As longtime readers of this blog know, my goal for DBNR Investments has been simple: to put people into homes who want them, can afford them, and will improve their situation in life through home ownership. Without apology, there is more than a little altruism there, a throwback to the philosophy espoused in that Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life.
I believe, as Jimmy Stewart’s character George Bailey did, that at the heart of all our actions is simple human decency, however you characterize it - as a concern for humanity or the planet or people or just making a difference.
In this business, however, that philosophy sometimes collides with another strong American philosophy, capitalism. (Or, as it was described in that other Christmas classic, Miracle on 34th Street, “Make a buck, make a buck, don’t worry about the other guy.”)
Don’t get me wrong - I have a strong profit incentive here, and my commitment to getting property back into the hands of people who need it is carefully balanced with the profitability that a business and its investors require.
But what I’ve been noticing recently - perhaps in counterpoint to the holiday season just passed - is that the conversations I’m having with potential buyers relate more to the idea of revenue and profitability than with our original goal. I understand that, but I miss the background element that I had hoped would drive the conversation. I’m looking for George Bailey and the people I’m meeting are Mr. Potter, the money-grubbing skinflint of Bedford Falls. I worry that we are losing sight of what we’ve committed to.
I’m looking for that same altruism in my colleagues as well. I was talking to my brother, who’s doing some sales work for us. He and I are a lot alike. While we acknowledged that there has to be some income for him to continue with this project, given how much time it takes, we also agreed that you don’t get wealthy simply by looking for ways to generate money. You get wealthy doing the work you’re passionate about, and that’s what pays you well. He’s going to continue, of course, because he believes. As Natalie Wood said in Miracle on 34th Street, “I believe. I believe. I know it’s silly, but I believe.” She was talking about Santa Claus, but the theory still holds.
As the new year dawns, I’m going to keep believing, keep having faith, and keep looking for the George Bailey in everyone.