Entrepreneurs

“There is no easy formula for entrepreneurial success, for part of the joy inherent in flight is building your own wings from scratch and discovering new destinations.”

– Bishop T.D. Jakes, CEO and Founder, T.D. Jakes Ministries and T.D. Jakes Enterprises

 

Entrepreneurs, as we recap the final installment of the SOAR Experience, we embolden you to leverage these entrepreneurial insights for your business endeavors. To realize success as an entrepreneur, you must put forth the effort to make a great impact, starting with your mindset. As Bishop T.D. Jakes shared in his latest New York Times bestselling book, SOAR! Build Your Vision from the Ground Up, “There is no easy formula for entrepreneurial success, for part of the joy inherent in flight is building your own wings from scratch and discovering new destinations.”

 

During part two of the SOAR Experience, Bishop T.D. Jakes shared the stage with Walker & Company Founder and CEO Tristan Walker. Tristan discussed diversity and entrepreneurship, with an emphasis on African American business ownership rather than consumerism. When Tristan discovered a void in the African American grooming and haircare industry, he decided to provide a solution. To an audience of approximately 2,500 aspiring entrepreneurs, Tristan stated, “Our aim is to make quality health and beauty products for people of color. We spend more money in this category than anyone else – and we deserve better.” Today, Walker & Company Brands is a multimillion-dollar health and beauty empire.

 

Shifting from the health and beauty space to the oil and gas arena, Bishop T.D. Jakes introduced one of the nation’s multimillion-dollar petroleum moguls to the audience. In part three of the SOAR Experience, we recap Hightowers Petroleum Co. President and CEO Stephen Hightower’s triumphant story of faith, diligence, and an unwavering entrepreneurial spirit.

 

Humble Beginnings

Bishop T.D. Jakes and Ohio native Stephen Hightower share similar backgrounds, as both are the sons of janitors. As a child Stephen’s first job was assisting his parents with their janitorial business. Stephen said, “I’ve been working since I was young. As a janitor, I cleaned floors and toilets, which are things that most people wouldn’t care to do.”

 

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While attending Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, to study management and communications, Stephen continued to work for his parents’ janitorial business. After graduating from Wright State University, he decided to launch his own construction company, selling industrial materials. However, in the early 1980s, Stephen encountered countless setbacks. Despite meeting the various banks’ criteria for financial assistance, Stephen’s company could not obtain credit. As a self-motivated businessman with an unwavering entrepreneurial spirit, Stephen decided to pave a new path. After exploring the oil and gas industry, he transitioned his construction company into a thriving petroleum and gas business. Today, Hightowers Petroleum Co. provides gasoline and diesel to General Motors, among other blue chip companies. Stephen’s business is slated to generate half a billion dollars in revenue this year.

 

Leveraging Relationship Capital

As the devoted father of four children, Stephen instilled in them the importance of building a legacy through relationship capital. Most entrepreneurs focus on business operations, yet fail to leverage relationship capital to obtain new business, among other outcomes. The ability to forge strategic relationships, especially as an African American entrepreneur is paramount to thriving in the entrepreneurship space. “In this country, I shouldn’t be the only African American man in the entire petroleum industry,” said Stephen.

 

Entrepreneurs

From the individuals that you associate with to the conversations that you entertain, you must be intentional. Bishop Jakes said, “You have to be in the room with people who are not talking about people.” This is invaluable advice for entrepreneurs. It’s essential to be in the company of positive, results-driven people who talk about high level strategies, not unproductive gossip. With regards to forging relationships with financial institutions and high-net-worth clientele, Stephen echoed Bishop’s wisdom. Stephen said, “We need to build relationships…they have to know who you are before they play with you.” This sage advice is worth implementing in today’s competitive business space.

 

“We need to build relationships…they have to know who you are before they play with you.”

– Stephen Hightower, President and CEO of Hightowers Petroleum Co.

 

Speaking the Language

Stephen Hightower is one of the most successful African American men representing the oil and gas industry. He encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs who have little to no capital to stay the course. Stephen said, “80 to 90 percent of you will not have the money to start your own business. Banks still said no to me even though I had $200 million in my company; it wasn’t until I was at $250 million that suppliers gave me credit. I built my business on the notion of understanding how to play the game.” As an entrepreneur, it behooves you to understand how to speak the language of your industry.

 

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Bishop Jakes said, “Every area in life has its own language, including real estate, etc. How did you learn the language so that you could be universal and talk to South African businesses, and others?” Stephen replied, “Every business I was involved in I didn’t know outside of the janitorial business. Petroleum is a “language”…there are professional associations that you can get involved in that meet quarterly so you can learn the language.” Supporting Stephen’s advice, Bishop Jakes said, “You can’t lead if you don’t read. I had to decide if I wanted to watch movies or make movies. You have to reconfigure things.” To this end, Stephen said, “You are at the table representing other black people…. I’m typically the only brother in the room. We need to make ourselves a part of the conversation.” Bishop Jakes advised, “You have to be comfortable working with people who don’t look like you.” When asked about the importance of his faith, Stephen replied, “God is the reason why I’m here.” Bishop Jakes along with the approximately 2,500 aspiring entrepreneurs in the audience, expressed their gratitude to Stephen Hightower as he concluded his session. With his closing remarks, Stephen advised, “Learn the game and be the best at it. If you don’t do what you love for free, you’ll never be able to do it for pay.”

 

Success in 2018 (and beyond)

Entrepreneurs, as you embark on your journey to boundless success, honor your innate talents. Focus your energy on how you can provide solutions to customer pain points – be a problem-solver! If you’re ready to make a great impact in your business endeavors, make plans now to attend the International Pastors & Leadership Conference in April 2018. This highly anticipated conference is for entrepreneurs, leaders, and pastors, from millennials to baby boomers. There, you’ll have opportunities to connect with thousands of entrepreneurs who are ready to SOAR in 2018 (and beyond).

 

 

 



Written by: Shanda Henley

November 29, 2017