlighting how to successfully maneuver through them. For more, follow him on twitter at @chrisbrown_skin and check out his blog at www.cedsconfessions.com.