Speaker | Entrepreneur | Author

Sam Davidson's blog

Every Tuesday, I write.

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Who's your ally?

There's a great, short interview with BET founder Robert Johnson in this month's Fortune magazine. He discusses how he grew his business empire, which has expanded beyond television into radio, hotels, and automobiles. 

In recounting the story of getting BET started, he notes:

With the evolution of satellite technology, you could reach niche markets that you couldn't reach with broadcast TV. So I told John Malone about my idea of creating Black Entertainment Television. It was 1979, and he had an interest in seeing minority cable happen because he had a station in Louisville that had a large black population. So he put the first half million in.

He bought 20% of the company for $180,000 and loaned me $320,000. It was a great strategy for me, because if he put in the money as debt, BET would be a minority-controlled company. He told me he believed I'd work harder for myself than I would for him. As we grew the company, John put in more money as debt, and it all got paid back. His initial $180,000 investment netted him $700 million in stock when we later sold to Viacom.

In other words, we don't achieve anything great alone. We need partners, allies, friends, and supporters.

This is because the rags-to-riches stories don't happen unless someone plays the fairy godmother role. Circumstance might prevent you from having a personal bootstraps story. But maybe you can be the person who helps the bootstrapping entrepreneur.

Find someone you believe in and trust. Then, together, create a beautiful business story.