Saturday Cup of Joe: a lending and tech(ish) newsletter

Friends & Colleagues,

Saturday Cup of Joe #43. Over the last week, I went back and reviewed the progress of Saturday Cup of Joe from how it started, how it changed over time and what content/articles became the focus. I was interested to see how the content went from varied interest between mortgage, Detroit and tech/entrepreneurial stories. Somewhere it became mortgage heavy. This week, I wanted to try a slightly different approach to get back to broader stories that help our businesses, our leadership and our learning.

There were a variety of lessons to be learned — the Best Picture award at The Academy Awards provided a lesson in patience and humility, Travis Kalanick (CEO of Uber) provided a lesson in learning lessons, and Snapchat provided a lesson in the market value of users (turns out it’s A LOT).

This week we look at:

  • Gary Vaynerchuk visits Detroit (Of Interest)
  • Fintech moves into the mainstream (Got Me Thinking)
  • Detroit struggles to broaden development (A Look Ahead)
  • The new economy is a gig economy (Have You Heard?)
  • Lessons from age and wisdom (Viewpoint)
  • Leadership (Sidenote)
  • The new “bar” exam (Quick Hit)

Of Interest: Gary Vanyerchuk visited Detroit this week. Gary Vee has been an entrepreneur and is now a media company, essentially. Gary spoke to leaders within the Quicken Loans Family of Companies at our annual strategic planning meetings. Gary is outspoken and bold. If you aren’t a fan of profanity, you might want to skip the video. Otherwise, you’ll get a sense of Gary’s daily videos and see some interaction with our people. One of the interns on my team is with Gary toward the end of the video (14:55).

I was excited to see Gary Vee in Detroit. Though I was not in the meetings or able to meet him personally, it reinforces a few things that I’ve been thinking lately. For starters, there’s no perfect recipe and you cannot try to replicate someone else’s culture or style. The key is to be genuine and be yourself, but above all, stay consistent. It helps to know what you are chasing, to know your mission, but it is not mandatory to success. Being someone who authentically adds value to whatever organization you find yourself will be important for success.

The other thing Gary Vee has been able to do for me is to narrow my focus. I have a tendency to get really big picture — politics, poverty, housing, the meaning of life. I am often operating at these big macro-levels of fairness and getting caught up in big problems that don’t really have any solutions. Keeping a grounded focus on what I can do to be valuable to my wife, valuable to my daughter and valuable to my company each day has been helpful. I don’t have to worry about what’s going on in DC until I need to or until I can somehow add value to it. I don’t have to defend all the vulnerable people in society, because I can engineer ways to make a difference in Detroit. I’ve gotten lost in the big dream, in the past, at the expense of ways to make a difference every day in my world. I was so worried about all the people that I missed out on opportunities to reach individuals I work with, live with or see every day. This week reminded me that it’s all about people.

My goal remains to stay passionate, curious and active in order to remain successful. Thinking smaller and more tangible will help me actually put my words into action right here in my town. That’s why I watch these videos and try to keep reminders around to stay humble and hustle hard. There’s the takeaway this week.


Got Me Thinking: A few friends sent me the prepared remarks of Mike Bodson, President and CEO of the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) at the DTCC Fintech Symposium. There were a few things to note. First, the hype around blockchain and other fintech phenomenon has normalized into a more nuts and bolts strategy of implementation. Second, Bodson referred to fintech as “beneficial,” “transformative” and “a disruptive force.” It was a standard observation given the changes we’ve seen in the last year or so but also recognized that these new platforms and business models are here to stay. Third, in that vein, Bodson called the regulatory effort “a delicate balancing act” admitting that the market integrity, risk management and dynamic potential of new ideas must all find a way to coexist in a healthy way. In the meantime, he recommended regulators take a financial Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.” This is a shift from the mentality some have seen, at least on the mortgage side, in federal & state regulation. Rather than seeing themselves as the partner-overseers who must monitor markets without harming them. For some, regulators have taken a dramatic and adversarial role with many market participants. That does not alleviate industry from our responsibility.

Industry needs to “narrow its focus” to “benefit the largest number of users.” As we implement these new technologies, it will be critical to monitor infrastructure, scale properly and ensure financial stability (our own and market-wide).

In many ways, we need to take the same collaborative, social principles of these new platforms to inform how we do business together and communicate with regulators in the next few years.


A Look Ahead: In local Detroit news, a Wall Street Journal article profiled the interesting dynamics in the Detroit development world. On one hand, many of the projects have been focused on luxury condos or retail items like Warby Parker eyeglasses. The initial development has been high profile and sexy. On the other hand, it can be difficult to get traditional financing and there has not been a second tier or expanded development beyond the luxury spaces downtown. If you don’t have access to WSJ, Deadline Detroit briefed the article on their homepage. The toughest dynamic is balancing luxury or high-end development with commercial development and additional opportunities for those in Detroit outside the central business district. I live on the east side, noted by the author as the “now gritty east side,” and I’ve found several amazing neighborhoods through Detroit but the economic activity in between has been non-existent. It feels like there is economic development in the air and so the energy here is real, but it remains to be seen how it will turn into real life projects that all Detroiters can enjoy.


Have You Heard?: It’s a gig economy now. The most interesting part of thinking a lot about entrepreneurship this year has been the fundamental shift in “the rules.” In other words, we do not feel constrained by the rules of the game. It’s partly because cloud technology and mobile applications have lowered the barriers to ideas, but other barriers (labor, cost, regulation) have offset some of the speed. In response, the gig economy emerged. The name aside, the idea is a real one. In my world, we have an ISM that states “you’ll see it when you believe it.” In many ways the tech entrepreneurship that is occurring coupled with the redefining of “job” mentioned in the article is a see-it-when-you-believe-it moment. Employees are demanding what they believe is the right balance and defining for themselves what success looks like. Entrepreneurs either responded or created it, but either way, the gig mindset is reframing more than just apps. It’s reframing how we think about work and living.


Viewpoint: Lessons from history. One of my favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, posted his experience chatting with America’s oldest living veteran and the lessons were numerous. Here were some of my takeaways but I suggest reading the whole piece because it will almost certainly be different for everyone.

1. An acceptance of other people, that they’ll find their own way and they don’t need your moralizing. Besides, staying alive is a full time job. (As true at 34 as 110).

2. Stick to what you like.

3. Connection is key. To family. To community. To country. To anything larger than yourself.


Sidenote: If you ever need confirmation bias on dynamic leadership, there’s an article out there for you. This week OZY posted some thoughts from Katherine Graham-Leviss on innovative leaders. Based on her study, leaders “make a bet and roll the dice, while also looking for strategic ways to hedge that bet.” The two qualities that most demonstrate leadership are curiosity and confidence. Can’t argue with that.


Quick Hit: Every now and then regulatory law crosses into a “fun” area. That is the case with the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. If you drink beer or have entered a bar/restaurant that serves beer in the last few years, it is hard to avoid seeing craft beer. In fact, many of the most popular craft beers cannot even be found in bars and restaurants. For instance, the (“struggling”) New York Times highlighted fans who wake up early or even wait overnight to stand in line for their favorite breweries to release new beer. Because these are all domestic brewers setting up shop in places like Iowa, Colorado, Vermont and Oregon, lawmakers are looking for ways to reduce federal excise taxes. One Congressman called craft brewers an “American success story” and I think the whole story underscores American economic issues. These entrepreneurs are employing local workers, buying/leasing brewing equipment, and creating a market. True small businesses if there ever were any. At the same time, while it is light manufacturing, it is not likely to expand employing large groups of people.


Quicker Hit: I’ve always loved hand painted signs at bars and diners. Having never been to New Orleans, I didn’t realize NOLA might be the hand painted sign capital of the world.

Image for post
Image for post


Today’s Thought: “Do these people have any idea who we think we are.” What started as a joke between my friends Brad & Dana and I has now expanded to a source of confidence in taking risks in our lives and organizations. If leaders share the qualities of curiosity, confidence and consistency, then having irrational expectations might not be a bad thing. The problem is when betting on yourself blurs into making business bets without data or foundation. In other words, it is beneficial to be aggressive with how we view ourselves, internally, while making sure we are clear and rational in the daily decisions within the business.


Bonus Content: NPR took the Census data and developed a map of the most popular job in each state 1978–2014. The data was also broken down by state for the years 1978, 1996 and 2014. The Dakotas showed consistency across the agricultural jobs. Oregon, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, as well as many others, show truck drivers as the most popular job throughout the last 40 years. In New Mexico and Maryland it was secretaries. Thought it was a fun map.


Quote: “You will not do incredible things without an incredible dream.” — John Eliot

Continued success,

Written by

Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well.

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