Dennis Cail’s mission is simple: financial inclusion. The Co-Founder and CEO at Zirtue, the world’s first relationship-based lending app, eliminates the stress when loaning money to friends and family. He says it’s a virtue to give loans to people in need of a financial lifeline, and Zirtue preserves your relationships and helps you get your money back.
Cail, who also serves on the DRC Board of Directors, talks career and the biggest challenges facing African Americans in the DRC’s on-going Q&A series for Black History Month.
What African American figures have had a major influence on your life?
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a major influence on my life, followed by President Barack Obama for all the obvious reasons. MLK was extremely thoughtful, hopeful, inclusive, courageous, and consistent in promoting equity and equality for all. President Obama, for me, was the dream MLK spoke of and as the first African American President of the United States, he owned the moment, living up to the values we should all strive to live by every day.
What are the biggest challenges facing the current generation of African American leaders?
We must take a very intentional leadership role in closing the wealth and health gaps within our African American communities. This requires a top-down and bottom-up approach measure, delivering across multiple partnerships, industries, and organizations. As the numbers move in the wrong direction, leaders must lead across teams and across the aisle to solve these legacy problems that continue to impact African American families and communities.
As a business leader, how do you have effective conversations on race?
Attack the problem — not the person. Be objective about varying points of views, and two-way listening should always be the goal. Don’t talk over each other. The objective is not to convince one side to change their mind in that moment, but simply to leave them with a new perspective they did not have prior to your conversation together.
What is the best piece of advice you received on life and building a successful career?
One of the best pieces of advice that continues to drive my career as an entrepreneur is this: instead of letting what you do define who you are, let who you are define what you do. This is the mindset I bring to every room, table, conversation, challenge, and opportunity.