05/10/2013 12:23 pm ET Updated Jul 10, 2013

Solving Poverty: A Business Plan Called 'Hard Work'

Real success does not have to be complicated when a commitment to work is present.

This week I met Mr. Eric McLean, a mobile notary public here in Atlanta, Ga. who came by my office to have me sign some documents. As we signed documents I asked a fairly simply question -- "Eric, how did you become a notary?" I just assumed that this was a part time source of income for Eric. That's what I get for assuming.

Eric told me that he sort of stumbled into the business, paying $36 for a notary stamp to the City. He committed himself to working hard, and his first month he told me he made over $1,000.00 in extra income. By his 8th month in business, he was making $17,000.00 --- per month! At moments like this I am reminded that often times the blue collar worker driving the beat up plumber's van often makes more money and a better living than the so-called professional in the Mercedes Benz next to him on the highway.

Eric the notary went on to tell me that he had 10 other mobile notaries working for him in around Atlanta, another 35 mobile notaries in the state, and more than 150 mobile notaries in what he called his "national network." His national what?

Eric proudly reported to me that he writes more than 150 checks per month to small business owners across the nation. One-person small businesses that make a living doing this mobile notary business full-time, and all working through him. He then continued to tell me about his insurance business, and how he got into this second business by recognizing that traditional auto insurance agents really don't like working past say 5pm or 6pm in the workday evening, and almost never on the weekends. Of course, Eric recognized that most people likely purchase a car in the evenings and on weekends, so he opened a speciality practice that was open from 9am to 9pm during the week, from noon to 9pm on Saturdays, and a half day on Sundays. When the car dealership called Eric on his cellphone to write a policy on a new car sale, his answer was always "absolutely, what time...and where." Eric cleaned up on all the business in this sector too.

My point is, Eric didn't seek try to solve cancer, although someone should. He did not seek to create the newest Internet sensation like Twitter or Facebook, nor did he start a business with tons of useless flash, expensive hype, nor even a business that was so-called sophisticated, whatever that means. It's something everyone could do, in every community across the nation. A simple notary business, for God's sake!

He didn't spend a lot of start-up money, rent expensive office space that no one would see, or lease a luxury car to impress so-called clients or anyone else.

He didn't spend a bunch of money on useless things that produce no business return.

He put his ego and emotions to the side. His business cards don't even identify him as the owner of his business. They simply say "mobile notary." Saying CEO, he reasoned, didn't produce him one additional happy client for his business.

Eric's plan for success.

  • He found something that everyone in his local area needed at some point.
  • He invested36 bucks in himself and his dream.
  • He got up the next morning committed to do the work. And every morning since.

He was still doing that same work when I met him in my office this week. Just a humble Black man in casual slacks and a yellow polo shirt, wielding a $36 notary stamp and title-less business cards ---- and generating $20,000.00 a month in business cash-flow. Creating jobs too for his community.

By the way, Eric reminded me that his annual notary certification fee and all license fees for the year were effectively paid for by me this week. He thanked me and kept it moving.

What a man. Need a thousand more like him.

John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of financial dignity empowerment leader Operation HOPE, and Bryant Group Companies. He is the Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S.