S13E11: Building your personal impact principles, with Upkar Arora (CEO, Rally Assets)

An episode of The Impact Multiplier CEO Podcast

S13E11: Building your personal impact principles, with Upkar Arora (CEO, Rally Assets)

We're continuing our season on "business as a force for good", Richard speaks with Upkar Arora, CEO of Rally Assets, Canada’s leading impact investment management and advisory firm. Rally is a purpose-driven organisation and an award-winning B Corporation, committed to using business as a force for good. Prior to Rally, Upkar worked in finance and leadership roles with some of Canada’s most successful organizations for more than 25 years.

In this episode, you'll discover:

  • Upkar's journey of moving from traditional finance to impact investing.
  • The inorganic strategy Upkar used to turbo-boost the mission he was on.
  • A "two minute masterclass" in finding great mentors.
  • How Rally was selected as one of just three fund-of-funds managers for the Government of Canada’s Social Finance Fund, that will release $1.5B for impact.
  • Upkar's incredibly powerful "impact principles" that ensured he would focus on meaningful impact.
  • How to deal with imposter syndrome.

"I found this growing chasm and a hankering for more than making money from the work that I did."

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Transcript

Upkar Arora
And I think part of, and I know that Richard, you focus on this as well, rather than transactions, try to build relationships about being really committed and sincere, and also the concept of in those networks. And I know that you have seen this as well. We want to both, you know, invest in those relationships.

And through my journey where I've frankly done about 40 years of volunteering and investment and mentoring. And so forth is that investment in those strong relationships has paid dividends for me, as people have been motivated to

Richard Medcalf
Welcome to the impact multiplier CEO podcast. I'm Richard Metcalfe, founder of X Quadrant, and my mission is to help the world's top CEOs and entrepreneurs. Shift from incremental to exponential progress and create a huge positive impact on our world. Now that requires you to reinvent yourself and transform your business. So if you're ready to play a bigger game than ever before, I invite you to join us. and become an impact multiplier CEO.

Richard Medcalf
Arora used to work in corporate finance until he had a revelation and decided that he wanted his life to be more than just focusing on the bottom line and he wanted to create an impact. He went ahead and came up with a set of impact principles, which he still uses to really make sure that he was focusing his efforts on things which were going to create sustainable impact at scale. And as a result, he created Rally Assets, which is Canada's leading impact investment management and advisory firm also just become selected as just one of three funder funds managers for the government of Canada's social finance fund. This is going to release over one and a half billion Canadian dollars for impact projects.

It's a really interesting conversation. Uh, Upka has built his business through powerful mentors, relationships, and expanding his circle in a way which has allowed him to go from nothing to a really, really leading position in just a few years. So, enjoy this conversation. I loved Upka's energy and the sense of impact, and the core principles that underline the way he plays in the world. Upka Arora. Great to have you on the show. Thank you for coming.

Upkar Arora
My pleasure, Richard. Thank you for reaching out. It's a, it's a great delight to be here.

Richard Medcalf
I've gone into your path and I found out that. You once had a red lightsaber, but it has now become greeny blue that you you you were once a Sith Lord And now you are a Jedi. I'm exaggerating obviously a little bit here But one thing I know about you is that you yeah right now you are you're a funder fund manager in the impact investing space We'll get into all the things you've done as a part of that I know you've been selected by the federal government of Canada to to run social finance funds Uh, many other exciting things.

So you're really committed to impact, and we can kind of go into that. And you've also spent a large part of your career in, you know, hardcore finance, as we might call it, right? Didn't have that impact dimension. And so I'd love to understand that journey of kind of, you know, of moving perspective, right? I know it's not quite like going from the dark side of the fourth, a bit harsh. But, you know, once that was it, that was finance was your sphere, and now impact is your sphere with the finance. Angle. So what's the journey? How did that happen?

Upkar Arora
Yeah, Richard. Well, uh, great question. Let me take you back a little bit. And I think it starts with just the lived experience that I had coming to Canada, having been born in India, living in England for a while and coming to Canada as a child and really experiencing three things that I think were really formative. In my thinking, the first one being an outsider moving to a city like London, Ontario, where it was very homogenous.

And we certainly as someone that's a visible minority really felt like an outsider. And that was sort of  impactful in terms of how to fit in, not having contacts, networks, money, relationships, friendships, and so forth. The second thing that I think was really formative was. The, the focus on community service that I grew up with really primarily through my mom and through my dad, whereas as little as we had, and we didn't have very much money growing up, she always made a commitment to take 10% of her salary, put it in a separate bank account and, and always re reminded us that there were people in the world that had less than we did.

And it was our duty and responsibility to make sure we, we took care of them in her words. And I think the third was. as it relates to that concept of money, seeing money as a source of conflict in our household as a result of the scarcity. And so when I think about those three formative stages or, or inputs, growing up as an outsider, where my parents were very focused on creating a better life for themselves, didn't have much family support.

It really caused me to think about, you know, how I wanted to navigate the world going forward. And so those influences led me ultimately to believe that I wanted to work in a hospital because a hospital, I could work in business, which I thought I was good at. I could be CFO and hospitals save lives. And isn't this the wonderful combination of doing good and doing something that you enjoy.

And I sort of got deviated from that path and ended up in the corporate sector working for what are some of Canada's most well known entrepreneurs. Nortel Networks, big telecom provider, KPMG to get my CA, and then working for some families that are global families working on a world stage. And I think the influence from that, those families and those connections of people like Paul Reichman, Peter Monk, Jerry Schwartz, Frank Stronach, and so forth, was that they found business as a very powerful tool.

But at the same time, they had a very strong commitment to philanthropy as well, but it was separate and divided. So we make our money over here as in the Andrew Carnegie's traditional notation of, I think it's gospel of wealth. And then we devote or dedicate a portion of our money to do good in the world and take care of people separate from that.

And so my journey from there was seeing those. That dichotomy, reaching a point about 12 or 13 years ago, where having done well financially, having done well for the companies and the principals that I worked for, I found this growing chasm, this disconnect, this sort of hankering for something that actually was about more than making money from.

The work that I did and wanting to integrate those two. I sort of, you know, create the analogy of two tracks running down a track and then they're parallel and I wanted to bring them together in a, in a formal way, and that started the journey to impact investing, you know, fueled by a mentor of mine and a series of conversations and a learning process to eventually get to the stage that we're at.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, that's really, really interesting. So what was. What was the trigger that changed paths because you're obviously on that path, you know, you were definitely, you know, you were in finance, right? You were doing a good job as a CFO or whatever in those roles. What started to pull you to think about these other options?

Upkar Arora
I  think it was a couple of things. So we had a couple of big successes from a business standpoint, you know, one success was when I was with Trisect. Well, I was in charge of a retail division of shopping centers out in California. We sold that. We ended up making about an 800 million profit. We ended up making about 500 million more than we thought we would on a very complicated transaction.

And so we're seeing a big financial benefit. And the second one was when I had my own advisory company called Illumina Partners. We had started to invest in aerospace in 1999 with a roll up strategy. For maintenance, repair, and overhaul of regional jets. And I bring that up because, as you probably know, when 9/11 happened, the global aerospace industry shut down.

And through the next 12 to 18 months, we effectively navigated our way of selling our three operations in three different locations, shutting one down, selling one to a public company, selling another one. The Embraer, the big Brazilian manufacturer. And through that process, we probably made about a 75% return on equity, not withstanding the global  meltdown in the aviation sector.

I remember asking myself, it's like, whose lives did we change in that process? We moved money from one bank account to another in the name of one party to another. We took, we put up our flag of our company, Reliance Aerotech. We brought it down. We put up Embraer's flag, but no lives were changed in the making of that, of that transaction.

And it was sort of. Questioning that and really thinking about the fundamental question that I think we all think about when we get older is, am I applying my talents and my gifts and, you know, my, my skills in the way that's having the greatest impact on people's lives as opposed to making the wealthy more.

Richard Medcalf
Wealthy? Yeah, I love that. Like no lives were changed in this transaction. It's kind of like a, you know, no cats were hurt in the filming of this, you know, just so it or whatever. So yeah, it reminds me of my own story, right? When I was leaving Cisco, one of my thoughts was. I don't want my legacy, the story I tell my grandchildren, to be that I helped increase AT& T's EBITDA margin by 0.

1%. I mean, nothing  wrong with that, it's a good thing to do, it's better to increase it than to decrease it and everything else. But it's not the ultimate story, right, that sets me on fire, at least. So that's what set me on my journey, I think. So then tell me about, okay, so you decided then that, okay, impact, kind of impact investing was, was going to bring together this idea of. Uh, giving back or, uh, you know, service making people's lives different and harnessing your finance skills. But then how did you go about building

Upkar Arora
A rally assets? Yeah. So back in about 2010, uh, uh, as I said, a mentor connect me to Bill Young, who was a guru of impact investing at that time. And Bill exposed me to the concept. And then through the next three or four years. I really started to try to absorb as much knowledge or insight and Richard, where you are in the uk. There was a really strong precedent at that time. Started by Serrano Cohen called Big Society Capital. That became the feed was the unclaimed bank accounts in the uk.

Uh, supplemented by  some commercial capital from Citibank and others to create the 600 million pound vehicle for investing in social finance opportunities. in the UK spearheaded by Sir Ronald Cohen. So looking at these examples and models around the world, starting to believe that I could actually derive that perfect intersection about, you know, there's a concept called Ikigai about looking at the skills that I brought, what I'd love to do.

What the world needed was more private capital to solve the scale and systemic issues that continue to pervade and try to bring that all together to actually make a difference in people's lives. And so it was about a six or seven year journey until I met someone who had started a firm called Purpose Capital back in 2010.

And they were focused on impact investing really a couple of years after the Rockefellers coined that phrase in 2008. And these three founders were looking to do something different. And what I was able to do was acquire that firm and create a platform because I was finding it challenging to do it as a sole solo individual, trying to make a difference in a very.

You know, I'm going to say decentralized and fragmented worlds about who was doing what in the impact world, there weren't big companies, there wasn't a clear path, a clear path of how to go about doing it. That firm Purpose Capital gave me the platform and we have now migrated and modified the strategy to become an asset manager and also renamed the company Rally Assets to actually become the one of Canada's leading impact investment and management firms today.

Richard Medcalf
Excellent. Okay. So what it was actually. Yes, you decided to basically create it inorganically, if you like. You went and actually made the acquisition, uh, to, to create the scale. Yeah. And so, it's really interesting, isn't it? Because it sounds like that all came through serendipitous relationships. Is that fair to say?

It sounds like relationships played a key part in this. You made several points. I spoke to this person. They, they introduced me to somebody. They knew somebody else, I got, whatever, I got inspired by them. Is, is that how you would say you've made these leaps, or has it been more of a machine you've built that's kind of gradually moved things

Upkar Arora
Forward? No, I think the only, the only thing I've built is the, um, the, a network of really incredible mentors and guides and relationships and people that have been somewhat motivated to, to help me. So from Brent Bellsbrook at TorQuest who told me about Bill Young and the relationships that flowed from there.

And I think part of, and I know that Richard, you focus on this as well, rather than transactions, try to build relationships about being really committed and sincere, and also the concept of in those networks, and, and I know that you have seen this as well. We want to both, you know, invest in those relationships and through my journey where I've frankly done about 40 years of volunteering and investment and mentoring and so forth is that investment in those strong relationships.

Has paid dividends for me as people have been motivated to actually help me in my journey when I had questions and, you know, struggle with what the right path was. And so absolutely three is through a series of relationships that I can't point to what and where it started and how it began, but just people who were incredibly generous in terms of being supportive to me.

Richard Medcalf
So let's do a quick two minute masterclass in having great mentors, because it sounds like that's something you have done and you've created that in your life. So a lot of everybody has that. A lot of people don't have great mentors in their, in their life. Uh, so what advice would you give somebody?

You're saying, you know what, well, I'm kind of seems to be surrounded by all these amazing people, uh, one relationship after another. This is how he's coming on there. I don't have any of that. I don't know where I should start. What would you be advising them?

Upkar Arora
You're mentoring them. So Richard, interesting question. I'd start off with, I actually don't use the, I did use the word just now, but I'm actually don't use the word mentoring very, very frequently. And the reason I don't use that is when I looked at that concept of mentoring, the traditional thought is that it is someone more. Senior, more experienced, trying to pass on their knowledge and insights to somewhere more junior.

My own experience was, and this has come about also through teaching. I've never actually met someone where I've had an honest conversation and not learn from them, irrespective of their lived experience, their age, you know, and so I actually use a frame called reciprocal mentoring. And so all the relationships I have are really designed to be a two way flow of knowledge, insights, wisdom, and thought.

So I've. Been the beneficiary of those relationships where I've taken that mentee role and also where I've taken on a mentor role, but never has it worked out that, you know, I haven't learned something or benefited greatly from those relationships. I've structured those in a formal way. So I do have formal mentoring. I do have a business coach. I do have probably over the last two years, five or six different formal vehicles on a periodic basis. Where I am talking to people in a regular cadence, often for me personally, the area that I've found is really, uh, I'm going to say important to me is 1especially young professional women.

So we've established formal programs for women to, to learn. We've established board training programs for people, for women to come and join boards. And so it's really creating a little bit of formality, creating the expectation that this is a shared learning relationship, and then creating a little bit of structure around that so that there is, in fact, value on both sides, which tends to, you know, continue on the conversation far beyond the formality of a defined period or a defined issue. Or project. And so I've been a huge beneficiary of the people in my life that have, you know, have taken time to spend with me and given me their guidance.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Thank you. That's, that's really, really helpful. That idea of, it's not always a scene, you know, there's the structure, formal relationships, and then there's a whole bunch of, of just looking at what's the, what's the gold in front of us.

Right. And what actually can be learned from people there. So let's get into the story of how to take this business that you acquired and you rebranded into rally assets. What's the story of, of becoming the, you know, one of the custodians of the, of Canada's 755 million dollar... Social finance funds, right?

Upkar Arora
What, how did you end up in that incredible position? I'll take you back to that, uh, earlier, earlier comment I made that in November 2010, Richard, there was a, a publication by Bill Young, the person I referred to earlier, and a bunch of really senior people in the country, politicians and people in the social sector, talking about, and the publication was called Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good. And it made a recommendation to create a social finance fund. That was in November, 2010. So 13 years later, we finally announced it on May 29th that that font had been created, but the journey goes back for us. The journey goes back to 2017 specifically when one of the founders of the firm I mentioned purpose capital was involved as part of a 17 member.

Committee to go out and do consultation over the period of 18 months to talk about how to think about a new social finance and innovation strategy for the country. And part of that consultation process resulted in a series of recommendations of which one was to create a social finance fund, which was then launched in or announced in November, 2018. So we've been involved since 2017 in an indirect way. And then the government launched a formal RFP process in 2021. To which we responded,  went through 18 months of diligence and scrutiny and oversight and, and response. And then we were formally selected about a year ago and signed the agreements in March of 2023.

So it's been a really intensive, hard and difficult and challenging experience to get to the stage. But, you know, as Bill Young said at our celebratory event, just last week. He said, you know, and he was actually quite moved by this because he said, you know, this is a transformational event, not just for the company, but for the country. There's very few countries that have launched this kind of initiative. The goal of this 755 million fund is to lever that with private capital at a ratio of 2 to 1. So we're creating a pool, ultimately, of 1. 5 billion to invest in social finance. And where it connects, Richard, with the work that you do, is we're using a market based tool.

We're bringing in private capital. We're using business as a force for good. To really deal with some of these issues that are so pervasive that governments or philanthropists can't deal with because of the scale, the size, and complexity. So Bill referred to this as a, as a watershed moment, a transformational generational event, that this is going to launch us to really start that private public collaboration to make meaningful change in the areas that have been so difficult to move on a system basis. And so that's sort of the journey, we've got lots of work ahead of us as we start to employ or deploy the capital that the government's provided us as we start to fundraise to create a, uh, a fund, which we're going to create a 40 million. But certainly it is, I think, a really significant moment in our journey. And I think in the sector and for the country as a whole. Yeah.

Richard Medcalf
So what do you define as impact and what's going to make the, how do you look at a business and decide? It's. Yeah, this is a business that's going to make an impact rather than it's going to do a general good job of the business and keep its customers happy and, you know, other things, which are also good, right?

Upkar Arora
That's good. Yeah. Richard, we rely on, or at least we base it on global frameworks for what has become more common in terms of how to define impact investing. And you probably know these as your audience does, but often they referred to as intentionality Additionality, measurability, and, and supplemented with returns as well. And so really those are the components we're looking for. Someone who's making that not as a by product or collateral of what they do to generate financial gain, but as an intentional pursuit. So we're looking at what we call social purpose organizations. We're looking at is the impact real and can we measure it?

We're looking at, can you generate a financial return? So the work that we're doing is. And in a sense, doing more diligence to ensure that there are viable business models that generate financial return, but also deliver measurable impact to parties or communities or individuals that are equity deserving, marginalized, racialized, or in some ways have been excluded from benefiting from or participating in mainstream. Society to derive, you know, economic prosperity. So it's those elements that we feed into our assessment of impact. And, and Richard, I might just go on and say, sometimes we measure or look at that impact in three different ways. We look at it as who's actually receiving the funds, because we want to support parties that are receiving the funds that haven't had access to creating a fund.

So we look at the profile of those. We look at who is the fund serving, who are the ultimate. the recipients of the funds that they're going to invest in. And we also look at the product and services. Are they fulfilling a need for parties that are underserved? And so we try to look at it in a way that's not just narrowly focused, but who do we give capital to, in what way, who are they serving with what products and services, and how is that creating a discernible, measurable benefit to the targeted recipients of our capital.

Richard Medcalf
I hope you're enjoying this conversation. This is just a quick interlude to introduce you to two transformative programs that we run. The first is Rivendell, my exclusive group of top CEOs who are committed to transforming themselves, their businesses and the world. It's an incredible peer group and a deep coaching experience that will push you to new heights. It's no matter how successful you've already been. The second is Impact Accelerator, a coaching program for executives who are ready to make a big leap forward in their own leadership. It's regularly described as life changing and no other program provides such personal strategic clarity. a measurable shift in stakeholder perceptions, and a world class leadership development environment.

Find out about both of these programs at xquadrant. com slash services. Now back to the conversation. Yeah, thank you. That's, that's helpful. That's really helpful. Let's span out. One thing that I know about you, Abkhari, is that you have a longer term mission, right? You want to make impact investing mainstream. I think you said that you wanted all investing to become responsible investing. That's going to require systemic change in some ways, quite probably. Uh, I think you also said that longer term, you really want the next generation of leaders to be able to forge careers in social finance, making it a respectable normal career, just like Existing, you know, investment banking or consulting or some other profession.

Do you want to tell me a bit about that? Because that's like a long term big picture, you know, change things at scale. How does that, like, why did you, why does that resonate with you? Like, why have you articulated it in that way? And, and is that something you were kind of already working on? Or do you see that as like phase two in the, in the master plan? Or, you know, how that kind of those bigger picture goals. When you're dealing with all this, like, you know, I've got to raise a billion and a half or, you know, and, uh, and invest in a whole bunch of, of activity.

Upkar Arora
Richard, um, when I did the work in terms of trying to figure out what I wanted to do post my sort of what's called dedicated for profit world, I really landed on not so much a specific initiative, but a series of principles. And so this idea I. What I've really defined and used as my touchstone in those principles, obviously it's to have impact, but it's to have impact in a way that changes systems, not symptoms. It's to make sure it's scalable, to generate the greatest good for the greatest number, to make sure it's sustainable. So it creates lasting change, improves the lives of future generations, includes all individuals and constituents, meaning it's not restricted to those that have, or those that are of a certain tribe or a certain orientation.

And then for me, and it comes back to where I started this conversation, looking at where I am today and seeing that although I came from a very sort of lower middle class with very few, I'm going to say, privileges when I first came, I am incredibly grateful for where I am today as a result of the opportunity Get an education, work with some amazing people, have the chance to actually through a combination of luck, serendipity, genetics, and maybe a bit of hard work to be where I am. And so the last principle was really working in our own communities in our backyard so that we're really focused on building a stronger community and a stronger nation. So when I think about those principles defining that long term goal, I would say that it's come about because of people like me and people like my kids generation who, And there's, there was a study when I did my research that said, if you ask people who graduate from business schools in the U S roughly 60% of them will say they want to work in something that's meaningful, purposeful, and socially driven.

And then if you look at what are the opportunities, it's investment banking, private equity, consulting, commercial banking, and so forth. So, so there's a big gap there between the desire and the ability to actualize that. We don't have formal pathways from, here's the program, here's the courses, here's the credits, here's the certifications, here's the internships, here's the co op experience, here's the full time job, here's the career progression, and here's how you become a future leader in the area of something that is so essential and so required. And so, I'm doing a bit of work as a result of my teaching at Waterloo now. The course I teach is all about navigating your career opportunities. It focuses as much on the inner journey as it does on the outer journey to really try to take this, you know, this deep latent desire to do something purposeful and meaningful that resides with most.

Of our kids generation and say, here's the way to think about it and frame it. And here's some tools and here's some approaches that you might be able to do. But let's be clear, the infrastructure is not there. There are very few companies like rally in the country, and we're not massive. We're, we're still a small company. So where are those pathways and how do we formulate those? If I go one step further, which we're trying to do, Richard, which is to say. And then how do I open that up to people who are of the black community or indigenous and so forth? Where are those access points? We actually identified even further problems.

So we're starting to develop some of those strategies and approaches, but certainly that would be the long term goal to say. This is what I want to do. Sustainable finance, integration of finance and sustainability is a program. I graduate, I get a job training mentorship development and grow into really helping to solve the world's biggest problems as it relates to climate change.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Wow. That's amazing. I think your principles would be great, like setting out principles that are going to guide you for like, like say that 25 year vision or that, that big vision. I think it's fantastic, right? Because things change, but the core principles are fantastic. They end. It reminds me of a tool I sometimes use with my clients. I call it the focus frame. And if you like, it's a very simple grid with time and one dimension and space on the other dimension. So time is literally like, are we, you know, what are you focused on right now? Is it literally this minute, this hour, you know, this minute, this day, uh, this week, this month, this quarter, the year, five years, 10 years, your lifetime, generations, right?

And then on the other axis, it's space, right? It's you, your family, your, your team, your department, your business, your industry, the, um, your country, the world. Right? And, and you can put a dot anywhere on that map. So you can think about yourself in the next hour, or you can think about the world in generations, right? And you can think about any other combination, and it's no good and no bad necessarily, you know, but as long as we have to look at those different paths. But it's really interesting to plot yourself as like, where's my, you know, where am I not focusing, or not getting my attention? Perhaps we're really short term focused, we never think longer term, or perhaps vice versa.

Um, but what I heard when you were talking is you were like, that principles were taking you right up into that top corner, right? It was like, is it going to be scalable, sustainable future generations or constituents? So, not surprising really, right, when you start to work back from those principles, what you end up doing.

Upkar Arora

Then there's the reality of, you don't have unlimited resources and unlimited time, and so you have to make trade offs and decisions along the way. While still keep directionally focused on that top right corner, as you mentioned.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. Yeah. And then I think the other thing which I heard was, um, well, yeah, talk about this inner journey for people. I think it's a really big one because, you know, I like to say I'm a recovering hyperformer, you know, um, we get formatted in, especially in the corporate world and in education as well to like, these are your goals. These are your target. And like, you know, I was in consulting, right? It was every, you know, every month I knew exactly where I was.

Had I succeeded or had I failed? And that's great, but it also creates a, and as far as it goes, it's fine, but it can create a ceiling because are we, are you, am I prepared to do the things which are going to make us unsuccessful for a while, but not hit some targets, right? In order to get through that dip and get into a new level of impact. And, uh, that's often a big question people are like, and it's an identity question. Well, what if I was to do something which I wasn't quite sure about, is it going to work or not? Even if it's really exciting and meaningful. But what happens if I suddenly didn't see myself as being the high performer that I think I did? Challenge.

Upkar Arora
No, no, I was going to say no really good points. And I was just going to riff off that and say, you know, I did a commencement address at the University of Waterloo. And the three things I focus on for these students go to what you said, which is the problem with that more formal journey, and my first point in the three was Life's not a linear path. You got to explore the possibilities, right? But if you're on a set program that your parents or your friends or your colleagues have defined, you're not looking around you to say, you know, should I be exploring that if you haven't done the inner work? And the second one is define what success looks like to you.

So define it in your own way through that inner journey. So, so if you don't define the success. And you don't look at what the possibilities are. You could be doing something that you'd be doing for a very long time without the satisfaction. And then the third is, you know, frame it around something bigger than yourself in the pursuit of some impact. So those are the three sort of key points that I've communicated to the students as they think about what they want to do, do the inner work. Look at the possibilities. The downside's so low when you graduate, you've got your 70 years to work. Downside is so low and make sure it's centered around. You know, the purpose and the meaning of what you're doing by thinking about something bigger than yourself that touches on, you know, what you said, which is the framing that we use, the mindset and the approach and the tendency to go in a more dogmatic or rigorous or traditional fashion, maybe precludes what we should be doing and what might be more purposeful to us.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah. One, one tool I'd like to use is, well, one saying is opportunity is always closer than we think. And, if we just stop and look at, you know, who did we last speak to, what were the last places we went to, and look at what's going on there, we're probably going to find a lot of magic. It's actually, I call it the stepping stone principle, you know, which is, as you said, life is non linear. We often try to make it linear, but if we actually say, where am I now that I've never been before? Who do I know that I never knew before? You know, what experience have I gathered that I never had before? What's going on around me that didn't happen before? That allows us to find a stepping stone to something that's new and interesting.

And meaningful. That then opens up new possibilities. Right, so you followed your nose with impact and whatever and spoke to, you know, some of your mentors. Um, Bill Young, Cohen, and each time you were kind of like, ah, there's another step to be made here. And then there's the opportunity. I actually, look, I could actually, I'm in a position to buy this company. And then one step at a time, right? And now you're at the stage where you've just made another huge leap, right? Taking on the social finance fund. And so suddenly it's like, oh, what does this new stepping stone afford me? Where's the next leap that I can make? And if you've got those guiding principles, it's a fantastic compass.

Upkar Arora
For the next step. Of course, it always feels safer after you've done it than it does at the time. There's still a level of uncertainty and trepidation for sure.

Richard Medcalf
Yeah, that's it, right? That's what we say to clients, like, everyone wants clarity and confidence, but what they actually need is courage and commitment. So, I know time's perhaps catching up on us. I'd love to just ask you, as you're in this new part, right, you've you at this point of being able to multiply your impact, right, because You've now been selected, you've got this ability to raise this, this huge fund and invest it in the right places. What's it going to require from you?

And you know, what's the new, what's going to be coming out of you that has to be with you? To play at that bigger level, right? To do things you've never done before. To capture some of these opportunities.

Upkar Arora
What comes up to you? What's that kind of personal stretch that might be awaiting you in the next couple of years? I think in some ways, Richard, the stretch for me is, um, and coming back to your A comment about being a type A personality and driven and in the corporate sector. I think part of it's actually about the inner journey as it relates to letting go. And the letting go part relates to, it could be letting go of your ego.

It could be relating to letting go of the need to control. Letting go also of the mindsets and the paradigms, the beliefs, the limiting beliefs that we bring in to a situation. And also, I think what I, what I have sort of come to appreciate, and it comes from Buddhist philosophy a little bit, is that sometimes we need to unlearn before we can learn, we need to empty the cup before we can take on something new. And so I think the. The challenge for me personally is being open to that process and not being so wedded to the outcome as a sense of self identity and ego gratification that I can facilitate the transition. We've got an outstanding president, Kelly, in our organization, and she is frankly way more knowledgeable.

and capable than me in this area. But, you know, the ability for me to let go and transition that leadership to her and have her develop the people underneath her to become full fledged leaders in their own right, without me needing to control or micromanage or prevent that, I think is a process that I'm still getting accustomed to. And then the second thing I think is, and it goes back to the systemic change aspect, which is When we think about impact investing, which is the merger of doing good and doing well. So, but to move from impact investing, the systems change also requires more. It requires getting again to that root paradigm, but it requires collaboration.

It requires consensus building. It requires, it might require policy or regulatory. It might require global, you know, um, I'm going to say, uh, collaboration. So just thinking about those strategic levers, the non capital levers that we can move from Being just a deployer of capital in the right way to achieve the right social equity outcomes to actually getting to the systems change part so that we in fact leave a better system behind as opposed to benefit people for a short period of time while we're there.

And so it's trying to think about what are those non capital levers that I could facilitate. And I think that part for me is really driven around. Using the, the platform I have, which I think is built on, I'm hoping anyway, people would say it's built on integrity and trust that if we step back and say, this is not about me, but about the greater good and the objective we have to achieve for the benefit of those people that we need to be really mindful of, that how can I use that platform of the integrity and trust that we built over the last 10 years in doing this work in a faithful and honest way to actually bring people together and focus on the desired outcome and not on the win lose mentality, the, you know, the mindsets that we bring about a scarcity mindset as opposed to an abundance mindset. So I think those are parts that I'm still working on. I need to develop and need to embrace and ultimately lead to. need to implement in a way that actually can do more for, you know, the communities in which we serve.

Richard Medcalf
That's beautiful. It's always the journey, isn't it? It's like, we have to work on ourselves, then we can change our organization, then we can change the world, right? But, uh, what I loved about what you said, actually, was that there was actually quite specific areas.

Upkar Arora
You know, if you look at you know, some of the podcast, I ask them, and they'll say things like really good things, but they'll often be about, I just need to like, delegate more or something, right?

Richard Medcalf
Which is fine. But I think, you know, you there, what I loved is you touched about some really important things like I might need to unlearn some things, right? I'm going to need to let go as I make this particular transition. Um, there are some non capital levers that I need to master, identify and master in a way that perhaps I haven't done before. And I think that that specificity really, I think it's really inspiring and, and probably serves you very well. So thank you for sharing those.

Upkar Arora
No problems. I don't know if your other guests sometimes say this, but I also feel that moving into this space, I suffer a bit from an imposter syndrome because there's so much to know, so much to learn, and so many incredible people doing amazing work in different pockets or streams or facets of this ecosystem. And so I think there is an element of Either getting beyond the imposter syndrome or getting my knowledge to a level where I feel comfortable to  communicate or understand and articulate well in the context of that greater systems change. So certainly another piece of the piece of the puzzle. Yeah, I think you're right.

Richard Medcalf
Anyone who's up to big things will feel imposter syndrome. I'd say actually in two ways, you know, we have these two little angel and a devil or whatever, right on our, on our shoulders. And the question is, which one do you feed? Right? They, they, they both are true in a way, right? Like you could, one person, we've never done this before, you know, who do you think you are? All that stuff. And it might be, you know, perhaps you haven't done it before. The other one is like, yeah, but look what you have done. Look, you know, the mission that you're on. You know, what change you want to create, if you don't do it, who will do it, right? Who's stepping up in this moment, in this place to say the things you need to be saying.

When you come through this from that level, you know, it's like, okay, yeah, let's choose this voice. And, um, and I fit in myself. I have, I have those things, same things, you know, it's that's why it's the deep inner work, because if I decide I'm going to listen to the other guy, right. Um, who I now call the lurker affectionately, you know, the lurker lurking voice. If I eat from together, I listen to that voice. I'm not going to be making the impact I need to make in the world. I want to make in the world. So, yeah, imposter syndrome is, someone says it's actually a feature and not a bug. Because it means you're pushing yourself to do things, you know, and your, it's where your competence exceeds your competence, your confidence. I'll say that again. Exceeds your confidence because you were pushing into a new space. So I love it.

Upkar Arora
Uh, I've got, I think we're at the end of our time. If people want to find out about you or about rally assets or any of the stuff that you're up to, where should they, where should they go? I think the best would be, um, our website rallyassets.com. The fund that we're launching is under realized capital partners. It's a fund with another VC firm called relay ventures. And so we set up a separate platform for that fund. And otherwise, I'm not a big social media person, but LinkedIn would be the other way to reach out to me.

Richard Medcalf
Perfect. Well, thanks again, Okay. It's been a real honor speaking. I'm excited to hear. Uh, the system level change that you are on a mission to, uh, to create in the world of finance. And, uh, the best as you roll out the fund.

Upkar Arora
Thank you, Richard. A pleasure to be here. I really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you.

Richard Medcalf
Well, that's a wrap. If you received value from this conversation, please do leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. We deeply appreciate it. If you'd like to check out the show notes from this episode, head to xquadrant. com slash podcast, where you'll find all the details. Now, finally, when you're in top leadership, who supports and challenges you at a deep level to help you multiply your impact. Discover more about the different ways we can support you at xquadrant. com.

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