Week 222 in Detroit.
Well, the week that was. I don’t write too often about my company, Quicken Loans, instead opting to write about bigger issues of the housing industry and leadership. This week, however, Rocket Companies (RKT), had a successful IPO on the NYSE. Rocket Companies represents the mortgage, real estate and fintech businesses of Quicken Loans including Rocket Mortgage, Rocket Homes, Rocket Loans, you get the idea.
It was exciting to see the founder and Chairman, Dan Gilbert, and CEO, Jay Farner, on CNBC before the Opening Bell and standing with our other leaders, President Bob Walters and CFO Julie Booth, to celebrate the offering.
Other than the IPO, it remained a busy week for me as I’m sure it was for you. I decided to take some time off this coming week to hang out with my daughter. We’re not traveling but just not having to work is going to be great for her (and me). Though, it’s not the Summer my daughter imagined. We often get to see family and travel throughout the Summer. She’s 7 and now she’s seen only her parents with a handful of exceptions for 5 straight months. Thank goodness for FaceTime but I’m still wondering if she’s going to come out of this quarantine telling Dad jokes and complaining about President Trump. Fingers crossed we get that vaccine soon.
Black-owned businesses have been hit harder than white-owned businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speculation abounds as to why, but in a report published by the NY FED, a co-author identified “weaker financial cushions, weaker bank relationships, and preexisting funding gaps prior to the pandemic,” as potential reasons why. Two of three potential reasons predated the pandemic and two of the three reasons are systemic as well.
Interestingly, the study cited that only 42% of Black-owned companies were considered financially healthy (based on credit score, profitability and accumulation of net income) versus 73% of white-owned businesses. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those figures are almost identical to the gap between Black homeownership (44%) and White homeownership (73%) rates in the country. When looking for systemic issues, consider patterns. These economic conditions have created a pattern.
So, now what?
For many people, at least those on social media, you’d think there was a battle for the soul of America going on right now. One side wants to provide $200 additional dollars with standard unemployment and “heartless capitalists” is all the other side can see. That side wants to provide $600 additional dollars and “mindless socialists” is all the other side will say. Really? The difference between moral and immoral or socialist and capitalist is $400? Good to know.
The reality is that the holistic view, the strategic view is always the hardest. Transactional is how we work and how we think. You get X and I get Y. One thing immediately triggers a counter-force. Comparison politics.
I spent one night this week watching The Swamp on HBO. The Swamp is a documentary about money in politics. It’s really quite captivating and good. For me, it raised questions about who is the system working for and how do we align incentives to ensure the most good for the most people.
I recognize how that can sound.
Immediately the political rhetoric alarm bells are going off — “bleeding heart this” and “socialism that.” The Swamp was definitely worth the time to watch it. It’s comparison politics at its finest but underscores the intersection of human nature, incentives and peer pressure in a way that I found helpful to understanding how I felt about politics.
I would recommend it.
Consider more. Consider often. Ryan Holiday wrote about how to have “the best week ever” on his newsletter this week. One of the themes running thru the quotes in today’s Saturday Cup of Joe is consideration and reflection. I had a similar experience this week except instead of consideration and reflection, I spoke about intentionality and assumption. Being intentional and always challenging assumptions. In a remote work environment, I have found that both are incredibly important. Intentionality ensures that our time is well spent and on the right things. Challenging assumptions is valuable in two ways. In the virtual environment, it is not safe to assume any leader or colleague knows how you feel or what you are thinking. Another way challenging assumptions is possible in a virtual environment is distance from prioritization that can be taken for granted in the office. Questions like “why are we working on this?” “Who is the target audience?” and “What will determine success?” are important anytime but are critical in virtual world.
Early on in the quarantine I made predictions about how life and work will change after the COVID-19 global pandemic. What I had missed was how long it would take to actually get to the point where these trends could take hold. Now, many companies are starting to see the impact of employees’ larger decisions. There are many employees determined not to return to the office. Many who are questioning work, life, work/life, with coming but unknown implications.
I’m realizing that simply predicting it is not that helpful, not that valuable. Predicting it with how to recognize and respond is key. CEOs and leaders must decide when and how to return to the office. If returning, how? Perhaps more importantly, why?
As a leader, you should be thinking about priorities. Is it a priority to require employees to return to the office? How, instead, can the company’s or team’s priorities be elevated?
This is not just happening in our work life but also in our home life. Couples are navigating similar questions and challenges — whose work takes priority, why do I feel this way, how can I address it. It’s important for leaders to remember this especially when evaluating performance virtually. It can be easy to mistake anxiety for disinterest or personal life conflict for unprofessional responses. Instead, one practice my team has been practicing is periodic listening sessions — open forums so that anyone who feels it may help can raise issues, ask questions or, as the name implies, just listen.
In a recent session, a team member expressed how difficult it can be to share certain information with a leader. Someone having marital problems during quarantine trying desperately not to let anyone at work know. Someone with a chronic illness having difficulty managing the paid time off, doctor’s appointments and lack of flexibility given the risks in a contagious world. Someone feeling overwhelmed by having to process the country’s response to a legacy of racism during a global pandemic.
We take for granted that corporations are just groups of people. As if by calling it a corporation we distance the entity from the people making decisions within the company. Keeping the humanity at the center of our businesses goes for our teams as well as our customers. There was a string of commercials at the beginning of May — “we’re all in this together” — was the common theme. Hopefully, those companies and many more are remembering that message now as we prepare for a new school year unlike any Fall we’ve experienced before. In the end, this is about people, everything we do, and we should make sure that we honor each other.
“On those mornings you struggle with getting up, keep this thought in mind — I am awakening to the work of a human being. Why then am I annoyed that I am going to do what I’m made for, the very things for which I was put into this world? Or was I made for this, to snuggle under the covers and keep warm? It’s so pleasurable. Were you then made for pleasure? In short, to be coddled or to exert yourself?” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1
Sometimes I write about practical problems in housing or the economy overall, sometimes I write about leadership or mindset, and sometimes I just like passing along the wild articles I find throughout the week. This one falls in the latter category. Once I got to this line — “A casual game night with Satan is only the first phase of its ghostly lore.” — I knew I’d include this in today’s Cup of Joe.
As a real estate transaction, a castle in Ireland is already an once in a lifetime opportunity. Add the myth and the history, it makes for an incredible listing. A steal at $2.87M, this estate offers confirmation of the existence of supernatural forces AND 60 acres in Ireland with a historic castle. In Ireland! Did I mention Ireland?
With 22 bedrooms, if 3 other families would like to split this 4 ways, it’s only ~$720,000 each. Only! Haha. Communal living at a haunted castle in Ireland.
“When you first rise in the morning tell yourself: I will encounter busybodies, ingrates, egomaniacs, liars, the jealous, and cranks. They are all stricken with these afflictions because they don’t know the difference between good and evil. Because I have understood the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil, I know that these wrong-doers are still akin to me … and that none can do me harm, or implicate me in ugliness — nor can I be angry at my relatives or hate them. For we are made for cooperation.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2.1
“You’ve wandered all over and finally realized that you never found what you were after: how to live. Not in syllogisms, not in money, or fame, or self-indulgence. Nowhere. Then where is it to be found? In doing what human nature requires. How? Through first principles. Which should govern your intentions and your actions.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 8.1
On homeownership or at least the work. I came across a fun article about a group of friends who decide to build a cabin together in rural Washington state. Sounds like a conversation I’ve had more than once — “you know what we should do….” I once had a business plan for a bar called the Wayside Tavern with 3 friends and those nights imagining it were worth. Here, these guys actually buy the land and build the thing. A cabin, that is.
The line that caught my attention was, “After four months that felt like eternity, it sold for $115,000, meaning we’d eventually more than double our investment, assuming our hourly rate for labor was zero dollars. Did we make our money back immediately? No. Was it worth it? Absolutely.”
If that’s not a commentary on all homeownership, I don’t know what is.
But what drew me in about the author and his friends was this, “Building felt like a natural extension of everything we valued in our lives: creativity, friendship, purpose, responsibility.” So simple to understand and so hard to experience.
“How many have laid waste to your life when you weren’t aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements — how little of your own was left to you. You will realize you are dying before your time!” — Seneca, On the Brevity of Life, 3.3b
Continued success and continue to answer well,