By Ahmari Anthony – Editorial Intern, Pittsburgh Business Times
Sep 16, 2021, 10:18am EDT
The recent opening of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh’s new ReStore in Swissvale was a huge accomplishment for Howard Slaughter Jr., who described his professional journey in an interview just an hour before the opening of the 10,000-square-foot store.
When the CEO position opened up in 2016, Slaughter applied for the opportunity to come in and help make a difference. He remembers telling his mother at about 4 or 5 years old that when he grew up, he wanted to help people fix up their homes, and this job aligned perfectly with that aspiration.
The organization was undergoing financial challenges when he took over. But with Slaughter having begun his career in banking as assistant vice president of Equibank and eventually becoming the vice president of community development at Dollar Bank, he was confident in his financial skills and hopeful about raising enough money to turn things around.
“It was an opportunity for me, and I wanted that challenge, but it was very scary because you don’t know if you’re going to get there or not,” he said.
The first grant the organization applied for under his leadership was for $300,000. Slaughter was sure they would get it thanks to good communications with the foundation and a strong application. They were denied. But he wasn’t discouraged.
“You can’t sit back and get disjointed over what didn’t happen,” he said. “You have to keep pushing forward.”
Before his tenure as CEO, he was an entrepreneur and president and CEO of Christian Management Enterprises LLC, a business management and real estate consulting firm. This experience not only taught him about organizational management, but also persistence. So he stayed focused on the goal at hand until he finally achieved it several months later.
“I remember vividly getting our first grant under my leadership, and it was $60,000,” he said. “I was so excited that we finally broke through because it indicated change was on the way. And that’s what I needed.”
Prior to Slaughter assuming his role at Habitat for Humanity, the organization’s average annual revenue was less than $40,000. Under his leadership, it has risen to over $600,000 annually. Also during his time leading the organization, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh has sold 19 affordable homes and completed over 70 home repairs to limited-income homeowners and families.
Patience and dedication are common themes in Slaughter’s life. Earlier in his life, after nearly 10 years of military service, he chose to go back to school at age 27.
“When I was ready to go to school, I was focused on staying on track,” he said.
He stayed on track, spending the next 20 years pursuing higher education. Slaughter was able to obtain an associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from several local universities, as well as attend courses at Georgetown University, Harvard University, MIT and participate in the Yale Leadership Program.
During his time in the academic world, Slaughter also had the opportunity to teach classes at the University of Pittsburgh, Community College of Allegheny County and Point Park University. He considers himself to be a continual learner and enjoys teaching because it keeps him focused on learning.
Encouraging others and promoting growth are also core themes of Slaughter’s career. He has worked in the housing business for many years but didn’t often get to interact with consumers until he began working at Habitat for Humanity.
“The largest asset that most Americans purchase is a home,” he said. “If you’re not a homeowner, your path to equity and wealth will be much more difficult by and large.”
His role there is especially meaningful to him as someone who is particularly passionate about increasing homeownership rates in marginalized communities, noting that among African Americans, homeownership rates have sunk to the lowest numbers in nearly 50 years.
“When you think about your overall portfolio of what you own: cellphones, cars, clothing,” he said, “none of those things will bring about a better economic situation like a home.”
He published his doctoral dissertation on this subject and, also, his first book, “Addicted to Debt: Get Out and Stay Out” in 2019.
“It’s important to give back in whatever way an individual can,” he said. “I use my skills to do that so that others can benefit from my experience, knowledge and mistakes.”
Title: President and CEO, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh
Residence: Penn Hills
Hobbies: Writing books, radio talk show, football, golf
Education: Associate degree, financial services, Community College of Allegheny County; B.A., Carlow University; MBA, Point Park University; master’s, public management, Carnegie Mellon University; doctor of science, information systems and communications, Robert Morris University
Boards: Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania; chair, Howard Hanna Children’s Free Care Fund Foundation and the Mt. Ararat Community Activity Center; operational committee, Pennsylvania Community Development Bank"