When I was a kid, I would lay around dreaming about being rich. But I quickly realized that unless you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you’d have to get up and get to work to make it happen.
But as hard as I worked and got fired and worked and got fired and finally hit my stride and became the Fly Jock with two number one radio shows at same time in Dallas and Chicago, I still wasn’t what you’d call wealthy. Well, let me put it this way. I wasn’t what rich people would call wealthy.
I was just a hard -working man making a good living to support my family. People assume that I passed wealth down to my sons. But they’re wrong. If I passed anything down to them, it was their big heads and their work ethic. They witnessed me grinding morning, noon and night to make this radio thing happen.
By the time I started to see some really big money after the Tom Joyner Morning Show was syndicated and on the air in several markets, both my boys were in college. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine them not just becoming part of the business, but running it. But that’s exactly what happened.
My son Oscar earned his MBA from Florida A&M. My son Thomas got his International Business degree from Howard University. They brought their corporate knowledge and passion for HBCUs right on time for us to form Reach Media Inc., BlackAmericaWeb.com and the Tom Joyner Foundation.
When the boys came on board, the technology, the industry and everything else was changing. Not only did I not own a computer or a laptop when BlackAmericaWeb.com was created, when I did get one, I couldn’t find the space bar. Oscar helped me grow from Tom Joyner the DJ to Tom Joyner the brand, and Thomas took my vision for giving back to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to another level.
I say all this to point out a new template for generational wealth where the parent benefits from the child who signs his dad’s check. I like it. If you have children, you know there’s nothing like the moment when they know more than you do…and they KNOW they know more than you do. If you’re smart, you’ll get out of their way and let them do their thing.
So many children either experience success long after their parents have passed on or they aren’t allowed to have decision-making roles until their parents are no longer in the picture.
Unlike my mentor, John H. Johnson, who built a great company and then handed down to his daughter, Linda Johnson Rice, the three of us built our company together, and my Oscar signs my check rather than the other way around.
I’d love to say that I sat in my easy chair one day and devised this whole scheme, but that wasn’t the case at all.
Maybe it’s because every generation wants to do better than their predecessors. Or maybe it was because for years my kids saw me go to work in shorts, flip-flops and a baseball cap and they wanted to take the reins and recreate what I had already started.
However it happened, I hope the entrepreneurial spirit sticks around long enough for my grandkids, the Fly Babies, to become their dads’ bosses after they graduate… from an HBCU, of course!