Saturday, October 26, 2013

What Did Oprah Have that I Did Not

During these boomer years of my life, I have often thought of the success of Oprah Winfrey. I wonder what she had that allowed her to climb the ladder to become the phenomenal business woman and media icon she is today. Umpteen years ago, we both started out on the same path as aspiring journalists. I'm sure we both had drive and determination and, yes, we had to have a self-confidence about our talents and abilities. Although affirmative action opened up many doors in the 70s and early 80s, it wasn't a sure fire guarantee that you would climb the ladder of success once you got your foot in the door.

Unlike Oprah, I wasn't molested as a child and didn't have a baby out of wedlock. I didn't grow up poor with a single mother in the deep south. (Maybe we were poor in Ohio but I never felt it). I wasn't fat either. So how does a young woman with plenty of "perceived" advantages in the Midwest fail to accomplish her goals and dreams nearly 40 years later?

Well, I wouldn't call myself a total failure because I did accomplish many of the things I set out to do and I refused to allow my dark skin color hold me back. But unlike Oprah, I didn't have a true mentor---a white male who recognized my gifts and talents and was willing to mold and shape me into the vision I had of myself. Perhaps it's because I was too radical at an early age. I wasn't going to allow "the man" dictate my road to success, especially since he had no clue of my struggles or ambitions. Plus, I was hell bent on presenting the stories of black people in a favorable light---not as criminals, thugs and poverty-stricken bums.

Unlike Oprah, marriage slowed me down. When I met the man of my dreams, I thought I could have the best of both worlds: a career, husband and family. After all, if Claire Huxtable could do it, why couldn't I? Of course my first marriage turned into a nightmare and I lost some of my drive and determination in the process. On the other hand, When Oprah met Stedman she was content to just have him around when she needed (or wanted) him. And her baby was her dog.

So what did Oprah have that I did not? Oprah, with the help of some good folks along the way, was able to achieve her goals and dreams, along with her undying perseverance, drive and sheer will. I had some of those same characteristics once but no one to help guide me.

If you're a baby boomer woman over the age of 50, it would be easy to live on the would've, could've, should've and to compare yourself to the likes of Oprah. But at this stage of our journey, we must face the hard core reality that time is getting shorter by the minute and it really doesn't make sense to travel down the memory lane of disappointment. While it’s natural to make comparisons, the problem is you end up unhappy, even when you have a good life, marriage, and family. The comparisons make you begin to question what you already have.

No, I didn't achieve the kind of success Oprah did according to the world's standards, but today I am able to look at my strengths as a mature, seasoned woman and see my true value. I will continue to do what I can to make a difference, using the talents and abilities God has blessed me with to help others shine.

It’s actually one of the keys to my success because without it I would have a hard time waking up each day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Becoming an Entrepreneur After 50 is Challenging

“Part of being a winner is knowing when enough is enough. Sometimes you have to give up the fight and walk away. Move on to something else that’s more productive.” – Donald Trump

Walking away from anything is never easy. It wasn't during my first marriage, although I knew it was the best thing for me. It wasn't when I walked away from television news, although I was totally burned out. The same holds true now as I prepare to walk away from my consulting business.

Seven years ago, I had a passion and a vision. Although the vision wasn't in clear focus at the time, I knew I had a media/communications expertise and I wanted to share it with others. I was convinced the "how" part would come over time.

I spent a lot of time networking and trying to get my name out there. I automatically assumed that once people talked to me and looked at my credentials, they would know I was the REAL DEAL and light years above any other competition around.

Initially, I made some great contacts which led to business. That business generated referrals and life was good. I just assumed word of mouth and my hustle would provide a steady income but that would not be the case. Here are some of the lessons I've learned:

Know Your Market: This means knowing more than the people you want to sell or provide a service to. You need to understand the community you live in and what the trends may be for what you offer. Being black and female is definitely not an advantage in the South. A few "tokens" get through but unless you're truly connected, you will find yourself operating in the red more often than the black. How ironic!

Network in the Right Circles: This may take some time because when you first get into the networking game, you'll find yourself going to many different events to find your perfect fit. I spent way too much time networking in the WRONG circles, only to discover that someone else who offered similar services was being heavily promoted by someone who was highly respecting Inside our 919 community.

Don't Sell Yourself Short: Often times business failures results from the sales of goods and services below cost price. Sometimes in business, cash crunch, fierce competition or economic factor make businesses sell their goods below cost price and this can ruin your business. It certainly did mine.

Be Adaptable to Change: Change is constant, so you either you align your business with the trend and ride to the top or you remain stagnant and eventually fold up. You also need to constantly upgrade your technological strengths as swiftly as possible.

Lack of True Entrepreneurial Skills: When an entrepreneur lacks the necessary skills such as leadership skill, cash flow management, sales, persistence and self belief and so on; such an entrepreneur is bound to fail. An entrepreneur is the head and pilot of the business. I had the leadership and persistence skills but lacked a steady cash flow and sales.

When you know the odds are stacked against you sometimes the best thing to do is walk away but DON'T EVER GIVE UP. I don't want to make the excuse that aging, race, or sex had anything to do with my failure to succeed as a boomerpreneur. After all, I'm Beverly Mahone--a boomer woman on the move and making a difference at midlife.

I have moved on.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

What Happens When Your Entrepreneurial Light Starts to Fade After 50

My last day in a television newsroom was March 26, 2006. I decided to take a huge leap of faith and do what I love on my own terms. Plus I was totally sick of “breaking news” and the sensationalism and inaccuracy of the news business.

Three months later, my first book was published: Whatever! A Baby Boomer’s Journey Into Middle Age. It told my life story as a 40-something year-old woman dealing with subjects like working for younger know-it-alls, being back on the dating scene after 40 and suffering through menopause---all kinds of drama. With the book came a book tour, television appearances and speaking engagements. All of a sudden I was a go-to gal for baby boomers and I became a baby boomer expert. Life was good. PLUS the book became a best seller on Amazon.

From there, I created Boomer Diva Nation and started connecting with other women in my age group who were doing wonderful things to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. I also became an entrepreneur and formed a consulting start-up known as BAMedia. As a media consultant, I offered my expertise to my fellow boomers to help them get a leg up in their businesses. My motto was: “If it’s your time to shine, I can help you turn on the spotlight.”

I was networking my behind off. If there was an event, I was there trying to be seen AND heard. I wanted others to see my gifts, talents and expertise. I wanted them to know I had what they needed. I wanted to help them.

Two things I know FOR SURE about me: 1) I am a natural when it comes to being able to communicate. 2) I love helping others shine and helping them tell their own stories.

I was so sure this was the journey I was supposed to on. But as they say, a funny thing happened on the way to.....
In my case, a not-so-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-success.

I thought I had an entrepreneurial spirit that was shining so brightly that people around me would have to wear sunglasses just to be in my presence. But little did I know, spirit is not the same as heart.

So what went wrong? Stay tuned for the next post.