For those small business owners out there who were unable to attend our Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo in Columbus, Ohio, last month, I must say that you missed an extraordinary event.
For one, we offered a number of expert panels that provided advice on everything from raising capital and securing contracts to identifying franchise opportunities and building personal wealth. Our Elevator Pitch competition garnered the winner a $10,000 cash prize and ongoing business consultation, and scored two other participants connections to an official in attendance from the Small Business Administration who will help them obtain financing. Moreover, the conference provided an opportunity to be inspired by our Small Business Awards winners as well as to honor this year’s BE 100s Companies of the Year.
It is not only exhilarating to connect with enthusiastic entrepreneurs who have game-changing ideas, but also to hear from speakers with powerful messages that reinforce the business principles upon which Black Enterprise was founded.
One such speaker this year was T.D. Jakes. Many of you know the bishop as senior pastor of the Dallas-based Potter’s House megachurch. But he is so much more—as CEO of TDJ Enterprises, he’s a powerful businessman who has created a publishing and media empire that’s separate and distinct from his church. He delivered a powerful talk based on his latest book, Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive (FaithWords), that served as a practical guide for those who want to realize their entrepreneurial dreams or move their business forward.
His premise was that too often people let intellect cloud their instinct, rendering them ineffective to manifest their destiny. They place themselves in a “cage of expectations” from others and as a result fail to realize their business aspirations or to act on ideas that could propel their business to new heights.
He offered other valuable gems that confirmed my philosophy of developing big concepts but designing detailed plans to reach them. For example, he asserted that there was nothing wrong with entrepreneurs starting small—but they don’t have to stay there. In essence, a small enterprise can serve as your lab to test new ideas, iron out the operational wrinkles, and refine your business mandate. However, under no circumstances should you let fear of failure or challenges deter you from your destiny. As he told our audience, “Obstacles are the clothing of opportunity.”
You can’t go it alone. Too many entrepreneurs try to be a one-person company, unable to spend sufficient time thinking strategically about the long-term prospects of their venture.
Another bit of advice: Hire “ninjas”—employees who can handle two or three tasks as well as spot opportunities instead of being obsessed with problems. Find those who are like you in work ethic, he says, but unlike you in terms of talent—employees who can complement your skill sets and offer different perspectives.
Lastly, know the value of your company so that you can create “intersections with people who need what you have.” He used as an example his deal with Sony Pictures. Although the studio didn’t need Jakes to produce motion pictures, it coveted a faith-based audience only he could deliver. As a result, Jakes was able to negotiate his terms with Sony. His lesson: “If you don’t know what you have, you can’t negotiate.”
Jakes reminds us that success begins with a single thought, but it must be backed by planning and action. Trust your instincts, believe in yourself, and realize your full potential. May the Church say … Amen.