by Kalfani Nwamba


Moneybonic$ refers to the international and collective conversation Afrikan Americans have about economics (money), business (money), and money (money). Is this conversation that we have different than the one Anglo-Americans or other American ethnics have? What are Afrikans Americans financial priorities? Whos winning the money game in our community? Whos playing the money game in our community? What is the money game in our community ? These questions all will be addressed in this new feature of Our Journal.

Two centuries are about to collide, the 20th with the 21st, and anticipation of the letter demands review of the former. In 1903 W.E.B. DuBoisfuture Pan-Afrikan Patriotlooked then into the 1900s and prophesied that &the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line, meaning the relative relationship between Blacks and whites. One important way we must review this relationship is financially, making a comparative study of Afrikan American vs. Anglo-American personal and family assets; business opportunities begun, blossomed, and gone bust; and each peoples preparedness for the jobs and economy of the future will lead us in locating important 21st century issues along this ancient color line.

Shouldnt we assess our 20th century money gains and losses, along with our personal and group money tudes and actions? Tallying whats worked and not worked to improve our collective condition is not our option but our obligation. This because Black individual initiative must synergize with good group goals or global competition will grind the Afrikan continent and her one billion plus people around the world in to a resource-less and use-less pulp.

Our references to talk about black Economics as Moneybonic$ reflects and respects our unique past and present relationship with the U.S. economy just as Black English Vernacular (Ebonics) reflects and respects our unique past and present relationship the U.S. culture in general. While we are one of the largest single ethnics here spending $450 billion each year, we are not organized immigrants who arrived by choice on the Mayflower. The constitution of this country deemed us 3/5 of a human and today we earn 40% less thanor 3/5 ofthe comparable job income of our Anglo-American counterparts.

The challenge of this feature is to incite each of us to exchange ideas on how we will eliminate such negative characteristics of the color line, while preserving our people's cultural positives.

Dis be da subjec o Moneybonic$&Talkin Black bout da greenback!

CHAMPION CHATAn Interview with Mr. George Stewart C.P.A.

Part 1. (Conducted 8/24/1997)

Riddle me this: On the Seattle Midtown corner of 12th and Jefferson, what do 1990s business-blue pinstripes AND 1960s Black Community commitments AND as 1890s Booker T. Washington work ethic AND 1850&$146;s Henry Highland Garnettstyled sideburns have in common? Answer: Mr. George Stewart C.P.A. This dedicated family man and businessman has been on the front lines of Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) for the last two decades. As promised, here we bring to you the wise words of Sisters and Brothers hip-deep in the trenches of Black business development.

K.M.: How did you decide to pursue business ownership in general and accounting specifically?

GEORGE: Well, the two really went hand in hand. My interest in accounting started in high school. There, I realized that one of the few areas where one could enter the business world using a four-year degree was accounting.

K.M.: Accounting, of course, involves mathematicsa subject which seems to reduce Afrikan American interest in the professions requiring it. Are you not intimidated by it and what should be our attitude when approaching math.

GEORGE: (Advanced) math really isnt that critical in most accounting applications. A comfort level with numbers and an understanding of how numbers work together is helpful. Accounting itself is more related to the logic and explanation of what has transpired for a business. A knowledge of higher math isnt a prerequisite. Having a logical mind is really more important to be a good accountant. In the 25 years of my career I havent had to use one algebra equation, although I do know algebra and more. We should approach math in the same way we approach business, with persistence.

K.M.: After a decade of working for othersRainier National Bank and the City of Seattlehow did you decide to step away from the guaranteed paychecks and vacations of a J.O.B. for the risk of being our own boss?

GEORGE: Going into business was always in me. It went hand in hand with the decision of accounting since its one area of college training conducive to business ownership. My first venture was not successful and it only lasted a couple of years. We simply did not make enough money at it. I then went back to a job with an electrical contractor for seven years.

K.M.: Some 75% of business fail in their first two years. Your first one did too, yet you didnt fold your tent and go home. Your first one did too, yet you didn't fold your tent and go home. You didn't get discouraged. Why?

GEORGE: Actually, what you see in the literature Ive read is that most successful business people fail once or twice before they get it right. My favorite story that I like to share is of Ray Crock who started the McDonalds chain. He was 53 when he bought the fast food restaurant from the McDonald brothers of California in 1957. He had failed at six or seven different businesses before he happened to hit upon that one.

You have to analyze what went wrong and you also have to make some commitments to change.

At the same time I started my first accounting firm I also invested in a restaurant. That too went under. So I had two collapse on me almost simultaneously. This gave me a sense of not only the kind of business I should be in, but also the kind of people that I should be in business with. The restaurant venture was just about breaking even but the operators had gone out and rented some expensive cars and gotten into some other things that werent helping the business, but were draining money off of it. This caused the whole thing to collapse.

K.M.: You now have one half-time assistant supported by a periodic temp-worker. Whats important in hiring good people, and picking winning associates?

GEORGE: First, we standardize all our activities. I like to be really clear about what I want people to do. I very thoroughly check references. The other thing is to make sure that people have an interest in what youre doing . Important too is being honest with yourself about the type of personality that youre comfortable working withand thats not everyone. My own personal style is that I tend to want to come into the office, put my head down a lot and just crank work out. Ive found over the years that I like working with people who do that also. Some people like a lot of banter back and forth. I dont. Finally, you also need to find people that supplement your weaknesses.

K.M.: Look next week for Part 2 and George's business/employment predictions for 2000 and beyond.

Dis be de subject of Moneybonic$&Talkin Black bout da greenback.

CHAMPION CHATAn Interview with Mr. George Stewart C.P.A.

Part 2. (Conducted 8/31/1997)

K.M.: If you had one statement to make to Black business students, youd say what?

GEORGE: Find something, first, that really interests you. Business tends to consume the owner. Ive read that most successful business people spend between 6070 hours per week at their business. Less than 60 means youre nor seriously doing enough, while more than 70 means youre beating yourself up too much, youre gonna get sick of it. It has to be something you enjoy. You need to have some other interest allowing you to relax and get away from the business because there are gonna be a lot of frustrations. Just going for a long walk helps. Sometimes Ill treat myself to an expensive lunch at an expensive restaurant. I also tell people to have two or three free things they like to do since most frustrations are money-related.

K.M.: What has impressed me over the years about you, George, is that in addition to your business, youre active in our community with the National Association of Black Accountants along with the National Black United Front, and youve maintained a great marriage and family. Howve you blended all of this?

GEORGE: Probably love more than anything else. Because of the nature of the business, Im out of my office about 60% of the time and so I get a certain amount of flex time. My first assistant was amazed that my children could call me at the office at any time. I reminded her thats one of the perks of being the boss. You must be sure your family is clear that youll always take the time to do whatever really needs doing.

K.M.: E. Franklin Frazier rebuked mid-money grade Blacks for their showy spending or conspicuous consumption. How should we avoid this?

GEORGE: When youre in business, the primary goal is to build wealth! Wealth isnt consumables. Wealth is investments which are assets that will generate income for you. During times of lean business cashflow, wealth can allow you even to inject money into your business.

K.M.: When can somebody thinking of starting a business know that NOW is the right time?

GEORGE: The best approach is to plan years in advance. Prior to starting my first business, I saved up for it in a Mutual Fund over a term of 6 years. I knew this was a goal so I saved $50$100 per month. I didnt have to put my house in jeopardy or sell other assets. Its also important to set up a retirement plan, an I.R.A. and an emergency account before that. This builds assets outside the business.

Once youve started, focus on ways to make your business more valuable. Your business itself can become a wealth-builder as almost any successful business can be sold to someone else. Commonly, to leave something to those you love or to leave a legacy, you can sell your business.

In young adult groupings, the income gap between Afrikan Americans and white Americans is narrowing but the wealth gap between us is still very large. Reducing this will involve at least four steps:

  1. 36 months emergency savings;
  2. home ownership ASAP (As Soon As Possible);
  3. making investments; and what all this calls for is
  4. living below your means.

K.M.: Finally, George, as the year 2000 approaches, what are you most excited about?

GEORGE: With the number of Afrikan Americans that are hitting glass ceilings or being downsized, I think there will be an increase in the base number of successful small businesses which will give me and others potential new customers. Dire predictions for Affirmative Action notwithstanding, a look at Afrikan American history reveals weve always adjusted to tough changing times. I think an adjustment this time will be from many of our people who are very well trained by major corporations who will enter into business for themselves.

A look at the demographics of 2000 and beyond shows a dwindling number of white males (14%18%) entering the workforce. This should increase opportunities for Afrikan Americans. There are come companies that are not adjusting and these companies will collapse. Products and services from these will still have to be provided. Afrikan American business can step into that gap. An example I saw in one publication said the average age of electricians is 53. Unions have been unwilling to train us, but there will still be increasing electrical needs in this country and somebody will have to provide those services.

Focus in on plans to get rich slowly. Make serious plans to build wealth.

Dis be de subject of Moneybonic$&talkin Black bout da greenbacks!