My Wife, My Partner

Let’s face it: It is extremely difficult to build a multimillion-dollar company from scratch, negotiate the treacherous peaks and valleys of a successful career, or achieve financial security in an economy marked by uncertainty and rapid change. However, the struggle is far less daunting, and far more rewarding, when you are teamed up with a spouse who shares your values and vision. Marriage, at its best, is the ultimate partnership, the foundation that supports the health and wealth-building capacity of families and, indeed, entire communities—today and for generations to come.

If marriage is the ultimate partnership, I have enjoyed the energy, intelligence, and loving devotion of the ultimate partner, Barbara, my wife of 47 years. In addition to excelling as a wife, mother, and grandmother, she has been a true business partner every step of the way, from the conception of a magazine that would serve as a resource and cheerleader for business-minded black people nearly 40 years ago to the evolution of that idea into the No. 1 multimedia source for African Americans who want to build lasting wealth today. Barbara is my most trusted and wisest adviser, critic, cheerleader, and confidante. Over the years, she has run nearly every department in the company and helped to develop many of its top executives, including our three sons. Today she continues to serve as a board member of Earl G. Graves Ltd. and is the senior member of the brain trust behind the planning of the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit, the premier professional development conference for businesswomen of color. Barbara has been and continues to be our company’s most valuable asset—and my secret weapon. I love her more today than I’ve ever loved her.

Strong marriages, stable families, and an enduring faith in God go hand-in-hand with success in everything we do. People who lack stability in their personal lives generally find it difficult to achieve sustained excellence and satisfaction in their business and professional lives. Those seeking role models to follow in their quest for success would do well to study not only the business histories and career paths of their examples but also how they managed their personal affairs—and perhaps more importantly, what qualities made their spouses such effective life partners. This is why I devoted a significant portion of my autobiographical best-seller, How To Succeed in Business Without Being White: Straight Talk on Making It in America, to the critical role my marriage and family played in my ability to grow our company.

Don’t just take my example. Consider business titan and Johnson Publishing Co. Founder John H. Johnson or the legendary Reginald F. Lewis. Both their wives, Eunice and Loida, respectively, played indispensible roles in their late husbands’ career and business successes. And both have been critical to ensuring that their husbands’ business legacies and interests are sustained for generations to come, through their children (including Johnson’s successor as CEO, daughter Linda Johnson-Rice), as well as institutions such as The Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore.

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