Name: Jeffrey T. Benson Jr.
Profession: President of Benson Development Group L.L.C.; TEDxSeaford Organizer; Member of Seaford Board of Education
One Word That Describes You: Advocate
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
Being honored as one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction is beyond humbling. I began reading Black Enterprise magazine in 2003, gaining inspiration from fellow entrepreneurs and executives that look like me. Now, to be able to grace the pages and possibly be an inspiration to another brother or sister looking to break into the business world, I’m very excited and extremely grateful.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
At this time I am working in a few different capacities that serve both our youth and adult males. As a board member for our local school district, I help create and implement policies that support our staff and provide our students with the best educational experience possible with four other members. Within the school district, I have dedicated my time and efforts to become a mentor to our young males by facilitating a Gentlemen’s Club. This mentorship program teaches life skills and provides alternative activities for our youth to participate in. For our adult males, I serve on a State Commission that helps individuals get their criminal record(s) pardoned and expunged from past mistakes, which puts them in a better position to obtain decent employment.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
As an entrepreneur, I believe you have a constant tug of war with struggle and success. When you move to create something or act on an idea, the parachute doesn’t always open immediately when you jump. My passion and failures with entrepreneurship have caused me to lose my home, a car, and a failed marriage. That same passion has garnered me an extensive network and partnerships that allow me to negotiate multimillion-dollar projects both domestically and internationally.
What is your extraordinary impact?
I just love to serve people. I understand that many things can get accomplished at a grassroots level when everyone that’s involved works on one accord. I also recognize that some issues require a higher authority to help enact that change, so I operate in both facets. I’m on the ground floor with the people organizing within the community and I hold certain leadership roles that give me the authority to help craft and set policy.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
I look for a collaborative mindset. I love to be around those who have a heart to serve. When engaged in conversation, I’m always listening for individuals who use the word “we.” The word “we” symbolizes that you are unselfish and look to include others. Those that constantly speak of “I,” I do my best to steer away from. My experience has been that those individuals are selfish and self-centered, which brings a negative energy I want no parts of.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
1. I serve on the Gotta Be A Better Way Foundation board and we’re preparing for the new school year which will be filled with educational and sporting activities for our youth. 2. Our company has diversified and is now moving into the real estate investment space. We are looking to close on our first investment property within the next month. 3. Lastly, in partnership with another organization, we have some major solar projects that we will be closing on within the coming months.
What is the best advice you ever received?
My dad always told me and my siblings to believe in God and believe in yourself. It doesn’t matter if others don’t believe in what you see, it’s up to you to bring your vision to fruition and make the doubters now believers. That statement has always stuck with me and I operate in those beliefs today.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Whatever skill set you have (coach, mentor, mechanic, barber, etc.), find a way to serve. Our youth depend on us to pour into them and help navigate their lives into adulthood. We as men are looked upon and put into authoritative leadership as the heads of our families. We must step into those roles and provide guidance and protection that our families and communities can mirror.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I first pray and do extensive research on the person or organization that I will be meeting with to learn who they are. From that information gathered, I strategically provide ways that our company can add value to their efforts and do my best to close the deal.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
These past couple of years have been extremely busy and challenging so I haven’t taken an official vacation as of yet but when I get a free moment to do nothing, that’s exactly what I do. I love spending time with my wife and kids swimming and playing on the beach. I enjoy the summer months because they’re filled with barbecues and fellowship with family and friends.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
When I was in the military, I was stationed in Germany and had the opportunity to travel the European countries. I would probably go back to Germany and travel all over Europe. I really enjoyed my time there.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I would like to thank God for his many blessings, the Black Enterprise staff for this extraordinary recognition, everyone that has played a part in helping me get to this stage in life, to the many people I serve alongside in the community, to all of my business colleagues and partners, I appreciate each and every one of you and to my family and friends, thank you for your continuous love, prayers, and support. I love all of you.
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Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.