Marion Skinner – Stay Focused
Words + Interview By Tyrone Davis
Marion Skinner is a businessman and serial entrepreneur who has created and been involved in several endeavors. He and I discussed the Texas Advancement Center, trades, technology and the future of robots, entrepreneurship, mental health and why it is important to stay focused.
Tell us about the Texas Advancement Center.
Absolutely. Texas Advancement Center is a career college based out of Texas. We have two locations in San Antonio and in Dallas. They do different career paths. They offer HVAC, Electrical, barbering, cosmetology, medical billing, medical assistant, computer IT, software developers, and a few different career choices.
What was the process like gaining the support of the state?
When I actually went into the deal with the Texas Workforce, their biggest thing was wanting to find students to actually go to different colleges but, they could never reach the demographic that they needed. That is when I came in and I was like, “At Texas Advancement Center, we’re offering the trade and at the same time, I can reach the people.” So, you know, that went hand in hand. From there, we became the number one target.
Congratulations on Texas Advancement Center getting acquired for over $100 Million! This is major! Tell us about this exciting new acquisition and how it came to pass?
When the private equity firm actually came to me, they were trying to get into the education field and go through the number one career college in the state of Texas. There were a few different offers that were given but we did get the one that best suited us. It was bittersweet, just watching. It was almost like letting your baby go but I know it was for the better good. The private equity firm made me a great offer and on top of that, I am now able to further partner with all the workforces around the US and assist other entrepreneurs who are trying to start their own career colleges all around at the same time.
What does this new acquisition represent for Texas Advancement Center moving forward?
The private equity firm acquiring the Texas Advancement Center will give them a bigger footprint within the state of Texas but will also allow them to launch the Georgia Advancement Center and the rights of Florida Advancement Center as well. So, they are able to expand off of everything that was already built. That is pretty much the direction of that.
Where did the name “King of Education” come from and why should our people take education more seriously?
The King of Education moniker derived from me just assisting so many students. Last year alone, we had over 400 students and since actually starting the college, we have helped a little over 1,200 students altogether. All of those students received their tuition paid for free from the state. It’s not anything that they have to pay back (no student loans), they don’t have to deal with Sallie Mae or anything like that. They just got a free education.
So many students just started coming up to me, letting me know how I changed their life and how much this meant for them to actually just pick a career field that was actually in demand. The name just caught on.
Break down the ways that learning a trade can be beneficial.
A lot of people are actually going the trade route instead of going to a four-year college. One of the best things about it is even at a four-year college, what a lot of people are starting to realize is that you can go for accounting or you can major in various things. Also, you can go to a trade school and get the same thing but at a much faster timeframe. So, what it takes some people to go to school for four years, you can go to a trade school and get your degree within less than a six months. On top of that, you can either get it for free, or you can get it at a much lower rate than you would pay at a four-year school.
Those are a lot of the benefits and then we are talking about trades. We are not talking about trades that are not in demand that you don’t make any money from. We are talking about fields that are in demand and when you come out, you make money immediately. That is especially with the CDL drivers, they’re coming out instantly making $80,000 a year with their CDL. Based upon different jobs and things like that, you’d come straight out of college with loans that you’d have to pay back. It just makes the most sense to go the trade route.
What made you pursue that endeavor (Texas Advancement Center) in particular?
I had a trucking company at the time, then all my drivers kept telling me how they got their CDL through the state. They didn’t have to pay for anything so at the time, I was thinking what if I did that partnership with them and I was training my own drivers then I would keep the drivers for myself at the same time. Enough of them kept on saying it then one thing led to another and I had a full blown CDL school. I then just started adding different programs to it.
You’ll be opening up a new location in Atlanta soon. Tell us about it.
Since that is under the Advanced Centers of America umbrella, Georgia Advancement Center is still going to be opening. I don’t know their time frame on that right now because that is a separate entity now that I sold Texas Advancement Center, but I know it is still in the works and will be opening very soon.
With all of the talk about human beings being “replaced” by robots in the future and being someone who has done well in the trucking business, what are your thoughts about things becoming more automated?
If we are not too careful, we will find ourselves out of a lot of jobs, especially in our community. What is going to happen is we are going to automate so many different things, like cashiers and truck drivers. There are a lot of things right now that are great ideas, of course with moving technology forward but the moment that technology replaces humans is when those fears start to come in. Those are just things that we have to continue to think about. I’m all for forward thinking but at the same time, it will hurt us. So, we have to be mindful of that and continue to educate ourselves and stay on top of it. If we don’t and let things keep happening the way that they are, we are going to look up and a lot of our jobs will be raided.
People on social media have led others to believe that entrepreneurship is the way for everyone. In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception about becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Well, let me start by saying it is definitely not for everyone. I had a lot of companies that I created. However, a lot of people only know about the ones that were successful. With that being staid, entrepreneurship is very similar to Instagram. You only talk about the highlights of your life and that is why people have to realize that entrepreneurship is very hard. More people stop and give up rather than keep going. I would just say for entrepreneurs out there who may start to second guess themselves on their decisions, you just have to stay consistent because you never know when that change or big break is going to happen.
Personally, what are 3 things you’ve had to do on a dailybasis to keep the ball rolling?
Read audiobooks. Every morning there are business books that will continue to help me stay focused. Reading is something I’m very big on. Also, I always try to listen to my staff or my employees that are around me because sometimes you will start getting in your own zone and forget the people that helped you build and create the things that you have. Those things got you to the place that you are in. So, it is really important to always listen to the staff and having staff meetings as well. The third thing I would say is to try to stay focused. I always try to stay focused on everything that is around me.
As someone who has had a lot going on for some time now, how do you manage your mental health?
One thing that I am always doing is praying. I also try to check on everybody in my circle and keep the right people around me. That is one of the biggest things with mental health. Sometimes, we have the wrong people around us who don’t check in on us and aren’t real friends that actually care about our wellbeing. I have the right people around me and I try to be the right person for those people as well.
Going back a bit, where are you from originally and how did you grow up?
Originally, I’m from Wilmington, Delaware. It is rough out there. My mom moved us to Texas so that we would have a better chance at life. Delaware is actually the only state where you cannot achieve the American dream. That is how crazy it actually is. Getting away from violence and poverty was so important.
What did you learn about yourself while pursuing your degree in audio engineering and how did that change you moving forward?
My audio engineering degree just gave me another opportunity. Honestly, that is what I needed. It is not necessarily that I needed a degree. I just needed another avenue to get into the music industry. A lot of people don’t talk about the engineers on certain songs so I knew if I could just sneak my way into audio engineering then I could actually start producing for a lot of these artists. But, the main thing was getting into the door.
The music industry has changed quite a bit over the years and while many are thriving, many are not. A lot of entertainers are having to diversify their businesses in order to keep the money flowing in. What caused you to pivot when you did and how did that go the first few years?
So, when I actually pivoted from the music industry, I kind of figured it was gonna start switching up, just based upon technology. Technology was one of those things that gave anyone and everyone the opportunity to create a studio, no matter where they were at. So, we had people starting studios in their basements, closets and pantries. I knew at that point that the industry was going to change. It was just a matter of time. So by me being a thinker and getting ahead of the game, it put me into the right spot. I actually did it at a decent time while the industry was still changing and going through that switch but I was still able to capture that time.
What did you love most about producing and do you still make music today?
No, I don’t do it any more. I had to stop it. I love music but to be honest, I truly love marketing. So getting to artists, creating something from the ground up is my thing whether with the music industry one week, a sneaker company the next week or liquor company the following. Working on an album with a new artist that no one has ever heard of and then making sure that artist is known worldwide is my passion.
Who are your “Top 5” producers of all time?
I’m going to start with Pharrell and then I am going to go with Kanye. Then, we are going to go with Just Blaze, Timbaland, and Dr. Dre.
I’m going to throw a few names out there. Say whatever comes to mind.
A. The Middle Men
Between you and your next hit.
B. Rick Ross
A solid advisor and friend.
The smoothest tequila drink you would ever have.
What kind of advice can you give aspiring entrepreneurs?
Stay focused, stay focused, stay focused. Stay consistent and stay focused. That is the biggest thing you got to do. You never know when your break is coming.
Lastly, how can people reach you if they’d like to keep up with you and your endeavors?
Follow me on Instagram at @thekingofeducation. I’m really big on social media. I try to check all my DMs and answer everybody so please reach out as often as possible. I’m here to inspire everyone. You never know who is next. Everyone is someone so that is why I try to treat everyone the same.