Leading Minority Businesses to Financial Gain
by Joshua Luke
One of the most intriguing individuals that I have spoken to in a very long time is Malcolm “MJ” Harris—entrepreneur, businessman, motivational teacher –what we will call an EBANMAN. He is a funny, interesting, charismatic guy (every adjective said with emphasis). I was truly honored to have the opportunity to interview him.
Malcolm Harris is CEO and founder of National Care Financial Group. If you are not aware of this young entrepreneur or his business, then you will be amazed to learn that he owns one of the largest financial services companies in the U.S. that is geared toward serving minority clients. And if that wasn’t enough, he has only been running his company since 2012.
I recently sat down with this remarkable individual who was willing to share information on his entrepreneurial path, information I thought would be very helpful to our readers.
EB: What were the steps involved to successfully take National Care Financial Group from its initial stages to being one of the top African American owned financial services companies?
MJ: From day one I decided that we would deliver the same quality products and services as any major, non-minority owned financial services firm. Quality takes you far. I also was very honest with myself about my strengths and limitations. I’m not good at everything, which is okay. The key is to find out what you can do best, do that and then hire other people to facilitate everything else.
EB: Did you receive outside funding for your company, and what
were the 3 most important elements that helped you secure funding?
MJ: I funded my business myself. I got tired of working my corporate job. Although I was making over 6 figures a year, I wanted to be a part of a company that had the same ideals as me. So I invested about $500 out of my own pocket, got my insurance license, and began reaching out to potential clients. As I made money, I reinvested it back into my business. One mistake that I teach minority business owners to overcome is spending money they initially make instead of reinvesting those funds into their business so that it can grow. The best choice for anyone doing a side business while working a full-time job is to live on the money that they make [from their full time job], and reinvest as much as possible from their business’s income to keep the business growing.
EB:Would you ever consider buying into companies in the same industry if they were about to die out from the market?
MJ: If existing agencies want to be a part of National Care, I would consider allowing them to join on a case-by-case basis if they are looking to merge into the company. I would tell companies not to die out but to try merging with us – in many cases it’s a win-win since we usually pay much higher commissions than other groups. We want minority agencies to succeed, and we are willing to step in when it makes good business sense for all involved.
EB: What has been the greatest challenge that you have overcome in the developing National Care?
MJ: Honestly, it was accepting that just because I am black that doesn’t make me inferior to any other CEO or executive in my industry (which is majority white). I had to accept that I am equally entitled to the same success that many of my counterparts experience. Once I accepted that I was not inferior, it changed how I ran my business. I took all limits off my mind at that point.
EB: How does your family feel about your success?
MJ: They Love it! I have two areas of success, my motivational speaking platform which allows me to be seen by over 2 million people monthly and my financial business. My mother still says to this day, “That’s my son!” I come from a blended family, and all of my parents are so proud.
EB: We have all witnessed National Care Financial Group evolve over the past couple of years. Can you talk a little about the initial launch and how it has grown into the business that it is today?
MJ: The Hurston Group was our original name, but was changed to push growth when they went national because people felt like we were a law group and not a financial group. Once I made the choice to make the name change, it became easier for consumers and other individuals to distinguish who we were. My videos and speaking definitely made the company more visible in recent years. We are seen in 50 countries every day.
EB: What was the process like to leave your full time job to become full time in your company?
MJ: On the forth month of being licensed to sell insurance, I made $10,109, which was double of what I was making per month on my full time job. At that time, I was with an agency that wasn’t a fit for me. So my grandmother, who has been an insurance producer since 1981, said “form your own and you can do what you want, how you want.” National Care is a reflection of what I wanted for myself and everyone else. This is why we are very transparent and pay very aggressively, because I like working in ethical environments that compensate well. I designed every part of the company the way I wanted it to be and not based on what sounded good.
EB: How tough or smooth has the path been?
MJ: Running my business is easy because I love it. There have been challenges, like any business. The greater challenge has been understanding how to target a marketplace that has traditionally been unserved by financial services. In a lot of cases, it’s not about just telling them about a product but also educating them to better understand their overall financial health. If someone grew up in a household where they were the first to “do it all” – go to college, become upper middle class, and so on – they might not have the same experience with money as someone who comes from a family that has been middle or upper middle class for multiple generations. We are not in business to just sell products, but to develop a greater financial literacy within our community.
EB: Who in your life has helped to influence your decisions as an entrepreneur?
MJ: My mother. I grew up watching my mother go from being addicted to alcohol and drugs when I was very young, going to AA meetings with her, to now having two master’s degrees, is a pastor and working as a clinical social worker focusing on helping military veterans. That taught me that no current circumstance can define who you can become.
EB: Was the struggle hard for your family?
MJ: No, she was sober by the time I was 4 or 5. She did it all without rehab because she couldn’t afford child care for us. I never saw her journey as a struggle or burden. It was inspirational to me.
EB: What’s one piece of business advice that you would offer a budding entrepreneur?
MJ: Do not solely pursue your passions to create wealth, but pursue your skills. That’s where your wealth is created. My passion was music as a child. I wanted to be a singer. However, my passion for music was not as great as my skill in that area. Where I was most skilled was speaking, I could always run my mouth and get people’s attention with my words. My mouth is what has built my business. My advice is to push what you are excellent at, not just what you have the most passion within.
EB: Being a role model for many people can be exciting. What had been the most memorable experience that someone has brought to you while working?
MJ: I will say, unequivocally, when Oprah asked me to share my story on stage for 15,000 people in person and millions around the world. The experience was life changing. We talked, she hugged me, she was everything! She’s fabulous and truly the real deal.
EB: Now, I know we discussed that we will not directly pry into your personal life, but EBANMAN would love to know more about you. Is there a special guy in your life? And if so, are you married? Any kids or pets?
MJ: I am unmarried [big laugh]. I am very, very happy at this point in my life and look forward to that day. I don’t have pets. I used to have a cocker spaniel and a schnauzer. I travel a lot so I decided to adopt them out to very loving friends who can give them the love and attention they need. Hopefully wedding bells and little ones will be in my future.
EB: Although you are a great businessman, can you indulge us with a little bit about your life. What do you like to do when you are not working?
MJ: Well, I live a very unique and blessed life, which I am truly grateful to have. I am extremely close to my family. I speak to my best friend, mother, and grandmother every single day. She has been in the insurance industry since 1981 and we are really close. I love to travel to tropical places when I have the time. It surprises people but I am introverted because I make a living in the public eye, so I spend a lot of time at home. I live between LA and DC, so when I am in either place I am typically with a very small group of people who are closest to me. I consider myself to be very adventurous. I love hiking, going to the beach and just winging it. I live an extremely structured life in business, so my free time is very unstructured and free flowing.
EB: Do you have a favorite past time sport or exploration in which you partake?
MJ: No, I am not athletic at all. However, two things no one knows are that I love watching NFL highlight reels on Monday morning and watching sports related documentaries. Sports and business are so relatable to me since they both require discipline to be excellent. I find inspiration almost everything.