When you create new growth, it is not just putting your head down and executing. Leading a team to create new growth is more than getting the work done. Today’s guest is Milind Mehere, Founder and CEO at Yieldstreet. Inc Magazine ranked #46 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Hosts an alternative investment digital wealth management platform and offers a variety of investment options. Milind shares his four parts to create new growth. His experience in developing teams and execution gives you tremendous insight into leading fast-growth. Milind’s mind for business and leadership will help you understand if you have gaps that need to be addressed.
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Milind Mehere: The Transcript
About: Milind Mehere is Founder and CEO at Yieldstreet. Yieldstreet is reimagining the way wealth is created by providing access to alternative investments previously reserved only for institutions and ultra-wealthy. Yieldstreet’s mission is to help five million investors generate $3 billion of income outside the traditional public markets by 2025. Yieldstreet’s award-winning D2C technology platform provides access to investment products across a range of asset classes such as Real Estate, Private Credit, Art, Marine, and Legal Finance.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
I think like an entrepreneur, my ultimate desire is always to bootstrap, right? I want to control my destiny. And I always want to bootstrap my business. But then I’m trying to balance that with how fast I want to scale. Because bootstrapping can only take you so far. And at that time that you want to go. So that’s always the trade-off that I have made in my career, which is, I believe that growth capital venture capital can help you accelerate your idea and get to the market faster. So for any entrepreneur and founder, I will always ask them to kind of view it from that lens. And, hey, is this the idea that you think is going to be massive that requires capital to be able to do it, versus an idea that is bootstrapping and some ideas that bootstrap can also scale very quickly, right. But ultimately, that’s the open market and exploration of their vision is what is the trade-off that you’re always
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of 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?
Gene Hammett [1:10]
The best leaders have core principles that guide them, they’re not making it up on the fly, they have these principles that they can go to and lean on that guide them around the next steps and what to really focus on as the company scales and evolves. These principles are something that you can learn from because I’m going to be sharing with you exactly how our guest today thinks about leadership. And one of the key things that are important to him, as the company continues to grow from where it is today, we have co founder and CEO of Yieldstreet. It is Milind Mehere, I probably messed up that last name, but Milind really does share with you the ABCs of leadership, we go through what the ABCDs are, there are four key things, we add a fifth one at the end. So you have to tune in to see exactly what that is. But if you get these four things right inside your leadership, then you’re going to create a great company, you can create innovation, you can create and scale the company beyond where it is today. But you got to get these four things, right. I do believe that these four things that Milind talks about really be will be critical to your own success and critical to the success of your venture. Now, before we jump into this, I want to remind you that if you are a fast-growth leader, you’re a founder CEO, you’re listening to this today, we have a peer-to-peer group. And if you want to hang out with others, be in a community of other fast growth leaders, surrounded by people that will push you and challenge you, then I want you to check out the fastgrowthboardroom.com inside, there are some core things around leadership that will help you evolve into the leader that you really want to be. And now you will have a unique experience if you join us. And if you think you’re a good fit, just go to basket boardroom comm check it out, you can apply, and we’ll get on the phone, we’ll talk about it. You don’t have to commit to anything. And if it’s the right fit for you. I’ll invite you to join us on this membership. We do fun things like race Porsches, we talk about leadership and culture. But we really are centered around you being the best leader you can be. Make sure you check out fastgrowthboardroom.com. Now here’s Milind.
Gene Hammett [3:19]
Milind, and how are you?
Milind Mehere [3:21]
I’m great Gene, how are you doing?
Gene Hammett [3:22]
Fantastic. We are going to have a great interview here for Growth Think Tank, you have been, you know, had tremendous success in your background. But your current venture right now is Yieldstreet. So give us some insight into what Yieldstreet is.
Milind Mehere [3:36]
Yeah, of course. So first of all, thank you for having me, and excited to chat with you. Yieldstreet is taking alternative investments mainstream. And what I mean by that is that we are an investment platform that gives you access to alternative investments that have historically been very hard to access that generate passive income for you. And so, we are really trying to modernize your portfolio where you know, for four decades, we have been told 6040 But as you know, that model is outdated. And some of the biggest investors in the world have 10 times more access to alternatives, than retail investors. So how do you kind of change that mix is what yesterday is all about? And so, you know, here we are, we are building a very fascinating, high growth and innovative company.
Gene Hammett [4:24]
You also were you know, you know, a pioneer in Yodel. And you sold that. So give us a little bit of context around Yodel too.
Milind Mehere [4:33]
Yeah, absolutely. So Gene, if you look at my career, it has always hovered around taking interesting ideas and using technology and data to really bring them to the mainstream. So if I briefly give you my background, I started my career in enterprise software, really working for an innovative company called AI technologies that really coined the word supply chain and from there you know, if you think about it, yodel, the idea was really 2005-2006 when Google was a small company that had just gone public and iPhone didn’t exist, Facebook and Netflix existed, but we’re small and not so relevant Facebook, and Netflix were still sending a series in red envelopes. But there was this 100 billion dollar small, you know, marketing ecosystem, that we’re all moving online. So yodel was born out of that belief that how do you take small businesses online and build a website for them and help them acquire new customers, and over the next 10 years, we scaled it to over 200 million in revenue and 1400 people here in the United States. And then the fascinating part Jean is that you would then wonder, how do I go from AD tech to FinTech? And so a little anecdote for your listeners. For me, it was really personal why I started us straight. So coming out of the global financial crisis, you know, we probably all remember where we are, we were when like Lehman Brothers went down in 2008 2009.
Milind Mehere [6:00]
And Citibank, you know, one of the most bellwether stocks for the last 100 years was trading at 39 cents. And I saw my portfolio down 50%. And I really had a little bit of anger towards Wall Street, because I was a prudent consumer, I and my wife had saved more money than the 6040 model. And to see my portfolio down 50%, I thought I was left holding the bag. But the other aspect was really the core of Yieldstreet business, which is, I realized I was overexposed to the stock market, I didn’t have access to the kind of nonstock market investments, like how, as I mentioned, to you early, typically institutional investors do. And so that really kind of, you know, began my quest of, you know, really solving for that problem. And that’s how can I used it it came about through it was five, six years later, is when I actually got a chance to do Yieldstreet.
Gene Hammett [6:50]
I love that story. You know, great businesses are typically born out of some pain, or you know, some service that you’re looking for yourself. So what you’ve created with the Old Street is a perfect example. When I think about having you on the show, my team’s done some research around you, and you really have put a lot of focus on you being a great leader. Why do you think leadership is so important inside of our companies, other than the obvious reasons of leadership? But what is it to you?
Milind Mehere [7:22]
Yeah, so for me, leadership is simply an ability to communicate the vision, what your true north is, and have a group of individuals believe in that vision. Because ultimately, it is the teams that you bring together, that are going to determine the outcome for you. And so for me, leadership is simply that, can you communicate a great vision, and then inspire a team to execute on that vision, it is also very important as a leader to be steadfast and have all those qualities of a leader, but those are all table stakes, right? At the end of the day, you want to bring a great team together. And that’s why people say that a small group of people can and can, can really, truly change the world, right. And there’s a great quote from you know, Margaret Mead, that actually in our, in our office, so that’s what leadership means to me.
Gene Hammett [8:13]
Perfect. And you’ve got some some principles that guide you and your leadership that we’re gonna walk through today. And, you know, I don’t know if you had this organized, maybe you do. But what I have here, my notes for my team is the ABCDEs of leadership. So let’s walk through that at a top level, and then dive into to the details of the ABCDEs.
Milind Mehere [8:36]
Yeah, so I kind of, you know, came up with this paradigm simply to you know, remember it myself, but then also guide other founders, especially in the startup early-stage ecosystem. So simply what it means ABCD really means is amens always be well capitalized. That’s the core function of the founder and a CEO to make sure that you have enough runway to execute on your Id be, as I said earlier, build a talented team. So always be hiring, seeking top talent, and the right people on the bus as they call it. So that you can execute on your vision, see is to communicate the vision itself. And D is the most important aspect. And lot of us forget that I have to keep reminding myself which is decide and delegate, you have to be very decisive as a leader, you cannot be sitting and flip-flopping or taking time because people are relying on you. They’re looking forward to getting that decision from you. Because that’s what slows down a lot of organizations. And then effectively delegate, all of us think that we can do a lot of things. But I have found that some of the best leaders are the ones that can effectively be deleted. So those are my kind of ABC DS and listen, they’re not in any particular order. But you know, ABCD just sounds a little easier to remember. So so that’s what it is all about.
Gene Hammett [10:00]
We’re gonna walk through that. But I’m going to kind of tease the audience as you keep listening in here. I would add an E to that. And I know we could probably keep adding this is because the complexity of leadership is hard, but we’re going to go through your first four. And then maybe I’ll chime in on that the E at the end.
Milind Mehere [10:18]
So I think I know what that is going to be. And I think we’ll
Gene Hammett [10:21]
Let see the same thing. Later.
Milind Mehere [10:23]
What is one? It’s very important.
Gene Hammett [10:25]
Yes, I think so too. So always be well-capitalized. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this. Because we all know we need money, but you have raised money. What is the determining factor between raising money versus trying to bootstrap it or capitalize it yourself?
Milind Mehere [10:44]
Yeah, this is a great question. Listen, it all really for me, it all comes down to how big is your ambition? And what is the type of problem that you’re trying to solve? Right? I think, as an entrepreneur, my ultimate desire is always to bootstrap, right? I want to control my destiny. And I always want to bootstrap my business. But then I’m trying to balance that with how fast I want to scale. Because bootstrapping can only take you so so far, and in the time that you want to go. So that’s always the trade-off that I have made in my career, which is I believe that growth capital venture capital can help you accelerate your idea and get to the market faster. So for every entrepreneur and founder, I would always ask them to kind of view it from that lens standpoint, right? Okay, is this the idea that you think is going to be massive, that’s going to require capital to be able to do it, versus an idea that is bootstrapping and some ideas that bootstrap can also scale very fast, right? But ultimately, that’s the go-to-market and exploration of your vision is what is the trade-off that you’re always making?
Gene Hammett [11:47]
Alright, perfect. I won’t go into that too much. Because there’s a lot of content that we have outside of this show around external money and whatnot, but, but we spend a lot of time talking about building a great team and a talented team, you mentioned something that’s pretty important, a small team, you don’t have to have a lot of people to create something amazing. So what do you think the core principles are to creating a great team?
Milind Mehere [12:11]
So listen, we have a few principles that illustrate for me core principles are that you have to be passionate as a person, and you have to be curious, and that are really very much important ingredients of an early-stage company, gold stage companies, right? Are you driven by mission? Are you driven by your passion? And then curiosity comes from the fact that are you asking the right questions are you questioning authority after that, for me, owning an executing is very important. So you could be curious, but you also need to have a full loop, any project that has been given to you or we are working on together needs to be executed on and, and then for us data is very important, especially in the type of businesses that we are in so decide with data are super important aspects of what we do here at the industry.
Milind Mehere [12:56]
And then finally, our teamwork has to be done today. And especially now in the post-COVID world pandemic world together, we achieve winning How can you collaborate effectively with you know, people across the, across the office, but also we have multiple, you know, locations? And so how to do you kind of collaborate with them, is, is very, very important. So for me, those are the real aspects of how you can build a culture together. And we are really proud at Yieldstreet about the type of culture that we have built, you know, across different functions. So like investment team, really hanging out with engineers, and, you know, Investor Relations Team hanging out with the origination team. And that cross, you know, the collaboration aspect is very fascinating.
Gene Hammett [13:40]
I want to ask you one question as relates to the team, I had a conversation with someone the other day who’s been very successful with their company, they’ve gotten to 10 million. And so they can look back and say, You know what, this has been a pretty fantastic ride, and they’ve gotten there without much structure around culture, but they do want to take it to 10 to 20 million, they want to take it even beyond that. Do you put any structure in your culture? Like, do you put a lot of focus on core values and things like that
Milind Mehere [14:04]
We do focus on the core values chain, which I outlined for you, we have six core values, and we tried to embed them into our annual performance reviews into our quarterly rewards and awards that we have. And so a lot of our awards are designed that in Slack, we have a props channel, and we have emojis that represent each of those cultures, right? So whenever you’re doing props, you’re associating them with them. I think that’s very important to to build culture. Now with regards to specifically around culture, listen, culture evolves over time, by the type of people you hire and who is on the team. And it evolves like the culture today and history is very different from when we were 10%. Company, right? And it continues to evolve.
Milind Mehere [14:46]
So for me, culture is a is really an active thing that’s always in motion and always changing and you need to embrace that. For example, I’ll give you a very simple relevant point right now, yesterday. It was very much a face-to-face culture, pre-pandemic, we have a beautiful office in midtown Manhattan. And we prided ourselves in being in the office and and really collaborating. Are we going to go back to that? I think it’s going to be a hybrid model. Are you gonna be 100%? remote? No, but I think it’s going to be a hybrid model. Because I think what we can do is really bring out the best in people when you come to the office for the most strategic prioritization, delegation, macro events, brainstorming whiteboarding sessions, and then another microtask that we have got so efficient within the last year, you do that one or two days from home, where you’re working with yourself or a small group of people banging those things out. So we can get the best of both worlds, right. So that’s really where I feel like, you know, culture can really intersect very well with the values.
Gene Hammett [15:44]
I see that a lot. But a lot of these interviews that I have, we want to make sure we get to the last two and your ABCD framework, which was communicated vision, Every company has some vision. But do you take this a little bit further than most? Or do you do something unique around the vision that allows you to connect with it and share it often?
Milind Mehere [16:02]
Yes, absolutely. So we have quarterly, all-hands meeting kind of the State of the Union for the quarter. And in order for us to communicate the vision, we really have laid out our true north and gene. I think this is a video podcast also from you know, it’s not going to be very visible here. But this is a folded paper that I have. This is the vision that we had laid out for guild street as a company before we wrote one line of code. And every six months or so I refresh this to show people how focused we are on the true north. Okay, so I think that is very important. Because, you know, obviously, companies pivot and they should really once the product-market fit kind of evolves and stuff like that. But we have done a very good job of laying out what the true north and communicating that through kind of quarterly programs and things like that.
Milind Mehere [16:54]
The other thing we do is I actually don’t have it here. But every year we have a theme. So this is our sixth year. So guess what the theme for this year is? It’s six, what does it stand for scale, innovate, accelerate six. And last year, it was realized your next level, because we branded our company with a new brand that all investors in the company should realize their next level using history. And so every year in the past, we have had teams like own and execute and stuff like that yearly themes. And so I think it’s very important to, you know, have that bridge between what the team is feeling versus what’s the true north and where we are taking the company to. And I think that really the mission-driven aspects really bring out the best in people, and really bring out the best in teams as they execute. You know, as we all execute together on that specific mission.
Milind said something really powerful about culture evolving. I’ve had this discussion many times leaders, why can’t the culture just stay the same as we grow and get bigger? The main reason behind it is because as your company gets bigger, it gets harder to communicate the way you’re used to. So you have to figure out different ways. For example, if your company as it 10 employees, then you can easily get together and go out to have lunch together, it takes no special effort. You can do this very easily, you know, maybe when we’re not on COVID, lockdown, and whatnot. But you get the idea, the way you communicate ideas with 10 is very different than you do it at 50. Because you have to look at the changes in communication to how things flow, how people feel included and not included. And so your job as a leader is to understand that culture evolves, as you add new people, but also to be intentional about what culture is, if you want to learn more about that keep listening to GrowthThink Tank. Now back to Milind.
Gene Hammett [18:43]
I love that idea. I haven’t seen that before. Every year you have a theme around it, it’s different than your core values, but they intersect together and people can get even more excited about what you’re trying to create. Right. Alright, so let’s spend some time on this, this decides and delegates because I do believe it’s a very important thing. But I think a lot of people don’t really understand this because they’re making a lot of decisions. They’re delegating a lot of stuff. But when you think about decide and delegate, what is it to you?
Milind Mehere [19:13]
Great question. Listen, as human beings and individuals Gene, we all have our strengths. And we all are our challenges. So I have a rubric for myself that I keep updating from time to time. What is that rubric? What am I great at what I what do I love doing? What does the organization need from me and what I don’t like doing okay, so what am I great at what do I love doing? What don’t I like doing and what does the organization need from me? And for me, you know, the sweet spot of those four things is really what I want to focus my time on. Okay, so then I take the rest of the staff, and I figure out what do I need to delegate and how frequently I should make my decisions and how effective I should be in decision making. Right? And so really, that’s how I think about you know, you know, delegated and deciding one of the challenges that I have is that as a CEO, I’m always dealt with incomplete information, right? And there are things happening in real-time.
Milind Mehere [20:11]
So when it comes to decision making, am I the fastest decision maker? Maybe not, right. But I’m always juggling priorities, lack of complete information, and the constraints that I have, whether it’s financial constraints, whether it’s resource concerns, yes, I would love to do a project, but I don’t have for extra engineers to be able to do that. So again, I think that’s really where, you know, decision-making can be very challenging. And so I try to, you know, obviously, decide with data, right? And so, you know, really, you have to train your team to think about, like, How fast can we get to decision making, so I always encourage my leadership team to push me if I’m sitting too long, like, hey, Okay, are we uncomfortable here? Why are we taking so long to make this decision? Right, and like trying to have that aspect of it is super important. And then delegation, is that rubric? Right, which is things that I’m not good at, and all don’t need from me, and somebody else can do it. I need to do that delegation fast. And and do it frequently.
Gene Hammett [21:08]
How often are you updating that rubric?
Milind Mehere [21:10]
I think I tried to do it, like, at least, at least once a year, sometimes more often, if the, if the company is scaling or things are happening faster, but at least try to do it, you know, once a year. And it also depends on some things fall off. So for example, if I hire somebody in the leadership team, then there are one or two things that perhaps I don’t like doing, but now I have somebody else to allow, right. And so you know, that’s how I kind of try to think about that rubric.
If you’re listening to this on your phone, make sure you go to YouTube to get find more content that we only put on there, just go to genehammett.com/YouTube. If you want to be an extraordinary leader, make sure you tune in right now. Just go to genehammett.com/YouTube.
Gene Hammett [21:49]
I want to recap where we’ve gone through the ABCDs onto always would be well kept. Get a little tongue-tied there always be well-capitalized, which means having money making sure that the company is not lacking for resources for the future plans. We also want to make sure that you’re building a great team and all the things that go with that. You want to make sure you’re communicating the vision consistently and accurately to align people together. But you also want to decide and delegate. No one said this leadership job was very easy. If you had to add a fifth an E to this, what would you say that he is empathetic, no different than I was thinking. But empathy is one of the most critical skills inside of leadership, why would you add empathy to that?
Milind Mehere [22:30]
Listen, I think last year taught us a lot of a lot of things, right. And one of the things that became very important to me is that empathy was something super important. And that happened not only because of the pandemic, but because of the broad, like, aspects of cultural aspects of our society that, you know, came up are very ugly, had in so many different aspects, right. And so I think, for me, it was very important to keep that front and center. When I think about decisions that I make, I think about the team. You know, I think about leadership traits that are important in today’s world. And so I think that that that really was a natural thought that came to my mind.
Gene Hammett [23:11]
I think I agree with you.
Milind Mehere [23:12]
Gene Hammett [23:13]
I agree with the empathy is such an important piece to this. Because I talked to so many people about building great teams and leadership and culture, you said the word ownership a lot. And my next book is named How do you inspire people to feel like owners, and a big part of that is having a sense of empowerment, truly people feeling like this is they can own this project they own not just the results, but they own the process, they own the challenges in the midst of it. So empowerment is such a powerful force inside of our companies because it gives our teams that feeling that it’s not just they have a job, they’re doing something for many reasons, external to who they are.
Milind Mehere [23:56]
I would I would not agree. I couldn’t agree more. Gene, I think in my previous company of yodel, we had a, we had a principle called question authority. And, and that’s really where empowerment is so so important because I think in today’s world, also, you will be amazed at what people can do if you empower them with decision making, and just give them wings to fly. And I think that sometimes, you know, we get too caught up in trying to structure people and things like that, but I think empowering them to not only think like owners but also take control of the ultimate output. Because when you achieve that, you’ve not only felt empowered, but you feel accomplished, right? So I couldn’t agree more.
Gene Hammett [24:40]
Milind, thank you for being a part of the show, part of sharing your principles of leadership.
Milind Mehere [24:45]
Thanks for having me, Gene. It was really a pleasure.
Gene Hammett [24:47]
So just to recap a little bit of this conversation, it takes a lot to be a great leader. You know, there’s probably more to it than just the ABCDs and E’s if you want to look at all of them, but it really does take you evolving and personal level. If you want to be a great leader and not everybody wants to be a great leader, I want you to make sure that you check out fast growth boardroom is a place for peers, the fast-growth companies, founder CEOs gathered together to share what’s going on. They learn from each other, but also the creative space for evolution. If you want to check out fastgrowthboardroom.com, make sure you do that right now. When you think about growth, you think about leadership, think of Growth Think Tank, as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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