While Cassius Butts has been a stellar steward for getting resources to the black business community, and a major player representing Black interests in high places, his interests extend far beyond just getting the money, as if that weren’t enough. The economics expert is a relentless advocate for identifying inequities and mitigating their damage in underserved communities.
“It’s really a case of taking lemons to make lemonade. There’s nothing new about the concept. But when you [examine] things that are challenging and try to figure out how can I resolve them, whether it’s in Great Depression times, or the ‘60s or even or even most recently in the George Floyd era … there’s this awakening of awareness that now says ‘these things are important,’” explains Butts. “When it starts to hit the economy, and then we have this big gap in business we say, ‘we have to fix this because this is going to cause additional issues or problems.’ It all comes back to economics.”
Having worked in two presidential administrations and most recently serving on the Biden-Harris transition team, the former regional administrator for the Small Business Administration managed five record-breaking years for SBA lending within eight southern states getting over $30 billion into the coffers of small businesses during his appointment.
Butts goes deep to ensure that his agency and his impact on business and community is more than a one of achievement; it’s a profound and sustainable approach for better living.
“Once you recognize that there’s an issue or a problem, what you can do is show people the truth. What you can do is be transparent, and to speak, not just up but also speak out, having the conversations where people can actually see there are some issues and challenges here,” said Butts adding, “But that’s just my walk, it may not be for everybody.”
The affable activist who is also an executive officer with the National Black MBA Association, is noted for his prolific ability to connect people with individuals and organizations that will assist in scaling up, professionally, socially, and personally.
In his soon-to-be-released book, Exceptional, Butts shares a blueprint for achieving the “tipping point,” the intangible thing that makes a profound and powerful life-changing impact. The pensive author explained that much of his inspiration for the book was a calling to assist those with ambitions to “be the change” and recognize the divinity involved in being exceptional and aspiring to do more.
The Atlanta Daily World spoke with Butts just days before the start of the acclaimed NBMBAA National conference in Atlanta about the book Exceptional and his intense commitment to community and caring.
On the rationale for the book:
[We] talked about being a connector, and for me, I just try to follow my passion and whatever it is that makes me excited. I realized that part of following my passion is making things happen for other people … But that’s something that a lot of people don’t get a chance to do.
A lot of times we can walk into a room, and we can see a person we may be familiar with, or they may recognize you or may not recognize you. We may not speak, we may not talk, we may not compliment, we may not just say “Hey, how are you doing?” And when we do that, what we don’t realize is that whatever you are thoughtful and intentional about could have been there for you. That’s why one of the chapters in my book, is called “Checking Your Ego Before It Checks You.”
On the path to humanity …
[In your walk] you should continue to stay on the path [because] at the end you want it to lead you to a position where you can support the efforts of others. That’s my walk. It may not be everyone else’s walk.
I serve as Chairman of Fort McPherson; I serve on the Georgia Department of Economic Development. But what I’m talking about has nothing to do with titles or positions, it’s bigger than that. When we talk about what are the basic human needs for us to exist as human beings, it has nothing to do with titles, but it has to do with common respect for each other.
We must have common respect, and I respect anyone who chooses to go down a path that they think is the best path for them.
On the path to becoming exceptional …
You have to remind yourself that you are owning your own mission, you have to remind yourself that personally, you can always stand up and speak for the rights that are important to you. But professionally, in the world that we live in, you have to build a plan and create an ecosystem around you of people that can be your mouthpiece where you can speak, and that can be at the table. The late great entrepreneur Herman Russell said, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”
That’s why creating a path to being exceptional is so important, it’s ordained and it’s really about being an exception to the rules.