Jaime Blaustein is Co-Founder and CEO of The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center. Before this role, he was an investment banker at Credit Suisse in its Global Industrials coverage group in New York City. Here he was responsible for advising clients in the basic materials sector on strategic matters, including mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, leveraged buyouts, restructurings, and various debt and equity financings. Before this role, he worked in institutional sales at Lord Abbett, a mutual fund manager overseeing ~$150 billion in assets under management. He previously worked in wealth management at Morgan Stanley and later Wells Fargo, advising a wide array of clients on investment strategies.
Jaime received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his M.B.A. from Duke University. He is an unapologetic NY Giants, Duke Blue Devils, and Michigan Wolverine fan. His interests include fitness, steakhouses, international travel, meditation retreats, and quality time with friends. Jaime is a newly minted resident of Miami. He is actively involved in sponsoring dozens of men in recovery and is beyond excited to marry his business expertise with his passion for helping others make a comeback from the depths of mental illness and addiction.
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Table of Contents
Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Jaime Blaustein: My name is Jaime Blaustein, and I’m CEO and Co-Founder of The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center. I’m currently 32 years old and live in Miami. From New Jersey originally, I had an ideal childhood where I thrived socially and academically. I attended the University of Michigan and it was at this point that I began to struggle with addiction. The next six years were full of rehabs (7 in total), arrests (5 in total), overdoses, and immense internal pain. I finally got clean when I was 24 years old and had a dramatic transformation internally and externally. The recovery process bestowed immeasurable gifts on my life. My relationships and mental well-being were restored, and I eventually went to Duke University to obtain my MBA. I then entered the investment banking world, where I worked as a banker executing M&A, equity, and debt transactions in the industrial sector.
In January of 2022, I received a call from the former owner of my 4th rehab, Ben Brafman, who told me he sold that treatment center and wanted to see my interest in starting a mental health-focused treatment center. At the time I didn’t plan on leaving New York or Wall Street, but we began talking every day and it ultimately became clear this was destiny. So we put our heads together and created The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center, which is now alive and well, helping dozens of patients and their families.
We provide dual-diagnosis treatment with a mental health focus. That means we treat everything from anxiety disorders, clinical depression, addiction, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and everything in between. My vision for the future is to expand our services so that we can continue helping as many people as possible, as well as have specific programs that hone in on the under-the-radar population of folks on Wall Street who suffer from mental illness. Our vision is also to execute on our world-class Career Mentorship program, a program which I’ve pioneered, to help individuals get the ‘train on the tracks,’ so to speak, in their career and educational lives.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Jaime Blaustein: My career aspirations have taken some twists and turn over the years. When I was very young, I thought I wanted to be a sports agent. Eventually, that shifted to a desire to be a politician – only heaven knows why perhaps because I was so involved in student government growing up. After a stint where I was focused on corporate law, my hopes and dreams were derailed by my addiction. I actually cannot say for sure what my professional goals were at that time. Over time I became intrigued by the mystique of Wall Street, but given my 2.8 GPA and major gaps in my track record, the only way I could truly breakthrough was by acquiring a sales role – essentially by leveraging my personality versus my dismal academic track record at the time.
It wasn’t until business school that I really felt acquiring a job on Wall Street that was more technical and rigorous was a legitimate possibility. I was hired as an investment banker at Credit Suisse covering the industrial sector and working on M&A, equity, and debt transactions. As painful as banking was at times, I’m beyond grateful for my experience as it developed my technical skillset, my capacity to tackle complex corporate issues, and my attention to detail. While in banking, I considered raising a search fund with a friend from Duke. The concept is we would raise capital, search for a company with specific characteristics to acquire for 12-18 months, acquire the company, improve operations and scale it over the next 5 or so years before exiting.
The professional appeal of this path was that it would enable me to serve as a CEO and run every aspect of a business and that it would give me a nice equity stake in a company. I was tired of getting paid for simply renting my time and saw that I would burn out eventually. When I got a call from Ben Brafman, I recognized that launching a treatment center would check many of these same professional boxes, while also enabling me to have an expanded platform to help others beyond what I had already been doing in my personal life. I had my veteran operator in Ben, and I had a good ability to raise capital through my network and valuation skillset. So it was a no-brainer, and here we are today.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Jaime Blaustein: I’m extremely silly. I love to joke and ‘mess around.’ Given the rigorous nature of launching a company, and my strong desire to do this serious work of helping save peoples’ lives, my intense nature can overshadow that quality of mine. Additionally, my employees might be surprised to know that I need to have some alone/quiet time. I’m going 150mph in the office, but it only works because I’m able to re-set through meditation in the morning, and taking some time to just take a breath and get quiet on the weekends through constructive alone time.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Jaime Blaustein: An entrepreneur is someone who has a vision along with the resourcefulness to make that vision a reality. Not every entrepreneur is an expert in all of the various functions needed to succeed – marketing, operations, strategy, finance, accounting, compliance, etc. So either they have that skill set, or they have the resourcefulness to trust people who know better than them. This requires humility, leadership, and a strong sense of justice. I always felt like I wasn’t amazing at one particular function, but ‘pretty good at everything through my education and professional experience – so being entrepreneurs and CEO enabled me to go broader versus deeper as it relates to starting and running a company, which suited me well.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Jaime Blaustein: This is a critical quality of every successful organization. People need to feel that they are valued and that management has ‘got their back.’ I recognize that I can be demanding, but I make a strong effort to supplement that with a strong sense of appreciation when people go above and beyond. I think having high expectations of people is a good thing, so long as you pay equal attention and acknowledgment to the value people are bringing to the table. If people don’t feel that you want them to succeed both within the company and you lose credibility and trust, and this fractures the fabric of your organization.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Jaime Blaustein: A leader can be disruptive by being nimble and adaptable to the circumstances at hand. Recognizing the need of your target market and catering your service towards that need is essential. In our case, we recognized a need for virtual treatment for the folks in our IOP program, as some people simply aren’t ready to return to in-person treatment. We also recognized that our intake process needed additional protective measures and steps to ensure our patients remain Covid-free. One person infecting the entire community kills morale, clinical progress, and business.
We’ve also recognized that certain populations have suffered more than others and have therefore developed \specific tracks for these populations – for instance, Wall Street. My personal experience is that the work-from-home environment has taken a great emotional toll on bankers in particular. When you’re grinding that hard and you have no camaraderie, many begin to suffer silently. So our Wall Street Wellness program attempts to address this population that has been a victim of a pandemic to some extent.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Jaime Blaustein: I would tell them: I help people find happiness and a purpose in life. This is the most simplistic version of what I do. In some instances, this means being hands-on by running groups, which is quite rare for a CEO in this space, but it’s important to me and I know I have something to offer, particularly to those who struggle with addiction. In other instances, it means utilizing my business expertise to ensure our organization is adding value, providing exceptional patient service, and that our company is healthy enough to continue doing the great work we do for years to come.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Jaime Blaustein: Given that we are relatively new (having opened to patients in mid-September), I don’t feel I have a compelling anecdote here. Everything decision I’ve made has been challenging to some extent. I have the benefit of Ben’s experience which is invaluable – he provides a tremendous sounding board. I believe I’ll be able to answer this question more compellingly in a few months from now once more time unfolds and we have data points we can point to that demonstrate the results of some of these decisions.
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Jaime Blaustein: My most useless talent is evaluating steak houses. I’m an unapologetic lover of Peter Luger steakhouse. I have always said it is the best in the world. A few years ago someone challenged me on this by saying ‘how can you say that if you’ve never been to x, y, and z?’ I conceded they had a point, so to boost my credibility, and ventured out on a New York City steak house tour. I assigned rankings to all of the steaks I ate with detailed analyses of the experience. I’m confident in my rankings, which I admit are subjective. The only real purpose this serves is enabling me (and others, hopefully) to have a great meal and making me appear like a snob.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Jaime Blaustein: “House Money”. When I had just a few months sober, I remember talking to my mentor while in a halfway house and lamenting that I “had to” go to my little brother’s high school play. He stopped me and said – “no, you GET to go to his play.” He explained that I was on death’s door not too long ago and that anything that happened in my life going forward was “house money” – referring to the casino term when you’ve won or been given money already and can therefore bet without fear of a net loss. This instantly shifted my perspective and is something that’s stuck with me, and a concept that I communicate to all of my mentees. Anything that happens going forward is a blessing. It’s easy to lose that perspective when the result of your struggles amounts to a robust life and new luxury problems, but the true measure of where I’m at is how it is compared to Christmas Day of 2013 when I finally surrendered.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jaime Blaustein for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jaime Blaustein or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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