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Detroit Entrepreneur Talks Success, Hustling at D.C. Bookstore

William Pickard, one of the wealthiest residents of Detroit and most successful Black entrepreneurs in the country, recently talked about his phenomenal career at the Mahogany Book Store in Ward 8’s Anacostia neighborhood.

Pickard, chairman of the Global Automotive Alliance, co-managing partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino, CEO of Bearwood Management Company and co-owner of five Black-owned newspapers, spoke with Mahogany Books co-owner Derrick Young on Oct. 22 about his life as a businessman and his recent book, “Millionaire Moves: Seven Proven Principles of Entrepreneurship.”

He said anyone can be a success if they put their mind to it.

“I was not the brightest kid in my class in my high school and I had to go to a community college before I went to a four-year institution,” said Pickard, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University, master’s degree from the University of Michigan and a doctorate from Ohio State University. “In community college, I had to take remedial courses before I could get into the curriculum for a degree. Yet I persevered and got my doctorate at 28 years old.

“I believe what can be done can be done if you put the work in,” he said.

Pickard got his degrees in social work but left the profession to take advantage of business opportunities for African Americans in the late 1960s that came available in cities like Detroit. He started his business career as a McDonald’s franchise co-owner in Detroit in 1969. Presently his company, Global Automotive Alliance, has generated $5 billion in sales with eight plants in the U.S. and Canada and services corporations such as Boeing, Mercedes-Benz and Ford.

Pickard said hustling and good common sense got him what he has.

“I grew up with a hustle mentality,” he said. “Whenever an opportunity presented itself I took it.”

Throughout his talk at the bookstore and in his book, Pickard uses phrases that would startle the enlightened person. In his book, he talked about hustling, borrowing money from a numbers runner to start a business and used the term “sucker’ several times to define people who got tricked or taken advantage of in a deal.

Talent, he wrote, will always be beaten by hustle because it takes effort not just ideas to make things work. Pickard also said in the business world “faking it until making it” has become acceptable.

In the book, he also talked about well-known entrepreneurs such as Madame C. J. Walker and the methods they employed that could be characterized as ruthless in order to succeed in business.

Despite his wealth, Pickard makes it clear helping others succeed becomes mandatory.

“Each one should reach one and teach one,” he said. “I do this by teaching at [historically Black colleges and universities] and teaching young people how to be successful as entrepreneurs.”

Pickard has taught at Alabama State and North Carolina Central universities and wants to teach a class on the history of Black entrepreneurs from 1850-1950 at Howard University in spring 2020. A book he has written on Black entrepreneurs from 1850-1950 will be published in August 2020, he said.

Overall, Pickard said a good attitude remains the one consistent trait among prosperous entrepreneurs.

“In order to succeed in business, you must have a positive mental attitude,” he said. “A good attitude will make things easier when times get tough and will ultimately pull you through.”

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