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

Saturday Cup of Joe #127.

Friends & Colleagues,

Week 127. Certain week’s different themes seem to just rise to the top of mind. I don’t know why it happens or if it’s a coincidence but this week two themes were competition and millennials. A bunch of housing articles and millennial articles popped up and so some are included below.


This week I spent some time at the Disney Leadership Institute through an emerging leaders program. We toured behind the scenes at Magic Kingdom, shadowed the laundry logistics at Laundry Operation #4 across the street from ESPN Wide World of Sports and participated in a Q&A at Epcot Center’s cast member assistance center. I really enjoyed seeing the operation behind the magic. Walt Disney was disciplined about not allowing guests to see anything to take them outside the experience. Even on the business tours, the tour guides tried their best to always put in context how everything we were seeing was still magical.

A few things stood out to me. First, their framework “People-Process-Place” is the ideal approach for any large employer or service provider. Examples included how the walls were painted directed the cast members in high traffic areas within the tunnels beneath the park and using RFID tags to check in/check out cast member costumes. Second, the dedication to detail. As more and more companies become about offering “experiences,” whether online or in person, the attention to every detail is critical to success. Third, the Epcot Center cast member floor was covered in mismatched squares of carpet. Long hallways and high traffic areas in the building are testing facilities for carpet samples before the carpet is ever purchased / installed in a guest property. Genius.

I found it surprisingly, after having been at the Disney laundry facility earlier this week, to find an article specifically addressing the Disney laundry facilities efficiency screens. In fact, on our tour, we asked about the exact monitors discussed in that essay. Granted the article references Disneyland in CA and our tour was Disney World in FL, but our tour guide said these were requested by the staff to keep track of their work. Not quite the same story as the author outlines in the piece, but still worth considering given the history and future of “gamification” that the essay highlights. Sidenote: if you are interested in gamification, this article also offers a fascinating history and psychology of gamification.


I also wanted to extend a special thank you for all the kind words, cards and the edible arrangement from my friends, colleagues and readers of Saturday Cup of Joe after my mom passed away recently. Your support was a main part of my ability to remain positive and focus on the wonderful memories of my mother. It means the world to me and I cannot thank you enough.


As seen on Instagram, follow ruthsoukup


Productivity = do what you like. That’s not entirely the point of the article. The point of the article is better put as “you be you.” Part of being you, is, of course, to find and pursue what you like.

Be a realist about yourself. Turns out, that’s also the answer to time management. Be a time realist. (Yes, Meredith, I’m writing to myself. Of course.) There is some great advice in being a realist — take a pause, choose one organization method, reclaim personal time, etc. All good advice. Check out the article.


Millennial Minute: Almost impossible to avoid a good millennial survey, am I right? Wait, wait, wait, they asked about homeownership. Now are you interested? If you are still reading, millennials, at least those in this survey determined owning a home was 5th on the list of life goals.

Millennial Life Goals:

1. Paying off debt/Being debt free (94 percent)

2. Having a meaningful career (92 percent)

3. Traveling (86 percent)

4. Finding and marrying someone that I love (83 percent)

5. Owning a home (81 percent)

6. Raising a family (76 percent)

7. Obtaining a higher degree (68 percent)

8. Earning a higher degree than I have now (64 percent)

9. Becoming rich (56 percent)

10. Starting a business (40 percent)

11. Being famous for what I do (30 percent)

That said, Vox published a great overview of the millennial outlook not just for housing but across the entire economy.

As a bonus, it also includes a survey, this one by Bank of America that COMPLETELY CONTRADICTS the first survey. According to this survey, 72 percent of millennials, which the report identified as being born between 1978 and 1995, consider being able to own a home a “top priority” — more than traveling (61 percent), getting married (50 percent), or having children (40 percent). “Millennials may be killing the housing market, but it’s not because they don’t want homes of their own.”

Generally speaking, young people prefer to live in cities, where both rents and property values are higher. “The Bank of America report, which polled 2,000 adults who own a home or plan to in the future, also found that 90 percent of first-time buyers would rather find a place in their preferred location, which also drives up prices.”

Anyone need another article about how student debt is affecting millennials?


Personal data: Willing to trade your online activity for free email with unlimited storage? Willing to trade your personal data for free Facebook? How about free coffee?

Students at Brown University can stop by Shiru Café and trade their personal data for free coffee. This makes sense to me. If your data is everywhere already anyway, might as well trade it for free coffee.


Detroit, MI, USA


Design thinking: Little details make a big difference. People notice even if they don’t realize they notice. It’s Walt Disney going the extra mile to hide all the behind-the-scenes logistics in his theme parks. It’s Dan Gilbert deciding to change the color of the seats inside the Quicken Loans Arena to merlot even though it was more expensive. The punchline to that story is that Fox Sports signed a long term cable deal with the Cavs and at the closing dinner the Fox leadership said, “we noticed the upgrade to the seats and knew that the new ownership was serious.” Design matters.

This week when I noticed an article in Fast Company about the “new real estate sign” I took note. Compass has upgraded the for sale sign. “At first glance, the matte-black material and minimalist shape would appear destined for a patio, or inside a home. In fact, if it weren’t for the real estate agent contact information in the center of the glowing ring, it would be hard to call this a “for sale” sign. But that is exactly its purpose: to broadcast to buyers that a home is on the market, and, thanks to embedded technology, to give them access to a far richer set of information than a standard printed sign can contain.”

Key — — The company is conscious of the practical considerations. “To me the toughest challenge is how far can we push the technology today to get it done on a reasonable time frame, with a reasonable cost, to provide a real wow factor and real functionality. We want to get there. Can we get there today?”


Modular housing: One of the biggest obstacles to homeownership that I work on every day is supply. For my work, though, it can be difficult to address supply. One area that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is modular housing. Here’s one company attempting to address it in an innovative way. [Colorado] where the building season is short and the demand for housing is deep, modular construction is part of the fabric. Home segments are built in factories, trucked to a development site and put into place, saving time and ensuring quality.”

It’s not just supply but supply that promotes affordable solutions. “(Affordable housing) is such a monumental crisis right now that we need to find ways to disrupt it, to change the way it’s been done to build more of it.”


Today’s thought: The CEO of Soulcycle — the spinning gym class chain — was asked what company is her largest competitor. Her response? Netflix. Her greatest competition is not another gym but inactivity. What about you? What is your greatest competition? Imagine the real estate agent who thinks Zillow is a #1 competitor. Wrong. Your greatest competition is renting, is the first time homebuyer who does not buy a home. The hot new restaurant in town is not competing with the gastropub down the street, it is competing with staying home. Rethink your competition in order to rethink activating your customer.



Quote: “We are all failures — at least the best of us are.” — J.M. Barrie


Bonus Content: The interesting, successful and now lucrative history of the payment processing company Stripe.

Continued success and continue to answer well,



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Thinker, curious leader, once an attorney…always trying to answer well. Working on what’s next and next and next.