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CHAUNCEY “An...

CHAUNCEY
“And I waited. And at 2 o'clock, a young white guy came down and he looked at me. I'm standing in front of the building. He walked to the corner and he turned around and looked at me, came back up and he walked up to me and he says, “Excuse me, sir. Have you been here long?” I said, “About 10 minutes.” He said, “Has anybody else been here?” “No.” I said, “Are you looking for someone?” He said, “Yeah but you wouldn’t know him.” I said, “Well try me. I know a lot of people.” He said, “I'm looking for a Mr. Mayfield.” I said, “I am Chauncey Mayfield.”

ROB
Oh what was that face like? I want to know that.

CHAUNCEY
Oh my goodness. It was a face of terror. [Laughter]” -- Rob Richardson with Chauncey Mayfield

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ROB
Welcome to Disruption Now. I'm your host and moderator, Rob Richardson. It's an honor to have Chauncey Mayfield on the show.

Chauncey is actually an expert in commercial real estate. He had about $1.5 billion -- Billion with a B -- under management at one time, so he has a lot of knowledge to bring. And I look forward to hearing all the knowledge, expertise and the journey that he's been through and I'm sure you are going to really enjoy it. Stay tuned. -- Chauncey, good to have you on, man.

CHAUNCEY
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

ROB
I know just growing up, you grew up in the south. You grew up during the time of actually segregation and you were in the midst of that transition -- from segregation to not segregation. Talk about that and what that experience actually did for you, to you, and how it helped inform who you are now.

CHAUNCEY
Well I got to tell you, it was during my formative years but nonetheless, it was probably the most impressionable years of my life. I grew up in Savannah, Georgia.

My dad was a civil rights lawyer and he transitioned later on into a criminal lawyer. So as a civil rights lawyer, he was right in the smack of things that were happening so much so that on several occasions, my older sister and I were taken away from our house with police guards and all that kind of stuff because there were supposedly bombs that were under our house and my dad was the focus of--
ROB
How old were you when this happened?

CHAUNCEY
I was probably eight-nine years old.

ROB
Oh wow.

CHAUNCEY
So having seen how my dad stood up and having seen how he was… I mean he literally made his career representing civil rights demonstrators. You know, I grew up with a guy by the name of Hosea Williams being a fixture in our house.

ROB
Well who’s Hosea Williams for people that don't know.

CHAUNCEY
Hosea Williams was Dr. King's right-hand guy. He was literally on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel when Dr. King was assassinated.

ROB
Wow.

CHAUNCEY
Hosea started his civil rights career in Savannah, Georgia. He and my dad were very close. In fact, he convinced my dad to represent the civil rights demonstrators which was not necessarily a powerful thing to do…

ROB
Oh I’m sure it wasn’t.

CHAUNCEY
…to the extent that… My dad worked for a more conservative older African-American lawyer and the guy simply told him, “If you want to get involved with that civil rights stuff, you got to leave here.”

ROB
Wow. Really?

CHAUNCEY
He left and he started his own practice. My mother was his secretary. She would leave and pick up my sister and I from school every day and we’d played in the conference room, so we had a bird's-eye view of what was happening.
ROB
I imagine what that would do when you see your father have that courage because it's not easy. I mean it’s not easy now to get up and leave an established business or occupation. I can't imagine. We're talking in the ‘50s or the ‘60s where you're saying you're going to get up and leave and find your own way. I imagine that informed you when you became an entrepreneur, no?

CHAUNCEY
Oh without a doubt because I saw demonstrations. I saw protests. I walked in two of the marches that were characterized as the “Poor people's march” -- Savannah and in Charleston. My dad led the one in Savannah and then the one in Charleston, South Carolina.

But more importantly, what I saw was I saw a guy, my dad, that was unapologetically black. And the thing that he taught my sisters and my brother and I was that it doesn't matter… You know, we can get all the laws changed but at the end of the day, you've got to be excellent at what you do.

ROB
Amen.

CHAUNCEY
That's the only thing that's going to keep you there.

ROB
My parents say, “You got to work twice as hard to get half as much.”

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely. Absolutely. And the thing that I think is most important -- and unfortunately, we don't see a lot of it today -- is that some African-Americans are apologetic for being African-Americans.

ROB
Yeah, a lot of us are.

CHAUNCEY
Exactly.

ROB
We got to apologize for being black…

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely.

ROB
…or saying we're black or being proud of being black as if there's something wrong with that.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah.

ROB
You know, I look at it… and I'm sure that you've seen it. I want to talk about your experiences particularly… I know you’ve dealt with some made men. I won't say that they're “made men,” I guess -- [laughter] the people I've dealt with. But I've dealt with people who I know in the Union industry, right?

CHAUNCEY
Sure.

ROB
I don't know if they're made men. Some of them might be. Tell me. Who knows? But I noticed that the Italians that are in the Union, they're proud to be--

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely.

ROB
Nobody puts their head down and says, “Well I don't want to offend people by saying I'm Italian.” And the Irish go on, they say they're proud to be Irish. By the way, I see nothing wrong with that.

CHAUNCEY
That's right. I agree.

ROB
There's nothing wrong with us saying we are proud to be African-American.

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely.

ROB
Yeah. So I'm curious to see what you've learned… So you learned that from your father.

CHAUNCEY
Yes.

ROB
I know you dealt with some guys who were in the mob. Did you learn anything from them along those lines or any other things that you could just kind of think about from those experiences that you had just sitting in the room?

CHAUNCEY
Well I’ll tell you, once again, after the civil rights movement or the more active demonstrations where students were getting arrested, my dad transitioned his law practice into doing criminal law, and he represented some major criminals. What was always striking to me about them is they were as professional about what they did as any doctor, lawyer or dentist I have ever ran across. They approached their profession with seriousness. You know, that was their job, whatever it was. You didn't have to agree with it but it was striking to me that they had--

You know, my dad talked about “Excellence.” These guys and women were excellent. What they did was illegal but that was very telling to me.

Well I grew up in Savannah. I went to undergrad in Tuskegee in Tuskegee, Alabama. And my first job out of undergrad--

ROB
Tuskegee is a historically black college. I want to definitely talk about your experience at a historically black college and how that shaped you, too.

CHAUNCEY
Oh absolutely.

ROB
Go ahead.

CHAUNCEY
My first job was in Boston. I've always had a passion for real estate. I didn't have any money when I came out of college. I would scramble around and try and find deals or deals that I thought I could put together, and a lot of them failed.

The first deal I did was a guy I played softball with. He owned an investment firm. He asked me, he said, “Chauncey, what's your dream for your life?” I said, “I want to get into the real estate business.” At that time, I was doing manufacturing at Polaroid. About three months later, he called me. He said, “I got a house I want you to buy” -- three flat -- and I said, “That's great. I don't have any money.” He said, “Don't worry about it. I got an investor for you.” And I'm thinking, “I got a house. I got an investor. What's the problem?”

ROB
Yeah, “What’s the catch here?”

CHAUNCEY
“What’s the catch here?” I went to buy that house and I called a guy that was going to do an inspection for me. And this was very interesting to me. He said, “Who are you buying the house from?” I told him. He said, “What ethnicity are they?” I said, “I don't know.” I said, “I grew up in Savannah. People are either black or white.” He said, “It's not the way it's done in Boston. You need to learn who you're doing business with. Are they Irish or Italian or Jewish? You need to figure that out.” And I said, “Why is that important?” “Because,” he said, “it will dictate how you do business with them and how they would do business with you.” I was like, “Wow.” That was very interesting.

And I went and found out that the couple that I was buying the house from through my buddy were in fact Irish. It didn't mean anything to me but apparently meant a lot to everybody else.

So that was my first introduction to the business of race. I still contend today that whether you are buying a house, selling a house, investing in a house or whatever your profession is, you have to deal with the business of race.

I worked for an investment banking firm when I came out of grad school and I ran their real estate group. My first deal [was] on the south shore of Boston down near Cape Cod. I called a guy. “We want to buy an office building.” I showed up. He said, “I never knew you were black” and I simply said, “I hope I don't disappoint you then.”

My point is here again is the business of race. That has always been at the forefront as I've done business.

ROB
Right.

CHAUNCEY
You started by sharing with the audience that my investment company had about… My first acquisition, I gone out and raised money. -- We can talk about that later. -- But my point is my first acquisition was in St. Petersburg, Florida and my partner had the broker on the phone and we went through the process. He says something very interesting to my partner. Although never having met him, he said, “You know, you don't like it down here. There are no ghettos or Negroes.”

ROB
[Laughter] So your partner was white?

CHAUNCEY
No, my partner is African-American.

ROB
He was black, okay. I guess he didn't know he was black over the phone.

CHAUNCEY
He did not know that.

ROB
Okay, yes, because I got a black sound to a certain way to people. Go ahead.

CHAUNCEY
My partner said to him, “Well that's good news.” We went on and--

ROB
He played that well. That's interesting. He played that well.

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely.

ROB
He just went with the flow.

CHAUNCEY
All the time.

ROB
Yeah, right. I mean some people would get so upset and emotional about that response.

CHAUNCEY
Nope.

ROB
So how did you get yourself… because some people would get pissed off about that, right?

CHAUNCEY
Sure.

ROB
So how do you keep your emotions out of that moment, when people deal with--

CHAUNCEY
Well the objective is to win, okay? You got to understand that the goal is to win. As my grandfather used to say, “If that guy is 30 years old, it took 30 years to mess him up.” You're not going to change him in one minute.

ROB
Right.

CHAUNCEY
So deal with what's in front of you, not what you want him to be.

ROB
“Deal with what’s in front of you, not what you want him to be.”

CHAUNCEY
“Not what you want him to be.” And we just said, “The guy is a racist.” Now what can I do about that? Nothing.

ROB
You can still get business done though.

CHAUNCEY
I can get my business done. And we moved forward and… When you're buying institutional grade property, there's a question and answer or basically an interview process. They ask you where you’re getting money from; how fast you can close.

We were one of the top two offers. We were going through the question and answer process, and the questions were pretty standard. But on this particular day, my partner and I sat around the conference room table around the squawk box and the broker said, “Let me ask you something, Mr. Mayfield.” I said, “Yes.” “Did you attend historically black college?” I said, “I did.” He said, “We have no further questions” -- one question.

He called us back later and he said, “You guys didn't win the bid to buy the property.” I said, “Wait a minute. I thought we were the highest bidder.” “You were but we're not going to sell the property to you.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “Because the tenants won't be comfortable with you.” I said, “Well let me make sure I got this straight. I buy the building. Your tenants become my tenants. So why do you care?” And he said, “It doesn't matter. We’re not going to sell the building to you.”

ROB
Wow.

CHAUNCEY
So that was a defining moment for me because my first inclination was to sue.

ROB
It would have been mine, too, but I'm a lawyer. Go ahead. [Laughter]

CHAUNCEY
I sat around the table and talked to my partners. Two of my partners are black, one Puerto Rican, one white. I said, “We can spend a lot of money on a lawsuit or we can rethink our strategy and talk about winning all the time.”
The very next project that came on the radar screen for us was in Charlotte, North Carolina. My partner had identified an office building we should buy. He said, “We should go after this property.” I said, “Do you remember Florida” and he said, “Yeah.” I said, “How far do you think Florida is from North Carolina?” I said, “Your problem is you grew up in the Midwest. You grew up in Detroit.” I said, “I grew up in the south. And today, I don't know if we're dealing with the new south or the old south but I know that we've got to be very careful about how we approach the deal.”

Here's what we did. We decided we were going to go after the property but we were not going to show up when they walk through those tours. We were not going to identify ourselves in a walk through our tour. We would go there as a potential tenant and ask all the records with questions that we would ask if we were going to buy the building.

We owned a separate company and we would talk to the management about… That separate company, we would never name my investment company. And when the time came to bid, we bid under the name of the investment company.

ROB
Wow.

CHAUNCEY
We were in the final two and I said, “Okay, here we go again. We're down to the finals.” The broker called and said, “All right, we want to do the interview” and we said, “Let's do the interview.” And the broker said, “We want to know who you have bought a similar building from in Charlotte.” We’re like, “Okay. That's the home cooking question.”

ROB
Right, yeah.

CHAUNCEY
And we concluded that… It wasn't my thought. It was my general counsel’s thought, that she immediately piped up and said, “First of all, we don't disclose who we buy from or sell to.” I’m like, “Oh man, that’s brilliant” because we don't have to disclose it now because we've not done any business with anybody at Charlotte. And he said, “Well do you have any references in Charlotte” and we said, “We do.”

Our banker, African-American, was with Wachovia Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina. And we said, “Here's the name of our banker.” I called him up, told him the guy was going to call him and he laid it on and we bought the building. But here's what we did -- we did this for two years. We never showed up that show we own the building -- never did for two years.

ROB
Wow. It sounds like you were playing a game being really stealth about it because people didn’t need to know you're black because, technically, it shouldn't even matter.
CHAUNCEY
Well we know it shouldn't matter but we know that it does matter.

ROB
It should. It does, yeah. Exactly. [Laughter]

CHAUNCEY
And if that was going to be the game, we can either choose not to play or to play.

ROB
And to sit down and have no chips, have no ability to be on the court?

CHAUNCEY
That's right. Exactly right. So we decided we were going to play. Two years, I took my daughter to Spelman when she started college. I woke up one morning and I said, “It's time for them to know who the owner is.” I was sitting in Atlanta and I called up my partner and said, “Call them over and--“

ROB
How much did you have under assets at this time?

CHAUNCEY
We had about $250 million.

ROB
Okay.

CHAUNCEY
I called up my partner--

ROB
You were big enough where it didn't matter.

CHAUNCEY
Well $250 in the institutional private equity business is not a big number.

ROB
$250 million is not a big number.

CHAUNCEY
Is a big number.

ROB
Oh wow. [Laughter] I’m dealing with the wrong number. I’m in the wrong business, man. All right, go ahead. Go ahead.

CHAUNCEY
So yes, it didn’t matter. I called my partner and said, “Call him and tell him I'm coming.” I’ll meet him in front of the building at the management company which we've kept in place. They were part owners with another group that sold us the building. They didn't know who they were selling it to.

I showed up at 10 minutes to 2. I stood in front of the building, and this is August. I had on my best suit, my best tie, my best shirt and it was sweltering hot. Very humid. I stood out in front of that building and I waited.

And at 2 o'clock, a young white guy came down and he looked at me. I'm standing in front of the building. He walked to the corner and he turned around and looked at me, came back up and he walked up to me and he says, “Excuse me, sir. Have you been here long?“ I said, “About 10 minutes.” He said, “Has anybody else been here?” “No.” I said, “Are you looking for someone?” He said, “Yeah but you wouldn't know him.” I said, “Well try me. I know a lot of people.” He said, “I'm looking for a Mr. Mayfield.” I said, “I am Chauncey Mayfield.”

ROB
Oh what was that face like? I would like to know that.

CHAUNCEY
Oh my goodness. It was a face of terror. [Laughter] He said, “Hold on.” He walked from the front of the building to the curb. He takes out his cell phone -- and he was looking back at me like I'm about to run -- and he's going, “Yeah, mm-hmm. Yeah.” And he’s looking back at me like, “Oh this has got to be a bad joke.”

He came back over to me. He said, “My boss is coming down.” I said, “Great. I’d love to meet your boss. We talked on the phone a number of times.”

ROB
That’s funny.

CHAUNCEY
His boss came down and he said, “You're Chauncey Mayfield?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Is there anybody else going to join us today?” I said, “Nope, just me.” He said, “I thought you had partners.” I said, “Yeah but they're in Detroit. It’s just me. It’ll just be me.”

ROB
“He’s still black, too. Sorry.” Go ahead. [Laughter] “Sorry, [he’s not white - 20:32].

CHAUNCEY
He said, “Okay, let's go upstairs.” So we went upstairs and I talked to him for a couple… He kept saying, “So you’re the owner.” “Yeah.” “Oh okay.”

ROB
“Like the real owner? Like the equity owner?” You probably got all versions of the same question 10 times.

CHAUNCEY
10 times. As I finished meeting with him, he said, “You want me to accompany you down?” “No. I’ll just get on the elevator to the first floor, right?” “Yeah.” So I go to the first floor. And one of the things that my dad has always told me is that, “You always acknowledge people that are working.”

ROB
Yep, very important. My dad taught me the same thing, yep.

CHAUNCEY
You know, the janitor and the guy that's raking the yard. So I walked over to the desk and the security guard, an older African-American gentleman, and I said, “Excuse me, sir. I want to introduce myself.” He said, “Hold on.” He said, “Can I ask you one question?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Yesterday, the boss man came and told me today at 2 o’clock, the owner is going to be coming through those doors.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “2:05, you came through with my boss. You wouldn’t be the owner, would you?” [Laughter]

ROB
You got black people shocked. Like, “What is going on here?”

CHAUNCEY
I said, “Sir, I am.” He said, “Oh Lord. Wait till I go home and tell my wife.” [Laughter] Things like that that you can't help but laugh about but it's very much serious and it's very much real in the business of race when you're doing business.

ROB
Well yeah. There’s so much you can take away there -- the expectations that obviously white people have are lower…

CHAUNCEY
Yeah.

ROB
…but also African-Americans’ expectations are lower…

CHAUNCEY
They have no clue.

ROB
…which is something we get… When we talk about changing the narrative and changing the mindset to get more African-Americans to be entrepreneurs, to be comfortable saying that, “This is not impostor syndrome. This is who we can be and should be,” how do we get there? Based upon your experience, what would you tell upcoming entrepreneurs that go through those moments of doubt or insecurity? What do you think?

CHAUNCEY
Well the first thing I would tell them… and it's not based on my level of success. It’s based on my experience. So the first time I decided I was going to pitch a pension fund for some money -- some investment dollars -- I went to their consultant and I said, “Would you support me if I asked the pension fund for some money so that I can invest?” And he said, “Sure.” He said, “How much are you going to ask them for?” I said, “$10 million.” He said, “Don’t bother.”

I said, “What do you mean “Don’t bother””? He said, “You know, they'll give you $10 million when they don't even like you.” I said, “Well how much money should I ask them for?” He said, “Ask for $100 million.” And I just kept looking at him going, “Come on. Don't play me.” He said, “I'm serious. Ask them for $100 million.”

I went home and I thought about it and I said, “Am I that far off?” The big number in my mind was $10 million. The real number was $100 million. And this guy has decided he's going to tell me what to ask for. By the way, he writes the recommendation to the pension board on whether or not they should give me the money. He said, “Don’t bother asking for $10 million. Ask them for a hundred.”

So a couple of weeks later, I walked in and asked for $100 million. And Rob, here's the scary part -- they said “Yes” so fast I didn't know they said “Yes.” I'm sitting there waiting, “Are you guys going to vote?” [Laughter] Are you waiting for me to leave?” And they’re like, “Why are you still sitting there?” I said, “Well I didn't know if you're going to actually take the vote now or you want to take it in private.” They said, “We took the vote.” I said, “What was the vote?” They said, “Yeah, we’ll give you the money.”

ROB
Wow.

CHAUNCEY
And I was stunned. I was I was absolutely stunned. So the point I'm trying to make here is, as an entrepreneur or as a wannabe entrepreneur, the problem I see, particularly in the African-American community, is that we don't think big enough.

ROB
Yeah.

CHAUNCEY
I'll tell you something--

ROB
I think it’s Robert Greene, the “48 Laws of Power” -- one of my favorite book. He's been on the show -- there's a rule that say, “Think like a king and get treated like one.”

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely. Absolutely. You have to be able to think big.

ROB
Right. $250 million I thought was big so I didn’t think big, too. [Laughter] Go ahead.

CHAUNCEY
I’ll tell you, I attended a private party in New York in Manhattan one night and it was all private equity real estate guys, pension fund guys. My flight left at 10 o’clock from LaGuardia. The party was going strong. In about 8:30, I come downstairs and I'm trying to get a cab so I can get out to the airport to get on my plane.

And this guy, as I was waiting for a cab, he said, “So you’re in the pension fund business.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “I am, too.” He said, “How much money you have under management?” I think by then we've already had $300 million. I said, “$300 million.” He said, “Let me tell you something. At $300 million, you get invited to the party. At a billion, you get a seat at the table at the party. So your objective is to get to a billion.” [Laughter]

ROB
All right. There you go. That’s good to know. Good objective. Get to the billion. That’s a good example. All right.

CHAUNCEY
“That’s the first thing you need to understand. The second thing you need to understand, when you get to a billion, you won't be running for that plane. That plane will be waiting for you.” {Laughter]

ROB
Those are good goals.

CHAUNCEY
I said, “Well I guess I have something to aspire to.” But the point I'm trying to make here is that while we venture out as a community, we venture out as entrepreneurs to be entrepreneurs. But we're scared to think big. And if you're scared to think big, why are you in this? Why are you doing this -- because the investment market, the lending market are geared towards big deals.

When I started my real estate private equity firm, I went to New Jersey… And this was before I the city of Detroit gave me my first hundred million dollars. I went to New Jersey and pitched the pension fund there. He said, “No, we're not interested.” I said, “Okay. Well help me learn. Why aren't you interested?” He said, “You're not asking for enough money.”

He said, “Let me tell you something. I got a billion dollars to invest over 12 months. If I gave you 10 and I gave the next guy 10, the next thing I know I got a thousand $10 million guys. But if I got a hundred million, all I need is 10 of you and I meet my objective.”

And that made me began to think differently, is that, number one, we need to, as a community, learn to think big. Number two, we need to know our business and know the numbers of our business because oftentimes, I get approached with, “Would you invest in my company?” And I said, “Okay. Well how much have you invested in inventory the first 12 months?” “I don't know.” “Come on. If you don't know the numbers, what's going to give me comfort that I can get comfortable with you?”

ROB
Right.

CHAUNCEY
So think big. Know your business. Know your numbers. I mean, literally, as a start-up organization, know every number in your business.

When I started my business, I can tell you how much we spent on telephone for the last six months every month because I had to get a grip around my expenses in order to manage them. If I can’t manage my expenses, I don't care how much money I'm bringing in, it will never be enough.

The third thing is -- if you can bear with me while I share this story with you…

ROB
No. Go ahead.

CHAUNCEY
…is that there's a thing that… I didn't coin this term. A buddy of mine coined the term. He calls it, “Black man and black woman’s pride” -- dangerous.

ROB
Okay.

CHAUNCEY
When I came out of business school, the economy in Boston about five years after I started doing my real estate deals, economy fell apart. I didn't have a project. I didn't have a deal. I didn't have any income.

I picked up the phone, I called a very dear friend of mine who worked for one of the biggest real estate companies in the city of Boston and I asked him can I come down and see him. I went down to see him. We sit there. We chitchat for a moment. And he said, “How are the kids?” “Kids are great.” “How’s the wife?” “Wife is great.” And I said, “Oh well, I got to get the train on back up on the other side of town.”

And as I walked towards the door -- and this is a white guy -- he said, “Hey, let me tell you something. You need to get rid of that disease.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “The disease that you have.” I said, “I don’t get it. What are you talking about?” He said, “Sit down.” He said, “I call it “Pride” -- black man's disease.” And I just looked at him. I said, “I don't understand what you mean.”

He said, “So you're telling me, you got on a train, came down to my office, sit in that chair, we chitchat about the family, the kids going to school, what's going on the marketplace, you get up and leave? Is that why you came down here?” I said, “No, that's not why I came down here.” He said, “Your pride wouldn't let you tell me.”

ROB
Right.

CHAUNCEY
And I said, “I got to be honest with you. You're right.” He said, “What is it that you need?” I said, “The real estate market is gone. I don't have a project. I don’t have any income.” I said, “Do you have any consultant projects?” He said, “I do.” And he said, “Do you want them?” [Laughter] He said, “How many can you handle?” I said, “Probably three.” And he said, “Okay.” He said, “Hold on. I want you to take this down on the second floor” -- he wrote something out -- “and get your retainer. And by the way, on your way back up town, see something about that disease.”

And that was the most telling moment for me because one of the things he said, he said, “If you were white, you sat in that chair, you would say, “Hey man, I can't pay my light bill. I can't pay my mortgage. I don't have any income coming in and I can’t buy groceries. Can you help me?” He said if I asked a brother, I’ll say, “Oh man, things are a little challenging right now but we're doing okay.”

ROB
Yep. [Laughter] Meanwhile, the mortgage is due.

CHAUNCEY
Oh god, everything is gone. And so I learned that you've got to bury the pride and ask.

ROB
Yeah.

CHAUNCEY
So the third thing I would say is, “Learn to ask.” You never know what somebody would do to help you. There are people that have helped me and I asked myself, “Why are they helping?”

When I raised my first fund for my private equity firm, I didn't know how to write a proposal. And through a mutual friend and a friend and a friend, this guy calls me and he said, “Hey, I understand you're trying to do a pitch book for your investments to raise a fund.” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Well we've raised eight funds.” “Okay.” He said, “I want to help you.” I’m like, “Oh okay.” He said, “Listen to me. I'm not going to leave you until you get your money.” And every night, I went home, “Why?”

He said, “We'll talk every Wednesday morning at 9 o'clock. I'll give you an assignment. You do it. We come back on Wednesday.” And I kept saying, “Why?” And one day, I asked him, “Why? Why are you doing this?” He's a white guy. He said, “Because there are too few African-Americans in this industry. You're in it. Now we have to grow you and I want to help you.” And he says, “Oh by the way, my sister teaches at Howard.”

ROB
And that's something really important that you did because we talk about racism, we talk about what we have to overcome, but just like you, I'm sure many African-Americans that have success have also pointed to a white mentor or a white friend or colleague that was fair-minded and wanted them to advance. So we have to talk about both sides of the coin there.

CHAUNCEY
I’m glad you brought that up. Let me just share one story with you. So when I got started, I had $13 million assets under management and I was trying to borrow $3 million for another project and I went to, I want to say, literally, every lender in the state of Michigan and they all said “No.” Every day, it was a chore getting myself back up to make that pitch only to get “No.”

There was a guy that was helping me do business development. He had played professional football in Houston, Texas. He said, “Chauncey, when I was playing ball in Houston, there was a guy who was in the banking business and I think he's at Wachovia Bank in Charlotte now. Let me see if I can find him.” So I called him up in about… And he said, “Sure, I'll come to Michigan.” He's in Charlotte. “I'll come to Michigan to meet with you.” Well because of our schedules, it took about three weeks for him to get up.

Well when he got to Michigan, I needed a loan now for $65 million. I could care less if I did the $3 million deal. So he's sitting there and he's telling about how they could do the $3 million, no problem, and I said, “I got to tell you something. Thank you for coming but I now need $65 million.”

ROB
[Laughter] That’s a big leap -- 3 to 65. I could do my math -- a $62-million leap. Go ahead. This was after your friend taught you to ask big, right?

CHAUNCEY
Yeah, absolutely.

ROB
[Laughter] You were taking his advice.

CHAUNCEY
I said, “We took on a new portfolio. We need to refinance it. I can ensure you a 50% loan-to-value.” He said, “Oh okay.” He’s an African-American. He said, “Okay, I'm going back home tonight. I'm going to check with my boss, see if we have an interest.”

He called me up and he said, “Yeah, we have an interest in looking at your deal. My boss said call this guy, this guy and this guy.” And I said to him, in no uncertain terms, I said, “Do they speak the tribal language?” [Laughter] He said, “No.” I said, “Then I'm not calling. You got on a plane to come see me and I know how banking works. So they get the credit for my business but you made the business happen. No. You tell your boss I said no” and he said, “Okay.” I relied on the greed factor. It was just too much money on the table.

ROB
I want to stop on that point because I don't think a lot of black businesses… Maybe there are some more that I don't know about now but I don't think we have that kind of collective mentality that you displayed right then...

CHAUNCEY
Sure.

ROB
…understanding that to advance, you have to do things like that.

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely.

ROB
You have to understand that if you want to see others advance and have equity, when you're there at the table, you got to make sure other people can arrive at the table.

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely.

ROB
I'm sure you've seen that.

CHAUNCEY
Mm-hmm.

ROB
Talk about the time maybe you've dealt with the other side. I think this might be a good time to actually talk about some of the struggles you had…

CHAUNCEY
Sure.

ROB
…because as we talked about, African-Americans can be good to helping each other but we can also operate as crabs in a bucket.

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely. Yeah, without a doubt.

ROB
I’m sure you've had some experiences and will say some opportunities to learn or some failures. Talk about that and what you might have learned and how that journey has shaped you now and what you've learned.

CHAUNCEY
Let me just finish the story…

ROB
Please do.

CHAUNCEY
…because I think this is instructive about how there's also reverse racism.

ROB
Okay.

CHAUNCEY
Okay? So my guy calls him back and he said, “My boss said I'm the guy on the deal.”

ROB
Oh okay.

CHAUNCEY
He said, “But they want to send a team up to your shop and go through your financials and your controls and all that kind of good stuff. And by the way, the guy leading the team is head of credit for all of Wachovia.” I said, “Am I that important?” So I said, “Fine.”

They sent up six people. The guy walked in. He introduced himself. I'm not going to mention his name. He introduced himself. And I remember thinking to myself, “We don't have a snowball chance in hell. This guy is straight out of central casting redneck. No way. No way. Mannerisms, the speech, all the things we were taught growing up in the south, he's not going to give us a fair shot.”

He and his team went through my financials, went through my controls with my CFO for two days. And on the end of the second day, we had a meeting in the conference room to talk about his findings and I remember saying to my general counsel, “I don't know why we're having a meeting. He's not going to approve us for anything.”

And that guy sat down at the table and he said, “Look, we went through all your books. We went through your financials and we want to tell you we're pleased.” And that was like, “Uh-oh.” And the guy who's the banker was in the room, too. He looks at him and he said, “We not only should do the $65 million, we should do every deal they want to do.”

ROB
Wow.

CHAUNCEY
[Laughter]

ROB
So your judgment was wrong.

CHAUNCEY
My judgment was wrong and I said, “Chauncey, you got some racism in you.” [Laughter] And I looked at that guy as the most unlikely person that I ever thought to approve us for anything we wanted. We borrowed $300 million from Wachovia Bank based on the conversation.

ROB
Wow.

CHAUNCEY
So my point is that, understand the business of race when you do business but don't go in with preconceived notions about what it is.
ROB
Right.

CHAUNCEY
Even if they are racists, don’t get taken in by the bait that baits you into being angry and losing your focus of what you're trying to accomplish. That's the most important thing.

ROB
Well be productively paranoid.

CHAUNCEY
“Be productively paranoid.”

ROB
We got to be productive, right?

CHAUNCEY
Right.

ROB
Because if your paranoia just paralyzes you through fear, through ignorance, you can’t get anything accomplished.

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely.

ROB
But if you're naïve, you also won't get anything accomplished.

CHAUNCEY
Yes. No, no, no. We know that racism exists and we know that there's the business of racism. And the business of racism is present in every business that you do whether you realize it or not. You know, I have the fortune of being named “Chauncey Mayfield” so they don't know what I am until I show up.

ROB
As I say, they were Rob Richardson.

CHAUNCEY
Right.

ROB
[Laughter] That’s pretty--
CHAUNCEY
So I show up and they go, “Uh-oh.” [Laughter] I'll tell you just one story then I'm going to answer your other question. And here again, I learned this from my dad, is that--

In the early ‘60s, he transitioned into a criminal lawyer, and he was a hell of a criminal lawyer. And this woman came to his office one day… Her son had been locked up. They were originally from Tennessee and now they're in Savannah, Georgia. The son says to the mother, “This guy right here is a great criminal lawyer. Go get him.”

She came down and she met with my dad. She comes in -- and my dad is an old Southern gentleman, “Yes, ma'am. No, ma'am” -- and she starts to cry. He said, “Ma'am, I understand the matter that you talked to me about is stressful but believe me, we can help you.” And she said, “No, you don't understand” and he said, “Sure, I understand.” She said, “My son sent me here to get you.” My dad said, “Okay.” And she said, “He doesn't like black people.” [Laughter]

ROB
It’s going to be problem.

CHAUNCEY
And this guy was in serious trouble. So he said, “It's not a problem. I have a partner. He’s in the other office. He’s white. I’m happy to introduce you.” She said, “No, no, no. He sent me to get you.” [Laughter]

ROB
He likes freedom more he decided.

CHAUNCEY
She said, “I got to go back and tell him.” He said, “Okay, that’s fine. Go back and tell him.” She went back and told him and he was like, like you said, he likes freedom. [Laughter] The interesting thing is that -- They retained my dad. He got him out -- that guy and my dad became the best of friends.

ROB
Wow. That actually gives me some hope in this crazy, toxic environment. We've been through worse as a country. I tell some of my white progressive friends. They said, “We’ve never been through it.” “Yeah, we have.” Well at least we have. This stuff is not new…

CHAUNCEY
Correct.

ROB
…and we're going to be able to survive whatever happens.

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely.

ROB
Right? That’s how I look at it. But that's comforting to hear, that you have somebody who hated black people but can learn to be best friends and get past their prejudice.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah.

ROB
That tells me that despite our current absolute craziness, that there's hope.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah. And we can't get tied up… Now I do believe in fighting for rights, don't get me wrong.

ROB
Me, too. I think we're on the same page there. I don't take you as a passive person. [Laughter]

CHAUNCEY
Oh no. Good. But the point is, is that you can't get tied up and letting them distract you from what you're trying to accomplish.

ROB
Wow. “You can't get tied up and letting yourself get distracted.”

CHAUNCEY
Yeah. You just can't do that. I mean, focus--

ROB
Just to talk about that because it just brings up a good thought, do you have any practice or routines so you don’t allow yourself to get dragged down into the emotions or distractions --because I think people want to do that but often find themselves into a habit of just reacting or letting their emotions. Any just practical things you did to keep yourself grounded?

CHAUNCEY
Well remember, I grew up in the civil rights movement.

ROB
True. You grew up with this, yeah.

CHAUNCEY
My dad and I were inseparable. We were doing the Poor People's March in Charleston, South Carolina. My dad was up front. I was back in the crowd and I didn't realize that I was walking over the yellow line. You had to stay on one side of the yellow line when you march and I was walking over there.

There was a state trooper that pulled up behind me on a motorcycle and gunned the engine, scared me to death. And I remember getting so mad but I knew if I had taken a swing at that state trooper, I did something stupid, it wouldn't just affect me, it would affect everybody that was in that march.

ROB
Yeah.

CHAUNCEY
It's the same principle. When you go on to somewhere and someone does something that's offensive, it doesn't have just affect me. Three minutes of bad behavior can result in a lifetime of punishment.

ROB
Amen.

CHAUNCEY
Three minutes is all you got to do.

ROB
Yep.

CHAUNCEY
And I tell these young boys, I said, “That gun you have in your waist, by the time you pull it out, you shoot it, it was three minutes. You shoot someone, you've got a lifetime of problems. It’s not worth it.”

ROB
It's not.

CHAUNCEY
It's not worth it. And so just having the discipline to ignore or confront it… but I'm not going to turn crazy over it.

ROB
Yeah. You can't discount the training of being in the civil rights movement of your father which some others don't have, so I just like to tell people how to develop better habits. And hopefully, it doesn't all have to be learned through bad experience. Hopefully, you can learn from other people and not do something like that.

CHAUNCEY
That’s right.

ROB
But let's talk about failures.

CHAUNCEY
Sure.

ROB
I think it's important for people to understand the path. The path is never linear for anyone.

CHAUNCEY
No.

ROB
It’s not. Let's talk about some of your path that hasn't been linear. I know you had some struggles when you dealt with your hometown, city of Detroit…

CHAUNCEY
Yes.

ROB
…in dealing with the current mayor who was in jail for the rest of his life.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah.

ROB
Talk about that experience -- what you learned from that experience and what you want to teach others from it.

CHAUNCEY
Well the thing I learned, that--

ROB
Just to give everybody a background, it was Kwame Kilpatrick who was currently in prison for like 28 years which is actually more than any other corruption mayor I've seen.

CHAUNCEY
That’s correct.

ROB
It’s [crosstalk - 47:15] neither here nor there. Make your own judgments there. You were involved before him in the pension system. So you've been involved for a long time. I think people see the headlines, they're like… You know, it just says, “Chauncey Mayfield…” It looks like “Corruption” and that's all people see because the press doesn't write for details. They don't write for context. They write for headlines.

CHAUNCEY
There you go.

ROB
Tell people what actually happened and what you learned from it.

CHAUNCEY
What happened was my company, we invested in eight states and out of those eight states, we're probably in 15 cities. In each city, either at Thanksgiving or at Christmas time, we would make a major donation to nonprofits that dealt with children or women's causes. And I got to be candid with you, it was sort of a dual purpose. December, we're getting up towards the end of the year. My CFO does a forecast and say, “Oh boy, we're going to pay this in taxes.”

ROB
Exactly. “So let's make sure we're as efficient as possible,” like every other business does…

CHAUNCEY
Like every other business does.

ROB
…that’s doing right now.

CHAUNCEY
We had given to nonprofits that dealt with women and children's causes in every city but Detroit and the mayor's people approached me about giving to his foundation. We, in turn, reached out to the SEC because we were SEC-registered investment advisors and said, “Hey, we gave the mayor's foundation $50,000. Do we have a problem?” They wrote back, “No, you don’t.” “All right, cool.” So we gave the mayor’s foundation $50,000, and that was that, I thought.

And in July -- I forget which year -- I was out in California taking my daughter to camp and I get a call from my assistant and she said, “Hey, the FBI just left from here.”

ROB
Wow.

CHAUNCEY
And I said, “Oh really?” She said, “They want to talk to you.” And I said, “About what?” She said, “They wouldn’t tell me.”

ROB
That's never a good sign.

CHAUNCEY
No, it's not a good sign. She said, “Here's the telephone number of the guy that was doing all the talking.” I said, “All right, I'll call him.”

ROB
Oh before you get there, let me just tell you what I learned in my criminal defense class, the procedure. It’s the only thing I remember taking away. He would just say, “Boys and girls, what is the lesson? Never ever, ever, ever, ever under any circumstance talk to the Feds” -- finished. [Laughter]

CHAUNCEY
I should have sought your advice.

ROB
Yes.

CHAUNCEY
And I called him up and they said, “Hey look…” They were very casual.

ROB
Of course.

CHAUNCEY
The guy I talked to was very casual. He said, “Hey, next time you’re in town, come by and see us.” “Sure.” And I remember thinking…

ROB
They just want to talk.

CHAUNCEY
…”What if I never go back to town? What if I never go back to Detroit?” And I did. I went up to see him and they said, “Look, let me ask you something. You gave Kwame Kilpatrick's foundation $50,000.” I said, “That's true.” And they said, “How did he go about extorting it out of you?” I said, “What are you talking about? He didn't extort it from me.” He said, “Well we think he did.” “That's great but I know what happened.”

And I said, “Understand something. When Kwame Kilpatrick ran for the second term, I supported his opponent. His opponent’s daughter worked for me. And I publicly said Kwame Kilpatrick is a juvenile delinquent. So there's no love between us but there's no reason for me to lie on him either.” He said, “Okay.” I left. I didn't have a lawyer, just walked in and talked to him.

ROB
Yep, which I would never advise you to do.

CHAUNCEY
You're right -- mistake number one.

ROB
Yeah.

CHAUNCEY
And then the second time they called me, I went back down again. They said, “All right, we want to talk to you about…“

ROB
Without a lawyer again?

CHAUNCEY
Yeah. “…this extortion.”

ROB
That was that black man pride. Go ahead. [Laughter]

CHAUNCEY
And there it was. Actually, I hadn’t done anything wrong. So I went down again. Same question. I said, “Hey, I told you, there was no extortion. I gave him $50,000.” He said, “Okay.”

Two months later, he called me again. True to form, I showed up again and they said, “You need to start telling the truth.” “I am telling the truth.” “Mm, we don’t think so.” That's the first time it hit me. I said, “Uh-oh, we have a problem.”

ROB
Hey, when they get a narrative made up…

CHAUNCEY
It’s made up.

ROB
…it's made up and they won't change from it.
CHAUNCEY
And so what happened was--

ROB
And they got enough resources to worry you out.

CHAUNCEY
Oh yes, they do. What happened was, after that point, I hired a firm out of Washington. I hired a local firm.

ROB
Scott Bowden, right?

CHAUNCEY
I hired A. Scott Bowden who was also a friend of mine.

ROB
He's in the right fraternity -- Kappa Alpha -- just so you know.

CHAUNCEY
Oh I know. I know. When I first met--

ROB
He’s an Omega. I’m not going to hold you. Go ahead.

CHAUNCEY
When I first met Scott, he told me that all his criminal clients were cute.

ROB
[Laughter]

CHAUNCEY
I was like, “Okay. All right.”

ROB
That sounds like Scott.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah. So I hired Scott’s firm. You know, he reached out to them, like, “What's the deal?” “Well we think he bribed. He bribed the mayor.” Scott brought that back to [me - 00:53:17]. “Okay, if I bribed him, please tell me where I bribed him and when I bribed.”

ROB
Right.
CHAUNCEY
And what they said was there was such tension between myself and the mayor when he won the second time. It was we cut it with a knife and I had a lot of business from the city of Detroit.

ROB
So there wasn't anybody that ever gave to the mayor after the mayor has won. That happens a lot.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah. Oh without a doubt. Without a doubt. So they pivot from that. They said, “Well we believe that you bribed the mayor.” “I didn’t bribe the mayor.”

ROB
So the first was the mayor was extorting you so you bribed the mayor.

CHAUNCEY
Exactly.

ROB
Either way, the narrative that… what to do with this amount of money that was given so they can make a better case against the mayor.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah, absolutely.

ROB
That's what they wanted, right?

CHAUNCEY
That’s what they wanted, yeah.

ROB
It’s not to say that because I'm sure he did do some stuff wrong.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah.

ROB
Let me say that. But what they looked to do is paint a narrative and they don't care how it gets painted…

CHAUNCEY
Not at all.

ROB
…or who suffers in paying that narrative.

CHAUNCEY
Collateral damage.

ROB
I say that not just you. I've seen that happen to some other people who didn't go to jail or anything but they were carnage just because someone wanted to paint a narrative and say, “We need you to be X so we can get Y.”

CHAUNCEY
Yeah.

ROB
And that's all they care about is getting from X to Y and they don't care what happens in between as long as they get from X to Y through the case.

CHAUNCEY
So we go down this road and Scott reached out to the DOJ and asked them about, “Okay, well you say he bribed. What evidence you have?” Well the backdrop is that... Well the mayor won the second time and I called him a “juvenile delinquent” and I--

ROB
They used the interview you gave them. [Laughter] Right?

CHAUNCEY
Yeah, of course.

ROB
“We can use this to use against him,” yeah.

CHAUNCEY
What happened was that there was a new treasurer that came to town and he sat on the pension fund board and he saw first presentation. We were making our annual presentation to the board saying, “Here's how much money we had given you, guys.”

And as usual, we knocked it out of the park. We were the highest performing investment manager in the city of Detroit regardless of asset class and he was impressed. He went back, told the mayor about us. I know those guys. I believe… I don't have any hard proof but they were trying to pull business back because the mayor was… I'm not on the mayor's favorite list anyway.

ROB
Right.

CHAUNCEY
At that point, the treasurer came to me and said, “Hey, I got a help you bury this hatchet between you and the mayor.” I said, “Okay. Cool.” At that time--

ROB
The treasurer got in trouble, too, didn’t he?

CHAUNCEY
Oh he’s doing 11 years.

ROB
Yeah. But you don't know all this. The treasurer knows this and things like that. But it’s like it’s--

CHAUNCEY
Yeah, I don't know any of this.

ROB
The point is though the FBI and all the others, they want to make their case for all this happening and then this needed to connect.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah.

ROB
Basically, they need to connect in you.

CHAUNCEY
At one point, they had the mayor and I being best buddies. But if I walked through that door and he was sitting here, he wouldn't know who I was. He’d be like, “Yeah, I've seen the face but I can’t remember his name.”

ROB
Right. What’s your takeaway from that because, clearly, there are some things you probably, looking back, you would do differently.

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely.

ROB
What do you advise young entrepreneurs dealing in politics, too, because we got to deal in this area. How do you go about this because it seems to be a really great line that’s hard to figure out.

CHAUNCEY
Well it’s a great line for us. It's not necessarily a great line for other people.

ROB
Oh true.

CHAUNCEY
But if you're going to play, first of all, you need to understand the rules of the game, meaning, how much you can give to a mayor, what you can give in kind that doesn't put you over the line or put you in jeopardy. You need to understand that. And don't do anything more than that.

ROB
Yep. I look at it as there are three lines. There’s the line of perception, there's the line of what's ethical and there's the line of what's legal. And I tell people, “You want to be all the way on this side.” You want to figure out what it is like with perception that you can say, that if it comes out, you can explain it in the newspaper even if it's legal because if it's legal… I mean it’s like for us, it's different. It don't matter.

CHAUNCEY
It doesn’t it. It doesn’t matter. That’s right.

ROB
If it's perceived, they can make it illegal.

CHAUNCEY
That's right.

ROB
That’s kind of my lesson to people in politics and that's the lesson that I've tried to stay in. As I've been in politics, that's kind of been my lesson to say like, “Look, if it’s in the newspaper, I can explain it then it's good. If I have trouble articulating it, don't do it.”

CHAUNCEY
Don't do it.

ROB
The wrong question is, “This looks weird but is it legal?” If you're asking that question, you just don't want to be on that side. I've seen that play out.

CHAUNCEY
And never, ever buy into the concept, “They'll never know.”

ROB
Or that you can operate like they do. Go ahead. Neither one of those things are true.

CHAUNCEY
Because the first time--

ROB
The rules will be applied.

ROB
Yeah. The first time the FBI shows up, flashes a badge and asked you a question, that person said, “I'll never tell” starts to talk.

ROB
Like immediately.

CHAUNCEY
Immediately.

ROB
Yeah.

CHAUNCEY
And this is a bad example but it's the one, I think, hits home the most. Sometimes, dealing with a politician is like dating a woman you don't know has a venereal disease.

ROB
[Laughter] That’s a hell of a balance but okay.

CHAUNCEY
You don't know what the history of that person has been. So while that person may be doing right by you, they may be dirty over here and it's that dirt over there that's going to bring them to you. And that's exactly what happened to me.

ROB
Right.

CHAUNCEY
What happened was the treasurer kept saying, “I got to figure out a way to put you guys together.”

Two of my partners had young kids and we were traveling every year. You know, I was traveling about 250,000 miles a year and so we decided to look at either buying a plane or buying a fractional into a central private plane. So my partner said, “Let's do it.” I said, “The problem is I've never been on a private plane.” And so I said, “Well why don't I take a couple of trips and see if this is comfortable for me.”

My family and I came to Florida at one point and it wasn't long enough and then I said, “You know, I'm going to get some of my boys and we will go to Vegas, play some golf, see some shows.” And I reached out to the treasurer and said, “Hey man, would you like to come with us?” The plane held eight. And the next thing you know, he, in turn, invites the mayor.

ROB
Oh, yep.

CHAUNCEY
And I went to my general counsel and said, “Do you think this is a good opportunity to kind of bury the hatchet or am I going to get in trouble by putting him on the plane?” And she checked and there was no problem.

ROB
Because you passed the legal test but not the perception test. There it is.

CHAUNCEY
There was the perception test, you’re right. I put him on the plane and we went on to Vegas. So when I invited him, he's got to come with his security guard, he got to come with his aid, he got to come with this guy, this guy.

ROB
You got an entourage. By the way, I have a quick story for meeting him. I met him for the first time. I’ll tell you in a second.

CHAUNCEY
All right. So we flew to Vegas and we came back. It was nothing. I said, “Hey guys, I'll pay for the plane. You pay for your hotel” and all that kind of good stuff.

ROB
And all that came back to bite you.

CHAUNCEY
Yes.

ROB
I saw that in the paper. They said that was part of what you did to bribe him.

My quick story on him that I want to close, I met him, and I guess it was his secretary, during the presidential debate of 2008 in South Carolina. I happened to be there. I didn't know that that was his secretary. [Laughter] They didn't do anything overt but they came across as… I thought they were a couple. I didn't say anything offensive. I saw her and I said, “Oh it was great meeting you and your husband.” And she snapped like, “Whoa. Wait. We are not together. That is not my husband. I'm just his assistant.” I said, “Okay. I was just saying.” [Laughter]

CHAUNCEY
But you hit a nerve.

ROB
Yeah. The very next day, that story lodged…

CHAUNCEY
Really?

ROB
…about those two and the rest is history which is that… That led to everything coming down and the house of cards fell on itself.

CHAUNCEY
That's right.

CHAUNCEY
For those who don't know the rest, Kwame Kilpatrick, you can Google it. You'll find everything you need to know.

CHAUNCEY
That's right.

ROB
Final question here… final couple of questions, actually… legacy questions I like to ask. So you have a committee of three, living or dead. They can even be make-believe characters, whatever. They're people that are advising you for life, for business. Who are those three people and why?

CHAUNCEY
My dad. My dad was one of the most honest, direct people I've ever met my life. He would just tell you the honest-to-God truth. It would be painful…

ROB
Truth is often painful.

CHAUNCEY
…but he would tell you--

ROB
He wound you with the truth.

CHAUNCEY
He sure did. The second person is a guy named “Jonathan Peck.” John is a white guy. I met him in the YMCA one day and he needed a ride home. He was a loud, boisterous guy. He said, “I'm looking for a ride home. Here’s where I live.” And this is Boston. I said, “I’ll give you a ride home.” He said, “You don't live in my community.” I said, “Yes, I do.” He said, “No, you don’t.” I said, “Hey look, dude, you don't have to take the ride home but that’s where I’m going, okay?”

I went to a place called Belmont, a very exclusive community in Boston. And he said, “Where do you live?” I said, “It doesn't matter. I'm taking you home. You’re not taking me home.” [Laughter] And I told him. I dropped him off his home.

One of the things I did at the YMCA every day was to jog and John jogged as well. That Saturday, unannounced, he came and knocked on my door at 7 o’clock in the morning. I came downstairs and I'm looking at him, I said, “What are you doing here?” He said, “Do you want to jog?” And I said, “You don't want to jog. You want to see if I live here.” He said, “Well yeah, some of that, too.” And from that day forward, he became one of my closest friends.

ROB
He’s still alive?

CHAUNCEY
No, he died about two years ago.

ROB
Okay. Sorry for your loss.

CHAUNCEY
He was godfather to two of my kids.

ROB
Wow.

CHAUNCEY
We were jogging around the Charles River in Boston one day and I was… Two weeks later, I would be finishing business school. So we're running and John says, “What are you going to do when you finish?” I said, “I'm going to get the hell out of Boston.” He said, “Why?” I said, “John, this is one of the most racist cities in this country. Are you kidding me?” He said, “No, it's not.” I said, “You’ve never been black.”
He said, “If you believe that, I'm going to introduce you to all of my friends in Boston and you tell me if they're racist.” “Fine. Let’s do it,” and he did. And here's what I concluded: I don't think they're racists. I think they didn't even know how to make the connection.

ROB
Which is the problem with racism.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah.

ROB
Right? I mean people don't understand their own biases.

CHAUNCEY
They don’t. They don't even know how to make the connection. And I said, “John, these people don't even know how to get in touch with people like me.” Some of those people I’m still friends today.

ROB
That’s awesome.

CHAUNCEY
So John would be one. The other one is a little lady by the name of “Mabel Bryson.” We call her “Mama Mae” and she's my grandmother.

I bought my first house through my buddy that helped me find an investor. My second property was an apartment building, and I was $11,000 short. I put together the money for the down payment, I still needed $11,000.

Every year, my parents would go to South Carolina to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas with their parents. So we're sitting at the kitchen table and my grandmother said, “Son, what have you been doing?” -- My mother is her only child and she's sitting there. -- And I said, “Mama Mae, I've been trying to buy this apartment building. I’m a little short on the money” -- I wasn't asking her for anything -- and she said, “Son, how much money do you need?” I said, “I need $11,000.” And she said, “Well did you ask your parents?” My parents were like, “No. That is not going to happen. We raised him so we know what he's capable of doing.” And she said, “I'll give you the money.”

ROB
Wow.

CHAUNCEY
Now, Rob, to understand what that meant, my grandmother didn't make more than $75 a week. She was a domestic. She worked as a cook, cleaner and babysitter for two white men --$75 a week and she had $11,000 to give. She gave me $11,000 and I bought that apartment building.

ROB
She grew up during the Great Depression.

CHAUNCEY
Oh yeah.

ROB
You have a much greater appreciation for money once you understand how easy you can lose it… how easy it is to lose.

CHAUNCEY
Oh yeah. But I kept thinking when she gave me that money, I could not lose her money. I don't care if this apartment building deal didn't work out, if I have to go out and worked five jobs, I got to give her money back.

ROB
Right.

CHAUNCEY
Fortunately for me, the market went up in Boston. I made a lot of money on that apartment building when I sold it. I gave her $11,000 back. I gave her another $11,000. I went out to Sears in Roebuck and I bought her a dishwasher.

ROB
Wow. That is awesome.

CHAUNCEY
So those are the three people.

ROB
That’s awesome. Final question: There's a billboard, Google ad, whatever, that represents your life philosophy, your belief. What does that say and why?

CHAUNCEY
Well what it says for me is… I had the pleasure, a blessing, of being raised by a wonderful guy that, as a side note, he made me work for a construction company one summer in Savannah, Georgia. And I kept asking the contractor, “What did I do to him” but I didn't appreciate what he was trying to do to me.

What he taught -- and I live by this philosophy today -- “To thy own soul, be true.” You can lie to you but you can’t lie to your own self. “To your own self, be true.” And I try to live by that philosophy.

ROB
That’s a good philosophy.

CHAUNCEY
Yeah.

ROB
Chauncey Mayfield, it’s good to have you on, brother.

CHAUNCEY
Thank you, my friend.

ROB
Yeah. Thank you. Let’s do this again.

CHAUNCEY
Absolutely.

[END OF TRANSCRIPT]

HOSTED BY

ROB RICHARDSON

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ROB RICHARDSON

Entrepreneur & Keynote Speaker

Rob Richardson is the host of disruption Now Podcast and the owner of DN Media Agency, a full-service digital marketing and research company. He has appeared on MSNBC, America this Week, and is a weekly contributor to Roland Martin Unfiltered.

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