William F. Pickard, Ph.D., is currently Chairman of Global Automotive Alliance, Co-Managing Partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino, CEO of Bearwood Management Company and co-owner of five black-owned newspapers. Dr. Pickard has become an expert in entrepreneurship by building a career spanning nearly 50 years. From being a franchisee of McDonald's in Detroit, Michigan to founding an automotive manufacturing company that now services corporations like Boeing, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Delphi, Johnson Controls, Starbucks, Home Depot and Merck Pharmaceuticals, we're pretty sure this guy knows what he's talking about.
Along with building empires, Dr. Pickard is unselfishly passionate about educating young people on how to be successful in such a crowded space. His latest book, Millionaire Moves: Seven Principles of Entrepreneurship, delves into his professional journey while dropping gems of wisdom along the way.
We were able to catch up with Dr. Pickard to pick his brain a bit about #entrepreneuringwhileblack, the media and philanthropy. If you're remotely considering starting your own business, we highly recommend you check out his thoughts below.
What is the fundamental thing that most black entrepreneurs should be mindful of?
It is possible if you have self-confidence and you're a true belief in yourself. Stop doubting yourself. This isn’t rocket science. I tell people all the time, "you can do this too." I know it sounds corny, but take Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas. He is one of the smallest players in the NBA, only five feet nine inches tall, yet, he is one of the top and most feared players. Logically, it doesn’t make sense, but it is a reality.
Technology, which has opened new forms of communication, is big and it will continue to evolve at a rapid rate to change our society and the world. Uber is the perfect example of a company revolutionizing an industry, and practically turning it upside down due to technology and communication. Through an app, Uber can hire employees, interface with customers and acquire revenue, and never own a vehicle. It’s the largest taxi service in America, yet it doesn’t own a single vehicle.
Whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, online, in-paper or broadcast, as a media owner, you are creators of content. Our black newspapers share a viewpoint reflective of the black community, culture and perspective. It is a perspective and mission that conveys African American milestones and views on public policy. Being a media owner gives you an influence on behalf of your community, business or personal brand. It also makes sure you have a voice, when others are silent. So being an owner of media, is critical.
Photo: William Pickard's InstagramWhat are your thoughts on finally overcoming the economic struggle that the black community faces at large?
One of the things I mention in my book is that, “Wealthy people teach their children how to acquire. Rich people teach their children how to sell. Poor people teach their children how to buy.” We must separate wants from needs. As a community, we must stop buying things because they make us feel good. Once we start making better economic decisions, we will be better off as a community. I recently read an article about a woman that had $220,000 in student loan debt who paid it off in three years. She only made $38,000 a year but she started educating herself on personal finance and began devising a plan. So instead of trying to figure out how to buy the next luxury vehicle, house, clothes or shoes, she put a plan in place to get out of debt. To change our everyday financial situations, and that of our communities, we must start with transforming our mindset. That means adjusting our buying habits and educating ourselves on how to build wealth for ourselves, our family and our community.
First, we must buy from and support companies that support our communities. Whether it’s neighborhood programs, jobs, economic development, United Negro College Fund or other initiatives, it is imperative that we are conscious of who we spend our money with because that directly impacts our communities. Secondly, it is important for us to make decisions based on our family and how we survive the next crisis. What I mean by crisis is, understanding the next economic challenge that your family may face, and being prepared for it. Finally, we must teach our children of this capitalist, unjust and unfair system and how to maneuver in it, despite the disparities.
The economic future for young people looks great! I really believe that. But they must prepare for two economic futures because most jobs and companies are going to operate differently. It does not matter if it’s an IT, marketing, technology or another type of company, the job market will not be the same. The reality of a car or truck that can operate itself with technology versus a driver, changes the popularity of companies today, like Uber and Lyft. As the job market shifts, the people this will impact the most are poor people. So, for our young black people, who are hungry and willing to put in the work, they must get in the game of ownership.
How can black millennials change the game when it comes to entrepreneurship?
Shared vision. Where two, three or four collaborate to build a company. Often times, it starts with a larger number of friends, and eventually reduces to those who are committed to putting in the work and who share the vision. I truly believe if black millennials work together to build businesses, it will be a game changer. When you look at the smartphone industry, it is a shame that African-Americans are some of the biggest users of smartphones, but we don’t design any, make any and we own very few franchises. My message to black millennials is, “Don’t just be users of the technology, be creators.”
What is the biggest hurdle entrepreneurs must face?
Self-doubt and superimposed mental attitude of "I can’t." Vision and attitude are critical to success—whether you have the money to start a business or not. Entrepreneurs must see themselves where they want to be. Attitude will help crystalize dreams and motivate people to be productive, even when it is hard to do so. Vision will keep you grinding while others are sleeping. Vision and attitude WILL bring you to the finish line. The bible says, "without vision, the people will perish."
You will never be successful if you don’t give your time, money or resources. And if you are, it will probably be short lived. I truly believe that. I continue to support education because it is important to me. I provide endowments to schools, dedicated $1 million to the new African American museum and spent countless hours teaching. I firmly believe in the adage, “Each one, reach one, teach one.” For decades, I have been a lecturer at Historically Black Colleges and other colleges and universities to inspire young people to build their business and create their own legacy. Like all of us, I stand on the shoulders of some mighty men and women who made it possible for me to go to college, who shared wisdom, opened doors or placed opportunities before me. Without them, I would not be the success I am today. So, giving back is just a part of my DNA. As someone who has been blessed in many ways, I hope my book will plant seeds of inspiration and determination for that person with a great idea, the student trying to find their way or the employee who dreams of something bigger.