Interview: Ron Eason – Entrepreneur / Real Estate Developer / Chairman of the Bronner Business Institute

Interview: Ron Eason
Entrepreneur / Real Estate Developer / Chairman of the Bronner Business Institute
1. What was your 1st entrepreneurship endeavor?
     – Ok Marquez, that’s a good question. I can’t really recall when I was not involved in entrepreneurship.  I guess my first activity, on a consistent basis, was that I had a paper route at 12 years of age. At 13, I worked for a janitorial service at night – I helped clean buildings.  At 14, I bagged groceries at a local grocery store in my community.  When I was 15 and 16, I waited tables at the famous Pascal’s restaurant in Atlanta, Ga.  By 17, I was a computer operator and after reaching that age, I never really worked for anyone else.  I became a licensed real estate agent at 18 years of age; and I just progressed in the real estate business from that point. By 21, I had my own property management firm.  We managed around 2,500 municipal apartments for banks and insurance companies.

2. What was the economic climate like during that time period?
     – It was in the middle of a recession, around the year of 1972.  There were a lot of foreclosures, just like what’s happening in the market today.  A lot of properties were taken back over by banks and insurance companies; we worked essentially with them.  We managed properties while they were in possession of them until they found other owners. From there, I did that for about 12 years; moved into rehabbing properties. I did that for about 12 years as well.  From there, I went into new construction, building single-family houses. Then, I went on to developing sub-divisions; and finally, moved into developing condominiums. It started with office condominiums, and then on to residential condominiums as well.
3. What were some of the challenges you personally faced during that time?
    – Because I’ve been in business for so long, I have experienced all kinds of economic climates.  Getting into business, I went through a down cycle; so I started out in the fire.  I had to learn how to negotiate in bad times and survive them, as well as prospering in good times. So I’ve experienced every kind of economic climate that you can experience.
4. How were you able to overcome those challenges?
     – The thing that I’ve learned and what I think that’s important for the readers to understand is this:  If they’re going to be in business, it operates in cycles. Just like anything else, there are seasons.  For a farmer, there are seasons when you plant; there are seasons when you harvest; and there will be a season when you can’t get anything to come out of the ground.  Business is like that as well.  You’re not going to be in business and prospering every single day, month and/or year.  There will be seasons when you feel like you’re just treading water.  Sometimes, you may feel like you’re losing ground. But you have to look at business holistically.  This is not a lottery; this is not a “get rich quick” scheme.  It is a long-term process with “ebs and flows” that you have to react and respond to – so that you will be able to ride out the tough times to the point when things are safe, secure and prosperous again.
To overcome the challenges, fundamentally, you have to make adjustments.  The Bible says you’ve got to be able to discern the signs of the times. You have to first discern what’s going on. That is something that I’ve always tried to do. To understand what’s going on. I’m a very practical person – a realist.  Yes, I do have goals and things that I want to happen, but I’m always very cognizant of what’s going on.  One thing that I had to learn, being in business for 44 years now, there is very little that I can control; and that’s the same for everyone. We think because of our education, our networks or whatever it is that we think we have on our side – we think that gives us the ability to almost be superman; but nothing can be further from the truth. This will keep you safe, cautious and humble.
I’ve always tried to position myself on the “right side of right” so that my God would smile on me and bless me. I started with nothing. I didn’t have resources to begin with. I’m 1st generation out of the ghetto.  I was born in New York in Harlem Hospital.  My family didn’t have anything to give me.  I’m working on creating my children’s inheritance now. Do I consider that a hardship? No, I don’t; because I didn’t know anything else. I didn’t have any other perspective. My only perspective was that if wanted to do something, I had to figure out a way to get it done.

5. What are a few of your success stories regarding your journey as an entrepreneur?
     – It’s interesting Marquez. I have done a number of things over the years. I don’t know how other people would look at them. Some people may look at them and think they’re huge; some people may look at them and say that they believe they could do more.  It doesn’t really matter; they both are correct. I’ve had goals and was able to accomplish many of them.  I started with nothing and in terms of my overall career accomplishment, I have been involved in transactions totaling in 9 figures.  You can do the math there; I won’t be totally specific, but you can add the zeros and know what numbers look like in 9 figures. The interesting thing is that as I worked and grew and matured, I began to measure my accomplishments by a different standard. Once I got past 50 years of age, I had a very serious emphasis on making sure I helped other people be able to come along with me. The buildings that I’ve built could not speak to me and tell me how I helped them; but the people that I’ve poured into could tell me how I’ve helped them; and that means that I’ve changed generations.
6. What are some tips that you would tell aspiring or rising entrepreneurs in the 21st Century?
 – As you know, you understand what the economic climate is today.  Even though I’ve been in business for over 40 years, I can honestly say that I have never been through something like what we’ve gone through recently. Clearly, this has been the greatest economic destruction since the Great Depression. Honestly, if you had told me that we would experience this – I would have thought that something was mentally wrong with you.  It just goes to prove what I said earlier – we are never in as much control as we think we are.  In regards to opportunity, do I think that doors have closed? Absolutely not! There are just as many opportunities available today as there has ever been. What I would tell aspiring entrepreneurs is to not look  at the traditional paths to wealth that people have aspired to in past years.  I would not encourage entrepreneurial endeavors that are very capital intensive; because capital is not readily available as it was in past times.  I would encourage them to look at service opportunities. I think there are huge opportunities in service. Major corporations are outsourcing a lot of their functions. They want to get smaller so that they will have less overhead to maintain; so that they could move rapidly and be more competitive.  Entrepreneurs can capitalize on this by creating service packages that they can offer to major corporations.  The second major thing that entrepreneurs need to find, need to create or build is some sales skills. I say that unequivocally, regarding the importance of sales training in business.  If you don’t do that, there is little to no chance that you will be successful, no matter what you do. That needs to be a foundation if you’re going to go in business. Learn how to sell. Lastly, building a personal network is the “roof over the house”. You need to be able to build relationships in regards to networking.  People do business with those that they know, like and trust.
7.  Any books or reading material that you recommend?
     – Yes, there are two books that I can think of that I think should be required reading for any entrepreneur. The 1st book is “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini. He’s done studies in how people are influenced in sales or in business transactions.  He gives you the practical steps that you can use to cause people to want to do business with you. The second must read book is “The Ultimate Sales Machine” by Chet Holmes.  He has pretty much been a business tycoon.  He has helped other businesses make millions and even billions of dollars  in sales.

8.  Are you still working as an entrepreneur? If so, what are your current projects that you’re working on? If not, what was your last project completed?
      – My last two projects completed were two condominium complexes, totaling about 220 units and valued at about $61 million dollars. Because of the economy, there is zero demand for what I have done over the past 15 years in the United States. What do you do when your whole industry has dried up currently? Well, I’ve done what I shared with you earlier; I’ve gone into managing the outsourced service contracts from corporations. I won’t go into great detail, but these are some of things I’m involved with today.

9.  Do you have a favorite quote regarding business/entrepreneur that you would like to share with the readers?
 – That’s a good question.  My theme or philosophy is this:  “Every check is not going to have your name on it.” That’s something that everyone needs to keep in mind. This will be the raw material in regards to building relationships. When you can do things for other people and support them with no expectations of direct payback for you.  I’ll tell you how I was able to put that into practice. I started an organization that I know that you’re familiar with called the Bronner Business Institute. It’s now a 501(c)3 organization, that’s puts entrepreneurs through a formal training process; to help them develop their ideas for entrepreneurship. The whole premise behind this was to help people recognize whether their ideas, motives and passions where truly entrepreneurial. They had to prove their idea on paper first; this was before they took out a loan or anything.  The Bronner Business Institute was started at my church and was originally funded out of my own pocket; but now we have grown to have funding and we have about 2,500 members currently. This has been over the span of the last 12 years. They come together on a monthly basis for networking; and we bring in top speakers from all over the country. We’ve had everyone, from government personnel – to the winners of The Apprentice Tv show with Donald Trump come to speak. Pretty much, anyone that we believe that has some wisdom and can share business tips to help our members – we will reach out to them and try to bring them in.
***Interviewed by Marquez Hughley
To reach Ron Eason to provide feedback or comments about the interview, email: