On Behalf of Foundry Commercial

Posted on June 5, 2020

alt text

For Foundry, social media has always been a way to give people a view inside our company and our culture. “It’s personal” is one of our guiding principles. It was adopted because our partners and our associates are personally invested in this business. How we care for our clients and each other is personal. We don’t ever want to hear the term “it’s just business”. It is also a reminder that when something impacts our associates, it impacts all of us and we must respond.

What is clear to us, to me as the CEO of a private company, in light of the unrest we are experiencing in our country, is that the business community can and should have a deep, positive impact on this. As leaders of companies, our actions – or conversely, any inaction – can change the world. The question that many are left wondering is ‘where do we start?’ For Foundry, this is our first but not our last effort to respond and below is what we shared with all of our associates on Monday.

From June 1, Foundry Commercial All-Associate Town Hall:

The term unprecedented has been thrown around a lot lately, and we are certainly living in a stunning time. Thinking about this past weekend alone, we are in a pandemic, all of our communities saw protests over the weekend, and we proudly watched the first American launch of a commercial rocket ever and the first manned launch in nine years.

I wanted to make sure we shared thoughts about all of it.

The unjustified and unlawful deaths of Ahmad Aubrey, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor are truly tragic. Unfortunately, deaths like theirs aren’t a new thing in this country; we just don't talk about them as a company. Everyone has different experiences and viewpoints, and for a long time, many have felt this simply isn’t a topic that’s appropriate to talk about at a corporate level. Yet these are tragedies that impact every community we live in. These injustices impact all of us, whether we’re ready to acknowledge them or not and it struck me that not saying something would be inappropriate; it would be out of alignment with Foundry’s guiding principles.

We don't hesitate to comment as a company that our thoughts and prayers are with someone within our company who is facing a challenge, or who is dealing with the illness or loss of a parent or a family member. We don't hesitate to ask how we can help when one of our communities is impacted by a hurricane or tornado, or to reach out and show that we care about one another when our communities suffer any sort of tragedy.

And now, we have these protests happening in every community that we live in. These tragedies impact every city that has a Foundry Office, how do we not comment on that? We must say that our thoughts and prayers are with all families that have lost lives and been impacted by racial injustice. We must acknowledge that this isn’t a new thing, it has been happening for centuries and while there have been great strides since the civil rights movement, in some sense, nothing has changed. This shouldn’t happen in our country, in this day and age and it does impact all of us.

I watched over the weekend as many CEOs of large companies responded to what’s occurring: JP Morgan, Starbucks, CitiGroup, and many others. And in thinking about our response I must acknowledge that I realize that I will never fully understand what it means to be judged by the color of my skin, but I do know how impactful it can be when decisions are made for someone based solely on their physical appearance. I have a daughter that has been judged and ridiculed and denied certain things because of her physical disability; she has cerebral palsy and walks with crutches. But I realize most of those instances happened at the individual level and weren’t systemic like the challenges faced by many others.

Therefore, in this time, I believe it is important to share the sentiments of other people who can speak from experience on these matters, and I think we should all listen to a variety of voices during this time and I want to challenge us with the following:

  • I want to validate the voices of our African American, Black and Brown associates. Your voice, your message, and your experiences are important. We will seek to listen; we will seek to be empathetic; and we will look for areas to be engaged in positive change. I am not sure what that looks like yet, but our guiding principle of impacting communities is critical for us and personal to us. I will be financially supporting and engaging my personal time into organizations that are going to have an impact.
  • I also want to reject the violence and destruction and the divisive social media behavior, and to say that Foundry will not support that nor will we be associated with associates that do.
  • I encourage all associates to take time to process what is happening. Form your viewpoint by listening to people all around this issue, not just the ones you agree with. Talk about it; don't be silent; but also, be sure to listen. If you are not sure where to start, I want to suggest you consider investigating the following:
  1. Mark Mason, who is African American and the CFO of CitiGroup, posted a powerful blog on the CitiGroup website. I encourage you to read it.
  2. Read Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Op-Ed in the LA Times.
  3. Watch Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ speech and response to Atlanta over the weekend. It is a strong, balanced, thoughtful response within a city that was and is critical to the Civil Rights movement.
  4. Look up the Equal Justice Initiative started by Bryan Stevenson. This group has been engaged in this for a long time.
  5. Read President Barack Obama’s post in Medium.
  6. Read the statement by President George W. Bush.

I share these because the fact is, I have never experienced these issues as an individual, and it is easy within any difficult issue to say: "I don't know where to start” or “I don't know what to do," and so slide into a pattern of doing nothing. It is important during this time, and maybe the best response Foundry can have is, to empathetically educate ourselves… to read and engage, even in areas where we are uncomfortable, even in areas where we don't understand, and perhaps in areas we disagree with. In that knowledge, let’s become a stronger community that can make a positive impact.

If our country is healthier; if our communities are healthier; then our Foundry family will also be healthier and able to give back more. For me, business is about having a positive impact, and all of this is connected.

- Paul Ellis, CEO