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Love him or hate him, Tyler Perry is not just a Black man; he’s a household name who has created an international brand in less than 20 years. A little over a week ago, I attended the White House’s Atlanta Urban Entrepreneurship Forum where the actor, producer, playwright and media mogul delivered the opening speech to a sea of would-be black and brown entrepreneurs, giving a candid account of his rise to success and journey from being virtually unknown to visibly renown. Between the Forum and Ebony magazine’s amazing cover story on the “$350 Million Dollar Man,” let’s just say Tyler Perry is my new inspiration.

5 Business Lessons from Tyler Perry

Love him or hate him, Tyler Perry is not just a Black man; he’s a household name who has created an international brand in less than 20 years. A little over a week ago, I attended the White House’s Atlanta Urban Entrepreneurship Forum where the actor, producer, playwright and media mogul delivered the opening speech to a sea of would-be black and brown entrepreneurs, giving a candid account of his rise to success and journey from being virtually unknown to visibly renown. Between the Forum and Ebony magazine’s amazing cover story on the “$350 Million Dollar Man,” let’s just say Tyler Perry is my new inspiration.

1. Focus on one thing. We’re all blessed with unique, gifts, talents and abilities. You may be blessed with ten. The thing is you can’t focus on all ten at the same time and 1) Expect success or 2) Expect us to buy it.  Perry encouraged one bewildered entrepreneur during the Q & A session to simply narrow her focus and master one thing, allowing that to become her feeder for future opportunities.  He shared that television and the big screen were always a goal of his, but he created his niche and built his following around plays first.  Let’s be real; No one trusts the woman who’s business card states that she’s a match-making relationship coach who sells real estate and braids hair on the weekends. Even if you can do all of those things, choose what you want to be known for and roll with it.  Let all of your other hidden talents come out once a relationship is built – not on your business card. We, the general public, won’t take you or your business sensibilities seriously.

2. Learn the gift of good-bye. Know up front that people will come and go on the journey to success and that is their job.  Perry calls them boosters.  Some people are only there to help get your rocket off the ground.  Once you’ve launched, it may be time for a few folk to fall off. Everyone can’t handle where God is taking you and that’s okay. You just have to be willing to accept that some people come into our lives for a reason and a season.  When their time is up, we have to be content with letting them go.  If they are leaving to pursue their own thing, let them go and wish them the best of luck.  If you have to kick them to the curb for being underhanded, let them go and wish them the best of luck. Either way it goes, understand the gift of good-bye and just let them go.  Business will thrive once you do.

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3. Invest in yourself first. The number one question by participants at the Forum surrounded how to find investors or receive access to capital.  Without a blink, Perry reminded the audience very firmly that he was his first investor.  In 1992, he saved $12,000 to rent a theater, write, direct, promote and star in his own production. It failed miserably with the entire weekend run, maybe churning out a total of 30 people.  For several years he held a battery of odd jobs in order to finance the show, and sporadically lived on the streets and in shady motels when he couldn’t even afford to pay the rent. But Perry refused to give up and in the summer of 1998, he financed his production once again. It became a success and he hasn’t looked back since. The business wasn’t so financed to death by outsiders that when his opportunity to get buy in came, he no longer controlled any of the rights.  Do the hard work. Sacrifice. Invest in yourself first and grow the business to a point where you have the control you’ll need moving forward.

4. Don’t quit your day job (and, while you’re there be excellent.) I know this is a two-for-one, but I couldn’t separate them. Mr. Perry shared that he quit a few jobs in his day, eh, okay several jobs to pursue his dream.  And to that point, he noted that he’s not suggesting that anyone just go out and quit their jobs, but instead recognize that you still have to earn a living.  How else will you provide the necessities for yourself, as well as save the money required to invest in yourself?  Even if you have to go through several 9 to 5s to sustain your journey, do it and be the best you can be while you’re there.  Show the work ethic you’d like to see from your own future employees.  After all, as a business owner you can never ask other people to do what you’re not willing to do yourself.

5. Only take criticism if it comes with a solution.  Everyone has an opinion. Some say they’re like . . . well, you know what they say.  The reality is everyone will not buy into your vision and you have to discern what comments or criticisms are even worth your energy.  Naysayers have been fighting Perry since he hit the scene. From him setting the Black race back some 500 years to stereotyping his plays as “chitlin’ circuit’ shows,” Perry’s heard it all. At one point, he even snapped when someone questioned him about Spike Lee’s comment that his work was “coonery and buffoonery.” A friend of mine shared a quote with me some years ago: “Effective people starve problems and feed solutions.” I’m with my mentor in my head, if you’re not going to offer me solutions on how to be better or do better, then kick rocks. (My words, not his, but you get the point.)

If you can, check out the Ebony magazine with Tyler Perry on the cover. Not only is his story inspiring, but the issue dedicated to The State of Black Wealth in America is jam packed with useful information on personal finance.

Until Next Time

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