Dan Gilbert, age 57, is perhaps best known as the billionaire owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, but what many people don’t recognize are his humble beginnings and simple philosophical keys to success. Gilbert was born in Detroit, Michigan, attended Southfield-Lathrup High School, earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. While in college he obtained his real estate agent’s license and while in law school, he worked part-time at the local Century 21 Real Estate agency. It didn’t take long for Gilbert to see the potential in originating mortgages, so in 1985 he founded a company called Rock Financial with his younger brother. He applied his simple philosophical principals and continued to grind it out. In 2017, his little montage business was awarded the title of being the largest retail mortgage lender by volume in the United States, you may know it now by the name Quicken Loans. In 2010, Quicken Loans moved its headquarters and 1,700 of its employees to Gilberts hometown of Detroit, Michigan. After moving all 3,600 Michigan-based team members into Detroit’s urban core by the end of 2010, the company now has approximately 17,000 staff in downtown Detroit and a total of 24,000 nationwide, making the company one of Detroit’s largest employers, and taxpayers. Gilbert has been on a mission trying to rebuild downtown Detroit. All his real estate is run under a company called Bedrock, which is part of Gilbert’s larger parent company, Rock Ventures. Insiders estimate Rock Ventures is heavily invested in about 100 companies, and that Bedrock has invested +$4 billion into downtown Detroit and another +$2.5 billion in other developments. What I find amazing, Gilbert uses his same simple philosophies, which he calls “ISMs” to runs more than 100 companies and manage billions in investments. About 20 years ago, he wrote the first version of the “ISMs” guide. It is now given to every employee in his Rock Ventures family of more than 100 companies. The principles emphasize independent thinking and action, moving quickly, and innovation. Many of the same things I’ve learned or discovered along my journey in life. I like the analogy Gilbert uses, saying, “Einstein didn’t make up relativity — he discovered it.” Gilbert views his ISMs and principals the same way, he didn’t make them up or invent them, he simply discovered them along his journey. Gilbert truly believes, without his simple ISMSs, he wouldn’t be where he is today. Dan remains married to his lovely wife Jennifer Gilbert and together they have five amazing children. A few years back Gilbert and his wife Jennifer joined “The Giving Pledge”, committing to give half of their wealth to philanthropy. The couple regularly donates millions to many worthwhile causes. I’ve included below some great reference tools along with Gilberts most famous 19 ISMs. I also encourage you to watch the video from the Goldman Sachs’ Builders + Innovators Summit. I’ve include a few highlights below: Click HERE to watch the Goldman Interview. (Source: Goldman Sachs, Business Insider; The Wall Street Journal)
The Importance of Change:
“The stuff that got you from where you stared, to where you are today, is going to be much different than what you will need to get you to the next level. going from 0 to 60 mph, is much different than going from 60 to 120 mph. What happens to 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs is the they don’t understand why things aren’t working anymore. It worked in the beginning so it should work now. Unfortunately, it’s not about working harder and trying harder, but rather it’s all about “change”. Everything changes at some point in life and in business! You can’t simply expect to continue doing the same thing. Only the folks that can move over, except change and operate in a different way have a chance. Remember, there’s only 24-hours in a day. You can only muscle a business out for so long and then you run out of time…” Gilbert does a great job of providing visualization of this concept starting at about 7:10 into the Goldman Sachs conversation.
Core Concepts Shouldn’t Motivate but Rather Drive your Decisions
“You better hope that everybody on your team is guided by some form of culture, principles, [and] philosophy…. You certainly should have other’s input on it, but once you agree upon it, these core values, philosophy, culture…. They don’t motivate! They drive every decision, every action, behavior and prioritization on top of it all.”
On Balancing Instinct with Data
“I walk into every meeting these days and it’s always the metrics numbers guys versus the gut-[instinct], ‘this-is-what-I-think-we-should-do’ guys. My thing is – I think if you’re too far to one side of that, you’re going to get killed and you need to have both of that in an organization.”
Relationships are Very Important
The basis of all wealth is found in the strength of relationships. Create them. Seek them out. Build upon them. Be loyal to them. The more you give to these relationships, the more you will get from them. So start giving rather than taking…
Dan Gilbert’s Famous ISMs:
Below are a few of my favorites. These should definitely be hung on the office wall and passed along to the kids. Great advise!!!
“Always raising our level of awareness.”
As Yogi Berra said, “You can see a lot just by looking.” Keep your head up. Look. Be curious. Notice what is actually happening around you. Really notice. Everything starts with awareness. Being alert. Being awake. Tuning in to the frequency. It’s a perpetual choice to both stay aware and raise your level of awareness.
“The inches we need are everywhere around us.”
Just like Al Pacino’s famous speech in Any Given Sunday, the inches we need are all around us, we just have to find them. It’s all the little details that matter most. Added together they make up everything that’s great about a person and a business. We are all empowered to find the opportunities to make an impact everywhere; one inch at a time, these inches all add up to greatness. Keeping your car clean, making your bed, stying true to your commitments, etc… all little things, but together make us who we are.
“Responding with a sense of urgency is the ante to play.”
Urgency is your inner compulsion and drive to get things done quickly! We like to say we’re on the lunatic fringe. We’re obsessed with being quick. Not just to clients and partners, but to each other! There’s no other way, and no other option. Urgency motivates us. We take care of things NOW!
“Every client. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses.”
There’s no feeling good around here because 90% of our clients were satisfied. Every client means 100% of our clients, and not some of the time. Amaze them EVERY TIME. No exceptions. No excuses!
“Obsessed with finding a better way.”
Our never-ending mission is to find a better way for every process and everything we touch. If it’s good, let’s make it great. If it’s great, let’s take it to an even higher level. Don’t settle for less. In fact, don’t settle at all. Finding a better way is not something we do on the side or when we get the time. Rather, it’s a key priority for every one of our team members. It’s our passion … our way of living … our obsession.
“Yes before no.”
It’s critically important that we live the culture of YES. This does not mean that every single idea, question, suggestion or recommendation will ultimately be met with a big thumbs-up. It means that we respond to all curiosity with the mindset of YES first. Our bias is to the YES side of life. This is in stark contrast to the too common approach of an automatic NO. Saying NO is much easier, but the status quo is not our favorite state. We live in the land of growth, possibilities, ideas, innovation, positive impact and results. The only path to that place is through openness to the unknown. So YES before NO.
“Ignore the noise.”
We’ve found it’s not always skill and long hours that lead to greatness. It’s also the ability to ignore the noise. Noise could be from naysayers, something going wrong, sun in your eyes, ball took a bad bounce, dog ate your homework, someone cut you off on the way to work, etc. A lot of things that seem serious at first glance turn out to be noise. Will you allow it to keep you from winning? There’s not a human on the planet who does not experience noise. The winners have developed an ability to ignore it and press on.
“You have to take the roast out of the oven.”
Being a perfectionist can lead to missed opportunities and can be a huge waste of time and energy. A wise man once said, “taking longer to make a decision doesn’t increase your chances of making a better one. Perfection is not the goal when it’s time to make a decision. Focus instead on constant improvement and innovation. Over-analyzing can kill an idea and make you miss an opportunity. Don’t fear failure. If our environment did not tolerate failure, then innovation would die, creativity would die, and eventually, so would our business.
“You’ll see it when you believe it.”
Nothing significant in this world has ever happened without someone believing in it first. It’s only the passive observers of life who say “I’ll believe it when I see it.” We take the opposite approach, and lead with our hearts. We know the truth: If we truly believe in something, we can – and will – affect the outcome. If we believe in ourselves first, we dramatically increase our odds of success!
“We’ll figure it out.”
We don’t need to have all the answers before we take on a project or launch a new and innovative idea. We have faith that when it comes to some of the details, we’ll figure it out along the way. If we wait to cross every “t” and dot every “i” before proceeding with an idea, concept or improvement, then we wouldn’t make much progress at all. It’s our belief in each other and ourselves that gives us the confidence to find new solutions to keep us moving forward.
“Every second counts.”
You will always invest your time somewhere doing something. As long as you are alive, it’s not a choice whether you invest your time or not; the only choice is what you will do with it. Time, not money, is the most valuable commodity of all. Time can never be replaced. How will you invest the 31,536,000 seconds you are gifted each year? Choose wisely.
“Numbers and money follow; they do not lead.”
Money and numbers are a measurement of actions. They don’t have value in themselves. They are neither the ends nor the means. Ironically, the vast majority of those who chase money will never end up with much of it. Instead, chase the great ideas. Chase the design, engineering and development of the product. Those who are motivated by building, improving and developing unique ideas and knowledge are the ones who acquire wealth. This also applies to individuals. Invest in developing your skills, knowledge and creativity. Become an expert. Pursue your vision with uncompromising passion, and become the best. Numbers and money follow successful accomplishment. Become great at something or build something great. Chasing numbers and money first will leave you chasing your tail.
“A penny saved is a penny.”
Your uncle’s advice, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” is the worst financial advice in history. Choose to value your time. Invest it chasing pennies, and you will find pennies – and pennies never add up. Invest it in ideas, improving your skills, innovation, developing your talent, design, marketing, and technology, and your return will be more than just pennies. Stop wasting your time with the silly pursuit of pennies. Instead, invest your valuable time creating dollars. The choice is yours.
“Simplicity is genius.”
Complexity does not equate to quality. In fact, it’s usually the opposite, Gilbert argues. Simplicity doesn’t just clarify; it creates wealth in the process. Because if there is anything in this world that everyone can agree upon (outside of the “intellects,” of course), it’s that simplicity makes things better for everybody. That’s why simple is something we strive for in everything we do. All day. Every day.
“Innovation is rewarded. Execution is worshipped.”
Great ideas get you to the 50-yard line; outstanding execution gets you into the end zone!
If you are looking to challenge your thoughts and perspectives as well as draw on Kevin’s 25 years of market and business experience, click HERE for a free — no obligation — trial of the Van Trump Report