You’ve heard the phrase “paradigm shift” or “shifting your paradigm”.
Sometimes, it’s easy to fall into a comfort zone where things become routine or you’re just not feeling challenged. However, the shifting your paradigm can lead you down a path you never was thought possible.
Many entrepreneurs have shifted their paradigms–which, is why they may have started down the business ownership journey. Some forced and others simply, by choice.
Meet Lester Lewis.
He worked for the Ford Motor Company for over 25 years and was involved in Ford/UAW programs focused on educating and informing employees regarding various initiatives and policies. Ford introduced Lewis to the paradigm shift, through a video called discover the future featuring paradigm shift of change.
Because of this video, Lewis’ attitudes changed and he realized he didn’t want to be dependent on others for his success. Thus, began his paradigm shift.
To this end, Lewis shifted his paradigm by starting Detroit-based Paradigm 2000 in the late 1990’s. While he’s had challenges, he has parlayed them into growth opportunities over the last 15+ years.
I recently interviewed Lewis for his thoughts on becoming a business owner, key challenges and Detroit as a place to start a business.
Please tell us about you and your business.
After working for the Ford Motor Company for over 25 years and viewing a video focused on the paradigm shift, through a video called discover the future featuring paradigm shift of change, I decided to take two years of video TV production classes and volunteered to work for Barton Cablevision. Subsequently, this led to the incorporation of Paradigm Video Productions.
Paradigm 2000 does Video Production, Telecommunication Systems, GPS HD Video Survey, Aerial Surveys, Video Pipe Inspection, Staging and Lighting, Highway and Road Video High-Speed Inspection and TV and Movie Production and we have been in business for over 15 years.
When did you decide to start your own business? And initially, what obstacles did you have to overcome?
I started my own business, in the late ’90’s when I was introduced to the Paradigm Concept. Some of the obstacles I encountered include financing my own equipment; finding time to dedicate to my business because you can’t get anything out if you don’t put anything in; running the business from my home; securing certifications; and making relationships with loyal people in my field.
How did you navigate the obstacles and, at what point, did you know you were going to begin to grow?
The Paradigm shift taught me to be prepared and to maneuver on a fly and be confident in the maneuver and making relationships. I knew I was growing when I changed my company name from Paradigm Video Productions to Paradigm 2000 Inc. I was able to diversify my capabilities into telecommunications, a form of video through teleconferencing and CCTV systems; and industrial video, which, consist of video pipe inspection and pre-construction videos.
Funding a start-up for entrepreneurs is generally an issue for those starting out. What advice do you give for those needing financial capital?
First, do something that you love to do. If it generates money; put it back into the business. Learn your business and your competition as well as the service that you’re providing. Make sure your personal credit is in good standing along with your business credit. Every business is different. In my case I became certified with MDOT and became a DBE and after researching on my competition, I was able to secure a large contract. Through relationships I was able to secure $500K in equipment which allowed me to execute the contract.
Of course, I could not have gotten to that point without the assistance of CEED.
It’s my understanding the Small Business Detroit Microloan Program, which is a partnership between the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization and CEED, helped you grow your business beginning in 2006. Please share your experience(s) and how it benefited your business in terms of growth.
CEED made available the funds needed to place a deposit on the equipment for a contract. That’s how I was able to execute the growth of my company to another level. But Michelle Richards, Executive Director, CEED, took it a step further; she came into my office and asked to see my books. She assisted me in navigating my company through turbulent times. She was so accurate because I needed additional funding to stabilize my company with CEED supplying the funding.
My Pastor Marvin L. Winans teaches us about sowing a seed and being able to reap the harvest and that’s exactly what happened with CEED.
Over the last 5 years, what has been your overall strategic marketing plan and what adjustments have you had to make to adapt to a changing, competitive marketplace?
By giving our client more than what they paid for; giving top quality and introducing them to change, i.e., MDOT was set up on VHS, I introduced DVDs. Surround yourself with smart positive thinking people; sell old equipment that will allow you to stay on the cutting edge with new equipment; keep your word; stay responsible; perform an excellent job; don’t be a whiner or a complainer; be confident in what you’re doing; don’t ever come up with excuses for the time you spend coming up with excuses, that time and energy can be used to come up with a solution.
P.S. All things are possible with GOD in your life…
As part of Detroit’s revitalization efforts, Detroit’s redefining itself by becoming a hub for small business owners. Please share your thoughts of Detroit becoming more focused on entrepreneurs, and, in your opinion, why is this important to this region?
The automotive Industry that we were accustomed to has been cut in half. It’s going to be up to small businesses to be creative in establishing themselves and be the back bone of Detroit. Coming up with new and creative ideas that will catapult us in positive directions into the future to take bold steps to develop industries is vital for our growth.
Detroit is the heartbeat of Michigan, if there is no heartbeat, there is no life, and If there is not life, there is no Michigan.
Is Detroit a good place to start a business? If so, why?
Yes, Detroit is an excellent place to start a business if you are a fighter, a positive thinker, a person that can get it done, a visionary or an explorer and just a little daring. It’s like being in the Alamo, Detroit is home to me and there’s no way I’m going down without a fight.
What advice would you share with those starting out or focusing on growth, but have experienced business stagnation?
Do something you love to do. Support your business. Believe in your business. Don’t listen to negative entities no matter who it is. Research your business. Have a clear understanding of your business so that it can be understood. Have a clear vision on what you want to do and how you intend to get there and what you plan to do once you get there.
Success comes with God and Jesus Christ which all things are possible.
Lester Lewis is featured in a commemorative video to be premiered at the 30th Annual Award Celebration on April 17th at Suburban Collection Showplace. The video will showcase CEED success stories and other achievements over the last 30 years. For more information, please visit www.miceed.org.