How to Empower Employees for Fast Growth with Jared Hecht at Fundera

The process to empower employees is often misunderstood. Empowerment takes trust and courage. It also requires that you be the kind of leader that wants others to make decisions. Empowering employees happens to be one of the core principles of having a culture of ownership. My guest today is Jared Hecht, Founder of Fundera. His company was ranked #69 in the 2018 Inc 5000 list and operates a marketplace for small business funding.

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Jared Hecht: The Transcript

Target Audience: Jared is the Co-Founder and CEO at Fundera. Fundera is the go-to financial resource for every small business—helping you face your challenges, achieve your financial goals, and grow businesses as big as your aspirations.

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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.

Jared Hecht
Our desire to help millions of small business owners prosper by creating a marketplace for financial solutions that provides all small business owners all the expert insights and tailored options they could ever need. That is a big idea right. I think it’s really just around the how. I think people like Steve Jobs and Walt Disney might come in. It’s like they get very prescriptive about the “How” and candidly they’re creative geniuses and I’m not a creative genius and I know that. And I think for creative geniuses okay they might be more difficult to work with but ultimately they have a very crystal clear idea of the handle.

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.

[00:00:55].560] – Gene Hammett
When you hire smart employees that have great ideas. Do you let them go and unleash them to really go and Chief these great things your business. Well that’s a part of empowering them to go out there and do the work that you hired them to do. But what happens all too often is we are these smart people and then we don’t really allow them to do the work. We don’t allow them to come up with the best ideas because those ideas maybe they’re heard but they’re not really executed on or we don’t allow them to really execute on the process we hold back. We give them the you know the step by step if you will. Now if you hired smart people and you empowered them something magical happens. I’ve seen it happen many times with my clients but you’ll learn today about empowering employees. From someone I really admire. I went out there and found someone that I thought really could tell a story about why you should empower them and how do you empower people. I found Jared Hecht. That’s a tough name to pronounce.

[00:01:55].920] – Gene Hammett
Jared is the founder of Fundera. Fundera was number 69 on the Inc list in 2018. They have more than 100 employees and Jared really does believe in empowering employees. Jared is a self professed lazy leader. I smile when I say that because he’s really not that lazy but he wants to make you believe that he wants others to do all this work for him. But really it’s about empowering them to think for themselves. Come up with their great ideas because they’re on the front lines. We talk about it today in this interview one of the things I love most is he talks about the reasons and the steps he goes through for empowering employees. So tune into that today on the podcast. Here’s the interview with Jared.

[00:02:40].890] – Gene Hammett
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 of the last few weeks. I have such a exciting time to share with you that those interviews have been organized into the twelve core principles of fast growth companies. So all you have to do to get that is go to 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. Will you subscribe to grow 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 you can tune in to the date that means the most to you.

[00:03:23].180] – Gene Hammett
Hi Jared are you.

[00:03:24].430] – Jared Hecht
I’m great. How are you.

[00:03:25].620] – Gene Hammett
Fantastic. Glad to have you here. The Growth Think Tank. Very let the audience know a little bit about you personally but I’d love for you to tell us about Fundera and kind of the beginning of that what you guys do.

[00:03:37].320] – Jared Hecht
Great. So Fundera is an online marketplace for small business financial solutions with a primary focus on helping small business owners identify and secure the right types of lending solutions. So when you’re a small business owner and you have some type of problem you’re trying to solve or some type of opportunity you’re trying to pursue. You want to expand or grow faster make sure that you have some cushion on your balance sheet. Fundera is really there to help you solve that problem or pursue that opportunity by finding you the right financial solution.

[00:04:07].620] – Gene Hammett
Well that gives us some context to this because you have been service in this market for a little while now. Tell us a little bit about the growth of the business and where you are right now.

[00:04:19].140] – Jared Hecht
So we’ve been at this for around five years. The company is around 110-115 people or so right now. It’s been a wild ride but at a terrific ride to date we’ve helped more than 40000 small business owners successfully secure close to around a billion and a half dollars of funding through our marketplace. So it’s been just a remarkable journey and a privilege to see the type of impact we’ve been able to have on the lives of the small business owners that we serve as customers.

[00:04:47].630] – Gene Hammett
We talked a few weeks ago about leadership and the culture there at Fundera and you had said that one of the core principles to your growth was empowering employees so why what is empowering employees.

[00:05:01].230] – Jared Hecht
That’s a great question. So one of our core values here at Fundera is to be an open book. It cuts a bunch of different ways one way as being open book with our customers. So always on the side of being overly transparent the other way though it cuts is the way we operate internally. There are a lot of companies that have you know transparency as a core value and it might be cheesy or cheeky or just general kind of common value but we think it’s actually one worth pursuing and one worth hanging our hat on.

[00:05:35].740] – Jared Hecht
And the reason honestly stems from the fact that I’m generally a lazy person and I don’t like to do a lot of the hard work and I like to make as few decisions as possible. But like to make sure that the decisions I am making are consequential ones and the ones that I should be making. And the only way for me to make wise decisions is to make sure that everybody inside the organization has all the context and information that they need and that is required in order for them to actually independently make great decisions.

[00:06:08].380] – Jared Hecht
We are now well beyond past the point of me being the person inside the company that’s gonna come up with the ideas. We’re also well beyond the point where my direct reports of the people inside the company are going to be the ones that come up with all the groundbreaking ideas. It’s really going to be the people who have the most contacts or most in the weeds are interfacing with our customers every day are pushing coach production are behind all the products that we’re building that our customer facing that are gonna be the ones that are going to come up with the best ideas and we believe that the only way for people to come up with the best ideas is to make sure they also have the right type of information.

[00:06:44].860] – Jared Hecht
So it kind of comes from two different places. This notion of around empowering employees. Number one I don’t have any good ideas. So we need to make sure that our employees are empowered so that they can come up with the best ideas. And number two it also comes from this place that since all of the best ideas come from everywhere inside the organization we need to make sure that everybody is armed with the right set of information to generate those types of ideas.

[00:07:08].710] – Gene Hammett
I love this idea because too often as leaders we become the founders we have these big ideas we work hard core set of people and we hold on to tightly. It constricts the company and I think you’ve found this out you wouldn’t be where you are today being #69 on the INC 5000 list in 2018 if you didn’t really allow people to make those decisions and come up with those big ideas right.

[00:07:36].310] – Jared Hecht
I think we believe in and providing frameworks so it’s not necessarily as if everybody is kind of running around coming up with ideas to build things that are totally orthogonal to what our customers need right. So we’d like to build frameworks so that we are very goal oriented. Hey here’s the goal we’re trying to achieve but not prescriptive at all in regards to how we’re actually going to accomplish that goal or what a solution to a problem is because once we start trying to get prescriptive we really kind of limit our focus our creativity. And candidly if I’m being prescriptive it means that I’m probably way prescribing something that’s not gonna be the most optimal solution.

[00:08:11].110] – Gene Hammett
I wanted to dive deeper into this whole notion of empowerment because I’m going to say this comes from a sense of confidence and courage on your behalf. Would you agree to that.

[00:08:25].160] – Jared Hecht
I think that’s a very nice thing to say. I appreciate you saying it. That might be 10 to 15 percent of it right. I think that other aspects of it come from potentially things like practicality right. This acknowledgement that we are well beyond this place where the ideas need to be generated by me or by the people who are forced to me a part of it comes from a place of well good people and he wants to work out a place where their ideas are heard and they actually have the ability to contribute in ways that are beyond potentially the scope of their day to day role.

[00:09:04].360] – Jared Hecht
So there actually is an element of that right. You want to let great people flourish inside an organization and this is absolutely a way to make that happen. And then I also genuinely do believe that there is this notion of you know I wouldn’t maybe categorize it as laziness but maybe it is a little bit of laziness to say hey I really don’t wants to be nor should I be nor should the people who report to me be the people who are calling all the hard shots and making all the hard decisions and coming up with all the ideas day to day. It’s actually just not the right way to run an organization.

[00:09:36].500] – Gene Hammett
You know there’s some big leaders out there and some to come to mind like a Steve Jobs or even a Walt Disney who had this really big idea and expected everyone to fall in line with it. But I think those are much more rare than what we have today because I’ve talked to a lot of people just like you Jared and they really do believe that others are smart they hire them to be smart and come up with these ideas and really is important to the growth of the company to have that is a part of the culture was that very intentional from the very beginning.

[00:10:12].000] – Jared Hecht
Yes and no I mean I would say that you know we still have big ideas at the leadership level right like our mission and vision and our desire to help millions of small business owners prosper by creating a marketplace for financial solutions that provides all small business owners all the expert insights and tailored options they could ever need.

[00:10:31].020] – Jared Hecht
That is a big idea right. I think it’s really just around the how. Well I think people like Steve Jobs and Walt Disney might come in it’s like they get very prescriptive about the how and candidly they’re creative geniuses and I’m not a creative genius and I know that right and I think for creative geniuses OK they might be more difficult to work with but ultimately they have a very crystal clear idea of how.

[00:10:58].530] – Jared Hecht
For me yeah I have hypotheses around the how and I think my hypothesis is very early on and fund to help us gets to where we are today but what the next five 10 years look like for Fundera and our ability to scale from tens of thousands to millions and small business owners that how I don’t necessarily have all the answers. So not a creative genius and not overwhelmingly strong armed about half.

[00:11:28].640] – Commentary
Well Jared just talked about the mission of their company. And he really was proud of being able to share what that was. And I really think that you should think about the mission of your company how clear and how confident are you about that mission. Does it engage others to think the big massively that gets Moonshot. Well if a mission is big enough you can align people around it. They will come but even when they’re not really sure about who you are as a company. But that idea is something they can get behind. They’re willing to work for you. Blood, sweat and tears. Mission driven companies perform much better than those that are just out there to make money. Back to interview with Jared.

[00:12:09].440] – Gene Hammett
You talked about employees that you’re willing to trust and empower them. It’s probably something special you’re doing in the hiring process to bring on those two type of people that are smart have great ideas. Can you share with us anything that you’ve done specifically in the company that we could learn from about hiring. Sure.

[00:12:29].320] – Jared Hecht
Everything we’ve done in hiring incentives like generally speaking from the lab hypothesis where I’m hiring and the structure that we have around hiring I’ve stolen from other places. There is this book called The Who interview. I forget that the author is but they run a company called GHC smart. And essentially it provides you a framework and a list of questions for hiring people. It starts with understanding what essentially what are the outcomes that you actually want this person to achieve and what are they going to be responsible for. Helps you create a scorecard for all the different types of attributes that you’re looking for in a candidate and then actually provides you an interview format so that you can a evaluate the candidate against the scorecard that you’ve created but B.

[00:13:20].740] – Jared Hecht
And I think this is the important thing is actually get to the root of what this person has done over the history of their career. I think all too often it’s very easy to be very superficial and higher level in an interview and let people essentially get away with glossing over what they’ve actually specifically done inside another company in the past. And this I think the biggest takeaway I’ve had from reading this interview is it really does provide you a way to get to the core of what they’ve done. It’s one thing to be part of a team or be part of an organization that’s like accomplish great things.

[00:14:02].920] – Jared Hecht
It’s another thing to actually be a person inside an organization who’s operated with a great deal of ambiguity and because of that person’s Herculean effort that company was able to accomplish something absolutely outstanding. And it’s really it’s providing a framework for distinguishing between those two things right. What did the company essentially achieve in spite of this person being there and what did this person actually do and accomplish inside this organization. That is the ultimate distinguishing factor in whether you are the candidate or not.

[00:14:36].520] – Gene Hammett
Would you say that your core values filter into that know knowing that you want to have a culture that has the sense of empowerment or using that inside the interview process.

[00:14:47].020] – Jared Hecht
Absolutely right we just screened for our core values in every single interview. We look for people who are outcome oriented who are going to share constructive criticism and speak their mind. People who are entrepreneurial people who are also open they can be an open book.

[00:15:02].390] – Gene Hammett
Now you mentioned entrepreneurial that’s a big theme that has come through a lot of the interviews here. Why do you see that being important inside of your the people you’re hiring.

[00:15:12].940] – Jared Hecht
It’s a variety of reasons and candidly it’s a double edged sword right with entrepreneurial people you’re generally getting people who are extremely proactive who are outcomes oriented who want to make a difference who are mission driven who are inspired and self starters. It cuts another way to which is entrepreneurial people and very often wants to go on and either start their own thing or go back to an early stage thing and to get it off the ground again. So. The key is finding somebody who has all the attributes of. An entrepreneur and is entrepreneurial but who is all also going to stick through things and becomes emotionally invested in something professionally invested something where they want to see its fruition.

[00:15:52].710] – Commentary
Now Jared just talked about the power of entrepreneurs thinking. Entrepreneurs inside your company are not a bad thing. A lot of people will shy away from people who have that entrepreneur in their background. But I’m here to tell you based on you know the hundreds of companies I’ve talked to many of them have seen such value from these individual high performers because they think like entrepreneurs they’re resilient they’re resourceful they’re value driven and they really want to create value in everything they do. Those are not bad things. Jerry talked about some of the other benefits to it but I want you to really think about how are you encouraging people to think like entrepreneurs and how are you leading that as your company grows. It gets to be hard and many times you want to pull back but I’m here to tell you that the power is there if you’ll let it. Do you have any questions about leading an organization where individual performers and teams think like entrepreneurs to make sure you reach out to me I’d love to talk to you and get to know about what you’re doing to see if there’s some fit of the work I do. All right. Back to the interview.

[00:16:57].730] – Gene Hammett
I really appreciate you sharing that with us because it does have that double edged sword. But when you get it right and there are a lot of people I think that are entrepreneurs that don’t want to start their own thing I want to be great key key key members of a fast growth company like you even 100 people is fairly small in the scheme of things. When you think about empowerment what is something you do as a leader that you would say didn’t work so well either being you know how you empower someone or can share a story with this one that?

[00:17:31].250] – Jared Hecht
I will not speak about things specifically but that’s somewhat of a pattern recognition right. I think empowerment is a very special thing. I have a mentor who has this philosophy. I trust you until I don’t. And essentially. What that means is. If he’s hiring you. Is hiring you with the expectation that you already deserve to be empowered and you deserve all the responsibilities. And it is on you to execute. And if you do not I don’t trust you. And honestly I think I’ve gotten burned by that a couple of times. So my take is when it comes to empowering people while it’s nice to empower somebody right out the gate I think it’s actually more prudent to say hey here’s what success looks like.

[00:18:26].640] – Jared Hecht
Here’s what the end state looks like the two of us interacting with one another and you flourishing inside this company inside this organization inside there. But in order to get to that end state where you are fully empowered entirely autonomous. Here here are essentially my baseline expectations and the things that I need from you along the way. Essentially you’re creating Gates little proof points so hey these are very actionable things these stepping stones to get to this happy end state is what I’ve found is whether it’s a flaw in hiring or whether it’s just you know.

[00:18:57].810] – Jared Hecht
Empowering somebody right out the get go without them actually being fully ramped and having like I said before all the context they need to make those great decisions. I think in order to set somebody up for success. You need to actually make sure that they are ramped onboard sufficiently have all the context they need so that when they are truly fully empowered they can then flourish. So I think you know if I were to distill this down to a couple points it’s. Yes it is absolutely critical to achieve this end state of like total autonomy and empowerment.

[00:19:28].290] – Jared Hecht
You want some bit of it to be able to operate that way but in order to get there the likelihood of success significantly increases when you set reasonable expectations and milestones along the way so that you’re both on the same page and essentially ramping in your relationship together. Otherwise what. Yeah otherwise what might happen is like you kind of you know you give somebody a super long leash and then all of a sudden something goes awry and you kind of end up jerking or you give somebody no right or super long relation that you kind of end up like jerking it back and then all of a sudden you kind of get this feeling of whiplash.

[00:19:59].370] – Jared Hecht
It’s like What the hell just happened. Like I thought everything was great and I was over here running off obviously I’m used to working this way and that could be a pretty bad experience for both parties. Whereas if you’re setting expectations along the way. Right the leash gets longer and longer and longer because you’re all operating with the same from the same set of expectations from the same set of information. So ultimately it’s like great you are fully ramped significantly better at this than anybody else out there go.

[00:20:28].470] – Gene Hammett
I like that analogy because people still crave support but they do like to have their own ideas and I think it gives them a chance to have those own ideas bring them to you and maybe even have that conversation and for you not to. It’s a challenge for you. Probably not to step in. In some places where you know the answer. So I think that’s what happens a lot in leadership where you’re supposed to coach people but if you if you grew up knowing exactly what to do and how to solve that problem it’s much easier just to tell him how to solve it.

[00:20:58].760] – Jared Hecht
Yeah you can’t do that.

[00:20:59].790] – Gene Hammett
But you can’t do it.

[00:21:00].810] – Jared Hecht
Now, I mean I think that you know you can get that. It’s got to have some guiding questions and what people make their own mistakes and let them know when you think they might be doing something or they’re making a decision that it might be the wrong one. But ultimately empower them to make that decision regardless.

[00:21:16].580] – Gene Hammett
Well I really appreciate you sharing that with us. What’s one thing you’re up to next that you can share with us at Fundera that would show that you’re investing in this whole sense of empowerment with in place.

[00:21:30].250] – Jared Hecht
Great question. So every year I write this document called The Future Fundera. And the document the themes remain pretty consistent but I kind of updated to reflect any thinking that I’ve absorbed from all of our colleagues to the market or the industry or any of our mentors or advisors. And the thing I love to do with this document is I share it with the entire company. Right now my company is not like what are we going to build. It’s really just paints a. Happy end state for where do we want to be a two and a half years from now.

[00:22:01].720] – Jared Hecht
What does the company look like and really kind of what are the themes or areas investment that we need to get better at. I love this process because it’s an opportunity for me to a listen to the entire company get a bunch of different insights from a bunch of different people compile and update this document. Share it with the entire company and then see people come up with ideas on how to achieve this. And I would say that all of our roadmap efforts all of the major initiatives that we do here at fund era stemmed from this process of painting a picture of where we want to be many years in the future what our goals and then how do we actually get there. Being on the shoulders of everybody else inside the organization. So actually going through this process right now. I just shared the first draft of this document with the broader leadership team here and we have a meeting to discuss it early next week. So I’m just super excited to see what the feedback is and what people’s ideas are after that.

[00:23:00].530] – Gene Hammett
Now you may have said it but how often do you do this.

[00:23:03].470] – Jared Hecht
I update that document once a year but this whole goal setting process and soliciting ideas and having a bottom up approach on what should we be prioritizing now happens on a quarterly basis.

[00:23:13].270] – Gene Hammett
Fantastic. Well Jared thank you for being here at the podcast. The growth Think Tank really enjoys having people than that have demonstrated the leadership. When I call modern leadership and I really appreciate you sharing those insights with us today.

[00:23:27].920] – Jared Hecht
Of course thanks so much for having me. .

[00:23:29].490] – Gene Hammett
Fantastic. Love this interview because really did unlock something special inside there. I want you to really think about how you were empowering your employees how you were as a leader really connecting to them so that they share their best ideas and that they execute on them with this sense of ownership. We didn’t talk about ownership today we talked about the entrepreneur spirit but if you are a leader that can inspire people to feel like owners and that they are really bringing their best to those ideas and the execution of the ideas then you have something very special and magical.

[00:24:02].990] – Gene Hammett
You probably know that if you don’t have it yet. I love to talk to you about what happens inside of leadership that makes that possible just reach out to me and have a conversation about the leadership in this modern leadership and what you could do to shift into that. Let’s have that conversation 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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