Quicken Loans/Rock Financial Founder Shares Keys to Success
Pay attention to the details, advises Dan Gilbert in Entrepalooza 2005 keynote.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Sharing what he believes are the keys to running a successful business, Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Quicken Loans Inc., which includes Rock Financial, used whimsical cartoon renderings to underscore his companyís cultural philosophies, or "isms," at Entrepalooza 2005 at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
Gilbert, a recent addition to Forbes' 400 Richest Americans list, delivered a keynote speech filled with humor, business philosophy and tips for success at the Sept. 23 symposium sponsored by the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and the school's Entrepreneur and Venture Club.
Entrepalooza provides students, venture capitalists and business executives with opportunities to network with peers from across the U.S. while learning about entrepreneurship.
"We donít just say these things, we really live them. Once they catch on, they take off like wildfire," Gilbert said of the cultural empowerment his employees assume. From returning phone calls immediately to ensuring the company's garbage containers are properly maintained, every employee takes responsibility for the day-to-day workings of the business.
Gilbert started his mortgage company when he was in college with $5,000 earned delivering pizzas. Today, it's the nation's largest online home lender and Michigan's largest mortgage company, and will close more than $17 billion in home loans in 2005.
Calling himself "a fanatic" when it comes to the details of a properly run business, Gilbert has instilled the same zealousness in his people. "When the light burned out on the Q in our sign, I got 528 phone or e-mail messages from employees," he said. "By the time I looked into it, our guy had already fixed it."
"We call them Rock-isms or Q-isms, but whatever you call them, they are a mind-set, a level of awareness. You have to trust your employees enough to make the changes that need to be made. If you don't trust them, donít hire them," he said. Here are a few examples of "Rock-isms":
- The inches we need are everywhere around us.
- Respond with a sense of urgency.
- Ignore the noise.
- It's not about WHO's right, it's about WHAT is right.
- Numbers and money follow; they do not lead.
- A penny saved is a penny.
- Innovation is rewarded. Execution is worshipped.
- Do the right thing.
Whether it involves his $17 billion residential mortgage loan company or the operations of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers (he is majority owner), Gilbert believes the organizationís culture must be thoroughly understood and embraced by all employees. That's why he personally leads a five-hour orientation session for the 250 new people the company hires each month.
About Gilbertís Company
Quicken Loans Inc. is comprised of Quicken Loans and Rock Financial. Quicken Loans is the nation's largest online retail home lender. Rock Financial is Michigan's largest mortgage company. Together, under the Quicken Loans and Rock Financial brands, the company will close more than $17 billion in home loans in 2005. The company employs more than 3,200 full-time people and is ranked # 12 on FORTUNE magazine's list of "Best Places to Work" in America and # 1 on Computerworld's list of the "Best Places to Work in Technology." Crain's Detroit Business recently named them to their "Cool Place to Work" list. The company's Quickenloans.com website was named "Best of the Web" by Forbes, Money and PC magazines.
Gilbert became majority owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers in March, 2005. In the short period he has owned the Cavaliers, he has led a complete overhaul of the front office, coaching staff, player personnel, game presentation, as well as a $15 million renovation of the newly named "Quicken Loans Arena," including new seats, state of the art scoreboards, video systems, sound systems, arena graphics, signage, security, locker rooms and suite upgrades.
Elevator Pitch Scores Coveted Jersey
At the close of his address, Gilbert emceed an elevator pitch competition among three Ross Business School students. Using the "applause-o-meter," the audience chose Todd Sullivan, MBA '05, who walked away with an autographed LeBron James jersey valued at more than $1,000. Not bad for three minutes' work.
Written by Nancy Davis
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