William Pickard, chairman of Global Automotive Alliance, offers tips and tools for anyone seeking next levels of success in an instructive, genuine and sometimes humorous manner


The interview had just begun when William Pickard turned his attention to a youthful restaurant employee who had come to the table to check on his guests. After giving assurance all was well, Pickard asked him about future career plans. As the man began answering, Pickard gently but pointedly interrupted:

“There’s no such thing as ‘trying,’ young man. Never say you’re ‘trying’ to do something.”

The exchange captured one of Pickard’s main missions: to give back to the community, especially young people, and particularly those interested in business. That’s also the goal of his newly released book, “Millionaire Moves: Seven Proven Principles of Entrepreneurship” (Real Times Media) in which Pickard, one of the nation’s most successful black entrepreneurs, teaches future entrepreneurs how to establish reliable networks, maintain high levels of liquidity, develop multiple income streams and build sustainable wealth.

The book is a down-to-earth and engrossing peek into Pickard’s professional journey, including lessons learned from colleagues, competitors, and even a streetwise uncle. He shares the tales of other hard-working individuals who, like he, beat all odds.

“I’m a visionary who believes in the potential of anyone with a positive attitude and a great idea, said Pickard, who was born in small-town LaGrange, Georgia, then moved with his family to Flint. “My goal is to show how to transform that idea into a profitable endeavor.”

He certainly had humble beginnings. His father toiled on the line in a car plant; his mother was a day worker. Settling at first on a career as a social worker, Pickard switched to a path of self-reliance, establishing Global Automotive Alliance, one of the nation’s leading minority-owned companies, where he is chairman; becoming one of the country’s first African-Americans to own a McDonald’s franchise; becoming co-managing partner of MGM Grand Detroit; and becoming co-owner of five black-owned newspapers, including the Michigan Chronicle.

A big proponent of education, Pickard has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Western Michigan University, a master’s in social work from the University of Michigan, and a doctorate in higher education administration from Ohio State University.

Pickard has received several honorary degrees from universities such as Grand Valley State, where he served on the board of trustees for 11 years. The university boasts a scholarship in his name, as well as the William Pickard Living Center on the school’s Allendale campus.

In 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Pickard to serve as a board of trustees member at his alma mater, Western Michigan, following the death of Ron Hall Sr., founder and chairman of Bridgewater Interiors.

After donating more than $3 million to the university, the board of trustees voted in April to rename two residence halls and a conference room after Pickard, Hall and former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer. The trio were classmates and members of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity at Western.

While there are a myriad of other entrepreneurial self-help and motivational books available, Pickard said “Millionaire Moves” is different in that he has the bona fides and balance sheet.

“Mine stands out because I’ve actually done it,” said Pickard, a 2002 Detroit News Michiganian of the Year.

Ken Harris, president and CEO of the National Business League, agrees.

“He’s not coming from an intellectual space, he’s coming from a practitioner space along with his intellectual capabilities.”

Based on notes he wrote and accumulated over 45 years, “Millionaire Moves” offers tips and tools for anyone seeking next levels of success. The book is written in an instructive, genuine and sometimes humorous manner, but Pickard’s also forthcoming about common entrepreneurial pitfalls.

And with typical candor, he’s upfront about a potentially devastating failure.

Although wildly successful, Pickard said he regrets not dreaming big enough. “There’s always a magic moment, and in some ways I was too conservative,” he said.

He had figured, for instance, that foreign-based automotive transplants would plant their roots in the South, an intuition he failed to pursue.

Pickard’s conversation is peppered with guiding principles, many of which are in his book:

■ “Failure is never fatal and success is never final.”

■ “Don’t shoot where a deer is, shoot where it’s going to be.”

■ “If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”

Constant reading is a must, Pickard said. “What are the trends? What is being talked about, written about, and how can you fit in that space?”

He also encourages development of what he calls the foresight of “gradualism,” or being able to see up a ladder.

“To prepare the public for gambling, we first had lotto. Medical marijuana will one day lead to widespread decriminalized marijuana. Gradualism is the key,” he explained.

These days, Pickard is fretful about the future of the African-American business community in a re-imagined Detroit.

“Whether it’s benign neglect or consciously, we’re being left out,” he said. “We have to figure out how to take this energy and harness it in a new economy.”

Pickard’s commitment to the black community is immeasurable, Harris said.

“When you have a tremendous stakeholder who happens to be African American give his rendition of his life in order to empower others, we appreciate that. For us, this kind of opportunity is few and far between.”

As for Pickard, there are no plans to let up anytime soon.

“Every morning you have to get up and hustle, and make something happen. And this book is my way of saying that whatever I’ve done, you can do it, too.”

Mary Chapman is a Metro Detroit-based freelance writer.

How to get started

Here are William Pickard’s seven proven principles of entrepreneurship:

1. Positive vision, attitude. They represent foresight and the ability to sustain an image of something that has not yet manifested.

2. Opportunity. Always search for what’s missing and fill the void with ideas and actions.

3. Financing. Look for finance options everywhere, starting with your own personal savings account.

4. Good relationships. They are worth their weight in diamonds.

5. Team. Choose a team with the right talent and skill set. They are the foundation of a business.

6. Failure. Don’t overreact. It’s like gravity. Sometimes you fall; all you have to do is get up.

7. Cultivate strong faith. It’s the fuse that electrifies, creates new goals and expands dreams.

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