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Driven & Co. Epo: 30 – Meet the COO Taking LeadMD to New Heights

On this episode of the Driven & Co. podcast, David Bauer, COO at LeadMD, talks with host Justin Gray about his experiences as an entrepreneur, the challenges he faced as a CIO working at a startup versus a billion dollar company, and his goals for the LeadMD team – all on this episode of the Driven & Co. podcast.

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What’s your day-to-day look like at LeadMD so far?

Right now it’s putting people in the right places and making sure they’re growing in the areas that they want to grow in. I’ve always believed that people do better at doing what they like to do. This idea of working on your weaknesses is not something that I really adhere to, so I’m trying to find the right places for people and make sure they feel great in doing their work.

When you were a kid, did you know what did you want to be when you grew up?

We had a family friend who owned a McDonalds franchise in my hometown. When I saw the workings of a restaurant, I just fell in love and wanted to run my own restaurant. When I met my girlfriend who became my wife, she actually had the same dream. We eventually owned and managed two restaurants for about nine years and had a great time. It was a lot of hard work but something that allowed us to be both creative and entrepreneurial.

Do you think your experience at Accenture gave you the confidence and knowledge to start a business or is entrepreneurship more innate?

You either want to take that risk and bet on yourself or you don’t. I was working at Accenture and she was in school and wanted to compete for the San Francisco State University pizza monopoly on campus. She said, “Look, if you build the business model, I’ll run the business.” And so I put together the business plan and she actually won over 25 of the restaurants to have the ability to run that monopoly for five years. I was more the financier and did all the back office stuff. Consulting enabled me to learn a new craft but I always had that entrepreneurial sense. We knew going into the restaurant business it was going to be very risky and we both wanted to make sure we lived well. Having one of us take that safe route and one of us take that more risky route worked very well for us as a couple.

How did you transition from Accenture to Copart?

I was having a very successful career at Accenture. I think by the time I left, it was 12 years total. At that time I had three kids under two years old. There’s nothing like a mother-in-law giving you one of those questions like, “When is it time for you to get off the road and help raise these kids?” That was the kick I needed to put some word out on the street that I was ready to look for a job. Copart, at the time, was about 50 million in sales and wanted me to build a department from scratch. I was known as a builder and someone who had no problem building from scratch and so I started my career at Copart. I was there for 15 years, from 1996 to 2011.

After Copart relocated to Texas, you stayed back before eventually joining Snapsheet? These roles seem somewhat aligned.

Copart is the largest seller of totaled vehicles in the United States, so I was very friendly with a lot of insurance companies and knew a lot about the insurance business. My patent is actually in auction systems but I really knew about insurance. My noncompete kept me out of the insurance business for two years. Literally the day my two years was up, I said to my wife, “I need a job.” She sent my resume off to Brad Weisberg, who still is the CEO of Snapsheet. It was a really good match. My kids were just starting college, so the timing was perfect.

I’d always wanted to try to do something from scratch like this and to not only be the technology guy, but to be the people guy. I’d built a department of 230 people at Copart so I really knew how to build departments and businesses. I was employee seven and my wife actually then came on to be our chief talent officer. I think there are now 425 people at the company.

How do you keep your leadership skills fresh?

I read a lot. A few of my favorite books are “Crucial Conversations,” “The Art of Scaling,” and “The Happiness Advantage.” I don’t think happiness comes from success. It’s about trying to understand what makes people happy in their jobs and what makes people want to come to work every day. I really try to give people the opportunity to work more on what they love to do and to give them a break on the things they don’t love to do because they’re probably not going to get that much better at it.

Who have been mentors or pivotal figures in your career journey?

One of my biggest mentors is Willis Johnson, the founder of Copart. He told me to trust my gut and if something didn’t feel right, to bring it up and not be afraid to bring it up.  I was also lucky enough to be a boy scout. There was a gentleman named Bob Turner who trusted me and taught me really leadership in scouts and how to say you’re wrong and not be afraid to say when you’ve made a mistake and to stand tall, to come to grips with that everybody makes mistakes and to give people a break and to let people off the hook.

Tune in to hear the rest of the interview, including advice David has on how to best face failures and what fundamentals startups must master to scale and succeed. To contact David directly, find him on LinkedIn or email david.bauer@leadmd.com.

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