Companies don’t scale without the right people on the team. So leaders have to craft a strategy for growth and create a place where culture is everything. Believing culture is everything is a shift that can make a top-tier team. Today’s guest is Derek Hansen, CEO at Mynt Systems. Inc Magazine ranked his company #1124 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Mynt Systems transforms commercial real estate into alpha-performing sustainable assets. Derek talks about why he believes culture is everything. He knows the importance of his people to the mission of the business.
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Derek Hansen: The Transcript
About: Derek Hansen has had a passion for all things Building Performance since childhood and began working part-time, as a teenager, in his father’s company TGC, Inc. Following his passion for architecture, he worked as an intern at the prestigious Thatcher and Thompson Architects before moving into construction during the housing boom in Hawaii in the mid-’90s.Upon his father’s pleading to return back to Santa Cruz to be groomed to eventually run the family company he began working his way up the ranks until, after 15 years, reaching the role of Chief Executive Officer. Within his 5 years at the helm, he worked with his team to more than double company revenue and build a national presence.
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.
Derek Hansen: We’ve created a culture where I believe everybody loves what they do and loves working with each other because we’re all working where we’re kind of doubling down on our superpower and then hiring or creating teams where other people’s superpowers are actually our weakness. Right? So everybody is in this synergistic, kind of team where nobody is ever spending too much time on something. Now you can’t completely eradicate this, but not much time on the things that really drive me crazy. And, and so it’s not easy. It’s a very difficult culture to develop. And once you develop it, the word gets out, you start recruiting people based on the fact that they already understand your culture is going to help them become greater and double down on what it is that their, their superpower is. So we help them uncover that and really, build positions around what people are great at naturally.
Intro: 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 company. 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: You know, your people are. But have you ever thought about how important culture is to the success of your company? Well, every one of the Inc 5,000 level leaders, I talk to knows that their people are extremely important to them scaling up because they reach a certain point in the business where they can’t do it themselves. They’ve got to bring on others to join them in this mission. And they know that people are critical to the success of the company. And continuing that growth means they must be intentional about culture. And so today we look at how culture is everything. We are with Derek Hansen, with Mynt Systems. They are a specialty brand company that does engineering design in the mid-market, real estate companies. They were number 1,224 on the Inc list. This past year they’ve made it twice in a row. But what we talk about is culture is everything. And Derek shares with these about some of the real insights behind what he’s learned about getting the most out of people. And how do you get people aligned with the company? And they, they don’t want to leave. They want to really put everything they’ve got into it. And I love this conversation because if you want people to step up if you want them to really engage at a higher level than you want to listen to Derek’s interview with me. Before we get there. If you’re thinking about what does it take to grow as a leader? And I want to make sure you know, that we have some resources available to you. Not only do we have all these interviews and all the content we create, but we’ve created a space for you to grow. If you value. Peers that are growing fast. You want to learn from them. You want to be challenged. You want to really get the, the latest cutting-edge information on how to be an extraordinary leader. Then make sure you tune into fastgrowthboardroom.com inside there. We’re creating a community of people that want to grow fast. They want their company’s value to increase, but they also really want to be extraordinary leaders. Just go to fastgrowthboardroom.com and you will be able to see exactly what we’re talking about and if it’s a fit for you, we encourage you to apply. Now here’s the conversation with Derek,
Derek? How are you?
Derek Hansen: I’m doing great. Thanks so much.
Gene Hammett: We are going to talk about people and culture and what that really means in a scaling company. But tell us a little bit about Mynt Systems before we get there.
Derek Hansen: Yeah. Mynt Systems is a kind of our, our intention was to become a holistic provider of energy services for the commercial. Industrial, , real estate market at that kind of that mid-market level. What we would call maybe BNC properties are our take was that there was a ton of screaming from the rooftops around, let’s change, you know, we’ve gotta fix, we gotta fix the planet. We’ve gotta do the right thing. , everybody. I kind of knew that, but nobody knew who to turn to the large-scale class, a, you know, corporate campuses and such all had, you know, the right people approaching them. Some of them even had, developed teams of sustainability teams and so on. But at the mid-market level, we felt like it was totally underserved and nobody knew how to either A reach those people or B how to take very dynamic and complex systems and apply them in a one-off bespoke way to that, to these, you know, maybe slightly smaller companies. And so we geared a company specifically for that. And so what we do is transform commercial, industrial real estate to being deeply sustainable or zero net energy, zero carbon, highly resilient, real estate. So our goal and what we do is structure these, these systems in a way at which it’s, an investment strategy for the ownership of that real estate with a net benefit to the both of tenants. Of course the owner as of the investor and then the community and, and ultimately the ecology at large.
Gene Hammett: Well, that was a mouthful. And I really appreciate you sharing some of the detail and the work that you guys are doing in this world. And to do this, you’ve been able to pull together a great group of people with specialized skills and these individual areas of engineering and design. And it’s so many things around this. So it really is. Require a special brand, of leadership and culture. How would you describe your culture?
Derek Hansen: You know, our culture is, deeply rooted in the idea that you can achieve more together for one, right? So we don’t silo people two, it’s a fundamental belief in the non-zero-sum game. That’s kind of a, it’s how we approach the market. As you can tell, our, our, our projects are kind of packaged in a way that’s a win-win. , we really love the triple bottom line of people, planet profit. Right. They can all be achieved at the same time, you know, when for all, all three. And, and so we’ve created that same, kind of anchor for our culture internally, which is a non-zero-sum game. Right. One doesn’t do better at the sake of somebody else doing worse. Right. It’s everybody wins together. And so our culture is in a nutshell, we like to believe it’s very fast-paced, very hardworking, but we kind of doubled down on the idea that if everybody loves what they’re doing, they’re going to do great work. And so we spend a lot of time recruiting and hiring people for their specific skill, but over time. And it’s usually within about a year, two years of working with us. We have a series of meetings where we go deep with them and identify what it is that makes them the happiest within their work. Right. What it is that makes them the most fulfilled. What gets them out of bed in the morning? What are they excited about? And we gravitate them slowly to where that’s more and more of their time is spent working in that space. And so we’ve created a culture where I believe everybody loves what they do and loves working with each other because we’re all, working where we’re kind of doubling down on our superpower and then hiring or creating teams where other people’s superpowers are actually our weakness. Right? So everybody is in this synergistic, kind of team where nobody is ever spending too much time on something. Now you can’t complain. Eradicate this, but not much time on the things that really drive them crazy or that they don’t like. And so it’s not easy. It’s a very difficult culture to develop, but once you develop it, the word gets out, you start recruiting people based on the fact that they already understand your culture is going to help them become greater, and double down on what it is that their, their superpower is. And so we help them uncover that and, and really, build positions around what people are, are great at naturally.
Gene Hammett: I want to ask you a question on that. Did you say that’s about a year into the experiences when you guys do it for that, or?
Derek Hansen: Well, I, I’d say it’s more over the course of a year. We’ll take two years. So for a good example is I have a, my head of design engineering, which sounds like an engineering role. Really. It’s actually a business development role. This young man came out of UCLA with a mechanical engineering background. And over the course of just kind of having meetings with him, I realized he had so much of the characteristics of a salesperson, right? If a guy that really, really likes to go develop new business work on new concepts, he wasn’t a pure engineer. , and, and honestly finding, somebody with an engineering background and engineering skills that also has deep, people skills. Is really rare. And so we took about two years to migrate him where he was learning all of our, our engineering processes and systems. But meanwhile, I was training him on sales and business development, right. And, and how to work the market. And so now he is a second. Kind of the second man in our, our biz dev team and VP of design engineering. So he’s doing the design concepts that turn into our deals and he’s as happy as it gets, right? Because I, I CA we kind of uncovered that he really, really loves to sell. He doesn’t want to be the pitch guy, but he loves to be in that sales process. So we married those two things of engineering and business development, which are kind of necessary in our company, but the point is. He came in as an engineer and we over the course of a year or two migrated him over into where he’s more of a biz dev guy.
Gene Hammett: Great story there, because I think a lot of people get pigeonholed into their degrees and whatnot, and that’s the only way leaders see them. But you actually are very intentional about tuning in to what drives them, what really makes them tick internally so that you can create a space so that they are using those superpowers more often than not. When did you think about this style of, did you get it from somewhere else, or is this just something you kind of came up with?
Derek Hansen: You know, I, I read a lot, of, of, it kind of a broad, I read everything from quantum physics, mechanics, all the way to like spiritual, you know, texts and everything in between. And so I think it’s more conceptually for me, I’ll be candid. , you know, I didn’t, I didn’t, I dropped out of college my first semester. I was not very good at school. And so I had to start to rely on the things. What I realized was that what made me good in business development and sales was reading people. And how would I build a culture around that same thing? Because honestly, I don’t have a business degree. I don’t know how to build a business. I don’t, I don’t know what building culture looks like. Other than what I know, I know how to do so again, I doubled down on my own superpower and turn that into the way that I felt was going to build us a good culture. , culture is everything. People are the business. Anybody that thinks that their product is the business is missing it. Right. , the people that create the products, and create the concept. And do the work to create the product are the business. The product is the, is the end result of kind of a value chain that generates revenue, but it’s the people that make the company. And so for me, not having that degree, not having that background business background, or I had a business background, but not, not having that business, degree background, I should say education. I had to fall back on what I, what I knew how to do, which was. Read people. And I figured if I could build a company where everybody was happier than they would be anywhere else, they would not only stay, but they would do great work.
Commentary: Hold on. Derek just said culture is everything. Now, this whole episode is about culture, but I want to share a micro-story with you. If you will. I was watching the co-founders of HubSpot and they’re a company that really grown fast after their public IPO. They really were continuing that growth. And the co-founders of that really thought about what does it take for us to continue growing at the company that most people are not paying attention to. And it was two things. It was the product and the people, it takes both. In fact, he said, there are two things that we are crew producers here. Right? We are product producers of a great product, and we’re also the producers of great people. So you want to make sure you’re paying attention to both of those cultures is everything. It’s just an example of what’s really important inside of companies growing fast and back to Derek.
Gene Hammett: You’ve had a while to put this together and your results of being on the Inc list have been impressive. You guys, like almost a what? 1224 and 2020?
Derek Hansen: Yes, we were in the top 20th percentile. I don’t remember which I think was the first year we made it. It was 1059. I think that the second one. Yeah, it might’ve been 1224, something like that.
Gene Hammett: I looked you up here at 1224. So,
Derek Hansen: I’ll take your word for it. Gene,
Gene Hammett: You have seen some, some vast growth in the company. Is it attributed to how you’re building this culture or do you think it’s just, you have the right market?
Derek Hansen: Well, no, you know the, yeah, we had the right market, but we didn’t have it figured out. And we launched at all. As I’ve mentioned, I was a big fan of the customer development model versus a product development market model. Customer development models say, you go out and you build relationships and you find out what people actually need, get them what they want, show them what they need, and iterate and develop a product over time. That’s a fit for your market. And so it’s been a very iterative process. It’s been, there’s been a lot of changes, a lot of evolutions. , which is a lot of work, you know, to be building a market and really refining your offering at the same time. , so I think that our culture has been a big part of being able to do that. Some of the breakthroughs in the market that we’ve created, and it’s given us the velocity and growth that we’ve had come from the fact that we have hired people where they are their own form of iconic class, they’re their own kind of Maverick, whereby coming here, they felt like they had a playground to do their best work. I have attracted talent that I have no business hiring as a, as a small, fast-growing young company. I’ve got talent that really should be making twice as much as they are here somewhere else, but just don’t want the corporate culture. They don’t want to go do the same thing every day. They have almost a leaning in entrepreneurialism, but just don’t have quite the appetite for risk to actually do it. So we’ve created. , a culture where those kinds of folks can come here and help us change evolve, get better iterate. , and they feel like they’ve got that, that the ability to do so, because I haven’t sat back and said, yep, I’ve got it all figured out. This is what we do. This is how we do it. You plugin here and just do your job. It’s more like, get in here. You’re brilliant. Here’s what we’re doing. How do we evolve this even more? How do we get better? And so, you know, I think Steve Jobs said it, we, you don’t hire great people, so you can tell them what to do. You hire great people, so they can tell you what to do a little bit of that idea. Right. , and it really isn’t just, it’s not something I, I felt like I had figured out early on, this is how I’m going to build my culture. Again, it was me leaning back on what [00:14:00] it is that I think I do bad, better than anything else, which is build a relationship.
Gene Hammett: Derek a lot of leaders in your position would stay away from that entrepreneurial spirited person. Why do you feel like it’s been so valuable for the company?
Derek Hansen: I think a lot of leaders stay away from it because they’re worried that the person’s going to take their idea and run with it, or take a chunk of the idea and run with it and go start their own thing. My belief is if, if you’re giving them everything that they ever wanted or could ever wish for with their own thing and allow them to do it here, in your company. They’re not going anywhere because you’re doing all the heavy lifting, hard work of running a company, which let’s be honest. Most people don’t have any idea how difficult that really is and what it takes. I think one of the things that we do really well is we’re very transparent. On how hard it is to run this company. We’re very transparent with where the, you know, the cashflows and pianos and all of those things. We let everybody see that so that they can see how difficult it really is to run a business. And that’s part of what keeps is that stickiness for employees is they’re like, hell no, I don’t want to go try to do that. I’m already doing the part of the business that I really love. Why would I go do the stuff that I don’t want to do now? It hasn’t happened yet, but I can’t guarantee that somebody won’t, that won’t occur someday where somebody spins off and says, Hey, we want to go start our own thing, but I’m the kind of guy that says, well, wait a second. What is it that you’re trying to start with? And we look at those things and we say, why don’t we just bolt that in here? And you can have a share of that. Why don’t we just add that to our model? And you can get a, you know, let’s build an, a chunk of, of returns for you on that being your idea and your effort, and, and that tends to work well. We’ve had that happen a couple of times where people had an idea and I said, let’s, let’s work on that together. So this is a little bit like I’m allowing these super-talented people to have kind of, you know, an income incubator for their ideas. To some extent.
Commentary: Now. Derek just talked about transparency. Everyone has a transparency line. What I mean by that is you have an idea in your mind of what should be transparent with everyone and what must be held back. What’s a secret. If you will, the more secrets you have, the less likely you are to create a culture where people feel connected. But the more open you are, the more transparent, the more your line is to the other side. You will really see the benefit of how it connects people together. Now are some of those conversations difficult. Absolutely. But fast-growth companies understand the importance of transparency because it’s the core of trust. And when you create too many secrets, it really takes away from that level of trust. Just something to think about back to Derek.
Gene Hammett: I absolutely love this idea because I’ve, I’ve been talking about this from stages and from everything I’m doing, is that how you truly engage people to feel like an owner. Inside of the company. And what you’re describing to me is, you know, with transparency and really connecting to their superpowers, if it’s done well, they really don’t want to leave because not everybody has that appetite for risk. Like you’ve talked about.
Derek Hansen: Very few do. And in fact, I think those that think they do when you show them the guts of what running a company looks like, they tend to take two steps back and go, hold on a second. I like how much entrepreneurial freedom you’re giving me within this company. I don’t know if I want to go take all that risk. I mean, I, I, I tell, I tell the team the story of, you know, I had two little boys that were 17 months apart that were, you know, one and two years. , when we cooked up the idea to start this company, I sold all, everything. Essentially, everything I ever owned took about three months to write a business plan. When I had two little babies at home and a mom, you know, their mom running in circles, trying to keep up with it, with it all, and went out, shopping for a little bit of seed capital. And, it was big, it’s the riskiest thing you can possibly do. Right? I gave up probably more equity than I should have for the amount of money we got because I put myself in such a high-risk situation. I really didn’t have a whole lot of leverage. But here we are now it was worth it. You know, people often think of starting companies as some big kind of glamorous thing. And it’s, it’s not, it’s for very few people. I think, you know,
Gene Hammett: Derek, let’s put a spotlight on that for you. Like where does this confidence and courage come from? The allows you to be the leader that your team needs?
Derek Hansen: Wow. There’s a lot. There’s a lot there. I’ll start with some surface-level stuff. My, my, it comes a lot from my dad and my parents. They, they started a company when I was young when I was about a year old, my dad, you know, he candidly said. I was kind of unemployable, you know, I was, he was the kind of guy that just didn’t like working for other people. Didn’t like people telling them what to do and found a small business idea that he could run with and built it brick by brick. We recently sold his company for him. After 42, 43 years, I think it was. And he was able to retire comfortably, but I grew up around that. I grew up around you, you eat what you kill. And so I think for me, I didn’t know anything else. And I think I have a lot of his personality as well, which is, I’m just not very employable. I couldn’t imagine working for somebody else. And the only other person I’ve ever worked with. Three other people, one of them being my dad and the other two were very short-term young, you know, early in my career, employments, but I think it comes from watching, watching him, you know, there’s, there’s more to it. I think. , you know, it’s, there’s, I’ve been diagnosed as an adult is dyslexic and there’s been a lot of, you know, a lot in that as well. But one of the primary keys is that it’s, you’re very right brain as a dyslexic, very creative. And so for me, the risk doesn’t look the same, you know, my wife laughs because what looks like extreme she’s, she’s our CFO by the way. And, an accountant by trade, of course. And, she leaves the opposite right. For her, you know, every it’s risk management. Right. So it makes a good team. She and I, but she laughs because I there’s things where I don’t see hardly any risk and she’s like, that’s a massive risk, you know? So I think it’s personality type. I think it’s understanding, I think people should spend more time young people. Should spend more time in introspecting and trying to figure out who they are really are and what makes them tick. Because if you can figure out what makes you tick and double down on that, that’s what I think where you really get successful.
Gene Hammett: I really appreciate you being here, Derek, to share your journey and vision of leadership and growing a fast-growth company like Mynt Systems.
Derek Hansen: Thanks so much really appreciate the time. Gene.
Gene Hammett: I want to recap here a little bit. I know that, Derek listening in here because I want to make sure I get this right, but when you build a business really focused on solving problems, you want to make sure you invite the right people along with you, and you want to make sure those people feel like they’re put first, because if you put, money first if you put even customers first, it really can’t. degrade the experience they have and they might be looking for something else, but if you truly make them feel first, put, put them in meaningful positions, create the kind of leadership that allows them to Excel. Then you will have a great company because you’ll figure out all the challenges that come your way because there will be challenges. And this is a heart of why fast-growth companies grow fast. Transparency is a key part of that. That feeling of ownership and this entrepreneurial spirit, all of these things play out in a lot of the interviews we have here. If you’re wondering what your next step is as a leader and as a culture, I want to invite you to check out fastgrowthboardroom.com.
If you, or thinking about growing as a leader, being an extraordinary leader, creating growth beyond where you are today. Then make sure you check out fastgrowthboardroom.com. It is for those leaders that want to really be courageous and confident in how they make decisions, how they move forward and you have to apply it’s right for you.
Just go to fastgrowthboardroom.com. When you think about growth and you think about leadership, think of Growth Think Tank as always live with courage. 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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