Chief Exec Change Agent
By Vivian Henoch, Editor myJewishDetroit
March 30, 2017
by Vivian Henoch
Quick to clarify his new role at the helm of JARC, David Carroll emphasizes that he is Interim CEO – a position he has agreed to fill in his capacity as President of the Board, advocate and champion of the organization. On the Board since 2002, David was recruited to JARC by his lifetime friend – Quicken Loans Founder and Chair Dan Gilbert. “When Dan asked me to join the Board, I didn’t know much about JARC,” David admits with affable candor, “Ironically, I had this rule in life: think carefully before you become a board president. That was my advice to people. Sure, it’s all is good when everything is stable – when you’re shaking hands, kissing babies and cutting ribbons. But when you find yourself cutting budgets – making life-changing decisions for people who depend on your services – you’ve got to be all in.”
Never one to avoid a challenge, David indeed is all in – bringing his wisdom in business and wide sphere of community influence to JARC. “I still have a long list of things I plan to do in my retirement – like learning to play the piano, getting involved somehow in musical theater, flying to Liverpool to feed my obsession with the Beatles – but none of those things are as compelling for me right now than the work at JARC. I am honored to be JARC’s front person for now, and the decision has been a good one for my family as well. My daughter, Lauren, now 10, is old enough to appreciate my involvement with JARC, and my wife, Michelle, has become my partner in this venture. Given her professional skills and talent in graphic design and technology, as a member of the JARC Board’s Marketing Committee, she will help bring our marketing and communications capabilities to a new level.”
Though not a formal partner agency of Jewish Federation, JARC’s mission of inclusivity and advocacy closely aligns with many in the network – JVS, Jewish Family Service, the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Senior Life and Federation’s Opening the Doors program, to name a few. Today, JARC is nationally known for innovation in its field, serving more than 200 individuals in more than 80 settings ranging from every aspect of living, 24/7 in 29 group homes to independent living to respite services within the family home.
More than a residential choice, JARC is a close-knit family with ties to generations of Detroiters. David’s connection reaches back to another boyhood friend, Steven Katzman of Steve’s Blinds and Wallpaper, LLC in Sterling Heights. Steven’s grandparents were among the original founding families of JARC; his uncle, Robbie Feldstein, has been a resident of JARC for years. Commenting on David’s leadership, Steven observed that David has just “the right balance of seriousness, humor, perseverance and overall stick-to-itiveness. He has provided the guidance and stability that JARC needs, and because of his unwavering commitment, JARC is in better financial shape than it has been in for years. More importantly, there has been a rededication to ensuring that the men and woman JARC serves are leading the quality of life that they deserve.”
As many “retired” Jewish community leaders who have come before him, it’s clear that David thinks in Big Pictures. Reflecting on the new direction his work has taken, he observes, “JARC is a part of what sings to me the most at this point in my life. I’m drawn to the field of mental health, and want to stay involved in the kinds of philanthropic and Detroit initiatives that have drawn me to various boards, including Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation, New Detroit, Bizdom and Junior Achievement of Southeastern Michigan. Really it boils down to helping people – especially those who have not had the opportunities that I’ve had, or others have had.”
In conversation with David Carroll: Insights into JARC, community building and empowering life in general
myJewishDetroit: How did you get the quirky title of V.P of Miscellaneous Stuff?
D: I started my career in the practice of law at Chapman and Cutler in Chicago and joined Quicken Loans in the early 90’s. One day, about 15 years ago, Dan started enumerating all the things I had been working on and said, “Hey, you are the V.P of Miscellaneous Stuff!” That suited me and became my brand. And there was truth to title, because I did get involved in a little bit of everything. There were 50 people at the company when I started, and being a part of the team that turned it into what it is today has given me a wealth of experience in a lot of areas, from mergers and acquisitions, nonprofits and start-ups, mortgage and technology, human resources — and other stuff!
At Quicken, making up silly titles for people was a way of thumbing our nose at big bureaucratic banks – signaling that we were a different breed, a team where everyone is involved with everything. I always like to say organizational charts are like the Eisenhower Era – so 1950s. In reality today, people work more like a web — a network of expertise and technology where everyone reports to everyone. The CEO at Quicken reports to the salesman on the front lines with clients – and the CEO here at JARC reports to our network of caregivers, families, volunteers and donors who support our enterprise every day.
myJD: What was it like growing up with Dan Gilbert?
From the start, we all knew he would be one of those guys most likely to succeed in business. But no one ever anticipated he’d do as much stuff as he’s done . . . and is still doing.
Dan and I grew up across the street from one another in Southfield from the age of 4. We went through elementary, junior and high school together: Dan went to MSU and I went to U of M. I was never as entrepreneurial as Dan; I was always more cautious and conservative, but even as a kid, Dan always found ways to draw me into his business ventures. We did candy sales for instance, rode our bikes to the drug store at 11 Mile and Lahser to buy candy; then we’d mark up the price and sell it to our friends — with some of our proceeds to benefit the Jerry Lewis Telethon. That was all Dan’s idea. We did this pizza delivery thing, too – called it the Twyckingham Pizzeria after the name of our sub. We’d buy Chef Boyardee Pizzas, cook them in our mothers’ ovens, and deliver it on bikes.
Gilbert had all these crazy ideas, some more successful than others, but he did everything with great energy and passion. He started buying and flipping houses when he was 18 or 19. Even as a teenager he had an adult frame of business mind.
On learning curves from Quicken Loans to JARC
myJD: Coming from Quicken, you are well attuned to complexity in business. How is JARC different?
We used to say the mortgage business is complicated (and certainly it is as compared to selling a hamburger or a gym shoe). For most people getting a mortgage to buy a home is the biggest transaction they’ll ever make in their lives. But think about 24-hour residential care — 7 days a week, 365 days a year for people who are vulnerable – each an individual with specific needs for different levels of care. There are medical issues, public funding issues and government regulations, social and family issues – not to mention the paperwork, staffing and maintenance of property. Residential care: now that’s what I call a complicated business, and I’m not even close to understanding it all.
And there’s so much more at stake! Literally, there are lives in our hands, caring for people. We’re not a light touch agency. We are the lifeline for 200 people – feeding, bathing, providing transportation, providing a home life. And that’s just our first line of service. We also help people live in their own apartments and homes, and we help families with providing respite staff for their loved ones who live at home.
In the mortgage business, we rarely worried about cash flow because the business was well-run and profitable. In the nonprofit world, we never have that luxury. Now I’m sitting here with all this new stuff on my plate, reading an employment handbook again, studying contracts, negotiating agreements, meeting with accountants, signing off on invoices, reviewing marketing, fundraising and advocating for higher wages for our caregivers. There’s the political piece, I’m drawn to that.
On biggest challenges
Funding! 70% of our budget is public funding – Medicaid dollars that go through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, then through Oakland Country. The upshot is that our funding can go through as many as five different organizations, so that only 25 cents to the dollar finally gets to us.
And the way it works with Medicaid funding, when all is said and done, the wage we can pay workers is a little better than $9 hour! That’s insane, little better than minimum wage! So when it comes to attracting and retaining good people, the one thing our Board, our donors and our staff are resolute about is wages. We won’t go below a certain level, but making up the gap between public funding and our private resources represents a continuous fiscal challenge for us.
Another challenge: we have fixed costs of care; we own property and a fleet of vans that require maintenance and upkeep. But our situation is fluid. As the residents in our homes are aging, they require more personal care, more medical care and more frequent trips to the doctor – a pattern of expense that represents a huge hit to our budget. What few people realize, the way it works with Medicaid is that we are paid on an individual, per diem basis for each resident, and when a resident goes into the hospital or leaves for a few days on vacation with family – we do not get reimbursed for those days. Really, when you think about it, our business is almost like the hotel business – vacancies can hurt the bottom line.
On the positive side? This work can be tremendously rewarding. It’s a whole new field for me — one that is certainly more personal and immediate – you meet with families face-to-face and you see how your decisions have a more tangible and immediate effect on lives.
On greatest opportunities
A particular interest and area of expertise where I feel I can make a real impact for JARC is political advocacy. I welcome every trip to Lansing to meet with policy and decision makers. And I feel strongly about getting family members involved, building a system to get out there, to have a voice in our future and really make our case through public relations and social action.
And the same goes for fundraising. I’ve been on the other side of fundraising – I’m used to a lot of people coming asking for money, and getting involved in the decisions, but now I’m using that experience on the other side of the fence to raise money.
And finally, there’s the marketing piece. I like to call that “the JARC Offensive ” — a three-pronged marketing, community outreach and fundraising campaign with the goal to build awareness – and get more people to understand what JARC is, what we do and what issues we face. We have a great story to tell and a great Marketing/Philanthropy team, and we’re pushing the Board to lead new initiatives. I’m also big on committees as a means to recruit new ambassadors for our cause and draw more talent into the organization.
The Bigger Picture
myJD: From your perspective, what developments can you imagine on the horizon for JARC?
Beyond the many services and programs through our collaborative efforts within the Jewish community, we’re starting to explore the developmental disability community as a whole in Southeast Michigan. The process has been totally eye-opening to me. I thought JARC was the only organization of its kind in Oakland County until I learned there are more than 50 similar organizations – all kinds of places that none of us were even aware of! We’re all struggling to different degrees with the same challenges. So it seems to me that we should be looking at opportunities for consolidation – whether in micro consolidation, such as shared systems for payroll and human resources – or macro consolidation in mergers. For now, we’re spending some time to think strategically about our direction before we talk to candidates for the next CEO.
In the near term, there’s still plenty to do in consolidating our resources within the Jewish community – finding areas where agencies like Kadima, Friendship Circle, JVS, JCC and Jewish Senior Life can collaborate. Ultimately, my goal is to learn enough to know when to step back and get out of the way and then to spend more of my time on philanthropy and contributing to boards focusing on the mental health community and all things Detroit.
On sweetest moments
myJD: Thinking back over the past two years and your journey at JARC, what have you enjoyed the most?
I think of many small moments — as I have met and talked to direct care service workers at JARC or family members have shared with me how JARC has touched their lives and how comfortable they feel knowing that their loved ones are well cared for. I also loved the vibe at our “Music of Michael Jackson” annual fundraiser this past November. It was a total feel-good night with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, perfectly executed by our staff and members of the Board. It was the kind of inclusive community-wide celebration JARC is all about.
Restaurant: Voyager — a small seafood place in Ferndale, brand new!
Place(s) to meet for coffee: Roasting Plant downtown. (Drink a cup coffee there and I’m high fiving and hugging everyone all day). Uptown, it’s Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company at the Maple Theater.
Building in the Detroit skyline: One Campus Martius (formerly Compuware). Amazing amenities, cafeteria, gym, child development center, parking — a lot of great memories there. And the location!
Vacation places: Up North — Traverse City, Leelanau. I especially like big cities: London is on my wish list.
Sports: Tennis and basketball. A big fan of UCLA College Basketball and U of M Football
Jewish Food: Soup — mushroom barley is my preference
Yiddish Expression: Bilda chaya (wild beast) and narshkeit (nonsense)!
Jewish Holiday – Passover: our springtime, NCAA Tournament season, Afikomen-generating holiday! The dietary restrictions are modest for me because I don’t eat bread and I’m big fried matzo fan.
Guilty pleasures: Confession: I still watch The Simpsons after all these years. And kids shows! My daughter has outgrown Phineas and Ferb on the Disney Channel, but now I enjoy it more than she does.