Be Passionate and Humble: Business Advice from Dr. Alvin Perry of P5 Designs

What kind of introduction do you give a man whose client list includes NASA, State Farm and several boards of education on the East Coast? Dr. Alvin Perry is a veritable renaissance man. He’s earned his DBA and his MBA. He also has 10 years of entrepreneurial experience, 20 years of consulting experience and currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at William Patterson University, Montclair State University, and Essex County College.

And his CV grows practically every year.

But when he discusses his current professional life, it’s clear that most of Dr. Perry’s passion is directed toward his fashion business, P5 Designs. How, and why, his life took a turn toward the realm of fashion is an interesting story, and it’s one that Dr. Perry is happy to discuss.

A Family Man

Dr. Perry’s commitment to his family is strong, and he has an incredible ability to include nearly all of his loved ones in the inner circle of his business, which now commands the lion’s share of his time. The “5” in “P5 Designs” represents the five members of his family — most notably his wife, who he fondly describes as the “company organizer” who “keeps everyone in line.”

This serves as a much-needed reminder that our passions in life don’t need to exclude the ones we love, and our labors can be so very much more rewarding if we find ways to include the people we care about.

So, how did Dr. Alvin Perry transition his time to focus on P5 Designs? During our interview, he shares his tips for managing your time to focus on your passion.

Charting His Course

Like many people working in Corporate America, Dr. Perry wasn’t happy where he was. He found his work both beneficial and challenging, but not rewarding in the way he had hoped. It was from this disillusionment that P5 Designs was born.

It’s here that Dr. Perry delivered his first entrepreneurial lesson: Follow your passion. That passion he found is the crux of Dr. Perry’s shift toward becoming a creator.

It sounds almost trite these days — after all, you can’t attend a college graduation ceremony without the convocation guest speaker dropping the word “passion” at regular intervals. But it’s true! Passion needs to drive everything we do.

However, here’s the all-important caveat: You don’t need to drop everything you’re doing to begin your pivot toward more rewarding work. In fact, you’re encouraged not to. Consider Dr. Perry’s approach.

He sat down one day and drew up a pie chart of how he spent his time and how each element contributed to his ability to make a living. There were many demands on his time even at this early stage, from public speaking to his work at various universities. But what he found was this: The most profitable slice of his pie chart was also the thinnest. That thin slice also happened to contain the majority of his passion and creative drive.

A change was in order. He didn’t burn bridges, and he didn’t remove his other irons from the fire, but he did find ways to give more of his time over to his passions.

And once he did, he never looked back.

Worker Bees

Dr. Perry shared another insight that might not sit well with many of us — probably because we all know it’s true: Formal education produces worker bees.

He says: “We have been conditioned and trained to be worker bees.” And that means you have to “completely recondition your mind to be an entrepreneur.” He describes here the difference between being a follower and being an innovator. You can choose only one of these, and you're better off deciding early in life which you want to be.

Here’s the key: Although most of us know on some level that formal education doesn’t create greatness (though it can, to some extent, encourage it), most of us are too fearful to make a real and lasting change. Fear — rather than a lack of information — is what holds us back. After all, there’s a little thing called the internet that can help us learn about anything we want to do, be, see or accomplish. There’s no excuse for not knowing anything — and no excuse for not living up to our full potential.

If you’re waiting for a rainy day to accomplish something meaningful, you’re going to pass up a whole lot of sunshine on the way there.

Greatness Is Collaborative

From an original investment of about $250, Dr. Perry now pulls in $100k per year, all while continuing to grow his company’s footprint. Take his word as a mentor, though: You’re not going to get this done without some help.

Even Tiger Woods is quick to remind people that he had a coach through all phases of his career, including when he was at the top of his game. Staying humble means reminding ourselves regularly that we’re not perfect, and we never will be.

So, while entrepreneurship certainly begins with a self-administered kick in the butt, real greatness is collaborative. That’s something worth remembering.

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