David Weekley on Conversations at The Mansion with Rick Walker
Nationwide Home Builder David Weekley’s imposing influence across American business, social, political and charitable efforts is quite the accomplishment considering David has only worked half time since 1992 and gives away half his income to charitable causes. We discuss charity reorganizations, business strategy, homebuilding finance, philanthropic philosophy and even a little critical race theory to mix things up.
About the show: Brand new guest-driven video podcast brings together the most interesting thought-leaders who provide viewers with unique perspectives at the intersection of media, business, politics, responsibility, and work, in a casual, fun, and free-flowing conversation at The Mansion.
weakly held from the 30s, I’ll never forget, we had a pickup truck from Arkansas, pull up and full of stuff and says, Where are those homes to rent for $30 a week? We could do it an average of $28,000 house where the city or the government tries to do and it’s 60 or $100,000 house, just because it’s our business. So I got fired. So then we started out, probably a huge strategic mistake on their part. And some Well, I mean, who knows? So it’s kind of a troublemaker I guess. last 30 years, half my time that’s like 30,000 hours. What they say if you put in 10,000 hours to get good at something. Yes, I guess that means it takes me longer than most to figure out how to get how to get good at something. He’s been a great big brother mentor. Yeah. Is he still a shareholder? Oh, yeah. Yeah, kick me out of trouble. A lot. Going into development. So you know, I was a brash young guy. And so now he’s still a shareholder. You bet.
I’m Rick Walker. I’m sitting down with some of my most captivating friends to discuss topics ranging from politics and business to religion and pop culture.
Welcome to conversations at the mansion.
David Weekley Welcome to conversations at the mansion. Thank you. Happy to be here. It’s great to have you. So I want to kick off today by asking the question who is David Weekley? Because from the outside, we see the success as a nationwide home builder. We hear of your successes in philanthropy, social and even your family’s, I guess, foray into the political arena over the last 20 years. But behind the scenes with your family, with your friends in your faith community? Who would they say and who would you say is David Weekley?
Fundamentally, probably a Boy Scout
grew up right here in Houston. out in West Houston, the memorial area. two older brothers, great mom and dad, kind of classic American family. Back when that was what what most families had, and
married my high school sweetheart, and gotten a business and I’ve had a great run. along the way. I’d like to, I guess I’d say I’m with Christian first and husband second and father third and grandfather and businessman and philanthropist somewhere along the way. And sometimes that order gets messed up. That’s right. That’s right. So as someone that is the icon of success for a lot of us that look to see what is it what does a successful life look like? How would you define success?
To me, it’s fulfilling our kind of use our God given talents and abilities
to make the world a better place and to focus on the other as opposed to ourselves, you know, so much in our society today. It’s it’s all about us. You know, every ad, every everything, it’s all about us. And so it took took me a while personally, to move from it being all about me to being all about the other, so to speak. Yeah. So if you had to look back, and you look at you came up through the hard 80s here in Texas, especially here in Houston. What were some of the difficulties that that eventually led to that success?
Well, I really got started in my own business after getting fired from another home builder. And my older brother gave me some advice to go talk to the president to kind of explain what the situations were and I did eat up thinking I wasn’t really good match for the company. So I got fired. So then we started out probably huge strategic mistake on their part. And some Well, I mean, who knows? I was kind of a troublemaker, I guess. So got started at age 23. And, and started working and things were going great in the late 70s and early 80s. back I was the president of homebuilders Association, driving a seven series BMW building a 10,000 square foot home and Memorial, I thought I was God’s gift to the homebuilding business. And then the mid 80s came and a huge crash and
lost my home, almost lost the business, start driving a pickup truck instead of a BMW. And I really realized at that point in time that one of my greatest regrets was that I had had literally millions of dollars flow through my hands and no good had come out of why the money was, was lost it. It went as quickly as it came. And fortunately, I remember during that period of time, I said, you know, God give me give me another boom, and I won’t screw the next one up. And so we went we expanded to Austin and Dallas and we were able to get profitable there to offset the losses in Houston. And sure enough, by the late 80s and early 90s, we’d come back and we were strong company. Sure. So the expansion of those other markets. How did that
Help the Houston market situation because I think you you wrote in one of your books that you were going, you had a market here that was selling around 30,000 units a year, or maybe as a month, and then it went down to 6000 units. Well, yeah, the overall market and Houston sold 30,000 new homes a year, okay, in the early 80s. And it contracted to 6000. Home a year rate, then like six months, wow, it’s kind of like the oil and gas gas business or something else going to going down close to zero. But so expanding into those new markets, allowed us to make profits to offset our losses in Houston, we wouldn’t have made it if we would have just stayed in Houston. Sure, sure. And you were also involved in YPO. Back then, I was, which was group call young presidents organization, it was
it was good. And helped me navigate through this because a lot of the older folks and had been through a variety of situation like this, you know, and you’re young president running things and you think you know everything and then you get slapped upside the head the way we did and, and it kind of brings you to your knees and then then you you come back with a lot of help and a lot of a lot of good advice from others as well. Yes, yes. So for a lot of people that look at the homebuilding business from the outside, maybe not even from a real estate background, they see this magic that happens with our piece of raw land gets converted into a community of, of homes, and they don’t understand the intricacies of the financing of the development of the the tours is and all that sort of effort in maybe a minute or two, would you give us an overview of that, of how that home building becomes eventually formed into an actual livable home for a family from a piece of raw land, to all?
Well, there are lots of people involved. I mean, first of all, you identify a piece of land, the right school district, the right location, etc, that you think the market would like, and then come up with a with a lot sizes and plans that you think the market would that would fit again, and then go to engineers and go to land planners and, and develop streets and and get all the approvals, and sewer and water and all those things you need to to create a lot that’s buildable. And then hopefully with the right
expertise and design talent, greater home design that somebody like, and then get it built and sold and moved in with with the customer focus being the core of this. So many times people really think that it’s it’s a matter of the mechanics of building that’s easy compared to attempting to really identify what the customer values and what to put in the home, and how to design it for the broadest segment of the customers. Or if you’re going for an active adult, you design it differently. And so just just really coming up and being customer focused all the way along. And that’s, that’s really been one of our strengths along the way. Sure, sure. And you’ve recently kicked off a new initiative, a joint venture, you started in the Dallas Fort Worth area with this build to rent model, which seems really, really unique. I’ve never heard this before even I work in real estate every day. Obviously familiar with the multifamily family model. This seems to be maybe the next evolution of that to one degree or another. Would you talk us about talks about why you decided to get into this build to rent model. We decided to get into it, because tons of developers were asking us about it. There are literally billions of dollars chasing it. And it really came came out of the 2008 or nine downturn. You know, the last financial depression we had really, and there were a bunch of homes that were foreclosed. And companies came in and bought them by the 1000s and developed a institutional rental market. Okay. You know, renting homes has been around for years. In fact, there are more homes for rent and there are Apartments for Rent, when it was usually by a mom and pop, there are so many moves from one home to another and they decided to keep it rent it and get and get the investment increase on their own. And let the renters pay for the mortgage payment. So it’s been kind of a mom and pop real estate business so to speak. But now institutional money got into it and found out that it worked well.
But they when they bought the homes during the downturn, but what’s happened we found that that a lot of customers are ready for an intermediate move between an apartment where you’ve got folks on either side of you and not great parking and not no garage, etc. But to move from there in in to purchase a home that takes down payments and credit scores and all those kinds of things. That there are folks that would like to have that that home owning or home living experience. Yes. And so we’re building those new communities and variables will come will come to us that have a piece of property and we’ll
come up with a site plan and land plan and build great homes that last for a long time just like we do for our customers and
We’re energy efficient, etc. And, and they’re really two different types. One, one is called horizontal apartments, which are usually one to some three bedrooms, but not attached. But there’s small little cottages or bumps, or bungalows, but without garages, okay? And kind of separate parking. And you can get higher density in those, but then a lot of people are also doing more traditional homes with two car garages, but smaller homes denser that where they can have a more traditional home living experience. Okay? And what role does the home builder play in this is this is specifically, you’re doing custom development for somebody else’s then handle the financial Brunt and the economic There are six or eight different ways to put it together. Okay, and we’re doing it a couple couple of different ways. You can take it from soup to nuts, you can we sometimes bring the land, sometimes the developer brings the land, we’ve done the site plan, work and floor plan work, because that’s what we do for a living in build, and then oftentimes will develop will deliver the homes to the developer. And he’ll Lisa, Matt, as we go along the way to where in that case, almost a general contractor, designer and general contractor so to speak. Okay. Okay. And is it primarily a, is it a, is it a hedge against inflation for these investors? Is it a, is it a play on depreciation appreciation in the long term? Like, are they going to? Are they going to roll these out and sell them at some point? Like what is your What is your take on the business horizontal apartments will usually be sold in totality just like an apartment building would, okay, and they’ll get them leased up, and they’ll return a certain amount per month and an institutional investor will come and buy. So an alternative to an apartment building, the individual homes can either be sold out individually or in a in a packages as well. So it’s creating value today and creating an income flow, and then selling the selling the project, okay, okay. Because in multifamily business, you normally will think in terms of a cost per door and a cap rate on that cost per door. And so it just seems like it’s essentially the same sort of model only that you have a little bit more land per door that you’re budgeting for correct. And the reality is that we can build homes a lot cheaper than apartment developers can build commercial buildings. Because the cost for labor is less, it’s just it’s, it’s not as expensive to build single family don’t have all the same engineering and structure and steel and concrete, you’re dealing with wood and other things. So it’s a little bit our construction costs are less, which allows us to have less density on a piece of land, and being about the same place Wow, as an apartment will would have been a lot better environment without having people on either side of you and walking up three flights of stairs to get to your apartment. Sure, sure. And so this new model, this builder rent model, and also the traditional builders model, where you’re you’re, you’re developing new communities, it seems like they both have heavy dependence on external financing mechanisms. There’s a lot of cash flow management, there’s a lot of arbitrage maybe materials cost purchasing, that sort of thing.
And also working with the lenders, what is the what is the involvement with the finance community with the homebuilding community? Right now, we have relationships with mortgage lenders, most major builders own their own mortgage mortgage lender, really, we’ve got joint ventures with with mortgage lenders, because those are very tight connection, okay? Because we want to make sure that we sell homes to people that can actually qualify for a permanent mortgage.
We also on the on the on the bank side, we’re large enough now to go to Wall Street and sell bonds and, and to help our financing in that way to or enter construction or property building, etc. Okay.
On the on the builder rent, you know, the Wall Street funds are crazy. Yes, forum. And so the challenge is to find the right deal and put the whole package together where it makes financial sense for them. That’s right. Yeah.
So you have this trade off. Obviously, the use of third party capital, whether debt or equity financing is always a leverage point of leverage or point of capitalization on opportunity. Where do you see the role of financing, whether it be a third party debt or third party equity stake in your line of business as it pertains to risk and scale because you have a nationwide organization, it’s very expensive to scale up to a nationwide organization and have growth like that without having some point of leverage there. What is the role of risk and debt risk and financing for someone that’s trying to scale organization not necessarily just for you yourself, but for a business person that wants to be able to green scale and use leverage
To me, the challenge is to identify where the highest risk is, yeah. For us, it’s not in building the home, you know, we can always sell a home. For us, it’s in the land side, because you if you have a raw piece of ground, and the market goes down, it’s not as much value to anyone and you can’t sell it. And so the issue is owning an asset that takes debt service when there’s no revenue.
And so, in the last downturn, 2000 789,
our debt levels dropped dramatically, because the majority of our debt is in the house. And you can always sell a house. Yes. In fact, the public builders lost an average of 68% of their net worth in the last downturn. And we lost 5% of ours, because we don’t go long on land. And they do.
Most of our debt is in building the home. It’s just a different business model. Sure that being a private builder, if we lose money, it’s personal. Being a public builder, if you lose money, it’s it’s not as personal. Yes, yes. You receive depreciation benefits as someone that works exclusively in the ER, primarily in the real estate business. Okay. No, I wouldn’t say that there was some sort of No, no tax benefits. And we hope we’re profitable. And we hope you have the opportunity to pay tax. Okay. Okay. That’s, that’s interesting. That’s interesting. So you have this,
from the outside looks like a really risky business model. But I guess for if you know what you’re doing, it’s not that risky. If you don’t take the land risk. It’s not that risky, but we give up some earnings for that. Sure. Because we’re in talking about the financing model. We might go in and get get a bank for 60% loan on the land, then we’ll get what we call, you know, hot money, expensive money. Yes. For the next 30% or something we’ll put in 5%. And that, that expensive money is at a 15% rate or something. So it’s we
to be as conservative as we are we don’t maximize on all the on all the risk. Yes, yes, yes.
So you have a lot going on, you have, obviously work in the business, you also spend a lot of time in nonprofit work. How do you how do you spend your time?
Well, let me kind of talk about we talked about things coming back in the late 80s. And in early 90s. And remember, I was kind of set up, you know, made a promise to God.
Give me another boom, and I won’t screw the next one up.
And he was faithful. And so I wanted to be and so
in about the early 90s, I had had some hard issues from a birth defect. You know, I’d been on our retreat, I was kind of, you know, early 40s, middle aged crazy when people are kind of saying is this all there is or whatever. And so I made the decision to give half half my time and half my income away to in the nonprofit business, and so to nonprofit needs. And so to do that, and then I had to go out and hire someone to run the business. We were in, I guess, five cities at the time, and I was working another reason I made the decision, I was probably working 70 hours a week flying all over the country, classic entrepreneurial fashion. And in I need to really move up to become a more professionally run business. I needed someone that had skills that were different than mine. I was a starter and a scaler. I wouldn’t necessarily I couldn’t grow the business, I got it up to about 350 million, he’s now got us up to about two and a half million in sales. So he was able to take it to another level.
And so once I made that decision to give away half and spend half my time on nonprofits, we really scaled up and started soaring. That’s also really when I move personally from being more about me. I mean, if you name a company, David Weekley homes, a lot of pressure, probably a lot about me. Right. And so to move to the other and focused on the other, was really when when we took it off, and that’s really when I made a bunch of different kind of life changes and different decisions. Start putting profit sharing, we took care of our people in a whole different way. So we made a bunch of shifts, when it became less me focused or more other focused. That is really been the key to the company’s success over the last 30 years. Certainly, certainly. And was the concept of halftime i think is Bob Buford, maybe there were fondue for Isabella, who wrote a book called halftime which talked about making money in the first half of your life. Hitting halftime and then figuring out how you can help society once you’d kind of made certain earnings I used to know Bob and talk to me all to write a book called part time because that’s that’s kind of what I did was I I got up to where I hit a certain level of success. And then was able to bring in some folks that had skills that were superior mind and a lot of areas and
Take the company farther forward, and allow me to go and take half my time and spend it on some other areas. Yes, you don’t strike me as the eight hour a day type of guy. No, I’m not. I love my work. And I’m blessed to be able to love love my work. And I still work hard. So, you know, I still love what I’m doing. Yeah. Would you say that you have integrated life where you your business and your and your charitable, you can switch back and forth. And you can integrate from certain instances? Yes, although I don’t think that charitable, has to be that different to business. I mean,
you know, in business, you have a for profit business. In nonprofits, you have a non for not, not for profit business. But organizational structures, ability to scale, ability to have impact, ability to identify customers ability to help people reach their goals, is all pretty similar. And the issue is just is the ultimate goals profit for the stockholders? Or is the ultimate goal betterment for society. But a lot of the methodologies can be the same. You wrote in your first book, about the seemingly illogical
models of some of these nonprofits who have, they’re very, very good at fundraising. But they’re not very good at executing, but yet their fundraising covers up their operational execution, do you still find that there’s a there’s a disparate model between the ones that are really good at fundraising, the ones that are not good operationally, or missionally.
Every organization’s different. And
usually what happens you know, in business, if you operate well and take great care of the customers, you’ll get rewarded well, and you can grow your business. Yes, in a nonprofit, sometimes, if you’re a great fundraiser, you don’t necessarily have to operate as well, or meet the customer’s needs at the same level, because you’re a fantastic fun fundraiser. I’ve been fortunate to find and work with those that do both Well, usually what happens if you have a wonderful, passionate, nonprofit person, they’re great at executing on their passion, yes, helping people, whatever. And what they’re not great on is the fundraising board, or the business part or whatever. And that’s where I can come alongside and help but what I’ve, what I really enjoyed in this kind of second half of my life, so to speak, when I’ve been focusing on philanthropy, so that I can take all the skills that that that help grow a successful business, and help these nonprofits
grow their activities and their business in a way. Because I’m, I usually have the best luck with a smaller organization between 500,000 revenue, and 5 million rockin come in, they’ve got passion, they’re not startup they’re doing they’re doing great work. But they might just need some help in moving to the next level and scaling, certainly, scaling up. Yeah, yeah. So you wake up in the morning, you have all these different options of how you can use your time and how you can allocate your attention. How do you decide how to like where to allocate your attention on any given day?
Well, I’d love to say that I was better at prioritization and being proactive and everything. But to be quite honest, there’s so much going on that, that the opportunity is trying to figure out where not to spend the time to, to allow myself to have the time where I have the most impact. And what I attempt to do is ensure that, that wherever I invest my time, not spend my time, but invest my time. It’s an area that they will have long term impact on a lot on a lot of people and not just be kind of singular aspects. And I’ve been fortunate that since I have this platform of date, Dave Weekley homes, people like you will want to talk to me. Yes, was Craftsman homes. And that was Bob Smith, I wouldn’t be sitting here. And so
Rick Warren calls that we’ve each got a stewardship of affluence the money we have, but we also have a stewardship of influence of the people we know and the experiences we’ve had and, and what we’ve grown, how we’ve grown over the last 20 3040 years. And so I’m attempting to use both those together to help society and help people flourish. Certainly, certainly, you mentioned the term impact. You’re also known as a big KPI guy, you’re very big measurement guy. Does the measurement of impact primarily is is it on the organizational level? Or is there a way that you impact you measure your personal impact as you’re working and switching between business and nonprofit and maybe societal and other types of endeavors?
Wow, that’s a great question. And I haven’t thought about it like that in terms of, do I have more impact spending more time on the company side or on the I haven’t figured out how to measure that’s why I’m asking philanthropic side. The reality is, I’ve got an awesome team at the company.
And they might do better if I didn’t spend as much time there. I mean, I mean, they are great. And so within the company standpoint, my role is to
wade the flag. Yes. David Weekley in one of our 19 cities, to talk to developers, lenders.
I’m still kind of the vision caster.
But on the nonprofit side, is coming alongside these incredibly passionate and wonderful individuals,
and helping them fulfill their dreams to impact more people in a greater way. And that might be in fundraising, it might be in strategic planning, it might be in creating a new board it might be and in thinking about digital, and how they might be able to use that in ways that they haven’t. I mean, it’s a whole, you know, potpourri of business activities that I’ve been exposed to over the last 40 years that, uh,
you know, Executive Director running a $2 million organization, there’s no way they’ve had the same exposure. Yes. So it’s taken my time and exposure and attempting to catapult and to lift these folks up faster in a strong way and encourage them so they can move forward, certainly. So a big part of your leverage, I imagine delivers on time that you get through putting together these management teams, your various efforts there, do you? How are the management teams set up? Specifically, you know, you got a business, some people have family offices that they use to run their businesses and their nonprofit lives. I know you have the foundation as well. How do you how do you serve your management teams, and be able to manage everything going on, because you possibly you couldn’t possibly imagine it all yourself in the first place. We love to give people personal responsibility for what they’re overseeing. So we as a as a builder are structured in a way to where we have a project manager that has bottom line responsibility over two or three communities, okay, and they’re running their own $20 million business, $30 million business. They have salespeople, they have builders, they have warranty, people, and they run the business. And you can have measurements and compare the different project managers compare the price ranges. And so we have 60, these guys around the country. And they report up to another 20, folks that are division presidents, and they have their own KPIs measurements, and they all roll up and into six regions. And then I get to see the total and also get to dive down some and understand each server community and what the strengths are and what the weaknesses are. And since we have a company where we have profit sharing, and a great culture, and all the things that we have as a company, they share best practices. And so having 60 different crackerjack teams out there. They’re each trying in their own way to go win in the marketplace and share. This really worked for me in this way. And this really worked for me for this way. It’s incredibly powerful. Yes. And so you’ve got these wonderful entrepreneurs, and you just, you just, you know, given an opportunity to fly, and help them along the way and great things happen. Yeah, and you’ve won numerous awards for your culture as well. Yeah, we’re very proud where we’ve been on Fortune Magazine’s Best Place to Work 100 Best Place to Work 15 times now. And one other builder has been on at once. I mean, you know, it’s a fairly doggy dog kind of business. Yeah, at the same time, what we found is that our customers appreciate having people that have been there for a long time, and have long tenure and take care of them. our management team, I think, has an average of 18 years where the tenure with the company. So we’re not, I mean, once somebody gets trained up and is doing a great job, and, you know, you go through a downturn and people learn so much. I mean, the last thing we’d want to do is change over our managers, because they’re just great quality people that really care for the customer. And the whole customer focus. You know, every builder when they sign on their computer in the morning, it shows their customer satisfaction ratings. And the same with a salesperson. They speak with one voice. So there’s kind of no no place to hide. I mean, everybody can find David Weekley, if there’s a problem out there are 7000 homes. I’m very available, they can find
how do you how do you measure progress? And are there other specific KPIs that you that are your favorite KPIs to keep an eye on over the years? Well, yeah, favorite ones are customer oriented and and
would you definitely recommend a David Weekley home and a score of one to five and and definitely survive and do their swing just satisfied, you know, indefinitely would recommend a huge difference. And getting that and those are your raving fans are cheerleaders and 35% of our sales you know are from referrals and wow 98% of people shop on online and we’ve got 92% of people that definitely would recommend us so a lot of our business is by this customer referral. As you can imagine building a home. It rains, the title
didn’t show up, you know, some, you know, it’s it’s muddy, I mean, everything that can go wrong, goes wrong and people think to building a house is gonna be a horrible experience. And we think it can be an incredible, wonderful experiences. Yeah. We’ve been able to hire people that that believe that as well. Do you think that your management team and the people that work for you in these organizations, especially the homebuilding company, take greater care of your customers because your name is on and they respect you.
I like to think that I think it’s more because we measure the results of their actions, and they feel personally very, very responsible for it. So I don’t think it’s got much to do with me, I think it has a lot to do with their own personal pride, and their personal results. At the start of each meeting, we read positive customer letters, we don’t focus on the ones we didn’t get we focused on the ones we do get. And it’s just incredible, and how we impact these families life. Now, when we started on this process with the customer delight to this degree in the mid 90s.
My president the time and I would go out and sit in a customer’s home and find out where we failed and who didn’t get the right scores. Wow. And we usually take the local manager with us, and just hearing about the experience that, you know, I thought this was going to happen. And they told me this was going to happen this week, we found out that we weren’t speaking with one voice. And a builder might say one thing as a salesperson, say wants something else in warranty, something else. So we just learned a lot over the years about how to how to satisfy the customer and speak with one voice and meet their needs and try to delight them in this the most important purchase you’re ever going to make. That’s right. That’s right. And it’s always incumbent on the leader to re assert the mission, reassert the core values of the organization because people, people forget very quickly what the core values are what we stand for, for sure. And ours is building dreams, enhancing lives that we start with our team, than our customers in our community. So it’s those, it’s those three aspects that we work on every day. And so our team comes first is they’re happy, they’ll take great care of the customers, they take great, great care of the customers, they’ll pay us well. And we’ll be able to give back into the community. So it’s that’s kind of how we look at things. Love that. Love that. So you and your family are known to have your have your fingers in a number of different pies. Across obviously, the home building company, you’ve got your family foundation that your Robin runs, you also have your brother that runs Texans for lawsuit reform, which I believe is if not the pack, the largest pack, it’s one of the largest packs in Texas for the past 20 years, and very, very successful from a political organization political influence standpoint. And then you also have other third party organizations like praxis, for instance, that you’ve been involved in, you and your team have been involvement for a number of years. How do you
work and operate in all those areas? Do you have a handful of governing principles or philosophies that you use to execute and across all those various areas as a family?
First of all, this kind of starts, you know, I mentioned that I was a boy scout, and I literally am and was a Boy Scout and Eagle Scout. So it’s my my brother dick and, and I think who runs Texas for lawsuit reformer was was one of the founders. And and I think the reality is, is that we work hard. And we were not the smartest guys in the room. We’re not the best looking. But we work hard. And I think that we try to maintain the values we learned at those early years. trustworthy, loyal, helpful, you know, friendly, courteous, kind, on and on.
And so, I really do think that we have great parents who were inculcated with a certain value set that lives with us through all these organizations. And I think that, that people see that and we treat them well. And we respect them well, and, and they appreciate it. You know, one of the things that our company that’s that I really found his work well, is that we have shared ownership. So I’ve got 440 managers that are individual owners that that own stock in our private company, just like I do, and a lot of private entrepreneurs. They’ll say, yeah, I’ll pay you well, or whatever. But I’ll never really give you ownership. I found it to be very powerful to give ownership. Because when you’re in a business that goes up and down, you know, in 2008, nine, I want those guys pulling yours as I did, when was our life pass in front of us during a tough economic time. Yeah. And they’re all smart and work hard, and they care just just like I do.
And so, as a side note on, you know, running a private company gets to be large over time. People have to decide, what are they going to do and I’m getting older and so, you know, 65 year old guy and I got Well, I’ve got my son working in the company. And so, you know, it’s a large private company. And what’s what’s the end game? Yeah, right. I’m a sell out. Am I going to go public? What’s the end game and we love being a private company. We love taking care of our customers and our team. We love being able to give back to the committee.
So we decided to continue on the same way we have, and stay a private company for next 100 years or more, we hope. And so now we have a third of the company that’s owned by the employees. With 20%, the senior manager owns senior management team owns directly and another 15%. In an Aesop. Right, great. So about a third of the company is owned by the employees, we got a third of the company that’s owned by charitable trusts. So that’ll continue to own well into the future. And then we got a third of the company that’s owned by the founding families. So well into the future, we hopefully have aligned value between the families, the charitable, and the employees and the team members, to where we can continue to do what we’re doing well into the future. Great, great, great, and that the charitable trusts, obviously, there’s probably some some ubit benefit for contributing to a charitable trust. Well, there there really wasn’t, I really, I sold the stock at at, at regular book value into the charitable trust, because the laws are set up to where
that they don’t want a charity to be able to own a company, because then they wouldn’t have to pay taxes like everybody else. So the charitable trust, pay taxes just like you and I do. But I’m assured that over the long term,
you know, a third of the profits of the company will go into charitable needs, which is great shelter for your income as well. I mean, it’s it’s it’s as well, yeah, yeah. When I when I get my own personal income away, obviously, I get the benefit of being able to do that. Yes, yes, yes. Well, fantastic, fantastic. So you have these different areas that you execute, you also have this concept of impact investing, I think, is what you call it in your annual report for the foundation.
Some people might call it
redemptive business or social investing or some sort of derivative there of you ever involve your in office was involved with creating an organization called praxis labs A number of years ago, I think, was one of the gentlemen that worked that worked for you to create that. And and and spun it out and took it public or took it took it to the next level. What is your role? And what is your perspective on impact investing, redemptive entrepreneurship? And that that whole world? Yeah, you hit about three different ideas. Yes, in in one.
Social investing to define it is, is where you put money out and you want more than just financial return, you also want a societal return. Okay. And I’ve done some of that. I haven’t done as much of that because I’m more on the philanthropic side, where I’m giving money to these organizations, rather than loaning money to the organizations, or investing money in the organizations hoping to get a return. You know, one of the reasons why nonprofits exist, is that they’re usually in businesses that it’s hard to get an economic return a usual economic return. And so that’s reason I’ve stayed in, in some of those nonprofits, whether it’s building homes for the homeless, or, or we started something after Hurricane Harvey with the build a to where we refurbish 250 homes in a in a nonprofit, and we took some of our funds and some of the city’s funds and others. And we could do it an average of $28,000 a house where the city or the government tries to do it, and it’s 60 or $100,000 house, just because it’s our business. And so I’ve found that that, that there’s social investing, it depends upon what the goals are your goals to get the funds back, and helps us it is not a bad set of goals, or the funds to go or your goals to go lift society up without any expectation of getting the funds back. Okay. Okay. The Family Foundation back in 2019, launched into a four year plan to it was the new mission. It sounds like our immune strategic plan. Can you walk us through what that strategic plan was?
I think to do that, well, I’ve got to kind of walk you back to my philanthropic
adventure. Yeah, start starting in the early 90s.
No, I started as, as most people would, you know, got on a local border to or did this. I had advantage since I was giving half my time, I was able to go put more time into nonprofit things than most people could, yes, actually, I thought about the other day, over the last 30 years, half my time that’s like 30,000 hours. And what they say if you put in 10,000 hours to get good at something, yes, I guess that means it takes me longer than most to, to figure out how to get how to get good at something. But I put a lot of time into it. And so it’s through that process. I’ve learned along the way I’ve made lots of mistakes as you would expect. I’ve learned some things about about investing in nonprofits. And the first thing I’ve really learned is to invest in the leadership first, you know, oftentimes isn’t any business or you get excited about a model or about a different business idea about this or that and I’ve invested in lots of different I
ideas and concepts. But they fail unless they have great leadership. And oftentimes, you’ve had great, great leadership, even if the idea isn’t the best. They’ll figure that out and adjust it to have it meet the marketplace that they’re, they’re going after. So it’s really, to invest in that leadership first. And then growing along the way, I got involved in a number of different boards on hospital boards. And so I just learned a lot about the nonprofit business. And after about 10 or 15 years, I found that a lot of the Houston nonprofits have just wonderful people that are on the boards and, and leading them. And I found that I wasn’t my time when really being best utilized there. I go ahead and have lunch, and I see what was being presented. But the folks that were there could add what I could add. So I went to every continent around the world and, and went and tried to discover about going international. And that’s when I decided to spend a lot more time energy International, it’s a lot harder, we’d have a lot more impact.
But and most people don’t do it in the US. I think there are $400 billion spent philanthropically a year and only about 20 of it. Maybe 30 of it goes internationally. Yeah. So if indeed, we’re everybody’s our neighbor, I decided to go work where it was harder. Why would you say there’s more impact internationally?
Because it’s, you know, you go to Africa. And if you take young life, or Christian nonprofit, for example, I can get seven times the, the young life and the impact on in Africa, and I can the US, does that mean that the US shouldn’t be supported, of course, not support us as well. But internationally, you can just get a lot done. You help people with their job training, or incomes or education or health, any of these things, you can get a lot more done there than you can investing in healthcare in the US. I mean, you know, we’re just so big and so complex. Yeah. And I’m just I’m kind of a smaller entrepreneurial guy. So I like the the scrappiness of that that’s right, as compared to the big institutional things. What about from a leadership perspective, because theoretically, superior leader should be able to get you superior results from an impact standpoint, whether through greater efficiencies or greater effectiveness, would you say on on the whole that the leadership quality is the same around the world? And so that so that the, the differentiator in your impact, from a cost standpoint, assuming that foreign countries are less expensive to operate in is probably a big reason why you see greater impact internationally? Would you say that the quality of leadership globally is about the same? Or do you think that the less expensive operational cost is cost internationally limited to having greater efficacy? due to maybe lesser, lesser leadership? And it’s a complicated question? No, I think the leadership in the US is the best in the world. Okay. Okay. So most competitive environment, you learn the most you don’t succeed, and let’s unless you’re kind of the best there is. And we’ve also had educational, societal impacts, we’ve also had
the best environment to grow up into become the best, okay, in the world, these things. So no, finding great leadership in Africa, or China or wherever is so much harder, because the society has not progressed as far. Now, it’s accelerating greatly. I mean, we’ve seen what’s happening in China in different areas, and entrepreneurs can blow the world apart, once they’re given education and freedom and ability. But the world in all different kinds of places in terms of its its leadership ability, and I’m investing in lots of schools, really in Africa, because, you know, to get every bit as much talent or smartness or whatever, but they just haven’t had the same opportunity. So to me, creating equal opportunity is something great to help people flourish, because I think people want to do well and in want to meet the market, one, take care of their neighbor want to do this. But if you if you don’t have the education, you don’t have the opportunity. It’s just not there for you. So that’s a real driver for me, sir, other countries that you’ll stay away from, because of maybe a higher propensity towards fraudulent activity. You have to be careful of corruption in any country. Okay. Even in America,
some states are. So I mean,
some political buildings, yes. I mean, all kinds of things. But clearly,
some countries are less well led than others. That’s right. But they’re still human beings, they’re eking out their living. So it’s a very tough kind of moral question of whether or not you get involved in those in those countries or not. Because you’re not sure what will happen at the end of the day, and yet at the same time, you got people there, they’re working hard doing their thing. So I will wait my decisions based upon
Sometimes the country leadership, okay, okay. I, I would assume that if you understand that a certain country has a certain propensity to fraud, maybe you would wait that investment decision based off that risk. Yes. Okay, back, like just like you wouldn’t date, right? And
put more diligence on the people you’re dealing with there. And maybe go there more often and see it and feel it. So we try to get on site and feel it. We’ve got a staff of five in the foundation. So we’re, we’re pretty serious about using those resources. Yeah. stewarding them well. Okay. Okay. You hear a lot of nonprofit pitches, what is the best terrible pitch you’ve ever heard?
I don’t the best charitable pitch. That’s it.
They’re also different.
To me, the one that’s had the most impact was when I got a call from a fellow at a, at a Christian camp. And he started telling me and I just happened to be in my office and I picked up the phone, said, Hi, this is Anthony, with his camp, and we got a loan this coming due and this and that, and I just started pulling a phone. While I’m not we don’t really do that, or when I started listening to them. And it was a situation where
a 2000 acre camp with 450 beds that had two and a half million dollar loan, it would have cost 10 million $50 million to reproduce it. And the camp was going to go out of business in the next 30 days, and the bank was gonna take it back. And then entire camp would be gone unless we got involved. So I got my call, my friends came and heard the story. So very compelling story. met with the existing board members kind of explained that we needed to take over the board, if we were going to go save this camp. So we took over the board. And today we went from, you know, two and a half million dollar loan and seeing 5000 kids a year mounts 12 years later that can’t see and 30,000 kids a year and it’s at breakeven and, and doing well. So that investment, you know that that one time investment and some expertise, and helping them you know, out of their situation. It created an ongoing, profitable at least self sustaining organization, they can see kids well into the future. Yeah. Are you someone that focuses on or regularly does crisis philanthropy?
I don’t want to say regularly does but I find find myself and depends on what’s on the other side of that crisis. Okay, if if it’s somebody with the with a bad loan, but there’s a big asset there, and you can save it, we’ve now done like four or five camps that we’ve saved and so 100,000 kids will be going to camp this summer when the camp would be gone, other than the fact that this group of us came in and, and helped
it it was a privilege to be able to help to take our resources and and learnings and help them move forward.
On the other side disasters, you know, you hear about about those, okay, do I go send money to Red Cross, or where’s the funds go. And I’ve got involved enough in nonprofits that I understand that funds can go a lot of different directions. And so like, for example, in hurricane Harvey,
it was houses flooded, I am in the home building business. So we just started up something to solve the problem is in, you know, in some recent, you know, tragedies that have come on and the COVID, etc. We went in and we gave to a city fund that was involved. And yet, we also gave, we found those organizations. So my foundation staff folks go out and find those organizations that are closest to the people that were they know that if you give $100 to this family, it’ll see them through the next month or the next two months. And so we went and funded these folks and their small, very local organizations, but they’re in touch with the people. And so we gave the funds where we knew it would get to the right people directly to them, they already had their overhead covered. So these funds went directly to people in need. Right? So it’s,
we’ve fortunately been around long enough to know where to where to invest to get the most hopefully impact for the dollar. Certainly, we find a charity in crisis. One would think that just like a business in crisis, in a takeover or a rescue operation, typically the current management team that got them in that place with the current board that got him in that place is not the right team to have in place going forward. How often do you find yourself doing board reorg or having conditional strings to be able to get get a charity to where they need to be? Well, in a crisis situation, fortunately, that doesn’t happen that often but in a situation where the organization’s about to go out of business. We’ve had some that should go out of business, what they were doing is no longer valid their model
Doesn’t work etc. And so we didn’t get involved. on others, we’ve had a few where they needed a different executive director, because they weren’t, weren’t able to get where they need to needed to go more more often, it’s the governance that’s in place, the Board of Directors is not taking their responsibility in a way that they could or should, to see this going forward. Or maybe they didn’t understand that, as a board of directors, you’re all in just to come and smile, and you know, and write a check for, for, you know, dinner or something, it’s that your entire role as a board of directors for nonprofit is to ensure that that organization survives and thrives in. So sometimes people will get on board, because I think it’s a nice thing to do or good to do, or they don’t, they don’t feel a sense of responsibility that I think they should, as a board member, they’re really the ones that are responsible for the success or failure of that organization. So I take it very seriously. And I, when I get involved, you know, maybe I’ll go hire firm and help them have a board retreat, or do some visioning work or, or go create a fundraising plan or go do any one of a number of different activities, to try to reposition them. So they see the potential and the possibility, because sometimes people just get stuck. That’s right. And sometimes if you’re in a crisis, you can’t, you can’t see where to go, when we say, look, if you do this, this, this going into COVID,
one of my greatest concerns, and some things I saw were people, especially nonprofit leaders, when you know, he couldn’t have the event, and are all my donors gonna stop? Or is this gonna happen? They almost they kind of locked up. And they didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to kind of okay, what is the digital world bring? How does it let me reorganize in ways that I might not have before, in so they didn’t really have much possibility thinking. So I did some webinars with Rice University or with different nonprofit groups and all about taking advantage of a crisis, you know, you never want to waste a crisis. Right? That’s right. We’ve had one. Yeah. And some nonprofits have done some amazing things coming through this crisis. And he mentioned in one of those interviews that a lot of nonprofits were coming to you and saying, well, we estimate a 10% reduction in revenues. And you said, No, no, you need to expect a 40% or a 60% reduction in revenue. And what would you need to do with your organization? dissolve that, what if it doesn’t get fixed in three months? What if it takes a year and a half, like it has, so they just weren’t moving in that way. And PPP helped out a number of, but there were some challenging times, and everybody kind of saw that their life pass in front of their face. And that’s happened to me a couple different times. I know it’s scary. But you just got to
move on down. And as a leader, my favorite definition of leadership is define reality and give hope, well, that define reality and give hope. And when we went through the downturns, we said, Look, here’s where we are, here’s what we’re doing. Here’s the reality. I know that the builder working beside you, you know, just got laid off. But the reality is, we have to all pull together and move forward. And when we do, we will do this. And we have made it before and we will make it again. And we’ll hopefully hire that builder back. And indeed, we were able to, but things happen you got to find reality, put faith in your people that they can that they can take, take the reality and then give them the hope for the future. And us leader have the confidence about getting to the other side. That’s right. That’s right. You mentioned the topic of governments a second ago good board governance in a charitable context. One of the most dangerous places a competent person who wants really wants to effectuate change and organization can be is being on a board surrounded by people that are there for the social aspect or because they write big checks, but they’re not willing to put the time in the end the the sweat into it.
What is your idea about the role of governance in a charity? And how important that is? And what do you see happening the charities you work at is governance sometimes even talked about most of the time
depends upon the size of the charity and where it is in its in its maturation. You know, usually if you get it with a beginning charity, they’ve got friends and family on the board. And they’re there to support the founder and they love them and they want to help them and do all those things. But those sometimes aren’t the people that have the experience and knowledge about how they need to go forward. So you see different board types as an organization matures. And if people would recognize that, and then
they need to kind of upgrade and it’s not upgrade in terms of people in terms of experience or ability to give Yes, and because people do give to people and who they know and to the that you get a different group in at age, different size, the organization and as your
Organization gets more professional and moves kind of upstream, they can surround themselves with a different group of people. And you know, birds of a feather flock together. And if you have some really, if you get a few good people on your board, then you get a few more good people. And you can kind of transition the board over time. And in terms of board, tenure, that’s, that’s important as well. And I usually like to see, you know,
tenure times of one year, and then a three year and a three year. And so it’s easier for me to come recruit you to be on the board. If we say, Come on on, try it out. We’ll have six meetings, see if your additives if you’d like it was we’ll see how it works for us. And if you don’t show up half the time, Rick, it didn’t look like it was really good for you. Why don’t we just go ahead. Thanks so much for your help. In Why don’t we have have that that one year term, be it for you? Yes. And then, but you’re coming, you’re getting engaged, you’re getting more engaged, then let’s move to a three year term, and then another three year term, and then off and start fresh again. Once you’ve been on the board of a nonprofit, you’ll always be a financial support of that nonprofit. Right? You spent time on it. You love it, you’ve been there. You got memories, you got all these things. So for nonprofit to get new, fresh blood all the time is it’s life saving, life growing. That’s right. That’s right. All right. So you’re known as the coach as the mentor for nonprofits, a lot of CEOs will come to you. Probably a lot of board members will come to you ask you for advice. I’m going to ask you for advice. I am finishing up I’ve had six months left on a term, Chairman $200 million organization, we’ve recruited about 50% new board members, seven person board over the last two years, about 50% of them are new blood six year maximum terms. We just went through a five year new strategic planning process. What sort of things should I be working on as I roll off this six month period? As a chairman, because you write quite a bit about the role between the chairman of the organization and the responsibilities of the chairman? What does the chairman that’s rolling off of a board of organization that size supposed to be doing?
You have two or three great people that could step into your role that are better than you are? Everyone’s better than if
you got a whole group? Yeah. group? Yeah. You probably don’t believe that.
My bet is you got your eye on one. And but not two or three? Yes, yes. And
you know what your strengths are? I mean, one of the good things about getting a little bit older, we recognize, we always focus on our weaknesses, but we also recognize we have some strengths. What do they bring? And how do they fill in and to me,
all about a board and a team is finding out where each person’s strengths are. And I have to admit, I am partial to entrepreneurs on boards, rather than one accountant and one attorney and one this real, because
you can hire great accountants, you can hire great attorneys,
people who have a breadth of business sense that think creatively about where can we go, we’re What are we doing? Or what’s the next step? Or we haven’t looked at our insurance in a while, let’s do that, or let’s do this.
To me, they will push the organization farther forward faster. And they’re creative. And they’re they’re action folks. They’re not attorneys, by their nature. They’re looking out for the downside. Yeah. Which is awesome. But if someone shows you the downside all the time, then you’re not moving forward. So to me, you need to figure out when you need to bring these people in. But I love a board of
folks and guys and gals that are out there wanting to grow something and make something happen, it makes for more exciting board meetings, is not just you’re not just kind of going through the motions, the motions ought to be handled by staff. Yeah, on a regular basis, you ought to be looking forward thinking about all the potentials. You know, I know somebody that can do this. I know somebody that can do this. The other thing is entrepreneurs, can write bigger checks, and oftentimes will then accountants, attorneys, you know, a teacher because I’m in the in the education field, you know, now that healthcare professionals who are in the health field, I mean, you can get those folks to serve on advisory boards and do all kinds of things. But you got to fund the organization. You got to run the organization. You want to move forward. That’s right. That’s right.
David, we talk about you
You’re coaching of executive directors, CEOs and nonprofits and how a lot of them will come to you for not only for checks, but also for some advice. What are some of the topics and questions that you ask the CEOs, executive directors about?
Usually, before I see them, I will have them send me
all their organization, mission statement, their budgets for the last three years, their board list,
kind of what their goals are, if they have a strategic plan, hopefully they do, just so I can. Well, before I really meet them face to face, the first time I want to know enough to know whether it’s worth my time in theirs, to meet with them. And so I’ll go over that. And assuming it kind of meets what I feel like I’m called to fund and and whether I can help them, I’ll come in, and usually they’ll talk about whatever’s coming up and the 25,000 or $50,000. They’d like to, to, to raise. But I’ll, based on what I’ve read, of it was to see, you know, I see your budget been flat the last two or three years? Are you planning on any growth? Or what’s going on? Or what are your greatest challenges? Or where do you all have the need? Or what do you see? And, and I’m really just trying to see if they’re really self aware? Yes. And tell me that they normally don’t have their, their board tenure, and what their turnover is, I’ll never forget one one group I met with, let me see if I can talk about this without identifying them. There was, you know, they were helping lower income folks and said, You know, so how many folks who currently help out? And it was, you know, that a grouping of,
you know, 16? I say, well, so how many groupings are there in the city? Well, they’re 250. And what are your plans next year? Well, we plan on going from 60 to 63.
White there 250, that haven’t the need, what you do in your plan is to go to 63. And the chairman was there, he was an older guy like me? And how long have you been, if I will? I’ve been involved 20 years, and this is kind of my deal. And, you know, yeah. And I said, Man, you guys are doing great work, appreciate you coming in, here’s a check for whatever, but I just can’t work with them because they weren’t in a place where they really wanted to move and go and grow and do those things. And so part of it’s identifying
where it’s not just identifying where they need help. It’s also identifying if they really want help.
Because there’s no use me trying to push a string uphill. Yes. And it’s not helpful for them is not helpful for me and my time, and I’ll frustrate them and myself, and it won’t be a positive experience for either of us. So understanding that and trying to meet people where they are and seeing where they are in identifying where they really want to move somewhere or not. And I might have ideas that are totally wrong, because I don’t get get their deal. So you know, who am I I’m not trying to judge whether they’re good or bad or but I am trying to determine whether or not it makes sense for me to invest time and money with certain lines. So it’s not a you know, try not to judge him, I just try to ensure that we’re jointly making the right decision. Yeah, yeah. Whether we move forward. So when you have a director, it’s gone for 20 years, clearly, there’s no term limits. Right. That’s that’s a huge issue. Getting getting back to the topic of governance, you look at two organizations that have had dramatic failures in the last few years. gospel for Asia and also Ravi Zacharias international ministry rz. Iam both cases, clearly bad governance in place, both cases where you have a little bit too much trust in the executive director, the CEO role, where there’s no accountability there. What sorts of role would you Will you play when you identify that there’s bad governance in place where you want to do a complete re governance process? Or would you kind of ease it into it?
In situations where you have a charismatic leader that surrounds themselves with
cinco fent, you know, board members that are there because they want to be close to the to the charismatic leader. I just don’t get involved in those because I, first of all, it’s not my place to try to change things if it’s if it’s already set. And that’s kind of the way it is you can’t I mean, the leaders got control of the situation in that case.
So I mean, each situation really is different. But
I don’t get involved unless I feel like there’s a willingness for people to move forward
in normally ongoing
some different ideas with them and see if that even resonates. What I want to make sure I never do is manipulate an organization with a check. Yeah. Right. And so, and I’ve done that in the past, I see somebody say, wouldn’t this be a great idea? And I’ll fund it and they go, Oh, yeah. $1,000 or $50,000? I think that’s a great idea. They get into it, they were never bought in. It’s not a good idea. Yes, it doesn’t go anywhere. And it’s just in. So I have to make sure that I really understand the organization’s mission, what they’re good at and what they’re capable of, and that what we’re talking about is additive. And not miss directive in any way. Because money can hurt organizations as well as help organizations. So I’ve really, I’ve learned, I didn’t know the starting out. But I’ve learned that I’m wrong a lot. And that I need to ensure that what I come up with what we come up with that they’re bought into, and see it and go oh, yeah, that’d be great. And how do we do this? And they get excited about it, rather than the check driving the, the initiative? Yeah. Have you ever gotten into a situation like I have, where you write a check to a ministry and you realize, Oh, that was 30 40% of their annual budget, they come back next year expecting the same sort of thing. never write a check, that’s over 10% of someone’s annual budget, okay. I say never. That’s kind of my max number, because I don’t want anybody to become dependent on me. And maybe they’re doing great, and everything’s rolling. But then something happens and goes a different direction, and is no longer good fit for me, maybe no fault of their own, just no longer a good fit for me. I don’t want to ever put an organization in a bad place. Yes. And so
I just, you know, on a capital campaign, I might go 20 or 25%. But how I do that, and when I do that, is it 10%? Is it a matching for the last 15%? So methodology on those things are important as well. Yeah. Yeah. How much of the decision is is a gut instinct?
Well, I fundamentally think gut instinct is formed by, you know, 30 years of mistakes.
So I’d say it’s, you know, it’s it’s all gut, but it’s but it’s not gut because it’s, it’s, it’s informed. I will always look at the information. I’ll meet with the people, I’ll see. I’ll know that I’ve got the five on a foundation staff. I mean, each week, I get a grant report to comes in, and we’ll talk about it and go over it and go over it in detail. Normally, though, no, go. But you know, I’ll ask 510 questions, they’ll go back, they’ll dig deeper and say, Well, yeah, we could have set it up like this, or that’s a good idea that didn’t, because
30 years into it, even though these are professional nonprofit people, I’ve got as many hours in it as they do. And it’s it’s kind of a joint thing where we and we all see different things. Right. So it’s great for me to have this group of very talented people. Because when I stood on my own, I didn’t see everything. And these folks see more, when I’m living in Africa, knows knows the country knows the environment. It’s it’s a world of difference. Yes, yes. One of the things that we’d like to invest in is fundraising and administrative overhead reworks? Because it seems like you get greater leverage on that. For instance, if you have a 10% fundraising cost you by definition, get a 10 time yield on that, on that. On that leverage. Are there certain areas of organizations where you’d like to invest your capital, that maybe have a greater leverage for you?
I look for organizations, really three key things.
One is is their leverage? If I put in $1, do I get $5 worth of impact? Yeah. So one is leverage as a second one is scalability. You know, can it scale? And when I say scale? I mean, I don’t mean, going from 60 to 63. Yeah, going from 60 to 120. To 240. To I mean, I’m talking about really scale? Yes. That’s what I’ve done in my business. I mean, that’s what gets me excited. That’s what, that’s what I like to do. So how can we really scale the business? And then the third item is, is there any way to get any sustainability?
To where you’re not dependent upon one guys check? Is there any income generation possibility? Maybe they’re currently relying upon 10 guys at all give 25 or 50,000 each, they need to get a broader brush of people that are giving $100 each. So how do we ensure that they’re sustainable, that we can help build an organization sustainability in their model for the longer term? So those three things leverage, scale and sustainability is what I usually like to look for. Love that
have that. And obviously they can look at other sources like public funds grant writers are a thing do you do you find there’s low hanging fruit there from your perspective, and these people just never thought about it. So sometimes, I’d say oftentimes, we help an organization by hiring consultants for them. small organization usually won’t be able to afford I can’t spend $50,000 on this or, you know, $600,000 budget and I need to, I need to pay the staff. And so we’ll go hire someone for them, that can go take them to another level, we’ve got some some great writers in Indonesia, that go and find organizations around the country around the city. And they’re doing grant writing offshore. And these small organizations don’t have any grant writers, they don’t have the expertise. They’ll go find them. And they’ll grant grant write, and they’ll pay for themselves. I’ve got some consultants around fundraising consultants that are retired, that will meet, meet with these folks and show them how to fundraise. There’s a group called mission increase, which we just brought to Houston, which is a fabulous organization. And all they do is they help Christian organizations learn how to raise money, they have 3000 Christian organizations around the country that they’re working with. And so I helped fund them with a group of guys in Houston, get started here.
And they’re having a kickoff on June 3, and they’ll have 250 people in a room that they’re going to train, how to fundraise.
Awesome, what’s that worth? Right? Wow, that’s high leverage. Yes. And they’re in 12 cities around the country, I also hired hired, put a full time guy in the Christian camping Association, because camps are going through extremely tough time, as you can imagine. And they’re really important, anybody that’s had a, had a had a youth faith experience that are truly important. And so they can help these camps survive and thrive. So I mean, I always look for things that can have high leverage, love that love that
You have two ways of looking at purpose purpose in life, you know, what is what you’re doing action wise? Is it purposeful? Does it does it accrue purpose? And then also you have a purpose of life? Is, is what what is the reason for my life? From your perspective? How does someone find purpose in what they’re doing day in day out in their work in their life?
for years, I wondered, okay, should I go be a pastor go to this or go to go do something else? Right? If I’m really, you know, Christian, am I doing all the right things? Then I came across this, this verse called brothers, each man is responsible to God shall remain in the situation, Lord has called you to, and said, Okay, I’m good at what I do. It’s working in the marketplace. Yes. God’s given me some skills has allowed me to do this.
So how do I use those skills best? And what am I gonna do? And how do I bring what I believe into the workplace in an appropriate manner, you know, we have chaplains, we weave them in, so we follow my, my faith belief, we’re not a Christian corporation or organization necessarily. But everybody knows what I believe. And we have chaplains available for for our team and, and we try to help them grow in all kinds of ways.
we’re all given certain skills and abilities. And as we figure out what those are, and when we go play in those areas, and go work in those areas, I think we find more joy. I mean, from my standpoint, you know, just being born in the US, and having parents I had and having the education opportunity I’ve had after, after being all over the world and saying,
you know, Why me? Why did I get born America? Why don’t want to get born in Houston, Texas, why to get born to the parents, I have, want to get to have the education I had, why not? So I just feel a real deep sense of responsibility.
You know, I mean, I just did this just, I don’t say weighs on me, but it motivates me. Okay. So a deep sense responsibility. And then when I, when I act on that, on that responsibility,
there’s good stewardship and effort, etc. I just get to a great place of joy. And so to me, I kind of feel like, you know, people talk about getting into flow. I mean, I can kind of feel I’m in the flow, when I’m doing what I’m good at. And it’s helping other people, etc. It feels like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Never forget. What was that chariots of fire? He said, You know, he feels feels God’s I forgot the exact quote, but he, you know, when he runs, he feels God’s joy or whatever. Yes, yeah. So it’s just it to me, we each if we can find that place, where we’re doing what we know we’re good at and we’re helping others along the way in lifting them up and helping sustain them and transform their lives in a positive way.
What else is there? That to me is the is the peak experience. That’s great. And your first comment comment, when we started today’s conversation was talking about your neighbor, about your duty to your neighbor, your loyalty to your neighbor, loving your neighbor as yourself. It seems like everything you do has to do with your neighbor even the fact that you build houses you actually create neighbors when two houses are sold by next to each other right.
Now again, for me in the early 40s moving from being me focus to be an other focused was a huge part of it. You know, when we started a business my brother I was called Weekley homes. And I’ll never forget our first community was
that we had a billboard up was Weekley homes from the 30s. Homes for 32,000. Now, a while ago, dates me really strongly, but weekly out from the 30s I’ll never forget it. We had a pickup truck from Arkansas, pull up and full of stuff and says Where are those homes to rent for $30 a week,
May total week from the 30
that I called him a runner. So we need to change the name of this. Let’s call it David Weekley homes. Course 23 year old ego, just so sure whatever you know.
so we call it date, David Holmes. And then by the time I reached my, you know, early 30s, and I had kids coming up, I read, this can be a problem name on the Billboard, people are gonna think you’re rich kids, this isn’t good. You don’t want to grow up with that. So I did a market study looked at changed the name to Craftsman homes, and found out then that that wouldn’t really work. Because we already had a brand. Yes. And so I kept it and then, you know, enjoyed it on and off through the time and now you know, mid 60s.
realize, you know, God kind of had a plan and I’ve got a platform now. Yeah. And my stewardship of influences while my stewardship of affluence and and how do I use that appropriately? How do I appropriately steward that in a way that can help? That’s right. So your brother was already in a business of his own? Yes, sir. My my brother was a real estate broker and doing better than I did just selling big piece of land selling Copperfield friendswood are, you know, so I kept, you know, I think we had 100 people for I could keep up with him with one person. Wow. And so now he just, he invested in me, and he’s been a great mentor. For all these years. You never been directly involved in the business, but he’s is he’s been a great big brother mentor. Yeah. Is he still a shareholder? Oh, yeah. Yeah, kick me out of trouble. A lot. Going into development. So you know, I was a brash young guy. And so now he’s still a shareholder. You bet. Yeah. Yeah. What is something that you see? If someone’s trying to find purpose in their life, and there’s someone that maybe has worked for a while, they just really don’t sense that there’s purpose in their life? What do you see something that, that that’s tangible that they could do that would then give them purpose with how they’re living their lives?
I kind of found purpose when I moved from this set again, for me, folks, to other folks to come back. And so if you’re there, you’re working, you’re you’re doing things, how can you go? And and turn your life around to a certain degree and help others? And now, someone asked me this question is just one thing that I can do in a business and hire some people to run the business or do this, but what do you do if your school teacher, single mom, and you got two kids? Okay, so do you go teach Sunday school? When the kids are in Sunday school? How do you find some way
to move beyond yourself and help others and we’ve all got that capacity and that ability. And I’ve just found tremendous joy when I do that, even if I’m under the greatest of pressures for whatever set of reasons if we can go help others, I think, I think we’re given relief. And we experienced joy.
Yes, yes. A W. Tozer says it’s not what a man that does that make see him holy is why he does it. And I think you’re right, we can live our daily lives no matter what we’re doing and and find purpose in that Yeah. And find something that we can do where we’re, we get beyond ourselves. Yeah, yeah, certainly. Certainly. We had a thank you president for you coming on the show here. I like to get everyone a gift. And you are someone that coaches a lot of people and this is a
tool that I like to use.
Great folks that come in and I don’t know if you’re familiar with that book. I have not okay. So that is a fun john ortberg book. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s about is based off of a Dr. Seuss rhyme or story about going through open doors. And it’s a it’s a book about being aggressive in your pursuits with the knowledge that not only is God with you right here he’s also already on the other side of the of that closed door, and it’s okay if you go rammed down some closed doors because he’s already there. He’s already been there.
He’ll be with you just seem, you know, saying these these now and just go go and make some. Try some stuff. That’s some stuff. So confidence. Yes. Yeah, I’m not sure people would appreciate you giving me this. As one of my non nonprofit executive directors call me the David, you’re just the holy agitator. Cuz
I don’t know whether to be positive about that or negative, but it’s fairly apt. Yes, yes, yes. So the wives really don’t like me. Because whenever their husbands come in and say, I’m thinking about going into the mission field, I’m thinking about starting a nonprofit leaving my job, I give them that book. And they always go, they always take the risk that right? Yes, yes, it’s a pretty, it’s a pretty impressive book. Great. So kind of a fun, fun thing there. Thank you. So as you as you are learning, you’re curious, you have these new business models that you set up, you’re you’re looking at a large number of organizations across multiple domains, you seem to have this sense of curiosity about you. What, what are you reading? What do you pay attention to? What do you what do you watch on TV? What kind of movies do you like, you know, tell me about your media intake. While are
all senior managers we read a book a month, okay? And go over them in their, in their, their business books or customer books, their, you know, digital, you know, I mean, I’m having to learn a whole new definition. You know, we had two or three people in digital 10 years ago, now we have 50 people full time, why am I it’s it’s in and I have to get reviewed on it regularly, because it’s changing every few weeks.
we’re ongoing readers, eyes, spend time and devotionals. Every morning, I read that I like a like a lot of people have during this COVID time my wife and I have found some, some some TV series that that we like or that we rewatch again, you know, that that are almost mindless, but but the good ones in different senses.
It’s fun, we just did Bible studies I’m involved with when we got back face to face for the first time, after you know that over a year of virtual.
I’ve always got lots to read.
For the business for the nonprofit’s that I mean, I’ve got foundation reports, I’ve got other things. And so I’m always learning as other people feed things into me, and I feed them back. So I’m always kind of active in that when I get on a plane this evening. I’ve got a brief briefcase full of opportunities
now. And it is it’s a joy to read, what other people are doing and how they’re doing it, and how we might be able to help or what some of the challenges. As I said earlier, these these Christian camps are just had such a heck of a year. You know, it’s great that they make money when folks come to camp, but when there’s no no revenue, like last summer, yeah, it’s really tough. And so what you do and how you do it, and how you keep your spirits up and how to go forward. So I’ve been through these before, and so I can help in those in those ways. What’s your most significant obstacle to what you do philanthropy? wise?
It’s, it’s finding enough organizations that meet the kind of standards that we have. I’m trying to double my giving in the next couple of years.
Because I want to have it spent down at least my current Foundation, with the next 20 years, you know, I think God gave me the ability in the position in this time in history, etc, to go create this, these resources, and I think I’m supposed to invest them on his behalf the best I can, yeah, while I’m here. So for me, I mean, we staffed up we had two people at the foundation a year ago. Now Now we have five and we got to ramp it up. And at the same time, be as good a steward
as we have been, because, you know, cash is hard to come by, and the ability to go get good way to sit. And I’m always amazed that that great business people will make their money with great rigor and discipline. And it’s almost like they flip a switch in their head, and they give it away. Based upon Suzy said this or Sam talked to me about this or that they make. They do great rigor on their financial investments for themselves.
But yet, the financial investments for God,
they give it away like it’s candy or something. It’s just it just it’s it. It’s mind altering to me that they don’t feel sometimes that a broad generalization that they don’t feel the same responsibility that I feel to be a steward of what we’ve been given.
and been able to create through the skills and abilities that he’s given us. It’s almost as it’s kind of like, Okay, I’m in church on Sunday, and I do business the rest of the week or whatever, and I don’t, and the two shall never cross, it’s almost, it’s almost that same kind of thinking, yeah, that that, okay, I put on my giving hat, or I put on my business hat. And I get with my heart, and I do business with my head.
And I think we ought to give with our head to doesn’t mean, we don’t have heart, don’t misunderstand me. But you got to put some of that same sense sensibility in there. When somebody comes and
ask me for funds for their mental health activities in Houston. I want to go out
and do research and find the 10 best, and see if this one’s getting the most impact for God’s investment dollar. Yes. And so I just feel a sense of responsibility for that. Yeah. So you’ve trended more and more over the last 10 years towards international giving, because there’s a bigger reward there. Are there other tendencies where you’re trending maybe towards social services, or discipleship or other things like that are, there are other areas of impact that you see as being greater interest to you now than they were maybe 10 or 20 years ago?
The whole racial and equity situation,
my daughter gave me a book before the Rodney
situation came up on, I think was called Just Mercy, why?
I should know this for this. But I ended up
kind of taking a pilgrimage to Mobile, Alabama, and going to the slavery museum and seeing this, seeing that just me alone. And then. So I’ve been reading a lot, and this whole critical race theory, all these different things that are going on just trying to understand and things are so
dysfunctional, and you’re either on the right side of you’re on the left side, and you’re so far away. And there’s like no nuance in the middle. And so I’m trying to understand the nuance in the middle. And fortunately, Tim Keller’s written on this brilliant works on on all these issues. And,
and so I’m, I’m really trying to understand those issues better. And should I intersect? And if so, how, and where.
And, you know, when I went to high school at Memorial High School in West Houston, 3000 kids, there was one black kid, right? And the world is very different place. And I’ve always felt
a heart for those that that are under resourced and didn’t have the same life experiences that I had. I mean, I didn’t cause my life experience that was just born into it. So I’ve always felt a need to go help. But how do I best help? And how do I understand? And how do I give people a leg up and an equal shot at doing it? When the environments different? The cultures different? Everything’s different? So what are the right answers? And that is a lifelong learning experience. That’s right. And race is a really difficult thing to discuss as a white male, it’s very, very difficult to discuss, especially with kancil culture, right these days, right. And so I just, I’m attempting, I mean, fortunately, we’re not a public company. And I don’t want to, you know, I can try to figure this stuff out, on my own with with people that are better at than I am. And I’m reading everything from white privilege to I mean, I’m going to all across the board, because I really,
I want to be educated not just be, you know, the old white guy that doesn’t get it. I mean, I really want to attempt to understand and I’ve been supporting, you know, third Fourth Ward organization for 30 or 40 years, but I haven’t really known I haven’t really understood and my gut. Yes, their experience. Yes, yes. And I don’t think I’ll be able to, but I can, I can move from where I am now to someplace else. Yeah, in such a politicized topic as well, because a lot of the scientific sampling is so much bias and for both the right side and the left side.
Yeah, I just don’t think either side. That’s it. Right now. There’s a there is a magazine called Chronicles. It’s a paleo conservative magazine. And there was an article on this most recent episode or edition that talked about the left and the right. I mentioned, we might go on some tangents like, let’s go on a tangent here. So you’ve got the left perspective, that essentially says that the skin color is what dictates it and where we are in a white supremacist led country and work is very demeaning towards certain people with certain skin tones. Then the right side now that that also takes takes away the agency from both the black person because the black person can’t lift themselves up at all sticks with the agency because it seems all white people are white supremacists, right. I’ve never met someone that really wants
To be a white supremacist, then on the right side, you have this concept that it’s all biological, there’s so much inbreeding blacks tend to marry blacks, whites in the marry whites, Asian Americans who outperform all of us, a lot of the times they mirror each other. And so and so, biologically, they tend to stay in the same subgroups decade after decade, which also takes away the agency from both the whites and the blacks and sir race, this type of type of concept. So the gentleman that wrote this article in in Chronicles said that there’s a middle position. And what you said about that, about the scale has been thinking about this. There’s a middle position there that says it’s, it’s based off of action. And what he cites is Ron Haskins, who did a study, he came up with something called the success sequence that said, if you do these three things, regardless of race, you have a 90% 98% chance of not living in poverty. Number one, you graduate high school, number two, you get married, then have kids. In number three, you work a full time job, any full time job, burger flipper, janitor CEO, no matter what it is, you do those three things, 90% probability that you will not live in poverty. And so it’s action based. And so that’s why I like about that that middle thing on the on the scale, that it gives full agency to everyone, not based off of their skin color, but just the principle that three are a human being with their own agency. And the challenge is based on your environment, and where you brought up, what’s the likelihood you’re going to graduate high school? Or based upon your family situation? Did you come from a, you know, husband and wife that were together or not? So there are all these right? environmental factors that
that color that entire situation? That is?
has everything to do with where you were born? Yes, that natrona bilities. And so that’s reason I’m so drawn to, to attempting
to help put people in a position of equal ability to thrive. That’s right. And you know, like you said, it’s the home environment has a big, huge, huge impact of it. I think that already 82% probability of living outside of or above the poverty level if you have both a father and a mother in the household. Right. Huge, huge. Yeah. And the kid doesn’t have anything to do with it. Oh, not at all. So
that’s so complex. Yes. That’s what I’m trying to not just learn, but figure out how to most effectively
help people up the ladder. Yeah, yeah. Or give them something to set the ladder on? That’s right. That’s right. And you wonder if these Troy’s and trillions of dollars have been thrown at this problem of the last now 60 years, have really had that much of an impact. Yeah. And clearly, they haven’t, yes, the results are not where we’d hoped that they would be. Yeah. And I think we’re making progress. I mean, if it’s kind of, you know, as Bill Gates, if you see the numbers around around the world, I mean, the world is making progress. We have a lot fewer people in poverty today than we had 20 years ago than we had 20 years before that. So
an optimist kind of like us that that we’re making progress? Certainly, certainly.
You are someone who’s taking resources out of the private market and deploying them in other other areas, social charitable.
Why, why do that when you can leave the money in the for profit market and be able to get additional yields on that capital to deploy later in charitable efforts?
Well, that, to me, maybe a corollary, and maybe a better question would be is, what’s your end goal?
Okay, if your end goal is to make the most money, then maybe you leave it in the private markets, but at some point, you’re going to die. And so great, I’m gonna have a bigger pile when I die. Yeah.
Work nicer suits.
So So what’s the end goal? And so what happened to me when I was in my 40s, and I looked at kind of where I was, and I, again, we’re kind of back and I was making money. I took and assuming some company growth and where I was, where would I be, by the time I was 50, or 60, or 70. And I already had enough, you know, we all got to find what’s enough. And so I was kind of losing motivation of working for money, because I didn’t, I wasn’t as money motivated as I thought I was. I was till I got, you know, a certain standard, but then it was kind of where’s the So what? And so to me, when I decided to give half away,
and I was earning money
for God and for the kingdom and for nonprofits, then I got really motivated again, and that’s where we grew from 350 million to, you know, almost three, 3 billion. So because that now, now there’s a purpose to it. Yeah, it’s not just about me. It’s about what I can do out there. So I’m out there. Competing like crazy.
Right, I satisfy my own needs relatively early. It will say easily, but I mean that. So it kind of depends upon what’s enough. And if you move that a couple times as I did,
and then deciding, okay, if you get that then where’s the So what?
I mean, what’s the so what of our lives? I mean? And so, to me that fundamental answers once you’ve got to, you got to answer
to go get it helped me get other focused. Yes, yes. Right. There’s an idea there that there’s a word to your life, there’s a purpose to your life, there’s an art what’s what should you be doing? What ought you be doing? And for certain people, they don’t recognize that purpose that that wider their lives? What what are your What would you say to those people who don’t recognize that maybe there’s a, there’s a bigger goal for their lives other than just living it for myself?
Well, for me, it’s faith in something big, bigger than myself. If I didn’t have faith, I’m not sure I would understand there was something beyond myself. If you don’t think there’s something beyond yourself, it’s hard to kind of make that make that move. So, so to me, it’s very much
faith based. And, you know, my wife and I had a mountaintop experience at that young life when we were in high school, and I’ve fallen off and fallen on and you know, it’s been a rocky journey as it is for most people.
But I’ve kind of moved from cultural Christian to more committed Christian in my mid 40s, when I kind of made these moves, and
started hanging out with different people started having different goals started having, you know, there’s only so much partying you can do so to speak. And, and so, I really do think it’s,
are you hanging out with folks and spending time with people that that have goals, bigger and beyond the ball game or this or going to Vegas or doing whatever they’re doing? Yes. And I’ve found a lot more joy on this side, than I ever did on that side. That side comes and goes, yes. So Luke 1234 says, where your treasure is there, your heart will be also Randy Alcorn, as I’m sure you’ve you’ve read, says that you can put your treasure somewhere and your heart will follow it that the heart is led by the treasure. Do you do you see that in your, in your own life, where you when you’ve given treasure away that your hearts follow that?
Have you ever cared about those sorts of things that you that you find more and more because you treasure there,
to me that the treasure is a means not an end? Okay?
So I’m not sure that my heart follows my treasure.
I put it backwards say my treasure should follow my heart. So if my hearts involved in others, and that’s where I need to invest, if my hearts involved in what’s best in for me, are the nicest car the nicest, and that’s why I invest. So
to me, money has no good or bad, it’s, it’s a tool. And and if you’re fortunate enough to have been given the skills, to have the use of that tool for others, compassion of their own ability, for others to doctor I can do this for other might have to be in business and habit. And, and money is what is the tool to trade?
The question is, where you invest it, and what
it is what brings you the ultimate joy. And it’s hard to imagine, you know, the different car, even house, even, you know, airplane, whatever, it would bring you the same joy, as when you go when you see orphanages that you help support or the school that you helped build, or the folks that that you helped, you know, graduate from high school, or whatever the situation was? Certainly, certainly. Well, I want to wrap up our time together by asking you one final question. 100 years from now, what do you most want to be known for?
I doubt if I’ll be known 100 years from now. So that’s, I mean, I don’t take myself that seriously. Somebody asked me what I want. What I want on my tombstone, right? Yeah. And it was, you know, he made God smile. And
sometimes he be defying it How stupid I was on trying to do this. He’d smile saying, Yeah, I’m doing pretty good today or it’s been a good day or bad day or whatever. But But I can just say God sent mexic he tried. He did. He did the best he could. He worked. He worked with with what I gave him and, and and you know, good job, good and faithful servant would be what I would hope
That I would I would be known for 100 years from now. But I doubt if I’ll be known 100 years from now, I don’t think that’s going to be anything that the next generation work at. What I hope is that is that the folks who have helped get through school that their kids will live a better life than they would have otherwise and that their kids will live a little better life are the economic folks out in Africa that did get a job or have savings or get have health care. So they survived. They’re there that so the children actually survived up till five years old. I mean, there are all kinds of different things, but I don’t think I’ll be known. I think that
hopefully, the role will be just a little bit better place because of some of what I’ve been able to do. Love that. Have that. David, thanks for joining us. Thank you. Appreciate it. Thanks.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai