He Inspires by Example

When opportunity comes — and it will — you don’t get ready; you’re either ready or you’re not,” says Joseph B. Anderson, Jr. of Detroit (Michigan).

From plant manager at General Motors, Joe went on to acquire his own auto industry supply company, Chivas Products Ltd., in Sterling Heights (Michigan). Chivas recently landed a $900 million contract with GM through a joint venture with another supplier, Johnson Controls, Inc. The project will bring 175 new jobs into Detroit’s inner city.

Joe has had many opportunities for leadership roles, and he’s made sure that, in each case, he was ready. Today, he gives to others the inspiration that has carried him so far by speaking to young minority business people and students from grade schools to prestigious business schools.

“Your goal should be excellence. Take some risks on some difficult assignments,” Joe tells his audiences. “Make success a habit and seek out visibility because certain areas of business are interested in identifying minority talent.”

As an enterprising youngster in Topeka (Kansas), Joe earned a trip to Boys’ State in Wichita (Kansas), an American Legion program in which young people play the parts of community leaders. He went on to the Boys’ Nation in Washington, D.C., which led to a recommendation to West Point.

In 1977, Joe was accepted as a White House Fellow, which brought him to the attention of certain top auto executives who wanted to bring minority leadership to their industry.

Joe joined General Motors and, after a series of promotions, left to become an entrepreneur, a trailblazer of minority ownership among auto suppliers.

Joe gets about 20 speaking requests a year from such schools as The Citadel, General Motors Institute, and the Kellogg Business School of Northwestern University. He rarely gets paid in cash. Instead, after hearing him speak, minority young people often ask him to be their mentor.

“What’s satisfying is knowing that I can help them reshape their view of their opportunities,” Joe says. “After hearing what I’ve done, they walk out the door and say to themselves, “Yeah, I can do that, too.'”

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