Vista CEO Robert F. Smith Transcript: Black Community at ELC 2021
Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners spoke at the “Value. Vision. Voice. Black Men in Leadership Conference 2021.” In this second video clip of a series, Smith answered questions from Executive Leadership Council (ELC) President and CEO Michael C. Hyter. During the virtual event, Smith spoke about the importance of business ownership and the nature of capitalism.
The following is the video transcript of Smith’s 2021 ELC talk:
Michael C. Hyter: Let’s talk about your origin story, you know. You know, we we don’t need to get into an argument about whether, you know, success is a product of your nature or nurtured – it’s probably a little bit of both, candidly. But what would be helpful, just to kick things off, is to understand how your early years directed the course of your later years. You know like was it was it your what your parents said, was it what they did, but just give us a little bit of appreciation for that.
Robert F. Smith: Yeah and I appreciate you asking that question. Um, you know I like to talk about, you know, the community from which I come from. Um, I’m actually in Colorado today and you know I grew up, I’m my family’s fourth generation from Colorado, I’m fourth generation from Colorado. And you know grew up in an all black neighborhood, you know this was in time of of segregation. And so it was there was one, uh, Japanese family that lived in our neighborhood, uh, but outside that was all, you know, African-Americans, um, and there were families, communities, single parents in some cases. Um, and I always like to, you know, kind of borrow this term, uh, that we continue to refine and develop. A term called beloved community and I lived in a beloved community. It was a community that really focused, uh, on taking care of, uh, the community. Um, and my parents were, you know, leaders in that community were school teachers. Uh, my dad also led a civic association, it was called North City Park Civic Association. One of the things that he focused on was, you know, how our community would be treated in terms of, you know, various things like, you know, social social services and at the time, you know, we should get a lot of snow in Denver. Um, uh and our neighborhood was typically one of the last to get snow plowed and I mean it’d be two, three feet of snow. And you have all these working parents, uh, who have to get to work, some on a bus, some with carpool, whatever it might be, and then the streets would be completely clogged with snow and of course they can’t get to work which creates a problem for them.
Smith: Uh, ultimately in keeping their jobs etc and my my father saw this as a big issue and and literally pulled together a civic association, that was just one of the issues they focused on. There’s also voting rights and everything from uh, uh, you know, head start programs um, uh, etcetera that he and a group of, uh, African-American parents focused on, uh, to assure that our community had a voice that was heard. Uh, and I just remember, you know, again growing up in that environment, you know, first of all you saw a blanket of care and I’m going to say that across the children. You know, blanket of care uh was expressed in multiple ways – from the time of which you were, you know, sent to the store to go buy something, how people looked out for you on the way there on the way back, and of course reported on you if you you did something, like you know throw rocks or you know tease the dog or whatever and you’d hear about it when you got home, too. You know, when we, you know, went to the state of desegregation and forced busing, uh, when you got home, um, we got home a little earlier than some of the other parents and certain parents were taking the kids. Uh, and ensure that in my case, you know, the older kids who were in those rooms would, uh, you know, in those houses would would educate us and you know and tutor us and the parent would make sure that we had some nutritious snack or whatever it was until our parents got home from work. So, you know, I grew up very much in that form of a community. Um, and my mother, I tell that famous story, you know, she grew up in Washington DC, which is where you are, I know yeah multiple generations there moved out to Colorado to get her masters, ultimately her doctorate degree, uh, in teaching and education. Um, and she wrote a check twenty five dollars a month to United College Fund ever since all I can remember so 50 plus years, uh, or whatever it was. And I just remember, uh, you know you’ll I’m sure get this, uh, when, you know, they had these new Converse All-Stars with 12 dollars and 50 cents a pair and man, I just wanted a pair of those.
Smith: And I was like mom, you know, why are you writing that check, uh, because you know I could I could buy two pair with that. And she said yeah that’s why you’re gonna go out and cut lawns and sell golf balls and shovel snow so you can buy your own pair. She said this this is so that we can continue to educate our community. And you know those are things that stick with you. It’s, you know, it’s part of the fabric of how you grow up, uh, ultimately starts to hopefully express itself in who you are and what you feel your responsibilities are as as a human being and as an African-American in particular, uh, in the communities in which you’re in today. So, that’s kind of the you know the beloved just some some texture of the beloved community I had a chance to, uh, to grow up in.
Hyter: I like the term beloved community and you know and thank you for you know just indulging me because you know it’s so easy for people to get lost with what you’re doing now and what your brand is without really taking into consideration the origin of it because we’re all we’re young once. You know, the sense of the essence of that um.
Smith: And some of us will stay young forever, right?
Hyter: Of course we will, of course.