Are the rich really that different from the rest of us? According to Dennis Kimbro, Ph.D., author of The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires (Palgrave Macmillan), you bet! All of us have the potential to be millionaires, but the challenge to achieving wealth, Kimbro argues, is adopting the right mind-set. "Wealth is not a function of circumstances; it is a function of decision and choice," says Kimbro. "These are tough times for Black America; there are individuals who have lost hope and are without vision, and that is dangerous. If you change your mind, you change your life." The Wealth Choice is the result of seven years of research in which the Clark Atlanta University business professor conducted an empirical 118-question study of Black millionaires, held six different focus groups around the country and conducted more than 50 interviews. Kimbro surveyed 1,000 Black millionaires out of the 35,000 in the U.S. They had an average net worth of $4 million, 90 percent were entrepreneurs, and 30 percent of those made their money through real estate. The majority were driven by achieving the goal to earn six figures by age 30. Kimbro found that the millionaires' most common definition of success was the "ability to effect change and the capacity to enjoy their work." From his research Kimbro came up with this formula to help you attain wealth:
1. STRETCH YOURSELF
How much further can you go to reach your full potential? "The average individual gets four good ideas a year, but very few have the courage to chase even one of those dreams," says Kimbro. To reach that potential, you must multiply revenue exponentially while minimizing costs, advises wealth coach Deborah Owens. She cautions that African-American women often start businesses that depend on them 24/7. Not only does that limit the size the business could grow but it also curtails the flexibility that female entrepreneurs seek. "Instead of creating businesses, we create another job. Scaling your business requires that you think bigger," says Owens.
Heavenly Kimes, D.D.S. (known as Dr. Heavenly to patients), a dentist in metro Atlanta, is proof that any type of business is scalable. She specializes in buying ailing dental practices, rebuilding them and then selling them. She has owned as many as seven practices at one time. She bought her first one just three years out of dental school when she was eight months pregnant. To maximize her investment, she sells a practice within five years. Currently she owns three, which earn more than $2 million a year and employ a staff of six associate dentists, one orthodontist and one oral surgeon. It means that she only has to see patients three days a week while her three kids are in school.
2. THINK LONG-TERM
Millionaires will commonly have this perspective, according to Kimbro. Dr. Heavenly is a big believer in creating vision boards. She writes down and updates her goals monthly and annually. By thinking ahead she was able to move beyond practicing dentistry to hosting a weekly business radio show and writing the 2012 book Dr. Heavenly's Business Prescriptions: You Can Have It All! (Regatta Music). "Failure is part of success," says Dr. Heavenly, who admits that through the years there were two dental practices that she could not turn around before selling. "You are always going to have some failures, but triumphs last longer."
3. BE A LIFETIME LEARNER
Dr. Heavenly owes much of her success to her willingness to develop new skills, which enable her to take risks. She has studied marketing and holds a real estate license, an insurance license and a series 65 certification, which is a securities license for investment advisers. She is so passionate about constantly adding to her entrepreneurial toolbox that she started Dr. Heavenly University, which offers workshops for those wanting to start a business. "If you don't read, study or continue to develop yourself, someone else will," says Kimbro, who dubs knowledge the first law of wealth. "The day you meet that other person, you lose. If you violate the law of knowledge, there is no reason to move on to the rest." Kimbro's millionaires all valued education, stressing it repeatedly in focus groups, even if all did not have college degrees. But for them what's more important than what you know is what you can do with what you know.
4. LOVE YOUR WORK
It sounds obvious, but millionaires work longer and harder, on average 60 to 65 hours per week, according to Kimbro, with days that typically stretch from 5 A.M. to 11 P.M. That's easier to do if you love your work. Natasha Eubanks, founder of gossip site The YBF (as in The Young, Black and Fabulous), turned her hobby into a million-dollar business. In 2005 Eubanks was about to begin her first year of law school when she started her blog for fun. She was constantly combing through gossip magazines and Web sites. Two years later she earned her first $10,000 ad. Today The YBF has more than 600,000 page views a day, and the site earns over $1 million a year. Eubanks hired support staff and has expanded into TV, where she will serve as a gossip correspondent for The Real, a syndicated daytime talk show, but she still writes the majority of the blog herself. "Most people who start blogs quit in a month," says Eubanks, who has stayed up for 48 hours at a time to teach herself coding and HTML. "All people see is the front end. What you see is only 10 percent of the work that we had to do."
5. SPEND CONSERVATIVELY
No matter how much you make you still have to watch your dollars and save. Eubanks still lives like a frugal law student, keeping herself on a budget and spending most of her money on her business. Kimbro's research found that 80 percent of Black millionaires search for bargains, 25 percent use coupons and many shop at both Nordstrom and Walmart. Money breakthrough coach Monique Caradine argues that everyone has a money personality—whether you are the nurturer who values relationships more than money or the accumulator who knows how to earn money but not how to grow it. The only way to multiply your money effectively is to be honest. "How we do money is how we do everything," says Caradine. "If your money is in order, then everything else will fall into place."
6. LEAN ON YOUR NETWORK
In Kimbro's survey Black millionaires cite networking as a "way of conducting business and a way of life." He writes in his book: "Whereas have-nots may be quick to say, 'It's who you know,' the wealthy would challenge that thinking and reply, 'It's what you know about who you know as well as who knows you.' " Necole Parker was a veteran in the construction business when she was passed over for a raise. The next day she resigned and offered her services as a consultant. That moment launched her company, The Elocen Group, a project management firm, and made her old boss her first client. In the beginning she and her son moved in with her parents, and she worked out of the basement, reaching out to every contact she had ever made. Now six years later, Elocen is a $10 million company, recently landing a five-year contract worth $50 million from the FDA. She credits expanding her network as a key piece of her success: "I discovered that there were a lot of people I already knew who appreciated the work I do. I used that and grew from there."
7. BUILD A LEGACY
Without careful planning, the wealth you build could disappear in a generation or two. "Becoming a millionaire is not so much about how much money you make but how much you keep," says Gail Perry-Mason, a financial coach who advises saving at least 10 percent of your income, which Parker does. Parker, a single mother who had her son while in college, has also started a foundation that raises money for teen moms and for young men raised by single mothers. For Kimbro, building a legacy is why his research matters now. "We need to constantly focus on the next generation," he says. His solution: "We need men and women who are daring enough to sign their name on the front of a paycheck as well as the back."