August 18, 2014
News & Opinion: Authors On the Road, Changing the World - John Hope Bryant
In the rapidly changing world of technology and the way we utilize that technology, we often forget many of our institutions were built over the phone, forming relationships with the people with whom we wanted to do business. In a group meeting here this week, our retired founder and president Jack Covert made the argument that if we want to maintain our current relationships better than our competitors and add something to their lives that others don't, we need to pick up the phone and have a real conversation with these people we value. We are fortunate that our business is still very much a people-orientated service company that really enjoys those breaks in the email or social media chain, and we’re lucky to have formed relationships with authors and institutions who uphold that same type of “old school” ethos. In 2009, I had the privilege of taking a call from an exuberant, passionate, caring man by the name of John Hope Bryant. I’d started at 8CR five years prior, taking notes from Jack, watching him educate every person he spoke to on the phone about the publishing world and how our team of people could help. I learned how to talk to really intelligent people about the nuts and bolts of selling books, promoting their ideas, and making their platform a success, but up until that day in 2009, I honestly hadn’t talked with many people who weren't trying to figure out how we could help sell their book. What John was truly passionate about was making a real change in public policy to help those who had had the chips stacked against them by the system; he had a platform and a product in his book Love Leadership to make that vision a reality. That day gave me my greatest life lesson: the main point of why the people in my world do what they do is to help people and to possibly make the world we live in a better place. This past June, John released his second book How the Poor Can Save Capitalism, in which he radically redefines poverty and wealth while offering a real way forward. The HOPE Plan, a straightforward, actionable process, helps build financial literacy and expands opportunities for the poor or working class to join the middle class. Talking with John on the phone a few months ago, I was energized by his sincere enthusiasm as he said, “I honestly believe that this book and the work we’re doing has the chance to finally create real domestic policy changes,” and I for one am excited to see his work accomplish that dream. As John states in a recent feature for our "Thinker in Residence" series, “It’s not like we delivered ‘the memo’ and poor, working class and middle class folks flubbed it and failed the test. We were simply never given the memo.” John Hope Bryant is the founder and chairman of Operation HOPE, which works to be a non-profit private banker for the working poor and struggling middle class. Through Operation HOPE, Bryant is today responsible for more than $1.5 billion of private capital supporting low-wealth homeownership, small businesses, entrepreneurship and community development investments in under-served communities across the U.S., as well as investments in financial literacy programs and financial dignity education from South Africa, to Morocco, to Saudi Arabia. One of the reasons I hold John and his team at Operation HOPE in such high regard is their willingness to pick up the phone and ask challenging life questions (i.e. “When are you coming down for a Braves game?"), not what we can do to help further their cause. They talk to us like friends; they ask us about our families. And what’s more, they push us to ask ourselves about how we would improve our own community and what we would need to succeed. Knowing that every few weeks I’m going to have the opportunity to chat on the phone with someone at this great organization makes it that much easier to call 8CR home each day. I hope the video below helps you understand just a fraction of the admiration I have for John and his mission.
About Aaron Schleicher
Aaron Schleicher has been the author services specialist at 800-CEO-READ since 2004. You can usually find him hidden under a baseball cap, feet kicked up on his desk, talking with authors, publishers, and businesses. Outside the office you can find him crafting candles, listening to records, and making music with friends and family.