and focus on the size and quality of our investment portfolios. Wealth is not defined by income, but by net worth–the difference between what you own and what you owe. Starting today, we must see every expenditure as an investment that will either appreciate or depreciate in value as time goes by. That means saving–not spending–more of our income, and investing as much of it as we possibly can. The black wealth imperative requires that we focus our attentions and our energies not just on satisfying our consumer appetites, but on building a diversified portfolio of investments of lasting value–including stocks, bonds and mutual funds–that will increase our individual and collective net worth.
It is clear that the entrepreneurial spirit will be another key to wealth-building as we march toward the next century. But it is not enough to have more black-owned businesses. Our objective must be to establish and support healthy, growing, profitable enterprises able to thrive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. As asserted in the BE Board of Economists Report in this issue, the social benefits of increased black business ownership–jobs, economic development, increased community resources–cannot be realized by businesses that are losing money. as Mel Farr, chief executive of the Mel Farr Automotive Group, No. 1 on the BE AUTO DEALER 100, says, “The difference between a businessperson and a merchant is that a businessperson is anyone in business, while a merchant is in business to make a profit. We have to do more than just go into business. We must be merchants.” We must be committed to total quality in our businesses–in production, customer service, marketing and every aspect. The black wealth imperative requires no less.
The last cornerstone–and the most important–is a commitment to personal excellence. We must refuse to accept anything less than the best from ourselves as entrepreneurs, executives and professionals, as the decision-makers in our businesses, our families and our communities. This does not mean that we should condemn failure, but we must absolutely condemn anything less than persistent, faithful effort and a refusal to surrender until objectives are achieved. This is the common denominator of our 1998 BE Companies of the Year. The black wealth imperative requires us to expect–and deliver–the best from ourselves and each other.
As we prepare to enter a new century, whatever difficulties we endure as African Americans will not be due to a lack of resources, but to our failure to effectively manage the resources we have, resources that are significantly greater–by every measure–at the end of this century than they were at the beginning. By building on the phenomenal achievements of this last century, we can assure ourselves of a millennium worth waiting for. Let’s dedicate the 21st century to building wealth and leveraging it toward the accumulation of power and influence in the business of our nation and our world.