REFLECTIONS & LESSONS LEARNED FROM NEXTOPPSOCIAL INTERVIEW W/ SHARON MADISON
Posted by JuJuan Buford @JSBUFORD
At NextOppSocial, we are proud to introduce to some and reintroduce to others, Sharon Madison, Owner of Madison Madison International, M2 International.
Sharon Madison is a third generation entrepreneur and leader, continuing a legacy of success in the architectural, real estate development, construction, and engineering industries across the United States and internationally. Madison’s business interests involve the management of a portfolio of projects in excess of billions of dollars.
Madison has made an indelible mark in the business community, specifically downtown Detroit, operating the Julian Madison Building — named for her father — providing an invaluable space for business commerce, development, and entrepreneurial growth.
Madison serves as chair of the Detroit-Wayne Joint Building Authority, a representative on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, and contributes her wealth of leadership to several other industry and civic organizations.
LESSON #1: ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS NOT SECURITY, BUT IT’S WORTH IT
Madison was transparent about the difficulties often associated with starting a business and committing to entrepreneurship. Unlike the YouTube & Instagram extravaganzas speaking to the grandeur of business ownership, Madison recalled vividly the shared family sacrifice that was required: the moving around frequently, the never being off, and having to be on 24/7. Vacations never quite being vacations. The real pressures of constantly having to evolve, grow, and develop. The challenge of repeatedly having to prove yourself, and the awareness that you’re only as good as your value proposition every single day was ever present.
Our exchange reminded me that entrepreneurs are problem solvers. There is a direct correlation between the value we bring to others, and the quality of the lives we live. There’s something pure about that. And while the accouterments of success in business can be spectacular, the cost of admission doesn’t come at a discount. The Madison family was not born high on the hog. Someone had to stand in the gap, and pay the price.
LESSON #2: THEY SAY NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF ALL INVENTION & ENTREPRENEURS ARE BORN AND FORGED BY IT. BUT DEFINE LET’S NECESSITY.
Madison spoke proudly and solemnly about her grandfather’s struggle to find work. Robert James Madison was a brilliant, industrious man, and in today’s environment would have easily elevated himself and gained recognition as a renown engineer, architect, or mathematician. She believed he died of a broken heart, as he was never able to find anything above what was considered menial work (despite his advanced training and education), absent the opportunity to display or showcase his full potential.
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As I’ve watched up close and from afar the brave, young African American men and women protesting in the streets, I recognize the anger and frustration they must feel. Some view them as aimless dissidents, and will inevitably attempt to brand them as brazen, volatile, irresponsible children; simply destroying property and spreading COVID19 recklessly.
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
They have taken up arms against a system and environment that is denying them the most basic of desires. I see young ebony men and women crying out, inflamed by a system that is denying them the opportunity to become their full selves. They are raging against a society that historically, and systemically denies African Americans the opportunity to achieve to the extent that their latent talents may take them; unfettered by white cupidity and racist savagery.
These same struggles led Madison’s grandfather, her parents, and Madison today to build successful business enterprises. To become more than pawns on the chessboard, but rather captains of their own destinies, and provide the subsistence, the means, the space, and the inspiration for ebony brothers and sisters to benefit from and aspire to. As has been historically and contemporarily the case, entrepreneurship for African Americans has never been about simply filling a niche or necessity in the marketplace, but an extension of the struggle to be human beings, rather than human happenings, and a labor of love to empower the community.
HOW THE ACQUISITION OF THE JULIAN MADISON BUILDING CAME TO BE. A WHOLE LOT OF NO’S. PLENTY OF STUBBORN FORTITUDE AND BELIEF.
Madison drew strength from her family. Watching her parents succeed, despite being denied loans. Being shut out of business opportunities they were overqualified for. Being denied jobs. Repeatedly being denied the capital to expand into highly appraised neighborhoods and hold commercial properties. And yet, succeed anyway, informed her of what was and is possible.
Madison shared a story about how one day, her father requested that she seek out a commercial property for the family to expand operations into. There were a number of buildings on the grocery list that were much nicer, more luxurious, with much higher price tags. However, she settled on what would become the Julian Madison building, believing that it would be more attainable, despite it needing significant renovations.
She began the process of seeking capital for the acquisition and was declined over and over again. Until one day she received a call, and was asked by a bank officer how much she wanted. Madison responded by asking for what was needed, bracing for the declination and fully prepared to let the person know she didn’t give a rip. Madison secured the needed financing.
There are no silver bullets. There are no guarantees or one magical approach to do anything. But the universe has a funny way of conspiring in favor of those who exercise an unbreakable will, work ethic, and tenacity. You have to believe you deserve and belong. And while many of us are not fortunate to be born into a household with such powerful examples, we can find them in books, audios, and various recorded artifacts of those who have achieved, lived on the fringes, and found success.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH EXPERTISE & WISDOM. DON’T BE TOO PRIDEFUL TO ASK FOR HELP.
Entrepreneurship is not a game for chumps, and too much pride will certainly result in you getting your teeth knocked out. In fairness, the super-majority of us have been trained to adopt the mantra, “If I want it done right, I have to do it myself.” And due to much of the miseducation most of us receive, we buy into the adage that in order to succeed we have to know everything; be the expert; be more capable in every way, and in everything in.
You can’t build a sprawling brand or enterprise by yourself. Or in other words, you can’t manage 28,000+ Starbucks locations by yourself.
These commonly passed on beliefs will not serve you well if you’re goal is to scale a large business. You must get over yourself, and concerns about what other people think about you, and get the BIG questions answered. Seek answers from other entrepreneurs who have transversed the ground you’re negotiating. Seek the expertise of others who have demonstrated their value: meaning they earn money from actually building things; they have the receipts, the battle scars, and verifiable success stories. Seek tour guides, and avoid the travel agents out there.
The bottom line is you can’t pay your vendors, your service providers, your employees, feed your children, and keep a roof over your head with prideful ignorance. This is about results. Suck it up, know that you’re not perfect, nor anyone else. Lean in as ask for help.
One of Warren Buffet’s many axioms for life and investing, is to invest in what you know. Past performance does not equal future results. At the end of the day, successful entrepreneurs are highly compensated problem solvers. And just as society, people’s appetites, the challenges facing households are constantly evolving; you must be constantly evolving, refining and redefining your knowledge base, and your craft as well. Whether you’re a grizzled veteran in a specific industry, or you’re starting a new venture, inculcate a thirst for learning as if you know nothing.
“I met a gypsy and she hipped me to some life game
To stimulate then activate the left and right brain
Said baby boy you only funky as your last cut
You focus on the past your ass’ll be a has what
that’s one to live by or either that one to die to.”
One of the most significant statements I recall from the interview with Sharon Madison was the words she uttered, “Let people know who you are.” Madison shared this advice she received from Ms. Irma Henderson at a time when she didn’t feel confident in herself. It was a timely reminder, that we all start out crying, crawling, helpless and hapless when we come into the world. No man nor woman is above you. Stand on your talent. Stand behind your work. Stand on the shoulders of those who have poured into you. And make them know your name.
HARD WORK, COMMITMENT, SACRIFICE, DEDICATION
You don’t like him. Good. It will make this most important takeaway more stark and hopefully more biting.
Floyd Mayweather is undefeated, and one of the wealthiest athletes in the world. Despite much of the rightfully deserved criticism thrown at him, he will inevitably be recognized as one of the most decorated and successful athletes of his era. And if you were to ask Mayweather, and more importantly his opponents what has been the key ingredient to his success, they will all attribute it to one trait above all else.
Mayweather willingly admits that he is not the fastest, the most athletic, or gifted boxers or athletes in the world. He simply works harder at perfecting his craft more than anyone else.
Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, infomercials, most media outlets, and the super-majority of influencers aren’t being 100% with you. Especially, if you are African American.
Yep, I said it, because it would be irresponsible not to. The rules are still different for ebony people.
Untimely deaths and heartaches don’t disappear because you choose entrepreneurship. Car accidents happen. Basic accounting principles and the consequences of not reinvesting in yourself, in assets, and in learning don’t disappear. Tiny slights and little affronts, are not going to stop, but rather grow cumulatively and can have deleterious psychological effects if not addressed.
The police pulling you over for no other reason than your ebony complexion isn’t going to stop. situations will continue to dog you in the boardroom, at the park and grocery store, in the courtroom, and perhaps even your living room depending on your circumstances. Marriage disputes aren’t going to stop. Financial strains aren’t going to stop. Family conflicts aren’t going to stop. Your skinfolk will not behave like kinfolk . The questioning of your expertise or the veracity of your receipts doesn’t stop. You still will not be given the benefit of the doubt. When the bank tells you NO, you’ll have to learn how to eat rejection with the glee of a child popping skittles into their mouth. And proceed to the next without a loss of enthusiasm and belief.
And summon the will to go collect soda cans if you have to, until you cross paths with someone who recognizes your value. All of us who were not born on 3rd base have to do this. There are no overnight success stories, just stories we learn about overnight.
As entrepreneurs, we are ultimately compensated for what we are able to endure, ignore, and transcend; simply plowing ahead without loss of enthusiasm for the work.
“Work like there is someone working 24-hours a day to take it away from you.” — Mark Cuban
PARTING THOUGHTS AND TOUGH LOVE.
THIS IS ABOUT RESULTS, NOT EXCUSES. NOT A DISCUSSION OF RIGHT OR WRONG, BUT CONSEQUENCES.
- You have no choice but to invest (you get what you pay for) in an online social presence (with time or currency) or your business will die.
- Get your documents in order. If you don’t have an operating agreement, contracting agreement, non-circumvent, and confidentiality agreement in your tool box, along with a host of business resources, stick a fork in your business….it’s over. What are these documents and why are they important? Read this article . And re-introduce yourself to your personal banker TODAY!
- Excuses and complaining won’t save you. No one is coming to save you. You either make it your business to show up unannounced, learn what you need to learn, invest where you need to invest, or simply fail. This is entrepreneurship, not flag football. The market doesn’t care about your tale of woe.
- You are an entrepreneur building in a capitalist economy. Capitalism is competition. And it doesn’t care about your hunger pains, or cries for equity. What if Jesse Owens simply resigned because the cards were stacked against him?
- The pandemic exposed the fact that ebony business owners have a fragility problem: fragile savings habits; fragile adherence to basic business principles; fragile employment accounting tools, CRMs, marketing tools, HR tools…..
- Too many are too busy trying to siphon money out the cash register without employing basic accounting and tax principles. The result being when opportunities present themselves (Paycheck Protection Program — Small Business Administration), too many are ill equipped to seize the opportunity .
- If ebony men and women do not make the decision to invest in African American businesses, nothing is going to change. Remember, Malcolm & Martin, were gunned down when their commentary began to focus on economics.
JuJuan Buford is a Detroit native, entrepreneur, Founder & CEO of JSB Business Solutions Group, business development professional, and writer dedicated to helping families, entrepreneurs, and business owners establish thriving enterprises, achieve financial independence, and build lives of satisfaction.
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Originally published at https://www.catchjsbuford.com.