the mo­saic prin­ci­ple: the six di­men­sions of a suc­cess­ful life and ca­reer

The Smart Manager - - Reading Room - by nick love­grove

The an­swer is to make change our friend. The an­swer is to have broad ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and in­for­ma­tion technology, to have broad-based sys­tems of education and health­care and fam­ily sup­ports in ev­ery coun­try, and to try to shape the global econ­omy.

—Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, 1999

Po­tomac, Mary­land—Satur­day, De­cem­ber 12, 2015

The cars be­gin to ar­rive in the early evening, lights pierc­ing the mid-De­cem­ber gloom. A small army of valets springs into ac­tion, shep­herd­ing cars to­ward their ap­pointed des­ti­na­tions in neigh­bor­ing fields and yards. A cou­ple of po­lice cars stand watch at the end of the road, al­though it’s un­clear whether they are there to pro­vide se­cu­rity, to act as a de­ter­rent against ex­cess rev­elry, or sim­ply be­cause they are cu­ri­ous to see what’s go­ing on. De­spite ev­ery­body’s best ef­forts, by 7:30 p.m. there is a sub­stan­tial traf­fic jam along this quiet, pros­per­ous neigh­bor­hood street in the Mary­land sub­urbs of Wash­ing­ton, DC— the more re­mark­able be­cause it is a Satur­day evening.

In­side, the al­ready sub­stan­tial and beau­ti­fully ap­pointed house has been ex­tended by a huge mar­quee that en­velops most of the back­yard. It’s a cold night, but the rented mar­quee seems to come with more than ad­e­quate built-in heat­ing. So guests are able to shed their heavy win­ter coats and min­gle in search of peo­ple they know. This is no triv­ial task, be­cause at last count the guest list has risen above 750 peo­ple.

And not just any old 750. I turn to my right and there is John Roberts, chief jus­tice of the Supreme Court—and nearby are a cou­ple of his as­so­ciate jus­tices. Around the cor­ner, I al­most bump into Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s re­doubtable an­chor—then var­i­ous other jour­nal­ists heave into view. In the cor­ner, sev­eral mem­bers of Congress are hud­dled to­gether, deep in dis­cus­sion. Some of them are in­stantly rec­og­niz­able, some of them not. And then clus­tered in the kitchen is a group of teenagers—chil­dren of our hosts and their friends.

It is easy to par­ody this event as a scene out of This Town, Mark Lei­bovitch’s satir­i­cal take on the

in­su­lar­ity and chum­mi­ness of po­lit­i­cal Wash­ing­ton—which he calls “Amer­ica’s gilded cap­i­tal.” That is, un­til you ask the ob­vi­ous ques­tion, “How do you know John and April?”—re­fer­ring to our hosts for the evening. Then you get a sense of the breadth and range of their net­works. John Roberts is there be­cause he and De­laney met through their re­spec­tive kids’ school; oth­ers be­cause they have worked on non­profit ini­tia­tives with April; sev­eral be­cause they are busi­ness part­ners and coun­ter­parts; al­most all be­cause they have known both of their hosts as friends, neigh­bors, and col­leagues for a long time in a va­ri­ety of set­tings.

John and April De­laney are al­most em­bar­rassed that their an­nual hol­i­day party has grown to this size. “This just started as a few of our close friends fif­teen years ago—and now look at it,” says April. “It seems like we add a hun­dred peo­ple to the guest list ev­ery year.” But they ac­knowl­edge that as their pro­fes­sional con­text has changed in re­cent years, the scale and scope of their net­works have come in more than handy. And their guests are equally happy to be there—and would be wor­ried if the an­nual in­vi­ta­tion failed some­how to ar­rive.

John De­laney trained as a lawyer, but he has spent most of his ca­reer as a busi­ness­man, found­ing two com­pa­nies listed on the New York Stock Ex­change be­fore he was forty years old. He has shown a flair for find­ing un­der­served seg­ments of the fi­nan­cial ser­vices mar­ket. In 1993, he co­founded Health Care Fi­nan­cial Part­ners, to make loans avail­able to smaller health-care ser­vice providers ig­nored by larger banks. Then in 2000 he co­founded Cap­i­talSource, a com­mer­cial lender aimed at fund­ing small and medium-size en­ter­prises. In ad­di­tion to his com­pa­nies, he founded Blue­print Mary­land, a non­profit group that aims to cre­ate jobs in the state.

De­laney had al­ways been in­volved in pol­i­tics—most re­cently as a Demo­cratic fund-raiser and sup­porter. But in 2012, he de­cided to take a step fur­ther and run for Congress—specif­i­cally for the Sixth District of Mary­land whose south­ern­most bound­aries al­most, but not quite, co­in­cide with this street in Po­tomac. Al­though the pre­vi­ously Repub­li­can district had re­cently been re­drawn by the state se­nate to give the Democrats a bet­ter chance of win­ning, the over­whelm­ing fa­vorite was in­cum­bent state se­na­tor Robert J. Gara­gi­ola. That’s when De­laney drew upon his by now prodi­gious net­work—for fund-rais­ing, en­dorse­ments, and on­the-ground vol­un­teers.

His cam­paign propo­si­tion had strong echoes of Mitt Rom­ney’s pitch for the pres­i­dency, al­beit from the other side of the po­lit­i­cal aisle: “I un­der­stand how to cre­ate jobs and the needs of small busi­nesses—and small busi­nesses are the job cre­ation en­gine.” And in an­other echo of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that year, his op­po­nent ac­cused him of “loan­ing money to un­scrupu­lous com­pa­nies and goug­ing busi­nesses with ex­or­bi­tant in­ter­est rates.”

In April 2012 De­laney pulled off a stun­ningly large vic­tory in the Demo­cratic pri­mary, beat­ing Gara­gi­ola by 54 to 29 per­cent; and in Novem­ber he beat ten-term Repub­li­can con­gres­sional in­cum­bent Roscoe Bartlett by 59 to 38 per­cent. When he took the con­gres­sional oath in Jan­uary 2013, he be­came the only for­mer CEO of a pub­licly traded com­pany to serve in the 113th US Congress.

De­laney is adamant that he did not assem­ble his net­work for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses. “I re­ally never thought that I would run for of­fice un­til 2011. When I made the de­ci­sion, it was great to be able to draw upon such a wide cir­cle of friends—not least be­cause so many of them have ex­pe­ri­ences and in­sights upon which I could draw. But in many re­spects, it was just a co­in­ci­dence—these are just the peo­ple I have got- ten to know dur­ing 25 years of liv­ing and work­ing around here.” ■

De­laney had al­ways been in­volved in pol­i­tics—most re­cently as a Demo­cratic fund-raiser and sup­porter. But in 2012, he de­cided to take a step fur­ther and run for Congress.

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