Reflecting on the Loss of Congressman Elijah Cummings

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Last Friday, I, along with leaders, icons, and dignitaries from around the nation gathered at The New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore to say our final goodbyes to our fraternity brother and friend, the honorable Elijah Eugene Cummings, U.S. Representative of Maryland. 

 

A lot of things have been on my mind over this past week; I’ve been thinking about the importance of leadership, having lost congressman Cummings. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about the void of leadership in the government and in the Congress, and in society. There is a need for people who can lead to step up and be leaders and not be afraid and not be consumed with their own personal ambitions; people who can look instead to what is the greater good for the community and the country. If more people did that, we would get better leaders, simple as that.

 

 As I sat with my thoughts over the last week, two aspects of the funeral proceedings really resonated and helped to make sense of some of my thoughts and confirm my sentiments around a need for change; for a step back from the status quo and a reevaluation of where we are as a country and where we want to be. It’s amazing; even in death Rep. Cummings continues to inspire.

 

 If you’re wondering why Representative Cummings’ service took place at (the church), as opposed to the Capital, Civic Center, or some other large venue, I can assure you it was no coincidence.

 

As Bishop Walter Scott Thomas brilliantly articulated in his moving eulogy of Congressman Cummings, while the church was in fact the one that Congressman Cummings regularly attended, there existed another, and more powerful reason why he insisted on his going home service to be held at his church. Congressman Cummings knew that his funeral would attract the power-brokers of our time. In attendance, there were two former United States Presidents, the Speaker of the House, almost the entire Congress, Governors, Mayors, business leaders, etc.; all of these powerful people came to say farewell at his going home service.

Photo Credit: Reuters

Photo Credit: Reuters

Even in death, Congressmen Cummings sought to use the gathering of all of these people in great power to take a moment to remind them of their roots and their ultimate mortality.  A grim reminder that our days on this earth are short so we had better be about the business of making an impact on humanity.  All of them, most of them, started just like him; from humble beginnings but now they’re in positions of power and authority. Perhaps the Congressman Cummings was using his last service on this side of eternity to remind these powerful people of the old biblical adage, “to whom much is given, much is required!” 

 

For Rep. Cummings funeral, powerful leaders came together to hear a single message. President Clinton said it best when he drew the comparison between Congressman Elijah Cummings and Elijah from the Bible. Biblically, Elijah was known because he carried a message from God that people were not doing right and needed to do better. In parallel, Congressman Cummings had a similar purpose to remind leaders of our country: you’re not doing right, you’re not being the best that you can be, and you will be held accountable.

 

Though he may be gone from this earthly and resting peacefully until Christ calls him from the grave, Rep Cummings lives on inside each of us who are committed to carrying his torch; the torch for liberty, equality, and a better America for ALL.

 

I hope you’ll join me in my commitment to keeping his legacy alive by living a life of service in the name of a better tomorrow. 

 

Rest in Peace Congressman Elijah Cummings 

Baltimore Women's Advisory Board

Photo Credit: GBC

Photo Credit: GBC

I always feel an extreme sense of fulfillment and pride in the work that I’ve been able to do in the city of Baltimore through the Greater Baltimore Committee and more recently, Baltimore Women’s Advisory Board.

Last week, I participated in a panel curated for female entrepreneurs within the city of Baltimore. During this discussion, myself along with other top executives in the city discussed our perspectives, experiences and best practices in cultivating a diverse and inclusive company culture.


In this day and age, this topic is extremely important and relevant for entrepreneurs and executives across all industries. Having the opportunity to speak to it in the context of female businesses owners within our great city of Baltimore is a step in the right direction in our pursuit towards cultivating and maintaining the entrepreneurial and economic development in the city.

Where does your organization stand in its current Diversity & Inclusion initiatives? Is this a space where you could use some additional help? Please feel free to reach out and we can speak further.

5 Critical Lessons in Building Effective and Sustainable Business Alliances & Strategic Partnerships

5 Critical Lessons in Building Effective and Sustainable Business Alliances & Strategic Partnerships

Excited to speak today at the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. 2019 National Conference on the "Art of the M&A Deal” panel! Preparing for this topic brought me back to my earliest MBA research at Tuck, where I unpacked some of the key habits of successful minority and female entrepreneurs. My book, 'Strategic Partnerships: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Joint Ventures and Alliances'​ is the product of this research. If you haven't yet read Strategic Partnerships, see if my article, '5 Critical Lessons in Building Effective and Sustainable Business Alliances & Strategic Partnerships'​, resonates with you and your business. If so, lets talk.

Protecting Your Personal Information in the Digital Age

What goes through your mind when you see a sign for ‘Free Wifi’ in an airport, train or your favorite local café? Is it something along the lines of “Yes Please! ‘Terms & Conditions’? No thanks *Clicks Connect*”?

It’s okay; for better or for worse, this seems to be the world in which we now live. Consider this: with the click of a button, we can instantly connect to another human being on the other side of the globe! It’s only natural that we get excited any time we find easy {free} access to this digital life line.

No matter which way you slice it, innovation has made modern digital technology an indispensable tool; but like any tool, it has its intended uses which are constructive… and whole host of ways in which it can be misused to wreak havoc.

Last month, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking on the ‘Cybersecurity in the Workplace’ Breakfast Briefing panel, hosted by the Greater Baltimore Committee. Speaking alongside Dave Hartman of Hartman Executive Advisors and Ryan LaSalle of Accenture Security, we took a deep dive into cybersecurity in the workplace and what businesses need to know to help keep their company’s data safe.

Donald Fry (GBC), Robert Wallace (BithGroup Technologies), Dave Hartman ( Hartman Advisors), Ryan LaSalle (Accenture) at Greater Baltimore Committee Cyber Security Event

Donald Fry (GBC), Robert Wallace (BithGroup Technologies), Dave Hartman ( Hartman Advisors), Ryan LaSalle (Accenture) at Greater Baltimore Committee Cyber Security Event


If you recall, in May of 2019, the city of Baltimore fell victim to a devastating ransomware attack. Director of the Baltimore City IT department, Frank Johnson, confirmed that the city's computers were infected with a "very aggressive" form of ransomware called "RobinHood," which locks up or holds city files for ransom until money is paid to the hackers responsible for the malware. Hackers set a price of three Bitcoins (about $24,000) to unlock each city system, or 13 Bitcoins (about $102,000) to unlock all systems. This incident of ‘Digital Terrorism’ is just one of many that we’re beginning to see around the world and to be honest, its scary.

Data protection for large corporations and governments is at the forefront of conversation among top Cyber Security professionals BUT there are some things you can do today to increase the security of your personal information.



8 Simple Tips to Better Protect Yourself Against Cyber Crimes

1.    Use Anti-Virus software

2.    Install firewalls, pop up blockers, and keep your operating system up to date

3.    Uninstall unnecessary software

4.    Maintain a full system backup

5.    Monitor your security settings and make sure you understand what they mean

6.    Always use secure connections

7.    Open attachments carefully

8.    Use strong passwords and don’t give personal information unless required



To be clear, at this point, the only guaranteed secure option is to literally cut the cord and unplug. If that sounds a bit too drastic of a measure, there is still hope! Simply put: Pay Attention. Act Smart.



For more tips on how you can stay up to date on Cyber Security happenings and ways to best protect your personal and enterprise data, follow us on twitter and subscribe to our newsletter today!

Highlights from Maryland Global Gala

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On December 5, over 300 attendees joined WTCI and our co-host Venable for the Maryland Global Gala. We would like to thank our showcase sponsors that are doing good all over the world - Jhpiego and BD Diagnostics, and all other sponsors that made this event possible. We would also like to thank everyone who attended the event, with special thanks to our members, premier partners, and cultural ambassadors. Proceeds from this event help to support WTCI's professional development programs. See some of our favorite moments from Maryland Global Gala below! Attendees had the chance to:

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Principles of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

The T3 Principle

Wisdom for Today

·       Every business will require a certain degree of sacrifice in order to succeed in the long-term.

·       Every one of us has been endowed in varying degrees with three valuable assets: time (24 hours a day, 365 days a year), talent (e.g., math, science, music, marketing, writing, speaking), and treasure (various material assets, money, real estate, or other possessions). The combination of these three assets (T3) allows entrepreneurs to leverage growth and creativity. It's important to note that if you're short on treasure, you'll need to depend more upon time and talent in the beginning of your venture.

·       The benefit of making the T3 investment is that you can create a system in which one asset bolsters another. By pursuing a particular venture, you may gain more treasure (e.g., money, profits, enhanced net worth).

·       The increased treasure, if invested correctly, could free up time to be with family, while the transaction could mean gaining additional marketable skills, which could then translate into more business.

Principles of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

The You Don’t Have Because You Don’t Ask Principle

Wisdom for Today

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·       Many times entrepreneurs will go through the process of researching a customer's needs, developing solutions to those needs, documenting and presenting findings to the customer, and then will walk away from the table without asking for the business. This principle makes it clear that whatever outcome you desire, first be diligent about mastering the technical requirements, then ask for what you want in order to get it.

·       This principle applies when an entrepreneur is in need of help. When you find yourself in need of help, you must first admit it and then seek out people who can help. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many busy people are willing to help others if they are asked.

Principles of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

The Principle of Managing the Ride

Wisdom for Today

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·       Successful entrepreneurs recognize that business is just like life-it runs through cycles. Businesses grow and they shrink. They are profitable one year and lose money the next. Your staff performs in an exemplary fashion on one contract and bombs on the next. How you manage these swings is directly proportionate to the company's long-term success. 

·       Average entrepreneurs adjust their emotions to the swings in the cycle, but successful entrepreneurs calibrate their emotions at midpoint between the highs and the lows. They manage to maintain this equilibrium throughout the entire business journey, despite the changes and vicissitudes of the external environment. 

·       Even though the external environment continues to move through the cycles, successful entrepreneurs maintain a steady and constant reaction to those changing external events. This steadiness minimizes the emotional and psychological effects that changes can cause, and helps entrepreneurs perform consistently and efficiently over the long term. Steady consistency is indeed a great way to manage the ride. 

Principles of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

Principles of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

Wisdom for Today

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·       There have been many intelligent minority and female entrepreneurs throughout the history of America who have helped make our country the beacon of light to the world that it is. Certainly, the names of Madame C. J. Walker, James Forten, William Whippet, Stephen Smith, Reginald Lewis, C. Michael Gooden, Nathan Chapman, and Christopher Williams, to name a few, will go down in history as outstanding entrepreneurs. But alongside the many accolades they will receive will be the fact that their business accomplishments were not realized merely from their raw intelligence. Like every successful entrepreneur, they were forced to rely upon their own brainpower plus that of many other people. 

·       Individuals do good things. Groups of individuals do great things. 

·       Entrepreneurs must perfect the skill of allowing smart people to grow and prosper within their organization, and they must understand what it will take to retain these individuals. 

 

Principles of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

The Principle of Decision-Node Intelligence

Wisdom for Today

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·       The principle of decision-node intelligence is related to a science called decision analysis. Decision analysis teaches how to analyze business options logically and then to assess which option to choose. Every decision we make provides a single entry into the next decision node, in that one idea relates to another until we reach a point of understanding. Typically, the output side of a decision node contains multiple choices from which to choose. Although entrepreneurs are free to pick any option as the next branch in the decision tree, they must exercise great diligence and caution in choosing. Failure to make a good choice or the “right" choice could result in a significant setback or even failure. 

·       The key to enhancing your decision-node intelligence and thus increasing your probability of consistently making good decisions is to learn from those who have already gone through those same decision nodes. A good mentor can provide anecdotal data a experiences to assist you in choosing the right branch and helping you to avoid the pitfalls and the painful waste of precious resources. The principle of decision-node intelligence can be related to the principle of mentoring. 

Principles of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

The Boomerang Principle

Wisdom for Today

·       The boomerang principle is synonymous with the biblical principle of “as a man sows, so shall he reap.” As an entrepreneur, you will find that everything you do comes back at you in similar fashion. For example, if you give to customers, they will give back to you. If you pay people compliments, they will ultimately repay you with a compliment. 

·       A corollary to this principle is that when you “throw the boomerang"--when you initiate an action (either positive or negative) that may impact one or many people-when it comes back at you, the return impact will be manyfold that of the initial action. For example, if you help someone in business (for example, extend a business loan to someone everyone else has turned down), and then years later you find yourself in a similar predicament, your help will come, but it will far exceed the help you initially provided. Conversely, if you are dishonest and unscrupulous in your business dealings, at some point you will become the victim of numerous business attacks of increased severity and intensity. 

Principles of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

The Principles of Playing Dumb

Wisdom for Today

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·       The principle of playing dumb is all about balance and instinct. The balancing happens when you want your customer to acknowledge and appreciate your high level of accomplishment and competence in your area of expertise without appearing threatening, condescending, or arrogant. The sad fact is that a few white males are still threatened by an articulate, highly educated, and ambitious women or minority professional. Some feel so threatened that they may not even engage a minority-owned business in contract opportunities.

·         Playing dumb does not mean belittling yourself or not using all your skills. Instead, it means putting the need of your customer fist. For example, when helping your customer fist. For example, when helping your customer to solve a problem, put your best resources on the problem to solve it quickly, understand the politics of your customer's environment and his predicament, present the solution to your customers (make sure the solution is through), then step back and let the customer lead.

·       The wisdom in these situations is that you must learn when to let people know how smart you are and when to "play dumb," not "be dumb."

Principles of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

The Principle of Bidirectional Intelligence Flow

Wisdom for Today

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  • Most companies, governments, and organizations in general have a hierarchical structure that is used to manage the entity. Each position in the company, though varied in size and function, plays a critical role in allowing the organization to meet its stated mission and objectives. Every person in every position in the organization has value. The organization or company is as stronger as the weakest of its links.  

  • Successful entrepreneurs know that because everyone in an organization is valuable and contributes in a unique way, they must seek out and make allies of as many of these people as possible. These people could be as low as janitors or as high as CEOs, but whatever their position, they can either help or hinder your progress. Typically, these people will have access to or be privy to important facts that could determine one's level of success or failure.  Likewise, entrepreneurs should work to provide information to other members of the organization that may need help. This bidirectional intelligence flow serves to benefit everyone involved. 

#entrepreneurship     #business     #consulting     #keynote     #success     #speaker     #author

Principles of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

Maintaining Congruence of Business and Values

Wisdom for Today

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  • The almighty dollar isn't. Many entrepreneurs send too much faith, time, and energy trying to appease the money god. Wealth can be either a blessing or a curse depending upon whether or not you must compromise your values to earn it.  

  • Entrepreneurs must factor their value system into business decisions. For example, don't open a video store that rents adult videos if that conflicts with your moral values.  

  • Although the object of being a marketer in the marketplace is to gain, remember what can be lost in the process and protect that which is important to you. Each individual is only an event or two away from disaster.  

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The Principle of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

The Grand Canyon Principle

Wisdom for Today

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  • Over time, water is stronger than rock. A steady and relentless stream of water will eventually wear away the strongest stone. Likewise, entrepreneur who are confident of their mission and who persist and persevere, even though the most trying of times, will ultimately wear down all obstacles 

  • When you're in the Grand Canyon, you may climb many smaller mountains and hills, but the fact remains that you'll still be in a hole. Successful entrepreneurs must recognize that it is not enough to win the "little battles" in their journey to canvass the canyon or achieve their major goals in business. They must become proficient at scaling the smaller mountains as they keep in sight the larger and grander objective 

  • You cannot jump over a canyon with a series of small bounds. When you leap you must make it count. An entrepreneur must take great care in planning and determining how to commit time and resources to achieve the objectives that really count.   

#entrepreneurship     #business     #consulting     #keynote     #success     #speaker     #author

Principle of Entrepreneurship Maintenance

The Hannibal Principle

Wisdom for Today

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  • Don't look at the bars but instead look beyond them. All of us have paradigms that dictate how we view our world and ourselves. Unfortunately, some of our paradigms have been built on inaccurate data and often become psychological bars that tend to incarcerate our minds and disrupt the creativity of thinking. Some of the obvious bars we construct include racism, sexism, classism, physical attributes, perceived wrong, past injustices, or lack of education, to name a few Our tendency to focus on the bars serves only to empower them, thus diverting valuable human energy from more productive entrepreneurial tasks such as defending our market niche, developing a winning business plan, and identifying sources of capital for our ventures.  

  • Learn to expect great things from yourself and others. The starting point for any human achievement of value is your belief in and desire to achieve the object of your dream. You become what you think about. If you think that all is lost and that you cannot win, you will achieve what you focus on.  

  • Assume full responsibility for your economic well-being and prosperity. Whenever you disown a problem, you relinquish all power to solve it. No one in America has the desire or conviction to fix the economic problems of the minority community but its members. Although the economic quagmire they find themselves in today is not totally of their own doing, the solution and dedication to resolving their perplexing issues must and will come only from within that community. 

  • Aggressively seek to build win-win relationship with other minority firms and with mainstream firms. Very few companies today can stand by themselves for long. Some experts predict that the successful companies for the new millennium will be those that develop strategic and mutually beneficial teaming relationships with other companies.  Minority and women entrepreneurs must not limit themselves to teaming only with businesses of similar ethnicity and gender. They should instead follow a parallel track and develop partnerships with any groups that seek to achieve common goals. Above all, make sure that the relationship is a win-win one so that becomes a lasting and rewarding experience for both parties.  

#entrepreneurship     #business     #consulting     #keynote     #success     #speaker     #author