Michael V. Roberts is one of the country’s most successful African American businessmen. He runs Roberts Companies with his brother, Steven Roberts, and together they own 12 hotels, more than a dozen TV stations and several shopping centers around the country.
Roberts was raised in a middle-class family and worked hard to get where he is in life.
“We weren’t rich. We weren’t poor, but we just never had any money,” Michael said in an interview with CNN.
With most of his businesses based where he grew up in North St. Louis, Missouri, Roberts has been a major player in spurring economic growth in the African American community there over the last 35 years. He estimates his family-owned company is worth $1 billion.
Michael V. Roberts is making history … with his family-owned corporation, which owns 76 companies and boasts a staff of 1,100 employees. Roberts and his brother’s corporate achievements were featured on CNN’s “Black In America” special in 2009. In the special, Michael mentions that one of the St. Louis hotels they now own used to ban black people as guests.
What’s next for Michael Roberts?
Roberts continues to oversee his business empire and has written a book about his journey and what made him successful, entitled, Action Has No Season.
Michael Roberts in his own words …
“What may appear to you today as ego, 40 years from now will be legacy, and black folks need legacy. We have to have examples of successes in order for us to be able to let the generations to come know that many of the successes that occurred by African Americans in this country can be seen and pointed out and can be emulated,” “Roberts said during CNN’s “Black in America” special covering the brothers.
A little-known fact about Roberts …
Roberts Brothers Properties L.L.C., a real estate and media subsidiary of Roberts Companies, ranks 41st on the Black Enterprise Magazine list of the 100 largest black-owned industrial service firms.
THEGRIO’S Q & A WITH MICHAEL V. ROBERTS
Q: What’s next for you in this chapter of your life?
A: I’m planning to expand more into energy efficient housing. I think we can look at the returning veterans and the generations that are much more energy conscious. I think that if we start to be much more energy efficient with out housing we can be more friendly to the environment. I have already started that with out experimental housing projects. We are building homes with insulated walls, recycles materials, and more. I want to continue to drive that more to a point where it is economically feasible from construction costs on the front in. I am also moving into the direction with scientists, we are working on creating a battery that is safer and longer life than the ion. Graphite based battery and we are working on patenting it in the United States now. If it comes out as planned, it could revolution the battery world as we know it today.
Q: What’s a little fact about you that many people don’t know?
A: Right out of law school, I was elected to the Chambers of City Council. I served on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. I served for eight years there. I was the youngest one. While there, I lived two blocks from the projects. I lived there for ten years. Also, although I had four children and regardless of the companies that I had, I was made sure that my children always came first. As a result, all four of them have graduated from law school. I say: Don’t judge me on the millions of dollars I’ve made; instead, judge me on how I raised my children.
Q: What’s your favorite quote?
A: Some of my favorite quotes are my own quotes actually. One favorite of mine is: Rich people scream, but wealthy people whisper.
The basis of this is that I believe that people need to think in terms of building wealth. It allows for a generational passage, which can grow moreso than the rich. In fact, when dispensed quickly, they are not necessarily really rich. They also play the bourgeois role or the bling- bling roles. Yet they don’t have $20 in their pockets.
We have to be careful with the examples set in our community for what constituent wealth, and what constituents the role of people playing rich. I try to get people to recognize that there is a difference between being rich and being wealthy. Wealth is meant to be sustained and generational. I always ask the question which would you rather have power or authority? Power relates to being rich, and authority relates to being wealthy. People reach for power, but power tends to be more fleeting. Yet authority is a lot more sustainable and more meaningful by my definition.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
A: I’ m kind of a self-starter. My inspiration tends to come from watching my examples manifest themselves in the minds of people and in their behavior. I think over the years I have been good at creating a positive example for people of all ages to follow. I look to instruct people to be innovative and entrepreneurial and as a result lead people in trying to build power and build authority. I try to be and I hope to encourage people to be actionnaires. The actionnaire is the one who takes their dreams, ideas, and vision and they pursue them with confidence and courage. Someone who is not an actionnaire dwindles on the fear of failure. However, in my description, fear is nothing but a mental construct. If you were born perfect, fear doesn’t exist other than in your own mind. Therefore, I believe that you can limit it as quickly as it comes in. I don’t believe there is such a thing as failure. You are given 86,400 seconds… 24 hours in a day and within that time period, you experience something every moment. There are times when your experiences aren’t what you liked, but you learned from it. So is it not a failure, it is just an experience down the road. Actionnaires take the more positive side of anything.
Also, recognize that if you spend too much time worrying about what happened in the past, then every time you think of the past, you lose the present. It’s like driving a car and looking through the rear view mirror. You don’t drive a car like that, so why would you do that in life? These are the time of thoughts that I share in my book, and I hope that my book will be something that a hundred years from now people will consider it being very great.
Q: Who are/were your mentors?
A: I really didn’t have many mentors. Honestly, my father was my greatest adviser and he still comes to the office every day. He gives me advice and counsel. There have definitely been scores and scores of people who have left impressions.
Raymond Wayman III has been a great advisor and a big brother to me. He is the closet mentor and advisor that I had. A lot of people know him. He was ultimately a corporate vice president since he was a big contributor to many things. It was he who inspired me to go to law school and be a ottoman.
Q:What advice would you give to anyone who’s craving to achieve their dreams?
I would advise them to read my book in all honesty. I got wealthy first and then I wrote the book. The book is not to raise money, but to pass on information and strategies and secrets that I think are important for anyone to read at any level. I suggest for people to realize that everyone has an entrepreneurial dream. The first thing that you have to do when you have a dream is that you have to wake up.
With this economy, it’s a good time to start a business. Most Fortune 500 Companies started during the economy. Take the risk, go out there and give it a try. In order to do that you have to be actionnaire, and eliminate the fear of failure.
There is also a determinate question that they should ask themselves: What would your life be like if you could eliminate the fear of failure? I would tell them to ask that question. Take full advantage of the economy and jump into entrepreneurship and jump into capitalism straight on. If you lived in a socialist nation, what would you be called? We are a capitalist nation and if you don’t like it, then you need to become an entrepreneur and realize that all new jobs in this country will come from entrepreneurs. This is a great country, and we need to help entrepreneurs and support them. That is how we will create more jobs for the future.