There are numerous business and sales books describing the farmer approach versus the hunter approach. Basically, the farmer approach believes in growing existing contacts and customers, whereas the hunter approach believes in chasing new ideas and prospects. During a recent master class for the freshmen entrepreneurial studies program at Hampton University, I proposed the Farmer approach combined with Inner City Kid approach. I’m who I am today because of my inner city residence and my farmer’s rearing. I learned about people in the inner city, I learned about life on the farm. I have many characteristics of both a farmer and street kid. I have a generous spirit, can-do attitude, a belief that all people are good with a balance of not allowing myself to be taken advantage of, knowing my lane, and understanding although people are good, some have bad intentions.
I shared with the entrepreneurial studies students how your upbringing will shape your values and your beliefs about various subjects. I shared how as an educator, a clinical psychologist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, I have adopted two mantras in my business dealings. Although I’ve experienced personal success in many of my endeavors, my greatest financial success is a result of being a holder of commercial real estate, Brown Commercial Real Estate Holdings, encouraged by my favorite university president, Dr. William R. Harvey. I have a mantra developed from my inner city days and one from my time spent on the farm: 1. “Be careful what feeds you because it can also starve you,” and 2. “Everyone is not your customer.” Although my faith in God is my guiding source, these mantras are safe-guards for me in my entrepreneurial dealings.
My strict commitment is to God, my family and my mission. Everything else can be taken or left behind. I am not one to compromise what I believe is my worth. In fact, I was taught to “know your worth then add tax.” Money has never been my driving force in business and I teach for the cause, not for the applause. It is important not to become “a slave” to anything. The message I want to convey or the message I want to deliver, is more important than the money. I will turn down offers if my price is not met, however I will donate my time and efforts to the same cause for free should the stars align. I facilitated an exercise whereby I gave groups of students email requests I’ve received over the years that would potentially challenge the entrepreneur’s mission and vision ranging from requests for free work and discounted work often associated with earnest and guilt-laden pleas. This exercise proved to be fun and beneficial as many course professors stated that although this occurs quite often, these dynamics were not typically covered in the students’ course work.
The aforementioned led me to the following conclusion of the master class: Know who you are. Know who’s you are. Know your value. Know your lane. And know your line. Life may challenge your belief system, hold onto it anyway. People will try to make you into something you are not, be you. Just because someone does not highly value themselves and projects this upon you, don’t decrease your worth. When opportunities have not aligned with my beliefs - whether book deals, television talk show and reality tv offers or consulting engagements, I graciously decline. I suggest doing a few things great as opposed to doing many things good. And draw your line with a sharpie, not with your foot in the sand.
Today, I still awaken early and go to bed when my work is done. I get my greatest joys from spending time with my family and visiting my mother. Money is still second to the message, whether communicating my worth or my line. And life is quite simple, people are complicated. Never accept anything less than you deserve. Remember, you teach people how to treat you.