On this week's podcast, Marcus sits down with Terrance DeShaun Smith. Terrance is the director of the Innovation Team in Mobile Alabama. Listen to this week's podcast to hear about his story of work ethic and how he and his team are impacting the lives of Mobile's residents by looking at old problems in new ways.
Terrance: Hey, my name is Terrance DeShaun Smith, city of Mobile Innovation Team.
Marcus: Awesome, Terrance. Well, man, it is good to finally have you on the podcast.
Terrance: Thanks for having me.
Marcus: Yeah, so full disclosure, I usually, in the beginning of this, let you know whether, you know, we have a relationship with the person, and this is a man that I've known for a while now. For probably about a year or so, year or two. And I consider him a friend, so he's gonna get all the easy questions today, is basically what it boils down to. But no, and I think what you and the I-team are doing, and represent, is a worthy story to tell, especially for business owners here in Mobile, and so I'm glad that you're here to kinda share some of that, but also just talk about who you are.
Terrance: Yes, thanks.
Marcus: Yeah. Well, to get started, why don't you tell us the backstory of Terrance. Where are you from, where'd you go to high school, where'd you go to college, are you married, that kind of stuff.
Terrance: All right, so my name ... I grew up in Bessemer House, in projects in Prichard, Alabama. When, you know, like most families in the housing project, bunch of cousins, a grandmother, you know, aunts and uncles all near the area. My mom, a single parent, you know, worked every day, became a registered nurse. It's the only job she ever held in her whole life was a registered nurse. She worked for Providence for 30 years, until the day she passed.
Terrance: And so having her as a major influence in my life, and showing me how to talk to people, how to behave, how to operate but also how to care for other people, even when it seems like they don't care for you, has been a tremendous part of my upbringing. I attended Vigor High School, mighty marching wolves, I was in the band. I am-
Marcus: What instrument did you play?
Terrance: All the percussion instruments.
Marcus: Okay, very-
Terrance: So a funny story, prior to me attending Vigor High School, I was bused to Atlas Middle School in Saraland. And so I wanted to play the snare drum in the band, but my band director said that I had to play the timpanis first. So I learned how to play the timpanis, then he said I had to play the xylophone, so I learned how to play the xylophone. Then he said I had to learn how to play the bells, so I learned to play the bells, and then he put me on the triangle. So I had to play the triangle-
Marcus: The most boring ... ding!
Terrance: I had one beat at the beginning and one beat at the end, right.
Terrance: I think one concert I missed one beat. And so that experience with him teaching me all those instruments, I only played the snare drum, I wanted to play the snare drum all my life, I played the snare drum one year, 'cause I had to mess with the other instruments. I thought I was gonna go crazy. When I made it to high school, though ... Because of that experience, that experience took me to Carnegie Hall, to play in a symphonic band, and so that experience, like ... If I had started on that snare drum, I'd have been locked into one drum. But because of his guidance, and his belief in me that I could learn how to master all those drums in a couple of years, I became a percussionist, rather than just a drummer. And so that instrument took through college, paid for some of my college, introduced me to some great friends, took me around the world, and I think that, you know, band has been a huge part of my life. And that's a huge part of my story.
Marcus: No, that's very cool. So, now you mentioned Vigor. Where ... I know you have multiple degrees, so why don't you tell people your education beyond high school?
Terrance: All right, so I was in school forever. I just-
Marcus: You think? I think you're still in school, if I was in-
Terrance: I just love that, I couldn't leave it alone. But I, you know, I was never a great student, first of all. And so when I made it to college and realized that I was ... that college was much easier than high school, I just wanted to stay there forever. So I majored in anthropology, sociology, communications, and then my Master's degree was in instructional design and development.
Marcus: Wait, did you graduate with a triple major?
Terrance: Yep. So I blocked 'em all in. That's all, I was there forever. That's why I was there forever. I had so many credits.
Marcus: Is it the eight year plan, or something like that?
Terrance: I had so many ... Listen, I took every class they had in anthropology. Every class they had in sociology, and then I wanted, I realized that I needed to be able to communicate this stuff, so I took every class they had in communications. And so then it was time for me to graduate, 'cause my mom said, "It's enough. You gotta declare," so I declared, and I had enough credits in all of 'em. So I moved on, and I said I'm never coming back to college again. Then I realized I was making $11.00 an hour with those bachelor degrees. So I went back to school for instructional design and development, where I learned how to design programs, and design and develop schools. You know, we helped design and develop the first Charter School here in the state. And so all of that came from my experience in being a lifelong student.
Marcus: Wow. Now where did you get your bachelors' from?
Terrance: South Alabama.
Marcus: And master's as well?
Terrance: Yep. Stayed there forever.
Marcus: And did you get your doctorate?
Terrance: No, not yet. No, and I'm not ... I'm not-
Marcus: Not yet?
Terrance: I say not yet, and that's where I stop. But what I realized though is that I love school so much, and before that, you know, school ... You had to go to campus to learn, well, upon me graduating with my master's degree, they start putting all these classes online. And so now you can do classes on your phone, you can learn everything they learn at Harvard by Ed-ex, you know, so now you don't have to go to those campuses. Also what I realized sometime is, I hate to say this, but sometimes what you learn on campus is far behind where they are in real life. And so now I have this unique opportunity to learn through the Bloomberg network, and through all these other great resources, that up to date information that's right now. So I do feel like I'm still in school.
Marcus: Yeah, I mean the ... you know, so our jobs are not so different in the sense that things are so constantly changing. And you on the I-Team are kind of at the forefront of what it is that you're trying to do. And so oftentimes there's not, you know, there's not a set curriculum that you can go back to, historically, and look to. You're having to kind of create what it is that you're wanting to do, pulling from different disciplines and executing on that. So design thinking, and you know, some of the other things that I know you guys utilize come to mind with that. So ...
Marcus: But ... married?
Terrance: Yep. Nine years. My wife will tell you ten years, 'cause she counts the time we were dating, but it's nine. It's nine, February 27th.
Marcus: It's like she's putting in time or something.
Terrance: Yeah, it's like hey, I was around there nine years, Terrance. Ten years.
Marcus: So let's go back, what was your first job?
Terrance: My first job? Actually, my first job was at PetSmart, on Airport Boulevard.
Marcus: And were there any lessons that you remember from that first job?
Terrance: Oh yeah. Tons of lessons, right. So I learned a lot of leadership lessons at PetSmart.
Terrance: Not from good examples, from bad examples. My first ... my job was to make sure all the dog food was zoned properly, and that we were taking the food from the bottom and placing it on top, make sure we get it all in the shelf life. But the other half of my job that was super interesting was taking the dog hair from the pet groomer in the bags, and putting it in these shopping carts, and taking it out to the dumpster. So you would have like, 10 to 18 baskets full of dog hair, that I would have to go and take out the back. And so the manager ... managers. At a store the size of PetSmart, they have four managers. Four managers, it's amazing. It's like a ... don't get me started on that. But what I've learned from them was how to treat your people, and how to lead by example. They would unlock the door, and roll the door up-
Marcus: And walk away.
Terrance: No, they wouldn't walk away. They would all stand on the ramp and smoke cigarettes for their smoke break, and watch me take 18 baskets of dog hair down the ramp and throw it in the dumpster. At times have to crawl in the dumpster and push the dog hair down, while they all sat there and talked and watched. And me ... and I swore to myself from that experience that I would never do that to anyone that works with me, or under me. And so from that experience, I just took that to say, you know, I am always gonna be the person to lead by example, I'm never gonna ask anybody to do something that I'm not willing to do myself. And I am going to do it first, and then let them know that I am willing to do it, before I even ask 'em to do it. And so that stuff I keep to this day, even now it makes me angry, just thinking about it.
Marcus: He's getting a little hot under the collar over there, I assume. Now you ... we're gonna take a little bit of a different tack because you're not necessarily a business owner, but the stuff that you all do really do impact business owners in Mobile. So why don't you ... because I don't think a lot of people understand what it is that the I-Team does. I always describe you all as the virus that is supposed to help inoculate the government here in Mobile, but why don't you give us your explanation of what the I-Team is?
Terrance: I'm sure some of the people in the government also think of us as a virus.
Marcus: That needs to be eradicated itself?
Terrance: Yeah, at times, you know. So the I-Team, we're a team of ... an interdisciplinary team of individuals who have come together inside the city to look at old problems in new ways. So, the government itself, you know, it's made up sometime of lifers, and it's really traditional. Traditional means of operating that people don't really get a chance to look outside of what they have normally done every day, to look at different ways of doing things. So it's all about the process, and the process has been the process since the day they walked in, which they believe it should be the process 'til the day they walk out the door. However, in taking a different approach, and taking a customer-centric approach, you realize that that process is well outdated, and that we need to change it up in order to help the business owners and the citizens receive the services that they need in a timely manner. Which is the only way you build trust as a public official. So the mayor, who was elected by the people, can only build trust with the people if he delivers on the most basic services at optimal level. Now, the mayor himself cannot deliver services, because he is the guy who sets the vision, and the direction, and the tone. He is the drum beat, he keeps the beat, he's the metronome for the city. However, you have to have someone else who can deliver those services, right, and that is the people. So the mayor delivers his services through the people. And so, and those services can only be delivered through the people if the system itself is efficient. Because on the other side of the delivering the services to people, are the people on the recipient end, and so they want to receive services in a timely manner. The mayor is elected to deliver those services in a timely manner. The people in the middle, they believe that they're also delivering services in a timely manner, but they're not being directly impacted by those services being delayed, so they have no idea of the efficiency issue, and sometimes, you know, it's hard for a group of people to come through here. Like for your listeners right now, your young guy come in with dreadlocks down his back, you know, bright colored clothes on, and he's telling you, you know, that you are having some issues in this area, which I am not an expert in that area, all the people that work with me are not experts in that area, and here's someone that's been doing it for 25 years. What you have been doing it for 25 years, but that does not necessarily mean that it's been working for 25 years. It may have worked for 15 years, and the last 10 years it's been horrible, but you don't get a chance to see that, because your job has been to check this, sign this paper, hand it over, without getting a chance to hear the clear frustrations, or how it is impacting that person, their timeline, their resources. And so that is why we, that's how we're able to come and look at things a different way. You don't learn this in school, so I don't ... I wish that there was ... There are programs now in design thinking, that teach you how to employ some of these practices.
Marcus: Yeah, before we get too far, 'cause I've mentioned it and now you're mentioning it again, give kind of a brief ... what design thinking is.
Terrance: So design thinking is a iterative process, so it is art of identifying a problem, and iterating over and over until you can deliver it to efficiency. So for us, it is for, if we have an hour to deliver a solution, we spend 55 minutes figuring out all the areas of the problem, all the entry points, all the issues, and then five minutes with a solution.
Terrance: 'Cause realize, when you rush to a solution without iterating ... most people are impatient, and we live in this microwave society where people think that, I want a answer, I want it now, I want it quick, I want it fast. Well, design thinking does not give you answers really quick, really fast. It gives you answers in the way that you need it to happen ... the time that you need to have it solved in. So if you give us three hours to solve a problem, we're gonna first identify the issue, then we're gonna start tackling it, we're gonna start iterating. We're gonna come up with a first solution, then we're gonna take that solution and gonna do it again, then we're gonna take it out to you and prototype, to see if this is what you thought it would be. Sometimes, people say "Yeah, it's exactly what I want." Most of the time, people say, "No, that's horrible, that couldn't be further from where I am," so then you go back out, and you reiterate again. But all this time you're talking to the people on all side of the issue. So I'm talking to the customers, we're talking to the workers, we're talking to the people from the first level, primary level, the secondary and tertiary levels. And most people don't get that far down into solving a problem, 'cause they believe they should come up with a answer really quick. So that's what design thinking does for us.
Marcus: Yeah. Now you mentioned that it may not fit, you know, the current needs, and I think one of the things that I just am, I keep going back to, is that the speed of business has changed quite drastically in the last, you know, 10 years. And you know, I know oftentimes ... 'cause I, you know, I have a decade of experience working for the federal government, not local government, but federal government, and you know, I left because it was, you know, extremely frustrating and there was some other reasons. Like I didn't wanna spend time in traffic, and commuting, and you know, stuff like that. But I mean, but the truth is, like, working with government can be one of the most frustrating things on the planet, because they're completely satisfied to keep things the way that they are. So how does an organization of five people effect change in an organization that is happy to stay stagnant?
Terrance: So, lot of patience, right? So, when people ... So I'm happy to be here talking to you today, because it gives me a chance to like, to tell exactly how this thing works. So, when people think about innovation they think about, it's really pretty, really nice and neat and it's-
Terrance: Yeah, sexy, right. But it's not, it's just not that at all. It's brow beating, it's your brain, it's angry emails. It's tons of meetings, it's lots of sticky notes, it's lots of going back to the drawing board. It is a lot of arguing, there's a lot of social engineering, because it's easy for us to stand on the outside and look at the people doing the job and say, "You guys are totally satisfied doing this the way you've always been doing it." On the other hand, they just had no idea that there was another way to do it, because they have eight to five to do this thing, and they just do it the way they know to do it, and nobody's ever questioned the way they do it. Nobody's ever came to them and said, "Well, you know, well back then we were doing a carbon copy. And now we have this thing called the internet, and all these tools available to us that could help us achieve our goals much faster. How could we implement some of these tools to move faster?" And so, what you also have to realize that, if you're going into a department, and you're talking to people who have been there 30 plus years, 25 plus years, they're gonna be 50, 60, 70 years old, and now you're coming in, doing what they automatically assume young people would do. Come in with technology, and people always believe that technology removes the human element, right, but in our world, technology doesn't remove the human element, it actually takes the ... It also takes the process, all the parts of the process that would have you touching this one paper a hundred times, to get it to this end. Can we automate that process where, you're touching this paper over, and over, and over again, and then give you back the power of empathy for the customer. And so now, you understand when this person's having a problem, and there's less time for issues with this paperwork, because now it's now me taking it over to Marcus' office, Marcus taking it over to Jarod and so-
Marcus: It's all automated so you can actually focus on building a relationship with the ...
Terrance: And so for us, we have to be super careful. So for us, it is a lot of social engineering on the front end, it's a lot of thinking about the department, and the people in that department. What are their feelings towards their job itself, what are their feelings towards the customer, what is their understanding? What do they think they need to get their job done? And ofttimes, people don't think about that. They go in and say, "Here's a solution," they drop it on the people without fully understanding the landscape. And so for us, what we do is, it takes us a while to get in there, and to understand the problem. So we would go in there and we would eat lunch with the people, hang out with 'em, do their job with them, every day, step by step. But also, from the customer end, we would take our badges off to get us out of government place and to see the issues we get inside of that building, the frustrations. How do we read the signage? When we get up to the front do we sit down, do we ring the bell? Is there a bell? And so all of those things. And so now, when I'm coming back to the office, and we start to draw this thing out, I'm not drawing it out from Terrance's perspective, or Peyton's perspective, or Jason's, or Johnny's, I'm writing it out based it on your perspective, the customer perspective. But I'm also looking at it from this side, and then I can go to the other side of the table and I'm looking at it from the front line staff member, from the immediate level manager, from the executive. And then how are they mailed in well? Are they mailed in well at all, if they're not, then there are some issues within the process, because the people don't quite understand how it gets from the executive to the front line, and then that creates frustration from the customer itself. Because the customer does not care about anything that's going on. The only thing, the value for that customer is getting that thing done, so he can move on with his life. And that's very hard to explain to a government worker, that they have this process that's the most important process in their life, that that process is not valuable at all to that customer. That customer wants to ... And the end all is not even getting that paper. The end all for them is getting that paper so they can do the thing that they need to do.
Marcus: Well, and it's also ... and I mean just because I've been through this ... it's also there's a fear that if you don't go through, and do those things, that you're gonna be punished. And you're almost ... you're acting to get away from, you know, the punishment. And so that makes it even worse, because then when you get held up, and you're wanting to execute this thing even quicker, you're like, "The only reason why I'm doing this is so that you can't come and shut me down," or, "You can't come and do this to me, or ..." 'cause the government has ultimate power over some of those things, but ...
Terrance: So the other thing ... but the other thing are stories that, then they're saying, "Hey, and the only reason why we're doing this is to ensure that you don't hurt yourself or other people by building things and doing things that you shouldn't be doing." And so, it's that argument that they don't get a chance to display fully to both sides, and I think that's kind of what the I-Team does. It breaks it all the way down, and it places it out on the table for everyone to see what everyone parts is. And sometime it takes a while, like you're not gonna do it on the first time. We've been doing this, our current project, for two years.
Terrance: People will look at that and say, "You guys have been doing this way too long," and I'm thinking, if you're trying to solve a 40, 50 year problem, you wanna get that solved in six months? Or do you want somebody to take the time to diagnose and realize what the real issue is. 'Cause this is not ... these issues that affect government are much bigger than the 20, 30 year employee that people look at, and they point their finger at that person. That person also walked into a broken process, and became a broken worker because of that broken process. But they don't understand they're a broken worker, and this process is broken, because they only saw they were trained to do it that way. And so now you have these people from the outside coming in and saying, well we can do it a different way, and so that is the magic of the I team. So, our superpower would be patience.
Marcus: Wow. I love how you just kinda bring that down to a point. Our superpower is patience. Now I just, I've had a real appreciation for the task that you've taken on, and I think it's interesting also, because I think that while your application is for the government here in Mobile, the truth is that the things that you go through could be applied to just about any kind of organization. And you know, like I've worked for ... I mean I've worked for large companies that have, you know, tens of thousands of employees, and I've worked for, you know, I've worked for myself, and not had any employees, you know? And so, you know, it's very interesting when you start looking at organizations that are large, because oftentimes they get bogged down in their size and their history, and their way of just doing things. And I think, you know, there's some lessons to be learned in what you all are trying to do, and you know, how large organizations would apply those same methods of thinking, so, anyway. Going along that same that, do you ... I mean you haven't always wanted to work for ... and I'm going off, this is all on a whim, so if this goes nowhere, folks, we'll delete it. But you haven't always wanted to work for the government, or as part of government?
Terrance: I never wanted to work for the government.
Marcus: Yeah, okay.
Terrance: And then-
Marcus: So. It's interesting that you kind of find yourself in this position, but-
Terrance: I tell you what, I have no ... I have had no plans for my life, from the very beginning. I've just been winging it.
Marcus: Is that a mentality of someone who grows up in the projects?
Terrance: You know what, so, no, that's ... I think that's a Terrance mentality, I think some of my, some of the people that I grew up with, they had plans. They had clear cut plans. I've also learned that when you create these plans for yourself, that you open yourself up for major disappointment, and I've never wanted ... I heard a quote one time, somebody said, "You know, when you get something, you should hold it with your hand open, never with a tight clenched fist. Because you should never believe in something so much that you're afraid to let it go in lieu of something better." And so for me, I don't know what that is, and I don't know ... I feel like my purpose here on Earth is to help people, so I started in social services. All my ... my whole life, I spent in social services and education. And so, because I just wanted to help people. That's all I want to do, I was told that you're never gonna make any money helping people, so I said, well, you know, let's figure that out. Let's see. Let's see if I can prove you wrong.
Terrance: And that has not been the case, but I met the mayor, as a matter of fact not far from here. Across from one Broad, right there in that triangle? We were ... I was doing a pop-up shop, and I had passed by that building, with the ... now with the wrought iron gate around it?
Terrance: I had passed by-
Marcus: The Red Cross building?
Terrance: No, not the Red Cross building-
Marcus: I'm sorry, yeah, the one across the street from the Red Cross building.
Terrance: Yep. I had passed by that building for years and years, and it had been vacant for so long. And I saw it, and I said, you know, somebody should do something about that. And I'm an only child, so I grew up with that only child mentality, and it's like, who is the somebody? Gotta be me. I've been passing by here all this time, nobody's done anything, so I'm just gonna do this thing. So I met some people, and you know, I'm always meeting people, but I never know why I'm meeting these people, I'm just connecting. I'm collecting. You cannot connect the dots that you don't first collect, so I'm collecting all these dots, right.
Marcus: Truly a connector, from the Malcolm Gladwell sense of the word.
Terrance: Yes. So we're collecting all these dots, and I'm meeting all these people. So then one day, this guy named [Tay Lactreson] said ... so, I met someone else who introduced me to Tay Lactreson, I said, "Hey, I wanna do a pop-up shop in this building, and I wanna open it up, I wanna clean it out, I wanna put vendors in there. I just wanna do it for one day." He said, "One day? You gonna do all that work for one day?" And I said, "Yeah, just one day." So I started, I had nobody to help me, I didn't have a group of people with me, it was me. So I called one of my friends, he said, "Yeah, I'll be down to help." I called another one of my friends, he said, "I'll be down to help." So we go to this building, just us few. At the time they had this One Mobile organization, right, where you put all your stuff online and then people decide to help. So we got the materials we needed, so we painted that building, cleaned it out, swept it out, three people. Funny story though, we was talking about collecting dots? Some three homeless people walked by and said, "What are you guys doing?" We said, "We're restoring vibrancy to Mobile, you wanna help?" And they said, "Yeah! How can we help?" Grab a paintbrush, grab a broom. So they grab paintbrush, broom. They start sweeping, and all paint. Then we get this affluent couple from Old Dolphin Way. They walk down. "What are you guys doing in this building?" Said, "We're restoring vibrancy to Mobile, you wanna help?" They said, "Yeah!" Shocking, right? They said, "Yeah!" So they jump in. Now, they walked into this building, and there's a young black guy with dreadlocks, there's a Salvadoran guy, there's another guy, and there's three homeless people in this room, one clearly with a mental illness. And then we had ... so then these two affluent people. So then the news camera pull up, right? They said, "What's going on in this building? Is it gonna be something new? How can we help?" So everybody, this time everybody said, "We're restoring vibrancy to Mobile." I said, "You wanna help?" She said, "Well, I can't sweep, but I can video." So then she started video, she was talking about, asking us questions about what we were gonna be doing. So we told her that we were having the pop-up shop, right. She was so excited about this, so she put it on the news. And so now, here we go, full fledged until we're gonna have this pop-up shop. The day of the event we had about four hundred people show up, but we were kind of smart about it, right. And I take no full credit for being this smart. Somebody said we should hire two police officers for our, for security, to help divert the traffic. So these guys show up, they're helping with the traffic. So, you know, of course you know, I had no permits, I had no knowledge of this. Guess you needed permits. But I had two police officers, they were gonna stop you with the police, so all this stuff was on, the Mayor walk down there, he said, "Oh my god, this is great! What are you guys doing down here!" And so he was pumped up. So he got the word earlier, so he came down, and he saw everything, he and his wife Jean, and they saw what we were doing. And he was impressed with it. Long story short, about three, four months after that I got a call from the mayor's office, and those guys wanted to recruit me to come work for the city. And so, you know, at first I was kinda skeptical, but I was like, oh, you guys are the government, I don't know, you guys got a lot of problems. I don't even know why you wanna be the mayor. Why you wanna take all these problems on? He was like, I believe ... he told me his message, he believed in the city. Now I will tell you, prior to that I had met him before, in a community service project, he said, "Terrance, you're gonna move to Mobile." At that time I was living in Sams. He said, "You're gonna move to Mobile." And I said, "That's not gonna happen at all," I said, "I can sleep with my windows open, great, I got sidewalks. This is a great neighborhood, I'm never gonna move to Mobile." He saw me, he said, "It's you again! Have you moved to Mobile yet?" I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "How long you been here?" I said, "About six hours. They're unloading the truck at my house right now." And from that point we've developed a relationship, and he persuaded me to come work for ... he and another guy persuaded me to come work for the Innovation Team, and it's been a great ride since then. So that's how I made it to the government.
Marcus: That's funny, dude. Well, I know that you all look to the business world for a lot of your ideas on how to implement process and stuff like that. Is there one person that motivates you from the business world?
Terrance: From the business world. So, a few people man. I have great business influences, and so Scott Tindal, first of all, I know you guys are probably tired of hearing about Scott Tindal.
Terrance: Scott Tindal, you know who that is.
Marcus: Who's that?
Terrance: But Scott Tindal, the Harpers, all of the Harpers, you know, they've been a great influence on my life, and they have been part of the group that has helped me see things from the business perspective, which helped me build my empathy for the work that we're currently doing. Even over to people like Jim Walker, I know Jim Walker caused a lot of people a lot of problems, but that guy really cares about this city, and sometimes it comes off in weird ways, but he really-
Marcus: No, he just looks at it from a different perspective.
Terrance: He fully cares, right, and so he is one guy. Another person would be Andy Newton. His story's amazing. I just think he's a great influence. And then even what you guys have been doing, I'm impressed to see where you went from, you know, I think when I met you, you were a super small shop, and now you've ... Got your own space.
Marcus: Yeah. Yeah.
Terrance: But you're also not just a business owner, so like I told you back from the beginning, I got into this 'cause I cared about people. No matter what realm I'm working in, I want to help people. And so I see you guys in that same vein, like you have your new employees, but you're helping them develop into their own people, and when it's time for them to go somewhere else, I'm sure you'll be happy to see them on, like same thing with the Harpers, same thing with Jim. Same with Andy Newton. So those are the people that I'm inspired by most in the business world. And there are people outside of Mobile, but I'm a Mobilian through and through. And so, I draw my influences from Mobile.
Marcus: That's really cool, man, I appreciate you saying that, so. Are there any books, podcasts, people, or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward?
Terrance: Oh yeah, I got an entire list.
Marcus: He came with notes, folks.
Terrance: So, my podcast list would be, How I Built This-
Marcus: Yeah, I love it.
Terrance: Mogul. Self Go There's Start-up School. Startup Podcast from Gimlet. And so then my audiobooks, would be Get Into Yes, the 50 of Law by 50 cent, it's based on 48 Laws of Power. And then my favorite books as it relates to business, and just life in general, are Invisible Capital, What Got You Here Won't Get You There, All Bets On Me: The Risks and Rewards of Becoming an Entrepreneur, by Larry Morrow. And then All You Need To Know About The Music Business, the 9th edition. Sometimes you gotta throw in a horseshoe.
Marcus: There you go. No, that's good stuff. And how do you like to unwind?
Terrance: Me, you know, Marcus I'll tell you, I think it's been about since I have unwound. I spend all my time thinking about the work that I'm doing now, and thinking about the future. I spend a lot of time, you know, thinking about those that are less fortunate than me, and how can I help. So, I think I unwind by taking a break away from my normal work, but only to do work in other areas helping people that I know that could benefit from help.
Marcus: Yeah. Well I would just like to say that, as somebody who has gotten to know you over the course of the last couple years, that I know your heart. And I know that there are bigger things, you know, in store for you, and it's very apparent that you care for people. So I wanna say, thank you for accepting what I would view as almost a calling, to come and help Mobile become a better version of itself, because it's people like you, it's people like the Mayor, it's people like Ricardo, it's people like ... you know, all of these folks that we know, that are, you know, they're hopeful at what Mobile can become. And we're the ones ... and I hope I'm not putting myself too much, you know I don't like to put myself on a pedestal and all these people on a pedestal, but ... people are looking to us to set the tone. To set the direction of what Mobile is going to become. And it's not a responsibility to be taken lightly, and I think, you know, with people like you, you know, on that, you know, trip, on that journey, that we'll end up in a good spot. So I'd just like to say thank you for what you're doing for the city.
Terrance: And also I'd like to say this, too, without people like my mother, and Commissioner Lovegood, and Dr. Joel Lewis Billingsley now, I would not be here where I am, so I would not have been in a position for the Mayor to look at me and see that this guy may be valuable to the team, had it not been for those people believing in me early on. And for people Scott Tindal, who like, lot of people, they talk about Scott and what he's done for Mobile, but I'm talking about Scott for what he's done for me personally. Like, I was not the kind of person who would just start a conversation and be out here networking. Scott got me into that mode of thinking that I could do things differently, and I could take things into my own hands and run with them. And so because of that though, I like to see ... Like, we work for the government, but it's almost like entrepreneur mode, because no one knows ... We're a startup inside of the city. No one knows what we are, and what we do, and so heading out, I just have to give credit to those people and to my wife. You know, like my wife met me as a guy who was a student. A lifelong student. She took a chance.
Marcus: An overeducated, dreadlock wearing, white pants wearing ...
Terrance: I could ... That could've went really bad for her. I could have never left school, but it worked out for her, and so she has a major influence on my life and on helping people.
Marcus: And let's not downplay the role of like, coming from where you come from, I mean it's not ... you know, it's not an easy thing to pull yourself out of the projects and you know, become something.
Marcus: You know.
Terrance: But there was so many people, so many of those people cared for me, and like when people think about housing projects now, they have this view, but that was a community. People cared about me. They wanted me to do better from the guys that sold drugs, they didn't want me to sell drugs, they wanted me to go to school and do my homework. From the guy, I met this guy named Jay, who was an architect and a lawyer, who I spent time in his beach house a weekend, and this guy told me ... He was an architect and a lawyer, and I didn't know you could be two things. And he said, "Yeah." But he also had a house on the beach, and I said, "I didn't know you could live on the beach," I had only been to the public side of the beach. He said, "No, this is not my house, this is my beach house. I live in Mobile." And so I said, "You think I could own a house on the beach?" He said, "Yeah, I tell you what. Do your homework every day, and you're gonna get that." And so I did my homework every day on that porch, every day overlooking that interstate, and I looked at those people on the interstate, and I wondered if they were doctors, if they were lawyers, if they were architects. If they were rich, if they were thinking about me the way that I was thinking about them. If they were Jay. Could Jay see me from that porch? And later on in life, you know, I was thinking, this guy totally duped me. He told me if I did my homework everyday on the porch, I could own the beach house. So now that 35 ... took me to 35 and I was telling this story to a group of elementary school kids, and this kid said, "So you prepared every day." And I said, "That is what my preparation came from. My feeling for preparing came from that guy telling me, do my homework on the porch every day." So she said, "Well actually, did you get the beach house?"
Marcus: Still working on it.
Terrance: I said, "Still working on it." I said, "But when I got the money to get the beach house, I realized that it wasn't important. I needed tot ake that money and do something else to help other people," and so I said, "But the beach house is like the pinnacle. If I ever buy the beach house, I'm done."
Terrance: I worked my whole life to get that beach house, so I'm not gonna ... If I buy I today, you're not gonna see me in the morning.
Marcus: Yeah. Talk to him in 10 years, folks, he may have that beach house.
Terrance: Instead of having that beach house in Grove Shores, I'm gonna move that beach house to Turks and Caicos.
Marcus: There you go.
Terrance: And never gonna come back again. I already got the hair for it, so.
Marcus: That's awesome. Well I wanna thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments?
Terrance: You know what, just you know, I like to tell people, you know, me, my personal motto is make mistakes, make improvements, never make excuses. And start ... just start where you are, and use what you have, to get what you want. This is, and become accustomed to the slow grinding process of success. I see so many young people, they want the titles now, they want the money now, they want everything now, but you can't appreciate it without the slow, grinding process of getting there. You don't build muscle overnight, you know, it's the grind, and it's the doing it over and over consistently, and to show people that, you know, you are worthy of doing this thing. And so the next thing, the last thing I have, too, is be totally aware of your performance capital, and your relationship capital. Everyone loves a star, so if your performance is great, people love a star, and people want to look towards you. And you don't have to go out there and tell people over and over what you're doing, you show them what you're doing. But also, be totally mindful about how you invest in the people that operate in your environment, because that is the greatest investment that you could ever put into anyone. Time, and energy. You may not get that back from that person, but it comes back full speed, and that's just kind of where we are in life.
Marcus: That's awesome stuff man. Yeah. I'm just gonna leave it at that, 'cause we could talk for another 30 minutes about this stuff. But Terrance man, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me, and share your journey. Not necessarily as a business owner, but I know you care about us business owners, it's been great talking with you.
Terrance: Thank you for all you do, man.