Business Lessons From Successful Black Entrepreneurs (Part 2): Continuous Growth
CEO at Novae, accelerating the revenue of businesses with consumer financing, business funding, and credit building services.
Business achievements are not usually the first thing people associate with Shaq. But that’s exactly why I’ve chosen to highlight him. Dr. Shaquille O’Neal has succeeded in so many ways when many of us might have been satisfied with being “just” a record-breaking athlete.
1. Never Stop Learning
Were you surprised when I referred to Shaq as “Dr. O’Neal?” Many people don’t realize that Shaq earned his MBA in 2005 and his Doctorate of Education in Human Resource Development in 2012. When asked why he went back to school after making millions as an athlete and entertainer, Shaq showed both intense pragmatism and touching ideals. He explained to interviewers that he wanted to be prepared and have an edge in the marketplace if he should ever have to leave basketball or entertainment work for good in addition to being a role model for his children.
Has Shaq’s strategy paid off? In my view, it’s paid off in spades. While it’s no secret that a shocking number of celebrities and professional athletes end up struggling financially in their later years, Shaq had the foresight to prepare himself to not only survive but thrive by owning and investing in businesses through his MBA and doctorate.
I know well the value of education to career success. I have also invested thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars into non-university learning about business, finance and personal development. That may sound like a lot of time and money, but I do know one thing: In business, money and knowledge are power.
When I started my entrepreneurship journey, I didn’t have much money, but I did attend as many free seminars and webinars as I could, watched as many YouTube videos as I could, read as many books as I could, and as I earned more, I invested more into programs and tools to further my progress. You have to start where you are, and leverage that to get to where you want to go.
2. Diversify Your Business
You may have already gotten the idea that Shaq has a lot of balls in the air at any given time. His investment decisions very much suggest that he was paying attention to the business world well before he got his MBA. He has invested, both literally and figuratively, in highly successful businesses across industries.
How successfully? Well, imagine what you’d have today if you’d bought Apple stock in the 1990s. Imagine using your earnings to buy multiple successful businesses in reliably profitable industries like real estate, pizza and doughnuts. Imagine using your profits from being a professional athlete to buy stock in sports teams that you can tell have a bright future. Shaq has done all of this, and more. All that education is really paying off.
While it’s obviously important to gain mastery in one industry at a time, it’s also wise to diversify over time while staying within your expertise. My own company has more than doubled its revenues every year since 2018 in large part because we’ve been continually adding and refining new products and services.
By working with a range of customers to solve a range of problems, you are able to protect yourself against localized or industry-specific disasters. Diversifying can enable you to not only stay safe but also to grow more than if you decide to restrict yourself to just one business model or target customer base.
It’s important to note that when I mention “diversify” I’m not suggesting becoming a “jack-of-all-trades” because most times that means you become a master of none. I am suggesting figuring out how you can offer different products or services within your vertical. Apple sells an iMac, but then the iPod, iPhone and iPad were born, and all these devices yield billions in revenue for Apple. Find your product/service category and develop a family of product/service offerings. Over time, and with a well-thought-out plan, this could yield very profitable results.
3. Pay It Forward
Shaq has long credited the Boys & Girls Club of America with helping create the opportunity for him to get into basketball and avoid bad situations as a young person. Knowing how easily his own life could have been different, Shaq takes his responsibilities to the next generation seriously.
In addition to setting a great example for young people, Shaq’s Shaquille O’Neal Foundation provides school supplies, toys, clothing, meals and even funding for Covid-19 safety measures to students and schools in underserved neighborhoods. Shaq has even explored financial models that could allow him to provide mortgage relief to families in danger of losing their homes while still turning a small profit with his real estate investments.
Shaq’s story, and his attitude, hit close to home for me. Both of us were sons of fathers who weren’t around for us. We both grew up in rough neighborhoods where we could easily have had our futures derailed without the positive role models we had and the material support we received from our communities. As a result, I’m a firm believer that paying it forward as an individual, and as a business leader, is mandatory to ensure that the next generation has all the support necessary to thrive.
This is one reason why my company has a primary mission of helping people who might not have had parents who could teach them about business or finance to succeed. We also offer free entrepreneurship mentorship calls. It’s my belief that helping people to achieve goals like homeownership and business funding helps our communities in a meaningful way.
You can make it a point to be seen by young people in your community, modeling success and showing them that it is possible for them, too, even if they weren’t born with many advantages. Partner with churches, schools and social media influencers to get the word out! When business leaders look out for the next generation, the world can only get brighter.
Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?