Week 234 in Detroit. Happy Halloween. Today is a full moon. Anytime there’s a full moon on Halloween, it’s a blue moon. Any chance 2020 could get weirder? This is it. I’m expecting werewolves and witches, what are you looking forward to?
The election is coming up next week. If you read the Saturday Cup of Joe you know that I care deeply about people and how leaders should think about and treat their teams, their companies and their communities. I believe we all have a responsibility to our community, to the collective health and stability of our cities, our states, our country and our world. First and foremost, for me, has been the way we treat people and the way a leader should treat people. Both interpersonally and in our policies, decency and dignity must remain at the core of our behavior and our decisions. Otherwise, what’s the point?
More and more I’ve been thinking about how we treat each other as the core of a philosophy that should be the way we consider all choices. Especially in politics, there’s this overwhelming sense of “well, everyone acts this way” as an excuse for behavior that should be totally inexcusable. Yet, we rationalize it over and over. Attributing malice to political rivals for the same behavior we attribute shrewdness of those we claim to support.
A member of my team, Zara, sent me a video this week of someone describing how politics, and more importantly, policies should return to the lessons of kindergarten. Overly simplistic, perhaps, but people who abide by the golden rule — treat others how you would like to be treated — in their own lives, throw it out the window when it comes to politics. It’s almost as if we’ve so lowered the expectations for politicians that we now celebrate their defiance of the golden rule.
This is not some passive aggressive attack on Trump without saying it. If you are reading that, I believe it’s only because how much he’s made the way he treats people part of his personal brand, not because I think this criticism is exclusive to him. I think there zero incentive, none, for politicians to follow the golden rule. We’ve not given them either the carrot or the stick when it comes to behaving with decency, dignity and consistency. That’s why attacks, bitterness, cutting remarks and hypocrisy are so often cited in our political discourse — they work. Until we ensure they do not work and reverse the incentives to point to the behavior we want. We won’t see a different outcome from our politicians or our political system.
I’m not talking about “returning power to the people” in some vague political slogan about the middle class, labor unions or whatever. I’m talking about forcing humanity and how a policy or political decision will be individually felt by the people involved back into the center of our conversations and choices. It starts with the way you treat the people around you. We forgive highly successful and highly functional people. CEOs, rock stars, actors, and Presidents as if their accomplishments are what’s important and not how they treat the human beings they interact with all day long. What if we returned the measure of their success to be the measure of how they treated the people they work with everyday? What if a CEO was measured by how employees were treated over how shareholders were treated?
My biggest fear, many times, with the Saturday Cup of Joe is what I call the Jerry Maguire problem.
“You wrote we should make less money. You’re fired.”
In this moment, though, I don’t feel naïve. I don’t feel like standing up for the simple idea that maybe we should all be judged simply by how we treat those we interact with personally and those personally affected by our decisions & actions.
In politics, we rationalize the treatment of other human beings — both specific human beings that surround the politician as well as the larger collective affected by policy decisions — in favor of winning.
My question coming out of 2020 is winning what?
The very first question any (good) product manager should answer is — what does success look like? How will you measure success? In product development, we provide actual metrics, data points and time bound key results.
I wonder how President Trump measures success? What is a “good day” to him?
I wonder what Vice President Biden uses to measure success? What is his “good day”?
What does winning look like?
As I vote and watch the results come in on Tuesday (and yes perhaps throughout the next few days that follow, who knows), I will be reflecting on how we treat each other and how we can incorporate those basic measures into incentives that will actually return our conversations to the golden rule.
In The West Wing there’s a line about a candidate where President Bartlett says “first and foremost, I look for a mind at work.” Lin-Manuel Miranda, a huge West Wing fan, incorporated that line into Hamilton.
I wonder what would happen if, first and foremost, we looked for candidates who made the people around them incrementally better. Treated them a little better each day. Improved the lives of those in their immediate role whether that was politician, CEO, lawyer or talk show host. Are you an overall positive and healthy contribution to the lives of those you touch? What if that was our measure? What questions would we ask differently? How would you make your decisions about your candidate or your political party or your company?
Well, regardless of what happens on Tuesday, my mission is to make those around me incrementally better day by day. To contribute love, care and concern and ask, simply, that my team, my company and my candidates do the same.
Detroit. The Wall Street Journal published an article this week about the housing market in Detroit. Two things struck me about this description of access to credit in Detroit. First, the mortgage industry is constrained by two regulatory hurdles. The way pricing applies restrictions on how to structure mortgage loans under $100,000. The appraisal and valuation requirements that need 3 comparable proprieties in order to approve the mortgage for backing by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA or VA. As a result, few mortgages are made in Detroit. According to research in the article, no purchase mortgages were made last year in almost a third of Detroit’s census tracts, and fewer than five each in another third.
The good news is that there have been increasing sales and demand in Detroit’s other census tracts. Entire neighborhoods have bounced back thanks to programs like Rehabbed & Ready, developers like Century Partners and Detroit Land Bank’s investments in those neighborhoods. But there is so much more to be done for the people who live in Detroit to be able to own in Detroit. Laura Grannemann, mentioned in the article for Quicken Loan’s work on Rehabbed & Ready, also leads a campaign to help Detroiters stave off tax foreclosure as well. Keeping existing Detroiters in their homes is as important as finding sustainable, safe ways to get more Detroiters into homeownership.
Laura and I talk often about how to do more in Detroit. I’m lucky to be able to work on this problem specifically proposing solutions for 2021. Our team looked at current listings recently. 88% of homes on the market in Detroit are under $200K. Of sales in 2020, 35% are cash, land contract, deed sale or auction.
One thing the article highlights that is visually apparent in the stark photo that is the cover of the article: The average home is worth roughly $400,000 in Grosse Pointe Park. Across Alter Road in Detroit, entire blocks could sell for less. Alter Road is the Eastern boundary of Detroit.
One of my first visits to Detroit, my best friend Brad took me on “the drive.” The drive is what Brad called the trip down Jefferson Avenue from downtown Detroit to the city limit. On the East Side, Jefferson Avenue runs along the Detroit River with the Ren Cen on the right downtown and past the Riverfront warehouses now converted into apts, condos and lofts. The Detroit Riverwalk runs along the Detroit River behind the Ren Cen and beyond the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle. The Riverwalk is one of the brightest spots in the city — a true welcoming place for everyone.
“The drive” shows of some of Detroit’s best spots including Belle Isle, the park in between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, in the middle of the river. It also shows Far East Detroit and some of the poorest and emptiest blocks between Rivertown and Alter Road.
Brad loved to discuss how altering Alter Road is. From the boarded up windows and burned out houses, the intersection at Alter Road transitions immediately to green planters, historic street signs, flowers, well-manicured lawns, Golden Retrievers and jogging strollers.
Since my first “drive” across Alter Road, I’ve made “the drive” several more times with Brad and other visitors to Detroit, I’ve made my parents and friends experience it, and once after Brad passed away, I made it alone talking to him the whole way.
Of course, I’ve driven across Alter Road constantly in my daily life running errands, visiting friends or whatever. Each time, I acknowledge how privileged I am, how grateful I am and how special Detroit is.
I look forward to the day when I can write about even more progress and success delivering opportunity and equity to all neighborhoods in Detroit. Scaling that opportunity not just across the city but as far as we can take it.
Alanna McCargo said that solving for lower dollar mortgage loans “is the big issue of our time” and that is well said. Offering housing opportunities for the $70,000 mortgages mentioned in the Wall Street Journal and creating affordable first-time home buyer opportunities throughout our Next Belt cities is the engine that can drive further economic growth.
Shareholders today are so much more than shareholders. Hat tip to my friend Bob Nedwicki for this great article. Andressen Horowitz published the Fintech Newsletter noting that “retail shareholders” those able to buy shares individually are being recognized as brand ambassadors. Companies can start thinking about any shareholder as a loyal, early adopter. Customer, shareholder, influencer all in one.
I’ve long thought that spending is voting. Voting for the company or the product.
I should update my thinking — spending is endorsement. Every dollar we spend is brand endorsement. It’s obvious but opens up so many opportunities for innovation. Just as social media has created an influencer culture, its natural that influencers would soon flow to finance and investments. We saw it this Summer when Dave Portnoy the founder of Barstool Sports moved stocks simply by announcing his stock tips on Twitter each day. Each shareholder is an influencer.
Companies can look at this in two ways. First, unlock shareholders and get twice the value — investor + brand champion. Second, what information or added benefits can be used to attract these new influencer-shareholders?
Proactive Finance. 2 years ago, the CEO of Credit Karma, Ken Lin, predicted “autonomous money” the same way self-driving cars were exploding on the scene. I spent much of this week talking about “proactive fintech,” which is why I discovered this article.
Lin shares my view that financial services, including and especially banks, have long been reactive. The fastest reactor to the customer’s application wins. Becoming proactive means serving up solutions before the customer encounters a challenge.
Lin “envisions a time when computers refinance our debts when it’s most advantageous, while investing our cash into longer-term investments (and rebalancing them) when it makes sense. Life insurance and other protections would be on autopilot. The technology has its roots in the fintech projects cropping up now.”
We’re still a few steps away from proactive mortgages but I think “refi for life” remains an achievable goal.
In your industry, what does being proactive look like? How would delivering solutions to the client before a request work? The race is on in fintech. But what about your team? How will your company become more proactive?
Quote: “I take the good with the bad. I can’t love people in slices.” — Sean Connery
Continued success and continue to answer well,