We were trying to win business with the city of Detroit to help them with their IT needs – and an opportunity presented itself where we would have lunch with Garlin Gilcrest who had recently been Detroit’s IT director. We were hoping he would share with us the highest priority needs (where was Detroit likely to spend their IT budget on next) and who the key people we should be talking to would be. Typical business stuff...
This was in the summer of 2016 – a few months before the election.
There were about 5 of us in total and we sat at a table outside the 7th floor of the Detroit Athletic Club overlooking Comerica Park. The food was forgettable, the conversation professional and the atmosphere pretty amazing. The Tigers were playing that night – but there were only a handful of people in view on the field – probably the grounds crew…
When lunch was over, we walked back inside to make our way to the elevator. Inside – there is a glass enclosed seating area for diners who prefer a more serene environment. It was here – as I was walking towards the elevator that I saw Martha Ford having lunch with another lady and man both of whom were probably in their late 50s.
So being the conventional protocol wrecking ball that I am - I decided I was going to say hi to her and share my thoughts on the decision to keep Caldwell. I approved of the decision and held him in very high regard as a man, as a leader of men. Tremendous respect. Which I still hold to this day. And after telling her this – she responded by first expressing her love of Jim and sharing the same sentiments in terms of the quality of his character. I told her I approved of the direction of the team under her leadership and felt the rebuilding was being done smartly.
She then shared that when she first took over, the big decision she had to make was whether the persistent failure was the result of bad player acquisition or bad coaching. She said she consulted with many people, and had to educate herself on many things she had no prior knowledge of. But ultimately, she made the decision to completely take a wrecking ball to the executive management. I am paraphrasing...she didnt use the term "wrecking ball".
As you will recall, after the firings – she asked the NFL for help in utilizing "established best practices" in the search for the new executive team. That ultimately led to Quinn’s hiring.
Martha is obviously patrician in her mannerisms, social niceties…all of which you would expect from someone of her stature. I interrupted their meal and conversation – and she showed me far more graciousness than I deserved. But what really made an impression on me was how thorough and logical her approach was when she took over.