Entrepreneurs Summit: David J. Grain’s Tips On Turning Passion into Enterprise

Private equity firm innovator shares his influences and lessons

David J. Grain (Image: File)
David J. Grain (Image: File)

David J. Grain will bring his financial and leadership skills to the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit when it hits the Hyatt Regency Atlanta May 13-15.

Grain’s knowledge comes from a multitude of success. His private equity firm, Grain Management L.L.C., invests in the wireless communications sector, and Grain Infrastructure Funds I and II manage capital from investors including foundations and public pension funds. Before his current venture, he was founder and CEO of Grain Communications Group Inc., focusing on acquiring, building and owning wireless communications tower sites for the federal and state government systems. Politically active, President Barack Obama appointed Grain to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) in July 2011 where he chaired the Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience National R&D Plan.

Black Enterprise: Many talk about visualizing success and where one wants to be. When you began your career, did you see yourself being where you are today?

David Grain: I did not imagine myself here. I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer, and I’ve always spent a lot of time being fascinated with successful people of all walks of life. I also always read biographies. I think over time, my fascination with the lives of successful people morphed into me in a positive way. That’s helped me refine my focus overtime and direct my energy.

Who were the influences that helped you?

I’d say my grandmother. She was a domestic in Coney Island working for a family. And the only person left was the old man she worked for. He owned a couple brownstones around Brooklyn. When he died, she managed to get control of these brownstones. By the time I was of age, she was in her ’70s, and I would follow behind her collecting money, driving around Brooklyn. It was really fascinating. This was a woman who did not waste a penny. We had 8 or 10 of these properties, and I [recall that] when people didn’t pay the rent, she’d have to evict them. If it was a single mother or children, she might be lenient and maybe throw them a few dollars to help them out. She was a rental entrepreneur.

What’s been the key to business success for you?

I think I would point out a handful of principles that would come from my grandmother. Get in there, stay late, grind it out, and nothing is easy. If you have good intentions and you work hard, you’ve got a good shot of being successful. I have lived by this principle, of having high integrity, and not looking at short cuts—working hard. Now, I recognize there are no coincidences, and regardless of how hard I work, if it’s isn’t for the good Lord, none of this is possible.

What’s the most important thing an entrepreneur should remember?

I’ve heard this my entire career and only now do I genuinely understand, believe, and trust it: If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, if you don’t love hopping out of bed in the morning and going after whatever it is you’re going after—if it is work—it’s really difficult in a sustainable way to achieve success doing whatever that thing is. So somehow you’ve got to figure it out. And this is what goes through my mind in the morning: how excited I am about what I have to do today. And if I’m not, how tomorrow I’m going to adjust it so I’m excited about what I’m doing. If you don’t love what you’re doing, you better figure out how to change it to something you love.

The Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit hosted by Nationwide is set for May 13-16, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Expect innovative sessions, high-powered speakers, and an early peek at the products, trends, and services you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve.  To register and find out more, visit www.blackenterprise.com/es/. Join us at the Entrepreneurs Summit, Where Innovation and Capital Meet.


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