Making Commercial Moves

July 15, 2007

Jim on Black in Business asked “What are we known for?” For me, it seems that we’re just known for our athletic ability. In a follow up post, he suggested that “being great” should be our business niche. I think this is a worthwhile goal to have in general, but it doesn’t really help us begin to achieve wealth as a whole. As I’ve said before, the main thing holding us back is the unwillingness to work together. Once we get past that, we can all achieve so much more than what we have now.

The Black “business niche” has become an interesting idea to me. Last week, I met up with some young black professionals and we were talking about how we all need to come together. In our region, there is no reason that with our resources, we can’t have a Sweet Auburn here. But I think I have a business niche for Blacks, commercial real estate. The article about Indian-Americans controlling 43% of the hotel industry is what got me thinking about the commercial market.

Think about it, a lot of black businesses own their own barbershops, hair salons, restaurants, doctor/dentist offices, etc. These are all commercial properties. To get started, if you already own your building, you just need to start another company and transfer ownership of the building to that company. At that point, you can pay rent to your new company. In the future, this could be useful if you decided to sell your business, but still receive rent payments through your commercial real estate company.

Now, imagine if the barbershop and hair salon owners got together and bought a larger building and used a third company to own the building that they both paid rent to. You could take this income and buy other buildings. Sell those, and buy larger buildings. Eventually, you could own some of the largest commercial properties in your city or region. This would work with doctors, dentists, professional services and other businesses.

This is just an idea, and I’m sure its a tad bit more complicated than what I described. However, this is what the Indian-Americans did with the hotel industry. They started with the corner hotel that had twenty rooms and traded up. They then brought in family and friends and pooled more money and bought larger properties. Forty years later, they own 43% of the market. If they could do it, why can’t we? Why can’t we own 35% of the entire commercial real estate market? They aren’t making any more land, and real estate is an appreciating asset. All it takes is us coming together and combining our resources. This is a plan I will be seriously looking into within the next two years. Wanna join me?


Sweet Auburn

July 6, 2007

We have now returned from my family’s reunion, which was held in Atlanta this year. I must say, I was very surprised with how “black” Atlanta is. I knew a lot of young, black professionals moved there, but I still didn’t expect to see so many in one city. It was a nice change. Seeing successful black folks has always warmed my soul.

 

While we were in Atlanta, we visited the King Center. Talk about a powerful experience. Seeing the grave site, clothes and mementos that he owned just made it more real. It’s one thing to read about Dr. King; it’s quite another to see just how “real” he was. I recommend that visiting the memorial site should be on the agenda for anyone going to Atlanta. Hearing his voice in Ebenezer Baptist is very heart-stirring. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to tour all of the Non-violence display. What we saw, however, was enough to get our blood boiling. That display made me appreciate the sacrifices that were made for me to be where I am today. It also made me resolve to get off my tail and strive for the goals I’ve set for myself.

 

Our guide told us that Auburn Avenue (Sweet Auburn), where the church and memorial are located, was once the epicenter for affluent blacks. Now, the wealthy blacks have moved to the suburbs. I think this is very important in that the black community’s wealth is no longer centralized. This seems to have happened in most of the major cities. I’m not sure what we can do to regain the closeness and vitality of our communities. But wouldn’t it be nice if we had a lot of “Sweet Auburn’s” across the nation?


Driving While Black (DWB)

June 21, 2007

Yesterday, while driving home from work, I made a right turn and merged into oncoming traffic. All of a sudden, the car beside me flips on the lights and hits the siren. The policeman sped off. I assume he either thought I was about to hit him or he just wanted to mess with me. This incident brought back memories of two previous incidents involving our local law enforcement.

Incident One:

I usually take a back road home that goes by our local airport. On the route home, at a particular intersection, there is a Stop sign if you’re turning left, and a Yield sign if you’re turning right. I was making a right turn and slowed down just enough to safely make the turn. Because this was at night, I didn’t need to stop because I could see that there were no cars coming. This happened as a policeman was coming up to the intersection from the right. After I made the turn (without stopping), he made a U-turn and began to chase me down. I saw him coming so I proceeded to slow down and then he turned on his lights.

Once he got to my vehicle, and received my license and registration, he asked why I didn’t stop at the intersection. I responded that there was a Yield sign and there was no oncoming traffic. He said that wasn’t a valid excuse. I was supposed to stop. So I asked “when does yield mean stop? I don’t have to stop at a yield sign.” We went back and forth over this for a minute or so. Finally, he told me to drive safely and that I could leave.

Incident Two:

A few weeks ago, while going to work, I took a side street to avoid traffic. When I got to the stop sign, there was a policeman there. After he pulled off, I pulled up to the sign, stopped, and then pulled off. The policeman was going about 25 in a 45 zone, so I switched lanes and passed him. About half-a-mile later, he pulled up beside me at a red light. Once the light turned green, I pulled off and he switched lanes to get behind me and turned on his lights.

After he looked over my license and registration, he asked why I didn’t stop at the stop sign. I told him, “Sir, I thought I did stop at the sign.” He responded that I didn’t and then went on a tirade about obeying traffic signs and how it only takes three seconds for oncoming traffic to get up on you. He then asked if my loved ones would be grief-stricken if something happened to me. I answered “of course.” He then told me to make sure I pay attention and keep that in mind. Once again, I was let go with just a “warning”.

Now, my question is, if I ran a stop sign, why did he wait half-a-mile and AFTER a red light changed to pull me over. Maybe he noticed that I was black after he pulled up beside me at the light. Regardless, I had done nothing wrong in either incident. But once again, these two “protectors” decided to teach me traffic laws.

My wife was none too pleased when I told her what happened. Even though I was fine, but annoyed, she was pissed. It’s sad that this still goes on in 2007. But you know what the kicker was? When I got to work, I told my white co-workers that I was pulled over for DWB and explained that it meant “Driving While Black.” They all laughed because they assumed I was making a joke. I guess the serious look on my face told them otherwise.


The U.S. Cares About Darfur?

June 4, 2007

Wow. Bush has actually taken a stance about the genocide in Darfur. Does it feel cold to you? Jim over at Black In Business has the speech posted online. Guess Denny Crane must have spoken to “W”.


They Got Theirs, We Need To Get Ours

April 19, 2007

Why is it that immigrants have figured out the path to wealth in this country but we haven’t? USA Today had an article about Indian-Americans controlling 43% of the 47,000 hotels and motels in the country. See that….43%…over 20,000 hotels and motels. And Indian-Americans aren’t the largest minority in this country, but yet they control almost half of an entire industry. Latin-Americans seem to be making headway in the home improvement industry. Black Americans? We just want to get a high paying job or play sports. However, as we move up the company ladder and hit the proverbial glass ceiling, we’re moving out to do our own thing.

Minorities are starting their own business at a faster and faster rate. I see this as a very good sign. Let’s face it, corporate American is still White America. We can’t escape racism, but we can step around it. Immigrants have figured that out and they won’t play the corporate game. They come here and start their own businesses. Black America needs to do the same. We might as well give up the hope of ever getting that 40 acres and a mule. Heck, the only thing the government is going to give us is a tax refund and welfare.

Back to the article, as I read it, a few things struck me. Indian-Americans control over 20,000 hotels. That means, they operate a business that they can literally live in. Also, buying a hotel means that they are also purchasing real estate. Have you noticed that hotels control some of the most desired real estate in the country? So that means that they have profit generating assets that appreciate over time. I wonder what the combined value of 20,000 hotels plus the land is? Almost sounds like they bought 40 acres and a mule huh. And Indian-Americans have accomplished this in less that 40 years.

Me thinks we have some work to do. Lets face it, whining about how unfair the world is not going to get us where we want to go. Blacks need to come together and help ourselves. Indian-Americans helped each other and that’s how they now control 43% of the hotel industry. The Latino community helps each other and they become stronger. The Black community pulls itself down. We’ve got to start taking responsibility for our own community. Nobody “wants” to live in the ghetto. We all want the nice house in the nice neighborhood.

Together, we can all find success. Its very hard if I just get my own and let the rest struggle. If I help the next man, we can grow together. We’ve got to get out of this selfish attitude that we have. This is why, on the Tom Joyner show, Tavis Smiley said he wasn’t concerned about Don Imus. He’s stopped trying to fix the “other” people. He’s just concentrating on getting “us” straight. Steve Harvey felt the same way. We have to uplift ourselves, because it’ll be a cold day in h*** before someone else does.


Career Day

April 10, 2007

Last week, I got the opportunity to participate in a local elementary school’s Career Day. Since this school was in a predominately black neighborhood, I jumped at the chance. Being a young, black and professional male, I figured I’d show these kids that there are some of “them” being successful in life.

I was pretty nervous about going, however. I wasn’t sure how I could keep a class of 1st, 2nd and 4th graders interested for three 30 minute sessions. Once I got started though, the time flew by. And let me tell you, 4th graders can ask some very intelligent and world aware questions. I don’t remember being that worldly (or big) at that age.

All in all, it was fun a experience and I can hardly wait to participate next year. The only thing I regretted was not giving a good answer to one question. I was asked, “what type of family life did I have growing up?” Now, my childhood was very “Cosby-esque”. I had a very good childhood with wonderful parents. I’m sure most of these kids couldn’t say the same and I regret stressing that regardless of their home life, they could still be successful in life. In fact, adversity or a hard life can bring out the genius in some people. Next year, I’ll stress that.


NFL History in 2007

January 22, 2007

Well, it finally happened. Lovie Smith became the first black head coach to lead his team to the Super Bowl. Later this evening, Tony Dungy, another black head coach, joined him. Who would have thought…a Super Bowl where no matter what, a black head coach will win.

There is a struggle with getting more blacks in positions of power in sports. It seems to me that the NFL has made the most strides. Today, we witnessed another step in the right direction. Black coaches haven’t been given a fair shake in general, but the black coaches in the NFL have exceeded when compared with there white counterparts. So far, there have been seven black head coaches: Art Shell, Ray Rhodes, Dennis Green, Herman Edwards, Tony Dungy, Marvin Lewis and Lovie Smith. Every single one of these coaches has lead their teams to the playoffs. Here’s an except from another article:

…In fact, with the exception of Marvin Lewis, every black coach in NFL history to date has gotten his team to the playoffs within two seasons. Art Shell, Ray Rhodes, Dennis Green, Dungy, Herman Edwards, Lovie Smith all did it in their 1st or 2nd season with their first teams. Only Edwards can be said to have walked into a situation that was not marked “Total Disaster”.

Johnnie Cochran Jr. and Cyrus Mehri released a report in 2002 that caused the NFL to establish the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule required each team to interview at least one minority candidate when filling a head coach position or be fined.

This rule has had some effect. Even though its sad that such a rule is necessary to promote an equitable opportunity for minority coaches, I’m proud that those coaches that have been given a chance, have excelled. Now if we could just apply all this to the Fortune 500.