In this episode of Partnering Leadership, Doyle Mitchell, President and CEO of Industrial Bank, shares memories from his childhood and how Industrial Bank, the largest and oldest minority-owned commercial bank in the Greater Washington DC DMV region, came to be. He also shares the struggles he’s faced as a black business owner and his hopes for black-owned businesses.
-Doyle Mitchell’s childhood and how his parents impacted his life
-The story behind Industrial Bank: a legacy built over 3 generations as a black-owned bank
-The important lesson Doyle Mitchell’s father taught him about work ethic
-Doyle Mitchell’s experience leading the bank through the pandemic
-The importance of black-owned businesses to the entire community
Our Black Year by Maggie Anderson and Ted Gregory
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More information and resources available at the Partnering Leadership Podcast website:
Welcome to Partnering Leadership I'm really excited to be welcoming Doyle Mitchell. Doyle is the President and CEO of Industrial Bank, which is the largest and oldest minority-owned commercial bank in the Greater Washington DC DMV region. It is also the fourth-largest African-American-owned financial institution in the entire country. Doyle is a third-generation President of Industrial Bank, which was founded by his grandfather, Jesse Mitchell in 1934.
I really enjoyed this conversation because I have enjoyed knowing Doyle and have learned so much from him over the 25 plus years we have known each other and I've been honored to consider him a friend. I know you will also enjoy the conversation and learn a lot from Doyle too.
I love hearing from you Mahan@mahantavakoli.com, there's a microphone icon on Partnering leadership.com. Feel free to leave voice messages for me there. Don't forget to follow this podcast on your platform of choice. That way you will be first to be notified of new releases.
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Now here's my conversation with Doyle Mitchell.
Doyle Mitchell, welcome to Partnering Leadership. I am thrilled to have you on with me.
No Mahan, this is an absolute honor for me to be here on your show.
Doyle over the years, you've had a significant impact on me, both through our Leadership Greater Washington experience and through having seen you as an incredible leader of Industrial Bank and an incredible community leader. In the Greater Washington DC region. So I can't wait to find out more about your background and your experience and share it with the Partnering Leadership community, all across the region, across the country, and across the globe.
First thing's first, you are a third-generation banker. Whereabouts did you grow up Doyle. And how did your upbringing impacts you?
It's humbling to be a third-generation business owner in any business. But I grew up in Washington, DC. I was born in Providence hospital. For my first six years, we lived in Michigan Park and I guess that was too much of a commute from Michigan Park. Your listeners wouldn't know this, but it was probably a 15-minute commute, I guess that was too far from my father. And so he moved to the west side of the city where his commute was about five minutes.
Born and raised in Washington DC and even though we lived on the west side of the city, we had branches on Georgia avenue, 11th, and U, and far Northeast and all of those areas were a little bit unseemly at the time, but grew up and went through that route.
In your upbringing, Doyle, I know your mom and dad and their influence had a significant impact on you, especially your mom, making sure that you stayed grounded.
You remember my mom, it's interesting because my father was a banker. My mother was a music teacher. She grew up, her father was one of 12. And her father was very, very light-skinned, but he was an opera singer and probably four or five of his siblings were very musically inclined. And my mother was on her way to be a concert pianist, but he ran away to Germany. Like people run away to Hollywood to make it, and that hurts. She said you know what? We get this struggling artist thing. I'm gonna go to school and get a degree. And I'm a teacher and I'll be able to pay the bills. And I grew up going to bed, listening to her practice the piano almost every night.
And that had a huge impact on me, probably more so than my father being in the banking business
So with your mother's grounding, your father being in banking, you must have also taken a lot of pride with your grandfather back in 1934 as an African-American entrepreneur, starting a bank that focused on serving the African-American community.
I was a boy growing up on a farm. You're born into that experience- it's not a big deal to you is just, I never knew my grandfather and my grandmother. It's just what we did. I don't really think I appreciated what he started and what he did. It was probably almost 40. You milk the cows, you feed the chickens and, you go to bed, you wake up the next day and you do it. It was other people that kept telling me. Don't you appreciate the legacy? this and that. Well not really, what are you talking about? after a while it started to sink in, I was like, wow. What he had to go through. And then later on, even more so what my father went through.
When you're young, you don't really know that much. You don't really appreciate your background and history. And so as I got older, then I was like, wow, that's pretty cool. So maybe do you need to take it pretty seriously?
What your father had to go through as a leader of, again- a black-owned bank in a very turbulent time? How did that impact him and impact you?
My father was always very quiet, emotional. My mother was the one who was in your face about what's going on in your emotions and what are you feeling? She's kind of neurotic about getting in touch with your feelings and all that and I didn't understand that about my father, but as I got older, I learned things his father was pretty hard on him in public.
And he was 21 when the bank was founded and he had to work hard. He worked full-time and in 34 happened the great depression. So it was pretty tough. He went through a marriage, he had two children. One passed away at a young age, the other one passed away in her twenties and quiet after he died, I was like- gosh, that would be just freaking tough. So now I get why he was emotionally on a test. But when you're 17 and have 18, 13, and 14 children, what would they want? And they don't care anything about the world. They don't know. The world is just like I'm crying, feed me. But I started to really understand what he went through.
And then he had to build a business. He had to build a business, he was probably 40 when he took over running the bank what was then a big legacy already. And he did- he did it, but he was very quiet, very reserved. I didn't know why, but as an adult, I'm like, oh, I get it.
So understanding your father's journey, Doyle, how did it impact the kind of parents you became and how did it impact the kind of banker and CEO that you became?
Interesting question. First of all, if you own your own business or you lead a business, it's a huge sacrifice. It's very difficult to be an entrepreneur, which is what my grandfather was, and then a leader, which is what my father was- 24/7, 365, even when they socialized, they were working.
And so what I learned from my father was, commitment to the business. Extreme work ethic, keep the business separate from your personal. This was the business. I can remember in sixth grade I wrote a book report and I wanted to make copies to take into the class and I went to the bank to make copies and he charged me 18 cents a page. Mahan, my father did not push me into the business. People think he did. He never said I want you to be president. I never heard that. I know you wanted me to, but that's 18c a page on sixth grade, I'm like, are you serious? I don't know what it was.
His point was- no, this is not your piggy bank. This is the business. You handle your personal stuff. If you want to mix the stuff you're going to have to pay for it. That was the biggest lesson he ever taught me because even with friends and family in the business when you step into the business, I'm not your friend or your father or your cousin anymore. I couldn't believe he charged me.
It sounds like you still can't believe it.
Of course, way back then, 18c a page?! That's a lot of money on whatever I was making, cutting, grass. The biggest lesson is that first, the two are separate. You work hard, you work long and you help people, you help build community.
And your authenticity, Doyle is one of the strengths that you have. And part of what you mentioned about your grandparents is that they set the right example. And one of the things I talk about with respect to leadership is that first and foremost leadership is example. So it is not what people say. It is how they behave and what they do that everyone else pays attention to.
That is the significant influence that your grandparents and their roles had. And your parents, your father and his behavior with engagement of the community had on you and same with your mom. They set an example for you of what leadership is all about.
Now, when you two Rutgers, you studied economics. Did you know that you wanted to go back to the farm and become a farmer and work at the bank? Or did you aspire to do something different?
Good question. But before I answer that, I'm going to have to put a little plug when we went through Leadership Washington. I was young and I got a lot of good examples of leadership in that class. Because I was still growing, my father died. I was president of a bank at 30. And even though I've been around the business, I just let things roll and I watched other people give me examples of leadership.
But to answer your question. For some reason at about 12, I took an interest in architecture. We had some close friends in the neighborhood. We went to the same school. We carpooled together, but their father was an architect. And he actually designed the elementary school in Washington DC.
He designed the elementary school, but their house is a few blocks away. It was just so modern and so cool. I loved going there. I loved being there. I was probably 13. I read architectural digest magazine and I took architectural drawings in my 12th-grade year in high school. I went to Rutgers and I was undecided.
I had been working summers like my sister did at the bank. I liked working there. I saw how we connected with people and their money and helped them. But I didn't know what I wanted to do. My cousin had bands all the time. My mother was a music teacher and it was a time that I could've definitely gone down the right road rather than the left road.
Yes. You ended up in the bank but at the young age of 30, as you mentioned, you had to take the helm of this bank with significant legacy, significant heritage and lead it from there.
You know what? At first, I was like, okay, it's not broke, don't try to fix it. And then a year later the savings and loan crisis occurred. And all the failed Seders loans banks ended up with the resolution trust corporation, RGC and Albert Wynn had done these hearings in Congress and said if you go out central avenue in Prince George's county, there's no bank on either side of central avenue for two miles.
Somehow another in my first year. Resolution trust company had some branches in Prince George's county. everybody thought, "oh my gosh, what he's gonna do? Is he gonna really blow this thing up or grow?" And I'm like, no, I'm just going to be cool. And then all of a sudden we ended up buying these two branches in Prince George's county, outside of the district.
60 years. We had never been out and there was no interstate banking law. We had to get a waiver, a special exemption from resolution trust to buy. These branches outside of the district in Prince's county, Maryland. And about six months after that Clinton passed. With the bank of America's help the interstate banking laws.
I looked at it, I didn't want to do it, but I couldn't see any reason why it did not make sense for us. I think a lot of people are quite surprised including myself, but I'm like this is a no-brainer. It seemed so what are you gonna do? Sit back and not do anything? an Opportunity in the face so we did it.
And you have over the years. Now, these have been years where there's been a lot of changes in banking and in most instances, small banks have been. Gobbled up at this point, you're one of 18 black-owned banks in more than 4,700 banks in the country. So not that many of you around and lots of community banks, lots of smaller banks sell for various reasons to larger banks.
Why have you chosen to continue as a black-owned bank and not sold to another larger bank?
It’s a little bit of the backstory. I think when I graduated from college, it was 14,000 banks in the country. And because of mergers, consolidations, failures, that number has declined. There are about 140 minority-owned banks, including Asian or Hispanic-owned native American women-owned African-American and so forth.
At one time, there were about a hundred black-owned banks in the country, and now we're down to 18. Couple of reasons. One, my father told me, never sell a bank that was great for 30 years ago. Today banking is a different industry, it could become obsolete and you just have to think about wealth for your family.
If you think it's going to be obsolete, do you want to just listen to the music? Run around the chairs and when the music stops, you have nowhere to sit down. That's in our mind. The other thing is black people have to own stuff in this country. Everybody else owns stuff. There is 70 Asian American-owned banks, 40 Hispanic-owned banks.
And they're much larger than African American banks. There's a wealth gap. We all know about the wealth gap. There's every kind of gap you can think of where African-Americans are at the bottom- health gap, education gap, homeownership, position in the C-suite executive. It just goes on. pandemic, vaccine gap, justice gap.
Other people don't walk out their house and have to be concerned with I hope I don't get pulled over. I'm reaching for my registration. You get the point. Someone asked me that one time a banker, he was like "what does it matter? What is it getting you to be a minority-owned bank? Why don't you just sell to us?" and after that meeting, I was like, Hmm, being a black-owned bank. Now it is having its benefits because people are realizing all of these gaps.
At the time- this was five, 10 years ago. I was like, I don't know if there's any advantages. And then I thought about it like, you know why? Because blacks need to own things. If you don't own something, you can't control it. So if you don't own banks and trust me, there's a lot of community banks, most of the banks we hear about every day, the large banks is about 50 of those. And the other 4,000 are community banks. Black, White, Asian. They do some great work in their communities.
What you're doing Doyle and I love about you is that you are also living by example with respect, to not just talking about both black-owned businesses and African-Americans, in general, should do, but you are living it by holding on to a black bank and serving the community and focusing on it. It's not just words. It's your actions.
So as a caring leader, that you are trying to make the right decisions by your employees and in serving the community at the same time as a black-owned bank. You also have seen much of what has happened in the community most especially since the George Floyd murder, where it raised more of awareness among many in the society and made more companies have to come down initially with statements and eventually some with actions on trying to close some of the gaps that exist in society and trying to address some of the systemic racism that exist
How have those conversations impacted your bank as a black-owned regional bank?
Quite a bit. And you know what I have to say? I'm very proud of particularly of the young people that got out into the streets. Clearly, we want protests that are constructive. We don't want violence and looting and all of that, but when you constantly oppress people sooner or later, they explode and that's what you're going to get. I'm proud of people that protested, because they basically said no more, no more. This is not going to continue. And you have to pay attention.
The Bus boycotts, in Alabama, they brought the bus companies to their knees because they boycotted. That was all about money, all about money. It wasn't about social equal rights. It was about money. Because the bus company was about to go bankrupt and I wish not just black consumers, but all consumers would take that kind of boycott very seriously. When they see that large companies are not behaving the way they should.
I'm proud that people got out and they said, this is not going away. We are not stopping. No, it's not going to be from May to June. No, this is going in July- It's going in August and September.
And now we see people coming back out and what it did was it made corporate America pay attention because of video technology, police cams, cell phones. It was a wonderful thing because even white people said, wow, that was not cool.
That was terrible. And corporations always have certain motives, We've let it get on board because if we don't we're going to miss out on profits, and we all know corporate America, they know African-Americans are 13, 15% of the economy and they want that. Let's just be real about it.
But a lot of them have sincerely and have come to the aid of black banks very much. So City, Wells, B of a Chase, TD, PNC and they've done some really good things and a lot of other corporations and it's benefited our sector.
It is definitely the right thing to do. And it is a great way for us to reset as we go through this crisis where it is not going back to normal. It is not going to a new normal, because what existed before wasn't normal to be accepted, it is doing a reset and providing opportunities as you're doing with your bank Doyle to create a better future.
One final question I have for you is you have been a magnificent leader that has continually evolved. Are there any leadership resources books, anything that you use as a source of inspiration and or recommend to others as they look to become more purpose-driven leaders? Like you have been.
Good question because a lot of people look at me as this leader and I don't feel like I've gotten them yet. Honestly, in our class, there are just tons of people that I look up to and remember what I learned from them in one or two statements or how they behaved.
This is not a leadership book, but I got to give a shout-out to Maggie Anderson. She wrote this book, and her husband, our black year, and they just made a dedicated effort to support businesses. They just said we're going to spend all of our money to black businesses. And that was quite a sacrifice. And that changed my life. I thought the Mitchell family supported black businesses until I read that book and saw the commitment she, put into it.
It's very interesting how faith in God and leadership really come together. say what you want about the Bible and all that, but there's a lot of wisdom in God's word. That's very applicable.
I've had a couple of pastors that I've watched wow. He's a pastor, but that's that message has a lot to do with what I need to be doing next week.
So wonderful to have someone like you leading an industrial bank and teaching the rest of us, what it's like to continually learn and aspire to become better, more impactful, and make a difference in people's lives.
Really appreciate you joining me and sharing some of your story with a partnering leadership community, Doyle Mitchell.
I am totally honored Mahan, I've had tremendous respect for you and your leadership qualities for what has it been? 20, 25 30 a long time. I'm honored and thank you very much for having me on your podcast. It's absolutely amazing and I'm thrilled.
Thank you, my friend.