Kermit Payne
Bernie Saul Photography

Editor’s note: This is part 4 in a five-part series on growing and maintaining wealth. Read part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Most people think the road to wealth involves just saving. But 62-year-old Kermit Payne, the successful founder and chief executive officer of a strategic communications, marketing and association management company, says that saving is just one step on the road to wealth building.

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Successful wealth building involves strategic planning and some financial risk taking by investing on the stock market—with assistance, of course, from trained investors and financial planners, says Payne.

“In terms of wealth building, we have to teach people the difference between saving and building wealth because you will never save and become wealthy,” he said. “That is one of the components of being financially illiterate; to think you can save into wealth is not how wealth is accumulated. You have to do something that’s active. That involves taking risks in the stock market and retirement plans and real estate. That doesn’t mean people should not save, but they should be working with a planner or adviser to help them build wealth through investing.”

Working with a reputable and trained investor is very important, especially when it involves your life savings. Conducting a background check on potential money managers, investors and planners should help give you peace of mind.

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“Once you get into the wealth-building cycle, it’s much easier,” he said. “It’s just like saving. Once you start, it becomes part of your pattern.”

Besides saving and investing, a major stepping-stone Payne chose to help build his wealth was to open a business. Eleven years ago he founded the Atlanta-based 1Joshua Group, which primarily serves other businesses. A successful business can help build personal wealth, but the two are separate, Payne says.

“If the business is successful, my personal wealth looks a little different because it parallels the business revenue cycle,” he said.

During its first year of operation, in 2003, the company saw revenues of $500,000, Payne says. From that time, profits grew to about 28 percent in 2007, and then the recession hit, causing profits to plummet to nearly 3 percent in 2008, he said. Only in 2010 did the seven-employee company begin to see profits rise again. By December 2013 the company was turning a nearly 20 percent profit. Now he rakes in annual revenues of about $2.4 million.

Payne attributes his ability to weather the rocky shoals of the economy to hard work and perseverance. Before hanging up his own shingle, he worked for several decades as an executive in the public and private corporate sector, with his last position being chief executive of a nonprofit.

“It certainly comes from being prudent and spending what’s necessary and saving where we could save,” he said of his business’ ability to weather the recession. “One of the things we’re most proud of is that we’ve never advertised. All of our business has been from referrals. We’ve maintained a referral-only business for 11 years.”

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But maintaining a good reputation is not the only important element of Payne’s wealth-building plan. He also avoided sinking all of his personal money into the business. He borrowed from his parents at the outset, but he says he worked hard to repay the loan from his parents to avoid outsize debt.

And despite the initial influx of cash from his family, Payne says 1Joshua Group is not a family business. However, succession planning can be one of the major failures of astute planning principles for small businesses, especially in the early growth stages. 

He says that passion for the product or service propels the early development of the business and succession planning often takes a backseat to the long hours and sacrifices to become a profitable enterprise. 

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“Would you saddle someone with your personal commitment to maintain your vision as a gift?” Payne said. “Probably not. My plan is to increase the valuation of the business, secure a buyer, and perhaps use the proceeds philanthropically to support the cause around which the business was created—improving the health and quality of life for vulnerable populations.”

Beyond that, avoiding debt is a key component of personal wealth building, he says. Additionally, other steps to wealth building involve networking. Church, clubs, fraternities and sororities all harbor good connections, he says. The divorced father of an adult son is a member of Impact United Methodist Church in Atlanta’s West End community. Founder and lead pastor Olu Brown encourages personal and professional wealth building in addition to faith leadership, Payne says.

“You need to be connected to people and places where people are wealthy and are willing to give advice,” he said. “Church is a good place to make healthy connections.”

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Indeed, faith is an important part of Payne’s business. Its name, 1Joshua, is derived from the Bible.

“The premise of this organization is based on the first chapter of Joshua, where the Lord tells us he will never leave us,” Payne said. “Nor will he ever forsake us. He also talks about wealth building. He says we can have anything we want; we just have to work for it. Those are the important tenets on which our organization was built.”

Lynette Holloway is a contributing editor at The Root. The Chicago-based writer is a former New York Times reporter and associate editor for Ebony magazine.