You want a team that drives growth and overcomes any challenges the company faces. I get asked all the time about how to create great teams that can navigate the challenges of fast-growth. Inspiring teams to feel ownership of their work and the client experience is essential in today’s agile work environments. My guest today is Todd Ehrlich, CEO of BAMFI. His company was ranked #121 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Todd and I discuss how to create great teams. We look at the small aspects that boost a team’s performance. Discover new insights into your journey of leading more effective teams. Learn how to great teams with another fast-growth leader.
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Todd Ehrlich: The Transcript
Target Audience: Todd is the CEO of BAMFi, a financial technology startup tackling the technology and capital needs of blue-collar industries, including transportation, construction, and industrial services. Todd also founded – and continues as chairman of – Triserv, a rapidly growing technology-based national appraisal management solution.
We all want credit for good work, but it’s another thing to kind of ask for it and display it, everything else. So I kind of try to, you know, work with people on that stuff to make sure that they’re not, you know, behaving that way. It just isn’t a very senior way. And you see a lot of people, kind of do that. And there’s like, two years like, kind of like, a vibe here with their, inordinate amount of backpacks.
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow teamwork? We’ve probably heard the saying teamwork makes the dream work. When you want to create great teams, you really must have a lot of things working inside the culture, you must bring in great people. And we must create the kind of leadership that makes great teams thrive. Well, that’s what we’re gonna be talking about today is how to create great teams. We’re talking with Todd Ehrlich. Todd is the owner of BAMFi really is an interesting conversation because we go into some of the details of how he creates teams and some of the things that didn’t work, some of the things that do work, and we really uncover some of those strategies. So that’s what I like most about this interview, make sure you tune in to Todd talk about how to create great teams. Okay, I will warn you there’s a few technical difficulties with this interview. It’s so good that I didn’t want to toss it away. Todd’s a very busy person. And we just want to put this out there so that you can really take what you want from it.
Thanks for tuning in here to Growth Think Tank. Really excited about sharing this with you. And before you run. I have done so many interviews in the last few weeks. I have such a exciting time to share with you. Those interviews have been organized into the 12 core principles of fast-growth companies. So all you have to do to get that it’s going to genehammett.com/worksheet. So you can get the 12 principles and I’ve been able to go in there and find which episodes will align to each individual episode. When you subscribe to Growth Think Tank, you will find exactly what you need so that you can move forward. And many of them haven’t been published yet, depending on when you’re hearing this, but you can tune in to the date that means the most to you. So here’s the interview with Todd.
Gene Hammett [2:19]
Hey, Todd, how are you doing?
Todd Ehrlich [2:20]
I’m Great. Thanks, Gene.
Gene Hammett [2:22]
Well, I’m excited to have you here at the Growth Think Tank, the podcast where we talk about, you know, all things about growing companies fast. BAMFi has grown really fast. You were number 121 on the Inc list does 19 tell us a little bit about what BAMFi is what makes you different.
Todd Ehrlich [2:38]
So we’re basically a technology company for what I call secured lending. We are also a lender, you know, but we’re really going to focus more on technology. What makes us different is we’re in a very kind of niche e space in the secured lending market. And we’re trying to bring world-class software into that space in a way that really hasn’t been done in this space in areas we touched yet,
Gene Hammett [3:05]
How many employees you have Todd?
Todd Ehrlich [3:07]
Gene Hammett [3:07]
And you’ve had other businesses before because I’m already talking to you, you’ve you’re really good at building teams like what makes you good at building teams?
Todd Ehrlich [3:15]
You know, I’m a former military guy kind of started out in the Navy and, you know, went through the winter SEAL training and that, you know, definitely is a forging effect, if you will, on team building, but kind of we’ve been a team player my whole life, yeah, sports, younger age to the Navy, and then working with some really great people after the Navy. So kind of got a little, you know, kind of a sports aspect and military aspects and then kind of a private business aspect.
Gene Hammett [3:43]
And when you think about your, your company growing to the pace it has now you’ve really focused on building teams. So tell us a little bit about some of the core principles of great teams.
Todd Ehrlich [3:56]
Sure. so I think Well, there’s many different types of teams, I would say that what makes my teams great is, you know, kind of, you know, building on trust and behavior that are, you know, there’s kind of aspects, they’re, they’re super important to building teams when you have teams where you have like, super high powered great people, you know, managed by a kind of a autocratic boss who’s like, do this, do that. And, you know, micromanage everybody, I kind of tend to operate a team, it’s a little bit more like, you got a lot of smart people, a start off with really great smart people who are really good and can work on their own. And then, you know, you just kind of guide them in the right direction.
Todd Ehrlich [4:33]
That’s, you know, instead of kind of, you know, prescribing what they need to do on a daily basis, I’d like to hear from them what they want to do, and let them take it from there. Because my assumption is that if you got on the team, you’re smart enough to be here, and I don’t need to tell you how to do your job. That’s refreshing for a lot of people. So that’s worked really well and attracting what I would call, you know, smarter people to the team. And then my teams, you know, the proverbial dumbest guy in the room. And I say that you know, kind of tongue in cheek, meaning, you know, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, but you know, relatively speaking, you know, the folks on my team, you know, they’re gonna build an Excel model faster than me, they’re going to be able to review a document quicker than I am, they’re gonna be able to do a lot of things faster than I can. But on some of the more subtle, you know, aspects of business and working on a team, I’m going to be able to guide them and give them good feedback on how to how to perform at a high level.
Gene Hammett [5:28]
So this is some of the core principles. I want to dive deeper, but I want to go back to something you said there, it’s refreshing when you’re not micromanaging people. It really is a big problem today and micromanaging Why do you think that’s such a prevalent issue inside of our businesses?
Todd Ehrlich [5:45]
Well, I think there’s a lot of you know, kind of you know, the knowledge and the books that are written and everything else, you know, tend to have like a life cycle and there’s been a lot of management, a lot of philosophy and interesting that they do to be great managers, you know, and people, you know, take those prescriptions from those books, and then they follow them kind of to the letter. And, you know, I’ve just got a bunch of experience trying things that people have recommended trying things that people things I’ve read, and, and you know, very quickly determining whether from me and my folks whether they worked or not. A great example, like kind of the way we do. I was, I had a board member recommend that I didn’t want these ones on one meeting every week with my team, each person individually, and that turned into a really weird scenario where I got it started a kind of a cycle politics.
Todd Ehrlich [6:39]
So basically, everybody was able to have this private one on one with me, and then they would go and they would unload a bunch of stuff about other people in the team and use that as an opportunity to do it. So I just kind of shut that down, where there’s not a lot of stuff happening like that. So it’s like, we’re like people with this other person. So let’s talk about it on a Monday morning. You know, It’ll either by the time you get the money more it solved already, or we talked about it and somebody else on the team solves the problem. And it wasn’t really a problem, to begin with. So like shutting down kind of political traps before they get started, is it something I learned? And in instead of like, just like, you know, kind of dogmatically following these rules, I’ve taken a kind of like, Is this working or not in real-time approach?
Hold on for a second, Todd just talked about micromanagement. Now I’ve talked to a lot of leaders who really want to improve this aspect of their game and leadership. They do trust their team, but for some reason, they still want to micromanage well, Todd talks about it, but I want to go really specifically into this. Micromanagement is the opposite of empowerment. Your players, your top talent, want to be empowered. They want to know that you trust them and want to know that you appreciate their ideas that you allow them to make decisions even if they’re wrong sometimes, but they are willing to put in Heart and Soul if you really empower them, because they’re not getting that somewhere else, so they get it from you, they’re going to increase that sense of loyalty and increase your sense of ownership. Back to Todd.
Gene Hammett [8:11]
You know, I haven’t heard many people talk about the effectiveness of one on one meetings. So I really appreciate you sharing that with us from your experience. So how do you keep tuned in to what an individual person is doing? And really where they’re growing and what’s really on their mind?
Todd Ehrlich [8:29]
So I, you know, I try to take the approach of, I’m taking them to lunch, I’m going to drop into their office saying, Hi, I keep all that stuff within business hours. But you know, not trying to get into people’s weekend hours or evening hours without spending time with their family, but really like during the day, like, Hey, take 30 minutes out of my day to focus on somebody else. And that’s, you know, because when you have a schedule one on one, people prepare for it, and they spend all this time preparing, so working. And so I was like, Okay, how much time did you spend on this? You know, So I deck together. Like to impress me with it, you know, like, it’s always the time.
Todd Ehrlich [9:04]
So that kind of led me to, you know, I’m just going to drop it on people. And that might freak them out a little bit. But like, it’s going to be kind of a no harm, no foul thing, and then they’re not wasting time preparing for me. So more informal than a formal one on one schedule. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And, you know, maybe weeks go by where we don’t need to have a talk, or whatever. I’m very confident based on, you know, kind of our executive meetings that we have twice a week, Monday. Maybe based on that meeting, I got enough what I need out of them that I don’t need to carry on a, you know, continuing one hour.
Gene Hammett [9:39]
Well, I really appreciate you has given us some that detail behind this. I want to go into some of the other steps you’ve taken to create great teams. So we know we’ve got to hire smart people. We know that we’ve got to you didn’t use the word empowerment, but I’m gonna go ahead and throw that out there. You’re gonna empower them, which is the opposite of micromanagement. Is that fair to say?
Todd Ehrlich [9:58]
Absolutely. I mean, the number one thing you find with most people coming into a startup, they’re usually coming from if they haven’t come from another startup, they’re coming from another enterprise, where they just felt stifled by the Corporation. And here, they want to stretch their, you know, wings and getting that, you know, so we’re just basically giving them what they want, and letting them run with it. We’re all super busy. So like, sitting there telling them how to do everything is, you know, not what I’ve found is and what I want people it’s like if in the first 90 days, you haven’t figured it out, like you’re probably not going to, so if you’re not willing to take that risk of you know, like, you’re not going to be hereafter 90 days, then, you know, don’t come and that, you know, probably scares away, you know, 5% of the people or 10% of people, but it’s usually enough to, you know, keep people from making the jump if they’re not supremely confident in their ability. It also sets up the kind of mental, you know, hurdle where they’re like, Hey, I got 90 days of proud of myself, you know, because I find that a lot of people join a company and that’s like, when they stop, they’re like, Oh, I pass the interview test.
Todd Ehrlich [11:02]
Now I’m not gonna do anything. I make it like, Hey, we’re watching you and a hawk for 90 days. And if you haven’t, like impressed us, after 90 days, you’re not going to make it. Do you call that 90 day period? Anything specific or just the first 90 days? No, it’s just the first 90 days. Yeah, I mean, again, like, you know, a lot of people try to codify a lot of these things. And it’s just like, I kind of feel like, you know, formalizing too much of this stuff can be detrimental to the process. With that being said, I have, you know, formalized some things like pre-screening, testing, and some things like that, where we’re really more focused on, you know, understanding somebody’s personality and whether they’ll fit into the team, which I think I mentioned you before, but that’s a big part of our screening process. And in folks out is you know, that shouldn’t be here is a great first step to, you know, kind of getting the right folks on the team.
Let’s pause here for a second. The first 90 days how intentional are you? You about that first 90-day experience for your employees. How intentionally you about the first week? Well, even the first day, if you could really get that, right, you’re really setting the right tone. But if you can get the first day, right, you can totally get the first week. If you can get that first week, right? You can get the first month. And if you can get the first 90 days, you really will create the kind of employee experience that really will create the kind of employees that you expect. You’re really laying the foundation. So it does take work. It takes some really intentional thought as a leader to create that first 90 days. And it’s not just about getting more work out of them, but it’s about creating the right tone, really getting the right patterns in place, listening to them, letting them feel heard, appreciated. And all of that wraps together in that first 90 days you get that right. You really won’t have a problem with retention. All right, back to the interview with Todd.
Gene Hammett [12:53]
I really appreciate your perspective on this. Is there anything that we have overlooked Inside of building great teams that I haven’t asked you about?
Todd Ehrlich [13:04]
Well, I just mentioned the testing, that’s a big thing. I also think kind of, you know, the the communications and dialogue. You know, there’s a lot of like, I think that there’s a lot of, you know, emotional volatility in organizations in both when you’re struggling. And also when you’re growing rapidly. That comes out, it’s just forced out by the pressure, right? And, and so that communication around those things are critically important. And the leader, the team has to be incredibly sensitive to it, and not like overreact. So sometimes you’ll have people that get very emotional about things and go, Hey, it’s okay. This isn’t something we get mad about. This is something we discuss can figure out a solution to so on and so forth. So that kind of like being able to de-escalate emotions is a critical issue. And also, you know, there’s another aspect of community I think really important, where you have teams, and on those teams, you know, if you’ve got a bunch of players, they’re all working really hard.
Todd Ehrlich [14:09]
And you know, and then you get these, like players who work really hard want to tell everybody about it, and they want to take credit for it. And what the theory of my problem there is they don’t realize like, hey, the guy that I’m bragging to about how hard I’m working and trying to get credit for this hard work, may or may not have worked just as hard as I have. But whatever, whether that’s true or not. The problem is, you now just cause that person to go, Well, that was a weird thing to say, why would they ask for credit for something like that it’s not really appropriate at this time, desire credit on, you know, we all want credit for good work, but it’s another thing to kind of ask for it and display it, everything else. So kind of try to do work, people work with people on that stuff to make sure that they’re not, you know, behaving that way. It just isn’t a very senior way. And you see a lot of people, you know, kind of do that and you’re just like do yours like, kind of like, screwed up the vibe here with your, you know, you know, an inordinate amount of backpacks needed? so…
Gene Hammett [15:08]
Well, I want to ask you, Todd, what are you doing to recognize people? Because that’s one area where companies really aren’t taking the time to recognize and maybe even reward people. Is there anything specific you shared with us there?
Todd Ehrlich [15:22]
So yeah, so I mean, I find a lot of recognition programs to be what I would call contrived. And, you know, almost uncomfortable. With that being said, we have a kind of ritual that we do our venture meetings twice a week, on Mondays and Thursday mornings, where it’s called bright spots. And during that period, everybody gets a chance to kind of talk about something successful or somebody that’s done something good in the company. And so there’s kind of this like, you know, colleague to colleague recognition, there’s, you know, like, like there’s immediate recognition. It’s not like you have to wait till the end of the quarter to get recognized.
Todd Ehrlich [16:00]
For your good deeds, it’s like, hey, great job helping out the team this week on this matter. We know you stayed here till like one o’clock in the morning doing it, thanks a lot like it was a huge deal and you got us over the hump. That kind of stuff delivered in real-time is incredibly valuable to the cohesiveness of the team and kind of the adhesion of the team to each other. They often both help solve each other’s problems in those meetings, and then they also, you know, complement each other in those meetings. So yeah, it means a lot coming from me when I compliment somebody. Sure, that’s hugely important. But you know, all humans matter, no matter where they come from and see, you know, your peer compliment your other peer for a job well done, just sets a really good tone. And I think that has been hugely impactful for our team.
Gene Hammett [16:45]
I would agree. And in fact, it may even be better for someone else to compliment appear in front of you and the other team to see that. Have you seen that that benefit?
Todd Ehrlich [16:58]
Yeah, I mean, I think one of the weirdest ss I’ve seen in the so the way we run our meetings like that the meeting is like kind of a critical portion of the team meeting like this is like where it all comes together for like 30 to 30 minutes to 60 minutes on every Monday and every Thursday morning. And we kind of engineered this where everybody gets a chance to kind of talk about what they’re working on what they’re going to be working on what they got done all that stuff, their updates take just a few minutes, then we have a issues period of time.
Todd Ehrlich [17:24]
So everybody gets to talk, that’s critical that everybody gets a chance to talk about which they have any at that point, put them out there on the table and talk about it and solve it right then in there. If we can’t solve it right then and there, then we’ll table and come back and tell the team how to solve and then after that, it’s a chance to just say something nice in me on a nice note, everybody like relatively walks out happy and nobody’s like, you know, going home and kicking their puppy or anything like that because they get crapped on in the company meeting. So in the other really important thing about that is I’m not hogging all the bandwidth, right? used to do that right. I go into a meeting and I’d be full time. Right?
Todd Ehrlich [18:00]
Now it’s just like I much of your time as everybody else unless I want to get on a pedestal and kind of give a speech that day. But generally speaking, those speeches are maybe once a month or once every two months. Well, I appreciate the detail there. A couple of things. I want to go over here and see how they’re addressed inside your work and leadership. Google did a study a few years ago called Aristotle. Are you familiar with the study on high performing teams? Only you mentioned to me before.
Gene Hammett [18:26]
So one of the core factors behind this is a sense of psychological safety. So they found it that, you know, there are already smart people there, they’re hiring, but it’s not the most talented people that make the best high performing team. It’s teams that feel psychologically Safe, safe to share ideas, without judgment and to work together through these issues. And ego is kind of pushed to the side. Have you seen that within your teams?
Todd Ehrlich [18:50]
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s kind of what we’re built on. You know, I like it when I make a mistake, I try to own up to it immediately like and you see a lot of leaders who just won’t own a mistake, right, they don’t want it, they can’t, like lose face. That’s not how I run things. And I think it’s one of those things that based on, you know, if you got a lot of smart people and you’re trying to save face, you’re probably going to lose a lot of trusts and a lot of respect in the process. So, by owning my mistakes, other people own their mistakes. And therefore, there’s like a cascade, of trust that comes from that.
Todd Ehrlich [19:25]
And ultimately, like, people make mistakes in our business, for sure. It happens all the time. And I think it’s one of those things that by, you know, not jumping all over people to say, Okay, how the mistake happened, let’s do an autopsy of it understand, you know, what got us here, that allows us to kind of break it down and, you know, unless it’s, you know, something malfeasance or something like that, but generally speaking, most these mistakes are, you know, there was a process problem, there was a management problem, there’s a bunch of problems that may be led up to it, and had we, you know, kind of able to, you know, kind of stay for one or two of those issues on along the way, never what happened. So learning those issues, you know, is basically what prevents other things.
Todd Ehrlich [20:05]
So, we, as far as idea generation, um, you know, the team, you know, can be like really great at generating ideas. And that’s really wonderful. And you just gotta let them do that. Sometimes you got to coax them a little bit by throwing a bad idea out so they can like to jump all over it. And it was terrible. What about this? What about that, you know, sometimes like coaxing an idea out, you got to sit there and like, look like a bit of a knucklehead in the process to do it. But it helps when people are like, Oh, cool. I’m like showing my boss like how smart I am. And that that’s always helpful.
Gene Hammett [20:39]
Well, I want to go through something you talked about, Own your mistakes. And I want to step back a level or two because I think that’s very important. But I’ve done hundreds of interviews with founders and CEOs just like you. One of the core patterns I found around this is companies that have a sense of ownership with their team like that. They really feel like owners like they can have a slice of the pie. That’s all fine. They can get, you know, profit sharing is not about external drivers of money. It’s about the internal empowerment is one of the key factors of that. What are your feelings on making people feel like owners across the team no matter what level they’re at?
Todd Ehrlich [21:16]
I totally agree. Maybe into Manning officer’s office, and he’d asked me for my ideas on the problem. And he told me to get out of his office. And if I wasn’t part of the solution, I was part of the problem. And I know that’s a little bit cliche, but it had a huge impact on me. And so, you know, as far as training people to have ownership, I try to instill that in them. So basically, when people come to me and they got a problem, you know, I’m like, Hey, listen, I’m busy, you’re busy, but we both the less busy if you can come at least with some solutions, and then we could, you know, pick through why one is the best or not, or like, Hey, you can solve this yourself already. Instead, we’re sitting here talking about it.
Todd Ehrlich [21:59]
While we money’s wasted, right? So there’s a bunch of like, kind of what I would call subtle, you know, management techniques to get people to get more ownership, or I’ve got folks who, like their work from the here that like, kind of when they graduate high school came to work here. Or, and, or when they graduate college and they like I could walk out and they could run the show because they’ve just been that’s been, you know, feed into him over the years not be you know, any, like, just basically like, what, how would you solve it? Why is that the best solution?
Todd Ehrlich [22:30]
Is that have you explored other solutions? Yeah, I’ve got this one, this one, this one. This is why I discounted them. And then sometimes if it’s a big enough deal, maybe I have like some insight as to why it’s, you know why there might be another solution or another way to go about it.
Gene Hammett [22:44]
So part of the whole concept around high performing teams that you have tied, it seems like you really like to include everyone. It’s not just your ideas. Your company wouldn’t be running at the pace that it’s running. If If you probably were expected to come up with every great idea of the company has Fair?
Todd Ehrlich [23:01]
Absolutely, Yeah, of course, a good idea. You know, but like in the st. I think that’s like, you know, ideas are and for others, they’re very abundant. And I’m one of those people, I’m lucky to have a lot of ideas or a lot of different ways to solve a problem. And I think I’ve attracted a lot of people like that. But you like if you treat you treat ideas with an abundance mentality as opposed to a scarcity mentality, I think you just get more great ideas on the table, and ultimately more ways to solve problems and move forward. So I think you know, it’s kind of just a mindset issue.
Gene Hammett [23:32]
Well, Todd, I really appreciate you being here on the podcast, sharing your concepts, your strategies, and the details behind what takes two great, great, great team so thanks for being here.
Todd Ehrlich [23:43]
Gene Hammett [23:44]
Wow, what a great interview really love his focus on creating great teams and truly empowering them and including them into ideas and really getting them to take ownership of their mistakes, taking ownership himself. All of these details are now necessary to create high performing teams. Now, hopefully, you already have a high performing team. But there’s always the next level. Whenever you know that you’re growing as a team, as a leader at a personal level, and you make sure that you want to keep that growth going. I work with leaders that are already successful, who want to keep that growth, reach, reach new levels of success, really excited about the work I’m doing. So if I can help you with anything, make sure you reach out to [email protected], as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
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