TCC Spark program features entrepreneur Darrell Freeman’s inspirational story of realizing The American Dream
By Rosanne G. Dunkelberger
Nashville businessman Darrell Freeman flew himself to Tallahassee to share the story of how he grew a $2,000 investment over 25 years into Zycron, a $40 million-a-year IT staffing company that was sold last year for $20 million.
His presentation was part of TCC Spark, an initiative focused on “fueling passionate entrepreneurs with the skills and connections needed to ignite an idea and grow a successful business.” First Commerce Credit Union is a founding partner and major underwriter of TCC Spark as part of our quest to support our area’s business leaders and entrepreneurs. Freeman’s presentation was also sponsored by the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce.
A group of local business leaders, aspiring entrepreneurs, and college students were, in turn, entertained, enlightened and inspired during Freeman’s straight-talking presentation, “The American Dream in 60 Minutes.”
No business school jargon for him. Instead, the son of parents who never graduated high school laid out a five-point plan that can be used by anybody — anybody, he emphasized — to create and grow a business.
“The seed for success is within all of us,” he assured the audience. “You can be anything you want to be, but it’s going to require some work.”
Step 1: Establish Your Vision (A Big Vision!)
The first step, he said, is to “establish your vision” and to make sure that vision is “really really really big. Make sure your vision is big enough to fit you.”
Step 2: Work Hard
Step two is “work hard.” Freeman spoke of long days that started in a 150-square-foot office, making phone calls to offer his company’s services, and getting ‘no’s — lots and lots of ‘no’s. It was hard, he said, but “somewhere in that train of ‘no’s is a yes.”
Step 3: Surround Yourself with Good People
His third piece of advice was “surround yourself with good people” who will push you toward success.
“I can tell who you are by who you hang with,” he told the group. As an African-American entrepreneur, Freeman said he “took a lot of flak” for hiring a white man to replace him as CEO of Zycron, although other top people at his company included minorities and women. “If you look for quality, you will find diversity,” he said.
Step 4: Overcome Obstacles with Persistence
Obstacles, he said, are part of business and “overcome obstacles with persistence” is his fourth piece of advice.
“If your vision doesn’t have any obstacles, it’s a tiny vision. Big visions have big obstacles,” he admonished. “If you’re going somewhere, your day should be filled with obstacles, otherwise you’re not doing anything. It should be hard to start that business you’re talking about … because if it wasn’t, somebody else would be doing it.”
Step 5: Never Stop Improving
His last piece of advice: “Never stop improving.”
Freeman told of an annual contract his company bid on with the state of Tennessee. The first two years, they didn’t win the contract, but “every time I went in there, the company was better than it was the year before.” By the third year, they won the job. As another example, as his company continued to grow and evolve, he talked about how he “fired” himself as CEO and hand-picked someone from a competitor he felt could lead the company to the next level.
Stay tuned for Part 2 with insights from the audience Q&A with Darrell Freeman.
For more First Commerce business blogs and information about TCC Spark and other area entrepreneurial initiatives, click here for our Business Blog.
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