When Emmanuel Bailey stood recently to address a group of students at his alma mater of Eastern Kentucky University, the highly successful businessman from Washington, D.C., wanted his audience to know one fact above all else.
“There is literally nothing special about me,” the D.C. native and 1987 EKU graduate said. “I was born with no special advantages, I’m not any smarter than you, and I have had no special connections.
“I came from (what was then) the murder capital of the world. I had no money. I was the product of a strong, loving, praying single mom. I never knew my biological father. What I did bring with me to EKU was the most important things that I needed, all of which were instilled in me by my mother: the three P's of Purpose, Preparation and Perseverance.”
Bailey, on campus as part of the College of Business and Technology’s Executive Speaker Series and the University’s observance of Black History Month, proceeded to share how his experiences growing up in a housing development on the southeast side of the nation’s capital helped such intertwined character traits to flourish.
One poignant story involved his mother and her profound love and sacrifices for her children.
Today, Bailey is the president and chief executive officer of DC09, LLC, which is engaged in the supply of integrated gaming and transaction processing systems, innovative game content and value added services to state licensed gaming organizations. Butnone of that success would be possible if, at age 10, he hadn’t seen his mother standing on a chair in the kitchen looking at a mostly bare cupboard, wondering no doubt how she could continue to feed her family as she also worried about eviction. “That was when I learned my ‘why,’” Bailey said.
He remembers working two years as a newspaper carrier, averaging $200 a month. “I would give every dime to my mother, except for $5 that I spent on baseball cards and Reese’s peanut butter cups. Momma wanted her kids to be as happy as possible, even as she prepared us for the worst. You have the ability to make a difference when you have a purpose.”
Bailey learned the value of preparation at EKU when he signed up for 21 credit hours the first semester of his senior year and 18 the next.
“The counselor asked if I understood the level of sacrifice that it would take, and I said, ‘Sir, I only know that nothing is more important to me than graduating.”
With that end goal in mind, Bailey prepared a daily plan that detailed “every single minute of every day” and persevered to graduation day.
The reason so many fail, Bailey said, is “related to two powerful things: excuses and fear. The only person on this planet that can block your success is you. Fear is the ultimate dream killer. If you have purpose in your life, you can and you will overcome that fear. Embrace fear, but don’t be paralyzed by it.”
Bailey reminded his listeners how Henry Ford overcame two bankruptcies, ridicule and rejection to become the ninth richest person in the history of the world, how Alexander Graham Bell persevered through thousands of unsuccessful inventions, and how basketball great Michael Jordan used failures as his fuel. “My favorite quote about the word ‘no’ or ‘rejection’ is this: ‘Rejection is simply God’s way of saying, ‘Wrong direction.’”
“No great accomplishment has ever been achieved without failing first,” Bailey said. “The single most important character trait is the ability to persevere. Bad things happen to good people. Life isn’t fair. But you must be resilient. You must be willing to get back up. Perseverance will break down any obstacle or barrier you’ll ever encounter in life.”
Before co-founding DC09 LLC in 2009, Bailey had served as a vice president of Fannie Mae, holding multiple business and line positions over a 15-year period. He has also worked as a branch officer and commercial banker for a $2 billion regional bank and with IBM in its Federal Systems Division. Since 2007, his companies have generated nearly $100 million in combined gross revenues.
During his days at EKU, Bailey was a roommate of Troy Ellis, also a 1987 graduate and now executive vice president for supply chain for the food giant Domino’s. Ellis participated in the college’s Executive Speaker Series in 2015.
In addition to his talk to EKU students, Bailey was also the guest of honor at a Faculty Breakfast Roundtable and addressed a community luncheon, co-sponsored by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. The EKU Diversity Office was also a co-sponsor.