Friends & Colleagues,
SCJ61. A short week? Who says? Even though for many this week was a 3 day week, it seemed as busy and action packed as any 5 day week. The FED announcements moved the market. The CFPB came out with clarifications and more requests for TRID information. GSE Reform took center stage in the trade media as our industry fights to ensure Congress knows our support is industrywide.
I spent some time in Seattle this week attending my cousin’s wedding. We had a great time visiting all the usual tourist haunts (and some off the beaten path). The salmon fish ladder in Ballard stood out above the rest. West Seattle where the ceremony and reception were held was also a highlight. Beautiful homes and gorgeous views of the Puget Sound, including a whale sighting just before dark one evening. Short but worthwhile trip out West.
Challenge question: How many steps ahead do you consider when going public with a product, offering or announcement? I had an interesting experience this week where someone ended up saying “we could go public tomorrow but without a clear message or tangible offering, don’t you think that’d do more harm than good?” What are you moving too fast on this week that could use an extra minute, extra day or extra week to develop?
CFPB published a blog post this week of the country’s top 5 financial services complaints. Interestingly, the top mortgage complaint was being unable to pay the monthly payment. These complaints probably range from being unable to access resources the mortgage servicer has available to not knowing what to do when you realize you’ll miss a payment. But this is what makes our business complicated. What’s the appropriate amount of responsibility on the consumer, on the servicer and on the mortgage origination company/organization that made the loan (may or may not still be the servicer)? Good thing you have an attorney for that. (tongue firmly in cheek).
Interesting proposition: I heard an interview with Mark Zuckerberg recently where he spoke about to maintain a culture of experimentation in the company. Obviously you cannot have all your product managers and software folks trying out new ideas in a live environment. But, as an innovative company, you don’t want to stifle creativity either. Facebook created thousands of live environments (versions) of Facebook where managers can deploy a new idea to a limited group of live users to test and understand the changes. If the idea does not work, it goes into a lessons learned log and future teams know to avoid those criteria. If it works, it is submitted (with actual user data) for consideration sitewide. This is the perfect way to maintain the original motto of “move fast and break things” while ensuring nothing jeopardizes the company. The value for smaller, less software focused organizations is — how can you reality test your idea in the lowest risk but real environment? If you can, you should.
1. Fundraising your down payment (Of Interest)
2. Is honesty always the best policy? (Walk the Talk)
3. Don’t call it a comeback (NextBelt)
4. What the heck is a Xennial? (Millennial Minute)
5. Valuable lessons, Today’s Thought and the quote
Of Interest: I write a lot about starting a business or raising money for a new idea but what about raising capital to invest in your own home? An article on Benzinga caught my attention this week because it is time to be rethinking how we sell homeownership to a new generation and someone has done that. Rocket Mortgage is far and away the quickest and most convenient way to obtain a mortgage once you’ve already decided to buy a home. Rocket Mortgage doesn’t sell you on the concept of homeownership. I’ve argued that it’s about the story and the connection to place, at least for first time homebuyers. Here, a company is making it easier for home buyers by offering to invest in their future home’s equity. Unison will provide part of the down payment in exchange for a stake in the home’s value whenever it is sold or refinanced. I did a little research this week but could not figure out whether the Unison model could be expanded into other products and other areas. It’s intriguing to imagine offering a home’s equity in the same way we think of a company’s equity. The possibility of joint investment or new community investment models probably means this is an idea worth pursuing. I’ll be keeping an eye on it. In the meantime, if you are looking to invest in residential real estate in Detroit, let me know. I have a few neighborhoods that are about to expand. Call me.
Walk the Talk: This week we have a guest submission from a law school classmate, colleague and friend. Hailey Rice and I went to UConn Law and then worked together at Norcom Mortgage. She’s the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of Village Mortgage. Hailey found a great article illustrating the debate (within tennis) after Bernard Tomic lost in the first round of Wimbledon and said he felt “bored” during the match. According to the quote, he said he lacked motivation and that he felt that he did not respect the sport enough. The backlash was intense. From calling on him to “find another job” to labeling him an “embarrassment,”
Many of his peers were quick to create some distance. By Thursday, Head dropped his endorsement deal.
About tennis, the article is actually relevant to all of our organizations. Achievement and attitude in the workplace. Here’s Hailey’s take:
The reaction to Tomic’s press conference perfectly illustrates how we are unwilling to see value in high-achievement unless it is accompanied by the requisite attitude. What you do and how well you do it can be completely eclipsed by the “wrong” attitude. By way of example, this article briefly points out that the racquet company Head did not drop Maria Sharipova from her endorsement deal during her doping scandal, but was quick to release Tomic. Apparently, we are willing to tolerate a certain level of bad behavior, possible rule breaking or even law breaking in pursuit of the dream, as long as it is executed in the name of passion. The high crime, apparently, is having a moment of weakness or suggesting that your success is merely means to another end.
Among us “average joes,” there is a certain understanding that everyone is frustrated with their job at one point or another. Most often, that understanding is unspoken and companies show little interest in learning about those moments. Instead, employees that speak candidly about those pockets of frustration or who acknowledge that they do not live and breathe for their career are stamped “unappreciative” and face punishments or miss opportunities. Conversely, we’ve all seen somebody escape consequences of a major issue because they tried hard, were generally excited, or because they were pleasant to deal with. A high-achieving employee who challenges the institution is often at a higher risk than a lower-performing counterpart who presents an “all-in” mentality.
While most of our executives and middle managers have the benefit of NOT being interviewed publically after a devastating miss, the Tomic press conference got me thinking about my own team, which has gone through a strenuous few months dealing with an important audit. What would they have said in the press conference immediately after working a few 12-hour days and wading through piles of paperwork? Would those comments have changed a month later after having a moment to breathe? I should have asked, and I didn’t. Had I asked them in the peak of their frustration, I may have received some very valuable and candid feedback about their jobs or burnout level.
If passion and the “right” attitude are essential to performance and high achievement, we as executives and managers (and consuming sports-fans) must accept that work is not a simple like/dislike concept and be ready to take the good with the bad in order to find ways to cultivate the attitude that is so essential. That includes bracing ourselves to hear that someone is “bored” in a coveted role. Rather than deprive ourselves of top talent that challenges our own notions about our industry or our company, we need to find a way to get comfortable with the idea that not everyone is going to drink the kool-aid, or, at least, that there may be times where the kool-aid is guzzled and other times where it is sipped politely. Questioning one’s place, motives or commitment within a larger organization is not an inherent failure, but an essential piece of the development process.
I’m excited to be able to include Hailey’s take on this. Hailey and I went back and forth this week about all the different implications in the article. My take was much more about our inability to manage nuance and complexity. I know many of you have put up with my telling you about this before, but the mainstream media cannot handle nuance. Here, the story isn’t outrage. The story is that a professional tennis player is struggling to find motivation to continue his career. There’s a story in there about honesty. There’s a story in there about mental strength. There’s a story in there about some days it just feels like work. Instead of celebrating honesty and complexity, it is easier to be outraged. Many of the inside experts quoted in the articles this week were quick to establish their own passion and commitment. I suspect that was the motivation to speak to the media in the first place. In reality, I’m not that critical of Martina Navratilova and other tennis insiders who used this to solidify their place in the industry. That makes sense. Tomic has to live with the consequences of his quote. At the same time, we’re never going to be able to mature, as a society, until we figure out a way to talk openly about people (especially performers) who do not fit our mold. I am glad Hailey proposed this article and sent me her thoughts. It was a valuable lesson that could have passed by as a sports story about commitment but instead serves as a framework to evaluate and discuss hard work and career path within our own teams and companies. Hope you found it valuable too.
NextBelt: I read an interesting take on Detroit’s “comeback” on Bloomberg this week. Justin Fox looked at Detroit’s economic “doughnut.” To understand the reference, you have to think of the dough as poverty. The center (and beyond the edges) is economic productivity. According to the theory, economic productivity exists downtown and in the suburbs, but the neighborhoods still struggle. My observation having been here about a year is that I still have so much to learn about the dynamics of the city. For instance, I was stunned by the comments of the Oakland County administrator (our border to the north) who instructed his kids to stay out of Detroit at all costs and “do not, under any circumstances, stop in Detroit at a gas station.”
Sad and disappointing. Too many see economic development as a zero sum game — if Detroit succeeds, Oakland County suffers or visa versa. I believe many within the city see downtown development the same way. I like to think about it like Starbucks. Many people thought Starbucks was going to put coffeehouses and local coffee shops out of business. Instead, Starbucks created a coffee subculture & launched a generation of coffee obsessives. Now, not only does Starbucks thrive but local coffee shops and roasters are part of the movement and doing better than ever (or so it seems, I don’t have any data on this). Whether Detroit’s economic development grows beyond the city center into all our neighborhoods, the region benefits from a strong, vibrant city that attracts sports fans, music fans, foodies, tourists, and conferences/conventions from all over the world.
My only other criticism was the deliberate use of “Rust Belt” in a story otherwise about the future / next generation of Detroit’s growth. Let’s look beyond the past to what’s next, please!
Quirky story of the week: Adi Ghosh of Sapient shared an interesting LinkedIn post this week titled “8 Hottest Tech Trends in 1776.” I’ll let you dig in of that sounds interesting to you but two observations struck me. First, I hadn’t given it much thought that telling time accurately was still an open question during that time. Pun intended. In this case, it’s portable time on the marine chronometer. Second, the multitasking book stand looks similar to what a book stand in Pottery Barn or at a standing desk might look like today. I’ll be honest I kinda wanted one.
Valuable lessons in expected places: When it comes to valuable lessons, I’ve heard multiple people reference the Harvard Business Review as one of the top resources. This week I came across an article published several months ago about problem solving. In our organizations, one of the biggest issues can be ensuring we are actually addressing the true problem. This post covers several valuable lessons and tools for addressing the problems. Hope it is useful.
Today’s Thought: When did we decide that we wanted more of something mediocre instead of less of something high quality? Malcolm Gladwell said this recently and used McDonald’s French fries to illustrate a point. He asked on a podcast recently when we decided that an unlimited amount of something mediocre is better than a limited amount of something high quality. A microcosm of everything, in my opinion. Interestingly, or perhaps because of Gladwell’s comment, I watched The Founder on a Delta flight recently. I was flying Detroit-Seattle and my laptop died 25 minutes into the flight. So, I scrolled through the movies and selected The Founder. The Founder, starring Michael Keaton, is the story of McDonald’s. The film is fascinating. The beginning has an energy and is downright inspirational. The rest of the story shows what it took to gain control of the company and build the McDonald’s we know today. The interesting thing about the movie was the fundamental question it prompted — what would you do to be successful?
Quote: “Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life.” — Jerzy Gregorek. For those that watched the Tim Ferriss TEDTalk last week, you’ve seen this. For others, this is a quote implying that discipline creates space and freedom. The difficult choices are where the value lies.