by Jackson Lord
Michael Bloomberg has a few key pieces of advice for small business owners.
Be the first one in and the last one out, don’t let anyone work harder than you, grow slowly and own it all.
Businessman and philanthropist Bloomberg shared some of his success strategies with a group of small business owners during a trip to Baltimore on Wednesday. The former Mayor of New York visited a few local shops, discussed Baltimore’s problems and what can and is being done to fix them and heard feedback from graduates of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.
The national business education program came to Baltimore in August 2017 and is co-chaired by Bloomberg and famed investor Warren Buffet. It began with a $10 million commitment, a co-investment between Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and today has graduated over 120 Baltimore-area entrepreneurs.
Some of those graduates shared their experiences Wednesday during a intimate breakfast meeting with Bloomberg at SoBo Cafe in Federal Hill. Anna Leventis, owner of the restaurant and SoBo Market, said that through her experience with the program she was able to double her revenue and is now looking to open another location.
Business owners in the program received lessons in everything from strategic planning to hiring and retention, marketing, competing for bids, increasing revenue and more.
Some of them, like Patience Brown, owner of Blackstone Construction Group, said the program helped her bring her company back from the brink of bankruptcy. She reached out to her connections and was able to rebuild her entire business on a “stronger foundation,” she said. Now, Brown has moved Blackstone to a place where it can take on prime contracts instead of acting as a sub.
“I put myself around people who forced me to think,” she said.
As a young boy, Bloomberg said it was the “little things” that taught him the biggest lessons and helped him succeed. He recalls his father requiring each member of the family to share something they did each day after dinner, and carry on conversation about it for several minutes. He said it taught him to answer questions, think on his toes and speak in public.
“The one thing that nobody can beat you on is how hard you work,” Bloomberg told the business owners. “I can work 24/7 and you can’t beat me. You can tie, but you can’t get ahead. I have always thought it’s the first person in the last person out. You gotta work outwork the other person. It doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win, but it sure raises the odds.”
Bloomberg himself specifically requested that the 10,000 Small Businesses program be brought to Baltimore — also home to his alma mater Johns Hopkins University where he has invested significantly over the years including a seven-year stint as chairman of the board of trustees for the university.
“Baltimore is a city that has been through great times and tough times. I like the spirit of the people,” Bloomberg said. “In the end, maybe more than anything it’s Hopkins that brings me back.”
He has also formed a close relationship with Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh, who he speaks to about once every two weeks.
“She’s got guts,” he said.
Last year, his nonprofit Bloomberg Philanthropies awarded Baltimore up to $500,000 annually for three years as part of its Innovation Teams program, which also exists in several cities across the U.S. The Baltimore Innovation Team, along with other grant money from Bloomberg Philanthropies, has gone toward purchasing technology and operating support for the city’s police department.
Crime is the No. 1 problem Bloomberg says needs to be resolved in Baltimore. Without first addressing the high murder and violent crime rate, “people won’t come here,” he said.
But Bloomberg believes strongly in Baltimore and Pugh and says the city is better than it was and that its future is bright.
You won’t catch him at a Ravens game though, as Bloomberg was once a Colts fan and said he never could give up on Baltimore’s old team.