#154-How Leaders Make Amazing Companies with David Duvall
John (Intro): I have been on a quest to learn everything I can about leadership obsessed with what makes the best leaders so good. After running companies small and large for the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito and I’m your host. I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this topic: What makes the best leaders so good? Welcome to Tomorrow’s Leader.
John: Ah, right, tomorrow’s leaders. I’ve got a great guest for you today. This is a guy who did my custom desk that I just ordered. I’m going to see pictures of this if you’re watching on YouTube. Unbelievable. I mean, this thing is amazing. But what drew me to David is his whole story. I mean, he runs a great business, actually, multiple businesses. He’s a leader of not just this company that makes furniture, but also in the biotech industry, a leader of a large organization. He’s got a great partnership with his wife. And I just, this is such an authentic, real and impactful person. And I just love talking to the great, great things, great things that he shared. Example stories. I think this is going to be one of your favorite episodes. So here’s David Duvall. Enjoy.
John: All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dive deep on all things leader-related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I am John Laurito, your host, and I am thrilled to have David Duvall on our show here today. David, welcome to the show. Appreciate you joining us.
David: Thanks, John. Appreciate it. Big fan of the show and excited to participate.
John: Well, thanks, man. I’m a big fan of yours and for the audience I met David through and really just by chance I had been when I moved here to Holly Springs, I had been in the market for a desk and I wanted to get one custom made and came across David’s company. And I got to tell you and I’m going to take pictures of this. So the audience that’s watching can see it, can see the pictures. David and his team made the most unbelievable custom desk out of a piece of pecan. And it is truly gorgeous. You’ll see when you look at the pictures. So you and I got to talking. I was thrilled with what you did. And I loved hearing about your business. And I thought, wow, you’d be a great guest on the show. So, again, thanks for joining. Yeah, awesome.
David: Glad you love the desk. And you know what convinced you to get a dining room table at some point?
John: Well, I’m sure this is not my last purchase. This is the first of many. So that’s dangerous for me. That way I can get into the buying mode quickly, but hey, there’s so much I’d love to talk to you about. You know, why don’t we start with Duvall and Company? I mean, you’ve got a really cool, interesting story about how you got into this. It’s a really unique business. And honestly, I had searched for so long and I didn’t find many people that did what you did and certainly not of the caliber of what you did. So how did this whole thing start?
David: Yeah, thanks for asking. Well, yeah, it all started about ten years ago. You know, probably more information than you’re asking, but it started with I’ve just I’ve always done carpentry through high school. My great grandfather was a furniture builder. Even after college, you know, I was still building stuff for my own home. And a number of years back after my now nine year old daughter was born, we discovered when she was two months old that she was visually impaired. It was obviously a very tough situation. And at the time, my wife and I were both working, you know, both working in biotechnology. My wife was a pharmaceutical sales rep making good income. And then we found out what happened with our daughter and that she was visually impaired.
David: My wife said literally at the drop of a hat, OK, that’s it. I’m done. I’m done working. I quit literally without any notice. She’s like, I’m not sending our daughter to preschool or daycare. I’m staying home with her, which was a very brave move on her part. She had got where she worked so hard just, you know, creating this career and pharmaceuticals to just give it up and say, that’s it, I’m a mom. That’s the most important thing she did that it was a it was a massive pay cut for us to lose an income like that. And so we were looking for additional ways to make income. We knew that I had always worked in carpentry and built furniture for our own home. And so my wife said, listen, why don’t you just put an ad on Craigslist, don’t have any dining room tables during the evenings in the garage and sell those.
David: And that would be a little extra income. So that’s how do our company started. You know, we know, we always refer to ourselves as sort of accidental entrepreneurs. We never really intended to start a business or a company. I was just thinking about making a couple of extra bucks here and there now. But within a very short timeframe, we realized there was just a really high demand for people that didn’t want to go to the big box retailers, the Pottery Barn, the store, the restoration hardware of the world. And so within a couple of years, we, next thing you know, had a big social media fan base.
David: We work now in about a six month waiting list for furniture pieces. We’ve got a four thousand, barefoot shop, you know, four full-time employees, in-house designer and and now we’ve even been featured on HDTV multiple times, working with the Property Brothers and and Hilary Farr, who’s the main designer on Love It or List It. We’re actually building a table for our personal home. So, wow, it kind of grew out of control. Unexpected.
John: Well, first of all, I love that story and what a really cool start to it. You know, you’re out of your garage, you start with the first piece of furniture, was a dining room table.
David: Yeah, it was just it was a simple farmhouse, dining room table, John: And it was on Craigslist. Is that how you use it?
David: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We just put it on Craigslist and next thing you know, just started getting calls every day. But I say it was. I think what was most fun about it was that it allowed us to do other things that we were passionate about in our very first year. Considering the reason we started it was because of what had happened with our daughter. We said, you know what, we’re doing OK. We’re financially in a good spot. Let’s use this to support things that are important to us.
David: So it gave us an opportunity to do a charitable component to do our one company. And every single year now we donate a portion of our profits and our revenues to different charities, the very first one being the School for the Blind and Raleigh. We worked very, very closely with them, with our daughter, and it’s just grown from then we all ask our customers and our clients, hey, what, what, what’s near and dear to your heart and everything from the Frankie Lemmon Foundation to the Pretty in Pink Foundation, which helps women with breast cancer who can’t afford treatment. Most recently, we gave a good bit of money to the local soup kitchen, the pantry, to help people who couldn’t afford food. So it’s how it’s allowed us to not only make a good living for ourselves, but support some charities that are important to us.
John: That’s amazing. You know, and ‘m number one. It’s got to feel great to be able to do that. But it sounds like you did it. You know, a lot of businesses, especially growing businesses, are not necessarily in the financial position to necessarily do that early in those first few years. So that’s tremendous that you did it. That’s obviously very important to you. And to take the input from your clients, your customers to that says a lot. I mean, that’s got to give them a great feeling, too, about your organization. And, you know, you’ve an extra impact that they have.
David: Yeah, I hope so. I hope you know, I think, you know, I hope people find out about it and let us know what you know. We always always ask our clients, you know, is there a charity that you like? You know, we can say we’re always looking for four good charities that we feel like have a good mission and are and are helping people. And, you know, we’re fortunate that we’re in a situation to be able to do that.
John: That’s great. Well, let’s talk about the business. So you grew obviously over these last ten years, and I love to ask you a bunch of questions that are interesting, just about any business going through that type of growth in those early years. You know, and you and I were talking about the fact that there’s a lot of craftsmen, there’s a lot of people in all kinds of industries that are really great at creating a product or service.
John: But and you see this a lot of times they ultimately don’t succeed because they don’t have the entrepreneurial skills. They don’t have the leadership skills. What does that mean to you? What were some of the things that you feel that really have contributed to the growth and not just the quality of what you do, but what you have to do from an entrepreneurial standpoint?
David: Yeah, now, that’s a great question. I’ll tell you, I think one of the first things I did was just I made a lot of mistakes, you know, and fortunately, none of those mistakes were so detrimental that led to the demise of the company. But, you know, you learn from absolutely everything you do. And my wife to this day still makes fun of me. We were trying to figure out, well, how can we get the word out there? How can we have more people find out about our company? And I was traveling a lot of the time. I was on airplanes, always flipping through magazines, and I said, that’s it, that’s it.
David: We need to advertise in that Delta Airlines magazine because those people have money and they fly and they’re going to buy furniture. And whatever occurred to me is never one foot and has never done a lot for the furniture business. As far as print marketing. No, those people are from all over the place. And we were at the time a small little company in
North Carolina. And I’m thinking, what am I going to do if somebody in Oregon or Idaho or California buys a table? How in the world am I going to get it there? And then just the pure cost of it? I mean, we are a company that was at the time probably only doing one hundred thousand in sales every year. And I think the airline wanted something close to $15,000 or $20,000 to put in their airline magazine. Fortunately, my wife talk some sense into me and
said, you’re absolutely out of your mind if you think people are going to shop for a dining room table while they’re sitting on an airplane. It was a good point.
John: But, you know, that didn’t say you did do that. We did not do it.
David: My wife talks some sense into me. One of the biggest things I think that impacted our company and sort of the direction that we go was read a book called The Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, a great book about entrepreneurialism. And, you know, one thing he talks about in that book is that just by understanding the product that is made by a company, people often think they understand the company that makes the products. And that’s inherently wrong. The example he uses in the book is about a girl named Sally who absolutely loves making pies. And all of her friends said, wow, you should open a pie business.
David: And he points out that therein lies the problem. Sally’s friends like to if you want to make the best pies and go work for a company that makes pies, if you want to be an entrepreneur, then you’ve got to figure out how to make a successful company. And I think reading that book a few years ago is where the switch kind of went on for me that I realized Duvall and Company is not really about making the most amazing custom furniture we are.
David: But really as the owner and as the entrepreneur, my goal is really just to make an amazing company to, you know, to to work very closely with my clients and make sure they’re happy to work very closely with my employees and lead them in a way and train them in a way that that they want to grow in the organization and they want to be successful. And if we do all of that, well, then the end product being the PyCon desk or a or an amazing dining room table sort of comes along with an amazing product, comes from an amazing company. And that is what I’ve learned through this process.
John: That’s amazing. I love that quote. Make an amazing company. And there’s so many, there are so many organizations that you’re right there focused so much on the product and not thinking about it because there’s a lot of things that small business owners deal with. OK, how do I scale this business? How do I know when to bring people in and what people do I bring in and what am I going to have them do? And they they forget about building the right culture. You know, that’s one of those things that attracts top people to your organization and also drives the engine, you know, makes the engine run. What when you think about a culture of your organization and what’s important to you about that culture, what does it look like or feel like?
David: You know, it’s a culture of. You know, it’s inclusive, I think it’s a very open environment, especially in the shop. You know, it’s sort of funny that I always considered myself to be such a good carpenter and such a good craftsman. And having owned this company for years now, I have met guys and hired guys and I realize I’m not as good as I thought I was. So I needed to start looking more in-depth by saying, OK, well, what am I good at and where are my deficiencies, and where can I bring people on that can
compensate for the things that I’m not good at and. I have been fortunate that I have really just met some amazing craftsmen, and I make sure that they understand listen, yes, I know my wife and I own this business.
David: We run this business, but it’s not going to be successful if it’s not the best product. It is my job to make the company amazing. It is your job to make sure that what we are putting out as a means and my guys know if if there is a tool that will make the product better, if there is a a process change that will make the product better, if there’s something we can do differently, that will make our clients happier and more pleased with the product that we have. It’s an open policy. You come to us and you talk about, hey, here’s what we can do. Here’s what’s going to make us better as a company. Here’s what’s going to make our product better. Let me know and we’ll do it.
David: So, you know, every company goes through situations where people will come in and people will leave. And we had a gentleman years ago that ended up leaving the company. And it was a shame because he would complain, well, we don’t have this tool and we don’t have that tool. And another person in the company said, why do you always complain about what we don’t have if we don’t have it and we need it, then go to David and tell him this is what we need and we don’t have it if it makes sense. He’s never said no. You know, and it led to I think it reflected more on that individual who led to his no longer being with the organization. And the person that replaced him came in and says, OK, here’s what he said, we need this. And I said, perfect, let’s get it. If it makes the product better on the company, let’s do it.
John: And that’s so important. I respect that so much in companies where they’re really tapping into the brain power, the people that are in that organization. You know, what I hear you describing is you’ve built an environment, a culture that is very open, that people have ownership. So it’s not you know, they feel like they’ve got a part of the company, whether they physically or literally do or not. They still feel this sense of, OK, if there’s something I can do or an idea that’s going to make the company better, I’m going to say it. And that’s what you’ve consciously built. And it sounds like you’ve talked about it.
John: You’ve said, hey, here’s what I want, which are a lot of leaders. They forget the importance of talking about, hey, here’s what I want to see. Here’s the environment. Here’s when I know this place is really humming, when we have this type of stuff happening and then catching people, doing something right and rewarding them on that. So it sounds like you’ve done that. And that’s the culture that is just naturally now, you know, people giving ideas and thoughts.
David: It definitely is. I would say a lot of it has come from my wife, who owns the company with me. And, you know, she constantly reminds me if I’m maybe not being the leader that I want to be or that I think myself to be. You know, she pointed out so say, hey, listen, you know, when’s the last time you you grabbed a, you know, a case of beer and stopped at the shop at five o’clock on a Friday when the guys are cleaning up and just sat down with them and had a beer and talked about how the company is going it’s and how the projects are going.
David: That’s the one thing that I think I do that the guys at our shop appreciate is the fact that I’m sort of an open book with them. They know how we’re doing. They know, you know,
what projects are coming up. They know if I come up with the new idea of a different vertical where we could possibly diversify the company and move into another area of furniture or sales, I talk to him about it and say, well, what are your thoughts on this? Is this something where you could see this being successful? And I think they appreciate it.
David: I think companies that don’t succeed are the kind of companies that you walk into. And if you pull someone aside and you say, well, hey, how does this happen in this company? And they say, I don’t know, the boss does that or the owner of my job. Yeah, right. Not my job. That’s the kind of company that I think is destined to fail. And I hope that that’s not Duvall and company. I hope that you can walk in and ask a question of how does this happen or who does this? And I’ll always have an answer of knowing who does what and how things get from point A to point B. Yeah.
John: So I love that you’re talking about transparency and inclusiveness. I mean, you really you’re letting them into the tent, so to speak. And hey, here’s how this company works and operates, and here’s how we’re doing. And there may be some listeners that are saying, OK, well, that that sounds manageable for a smaller size. Company, but I’m running a larger water division. What’s great about you is which we haven’t talked about, but I’d love to, is you have two roles. You know, you’re obviously built along with Danny.
John: And I want to talk about your partnership as well, too. So I want to come back to that. But, you know, you’ve built that. But you’ve now you’re also you are the area director and commercial lead for logic, which is a biotech firm, and you lead a very large organization in that. Why don’t you just tell the listeners a little bit about that role and then I’d love to hear your thoughts on are you as transparent in that role or I mean, are you bringing that big of a team into the tent, so to speak?
David: Yeah, that’s a great question. Yeah, it’s funny, it’s it’s people often find it a little odd. It’s certainly kind of dichotomous between working in science and biotech and then working as a carpenter. There are very different roles. But, yeah, what I’ve realized is that all business, I think in general as a small business, whether it’s an antique store on Main Street in small-town America or it’s a multibillion-dollar biotech firm, it’s really all about individual relationships. And not just with your clients, but with your employees, with your executive teams. It’s all about making these small connections with people that makes the business go round now.
David: And my and my biotech life, it’s my team’s a little bit larger, around 30 people that come up through my life, that operate through my part of the organization. And yeah, it is a very inclusive way of leadership there as well. It’s a different business, but everybody is going to have input on how things are done, you know, and things that would make us more successful. It’s the same. And the furniture world with my aircraftsman and my carpenter saying, hey, this is going to make our product better. And it’s the same thing in the biotech world of what can we do to be more successful, to be a better partner with our medical practices that we work with then. And ultimately, how can we succeed together?
John: Mm-hmm. I love that. And so what’s the biggest leadership challenge or difference? I guess with an organization like that, like CoreLogic and with Duvall and Company, I mean, are there different kind of leadership skills that you’ve had to really develop in order to lead one versus the other?
David: Yeah, sure. It’s you know, it’s fortunate that in my career I have been surrounded by some pretty amazing leaders and I’ve been able to learn from them and pull from their skill sets up. I’ve also had some people that I would probably say were not the best leaders, and I’ve learned from them as well as approaches and things I want to avoid. There’s always going to be some differences when you’re dealing with a large, publicly-traded company. As far as transparency, how transparent can you be?
David: And, you know, when you’re talking and looking about looking at things with, you know, acquisitions of other biotech companies, you know there’s only so much you can share with, you know, people at different levels of the organization. But generally speaking, yeah, I can’t say people skill-wise, there’s a lot of differences. You know, people skills exist and every business and whether it’s furniture or biotech, you know, you’ve got to be able to have a one on one conversation. I think of it as you know, you probably heard the saying that every decision is an emotional decision.
David: You know, people decide emotionally and they justify it. And I had a boss years ago in biotech, that he was the perfect example. Every couple of years he would buy a brand new Range Rover. $120,000 car. Totally an emotional decision. Obviously not that there’s not good logical reasons, but I’ve yet to find one. So, yeah, one day I said his name was Steve. I said, Steve, I got to wonder, like, why is it that you every two years are dropping one hundred and twenty thousand dollars on a brand new Range Rover. He lives in Texas and he says, well, David, you don’t get it. He’s like, first off, I’ve got two kids, two dogs and a wife. And every time we go to our house up in Vail, you know, I’ve got to get everybody into the car. We’ve got to get to Vail. And when you get up there, there is nothing that’s going to plow through three feet of snow like a raindrop.
David: And I said, OK, yeah, except maybe like a Jeep Cherokee or something like that, but the point is he took this emotional purchase of this $120,000 car and he can now logically justify why he has to have this car. Yeah. And I’ve discovered it’s like that with everything, every decision that we make and whether it’s in biotech with the people that report to me, whether it’s people that I’m trying to, you know, lead laterally or even leading, you know, from above, every decision is going to be an emotional decision. And we’re all going to justify logically why we make those decisions. So it’s really about finding, OK, well, where is this person coming from? What is their emotional draw, their emotional connection to make the decisions that they make?
David: I’ve got a guy that I work with in biotech that was telling me he and his wife took these tests on how empathetic they were. His wife is out as a registered nurse and as expected, she ranked off the charts like one of the most empathetic people in the world. I mean, she has to be I mean, she obviously sacrifices herself being a nurse. And the guy that I work with, I joked that he was so low on the scale. I’m like, I hope they can give you an asshole rating. But they basically said, you’re an asshole. You know, we joked about it and he said to me, because, you know, you strike me as a very empathetic person. And I say, well, everybody kind of goes through stages in life.
David: What happens to them throughout their life makes them who they are. And had I taken an empathy test, you know, 15 years ago, I probably would have been one of the biggest jerks on the planet. But over 15 years of just everything that happens in life, having
kids, having a child with a disability, you know, watching my parents get older, my dad has Parkinson’s disease, so I help care for him. But all of that has sort of changed my outlook on life, you know, and I realize everybody deals with different things in life. Everybody deals with different situations. And far be it for me to judge someone on their worst day, you know, because you just never know what’s happening in their lives. And that sort of background, I think in viewpoint with how I sort of view the world doesn’t change, whether it’s in furniture building, whether it’s in biotech or whether it’s just in my personal life every day.
John: Well, it’s interesting because, you know, the perspective I have, I get a chance to work with leaders in all different industries. And I’ve worked with and seen some of the best. And like you, I’ve seen and worked with very poor ones, terrible ones. And the one one of the one of the very common, consistent traits in the top leaders is empathy for sure. I mean, and I see that no matter how I see it, it shows up differently in different businesses and whatnot.
John: But inevitably and even the people that I ask, who was the most influential person in your life when they describe them, there’s a level of empathy that that person had. And so especially in the times that we’re in and we’ve gone through recently, you know, people are drawn to those leaders that really are empathetic and understand other people’s perspectives and want to understand other people’s thoughts and emotions and what’s going on. And, you know, what’s happening in your world and can really understand and can really appreciate that.
David: So, you know, I have one of my favorite questions when I’m interviewing candidates for either role is I mean, obviously, you’re going to have the questions of, you know, describe this situation and how did you handle it and what were the actions you took and the eventual result. But I always want to just sort of get to know who they are as people. And so the one question I always ask them, as you know, John, in your case, I’d say, well, John, what makes John Lauritoo specifically John Laurito, like, what is it in your life that has brought you to where you are now is that you know, everything that happens in life makes you who you are.
David: And I love to learn that about people when I’m interviewing them just to see number one, I just want to hear their stories. I want to know about them and hear sort of what makes them tick and what’s made them who they are. And also, I just kind of want to see, are they going to be real? Are they going to be honest or are they going to tell me about their professional accolades? Oh, I want this president’s club award and this Circle of Excellence trip, and that makes me who I am. And if that’s the case, then I actually find that sad. Yeah. That someone would hang their hat on that.
David: But I heard some just amazing stories. Yeah. Interviewing people about just, you know, their upbringings and, you know, their parents being entrepreneurs and saying, you know, they were first generation Americans and watching their parents struggle or just I just heard some absolutely amazing stories. Yeah. And that’s usually one of my biggest keys when I hire people is who they are, who I like, what motivates them? Who are they? What kind of person? Yeah. And I feel like that’s how you learn by asking.
John: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And there’s so much there. And I’m thinking when you’re telling me, you know, you you also look for those answers that are kind of the canned answers that there’s so many people, especially in the interview situation, that they’re not being authentic. And whether it’s just that situation or in general, they’re not very authentic
people. But let me ask you what might be a tough question. I don’t know, but what do you consider to be your mission, your purpose as a leader or as a person?
David: Yeah, you know, I think. But more than anything, my mission as a person is just to make sure I raise happy children. You know, I’ve got my wife and I have four kids and they’re the most important thing in my life as making sure that they grow up and they’re safe and they’re happy and that they have opportunities, you know, and then they understand that they can do whatever they want. The mom and I are accepting of them. And if they have a dream and they want to achieve it, we’ll do what we can do to make sure that they’re heading down the right path to doing that.
David: Professionally, you know, I think. More than anything, you know, my goal is to be strategic when I look at an organization. You know, it’s important for me to understand what an organization wants to achieve. You know, I was having a conversation with one of our executives the other day and I said, I feel like we really need a sort of a north star by which all of our decisions are judged. You know, if you’re if you’re North Star, as you know, in the biotech world. Well, we want our patients to ask for this diagnostic tests to be run on this patient. And if that’s your North Star, everything you do should be measured against, you know, there’s so many people I see that are in the corporate world that are afraid of the brutal truth. You know, they’ll say, well, I’ve got this great idea, this marketing idea, and it’s only going to cost us a couple of million dollars to do it.
David: And everybody wants to say, yeah, that’s a good idea, but everybody in the room knows it’s an awful idea and nobody and everybody is afraid to say it. And I think the brutal truth sometimes is just so important to get that out there and say, hey, listen, I appreciate the idea. I’m glad you shared it. But let’s put that up against our measure, our measuring stick. This is our North Star. Is that initiative going to impact what our ultimate mission, what our ultimate goal is? And if the answer is no, then you move away from it. And I think that’s one thing I’ve been able to do in the corporate environment is just to sort of refocus an organization and sort of look out at different things. You know, a great example of that was when the pandemic struck, we have sales people in our organization that all of a sudden said, I can’t work.
David: Biotech companies were laying salespeople off left and right. They said, I can’t, I can’t get in to see the offices that we’re talking about. And these patients have cancer. And they said the last thing they want is somebody walking into an oncology office in the middle of a pandemic. We’re pretty much shut down. And I think what I was most proud of is that we looked at the situation. We step back and we very quickly pivoted and said, well, how can we do our business differently? How can we provide support to these doctors? How can we let them know what tools they have available in a safe environment? And it’s funny that you and I are talking over a year and a half ago when this all first happened, my organization was probably one of the first that immediately pivoted and switched to assume interactions.
David: We started hosting dinner programs at night and we looked for ways of, well, how can we not only help these doctors in these providers by giving information? How can we also help small business that’s struggling? And so we said, you know, we’re going to do it,
we’re going to talk to these doctors and we’re going to say, hey, pick your favorite local restaurant. What’s a restaurant that you love? What’s a restaurant that you feel is struggling?
Give us the information, do us a favor, call and order food, have it sent to your home. We’ll take care of the bill, hop on Zoom at 6:30. We can have a good meal. You can support a small business there in your town and we can have a nice clinical discussion and make sure that you have all the information you need so that you are making the smartest medical decisions to treat patients.
David: You know what started is an idea that we thought that maybe somebody might do this, turn into an idea where we ended up speaking in the first couple of months of the pandemic, probably spoke to over a thousand doctors across the country. Wow. When they realized, wait a second, I can do this, they didn’t even really know what to do was we were having to teach them. Of course, now they have some fatigue and everybody’s trying to get off of it. Yeah, but back then, they didn’t even know what it was and we were teaching them how to use it. And we shifted and pivoted.
David: And I think what I was most proud of is in that process as a biotech company, when most biotech companies were laying people off left and right because of the pandemic, we did not lose a single person. We kept every single one of our people employed and actually had a banner year that broke every sales record that we’d ever set up.
John: Wow, that’s incredible. Man, that is tremendous leadership, you know, and that’s what it’s about. Know it’s about looking at the situation. It’s leadership, adaptability and versatility and understanding the changing world around you and being able and willing to pivot and not just as a leader, but to take your whole organization in that direction. And that’s tough. I mean, you think about how there were so many businesses and business owners and entrepreneurs and leaders that just froze. And some of them even said that, hey, we’re not going to do anything. We’re not going to make any decisions until we the dust settles and we figure this whole pandemic thing.
John: And then before, you know what they were struggling or out of business. And, you know, so part of leadership is knowing time is of the essence. You’ve got certain things that may look like a disaster, which is certainly in some many respects but also presented an opportunity. And now so now is this. Once we’re out of the pandemic, will you stick with the Zoom method or to a degree, keep that or go back to in person?
David: That’s a great question. You know, we have started picking up some in person. I think it’s important to sort of let the client steer that ship and what they are most comfortable with. Yeah, we have definitely started doing a little bit more in-person meetings at this point. You know, as far as people are getting vaccinated and doors are starting to open back up, I think people miss the sort of that human touch component of it. So we have definitely started picking that back up.
David: But I’d say there’s a lot of people that said, you know, I kind of like this. I like at the end of an evening not having to go to another meeting or go to a restaurant or meet people. I can go home, spend 45 minutes on Zoom, have a nice meal, and spend time with my family and not have to be out away from my kids and away from my spouse. Yeah. So it’s definitely going to be a hybrid model, I think, moving forward. Yeah. You know, I don’t it’s definitely not going to be all one or the other, but
John: It’s opened up another channel of doing things, another way of doing things that you wouldn’t have had before. So I find a lot of businesses now have that as well. I came from financial services and the concept of doing meetings to talk about finance. The financial planning doing it over on Zoom was not popular or even entertained by a lot of people. And now that’s second nature. Most clients would prefer that even after the pandemic. So you’ve got a lot of industries that have totally shifted the way their whole business model is, the way that they’ve done things the same ones have.
David: Well, you know, this is a great example because how often, you know, on podcasts or even the podcasts were done in person, in a room, and now here you and I are talking over Zoom.
John: Well, it’s so funny because I started this podcast when I launched my business, which was in February of last of 2020 before the pandemic. Crazy time. You and I were talking about timing. My vision was OK, well I’m going to have a podcast studio which I had in my place in Boston, which was kind of a makeshift one. And my potential guest list was only people that could be within driving distance of it. And then when this happened, I’m like, how am I going to do these things over Zoom? And are people going to like them? And is it going to work as well? And what’s the sound going to be like and all this stuff? And now, you know, I can I can have guests, which I have, you know, that are on the West Coast or even anywhere, really anywhere in the world. So it’s kind of absolute right. It hits every.
David: Including but it’s amazing. So, you know, it’s I have a very dear friend who was an entrepreneur for years and had started dealing with international importation and things. And he told me an analogy that his father taught him and that he teaches his son. And now I talk to my kids about it. And it’s about life on the elevator. And maybe you’ve heard this, but he says, you know, you’re thinking of the whole North Star idea. He says, let’s say your goal is to be the head of thoracic surgery for Johns Hopkins.
David: Well, if you’re looking at a high rise, that ultimate goal was the house. That’s where you want to get. And he says to his son, and I’ve said this now with my boys and my daughters as well, as long as you keep making really smart decisions, you know, you do well in school. You study, you work hard. You get to stay on that elevator. The second you make a poor decision, you have to get off the elevator and take the stairs. You know, maybe you fail a test, maybe you skipped school.
David: Maybe you do something you shouldn’t be doing well. That doesn’t mean you’re never going to reach that goal of being the head of thoracic surgery at Johns Hopkins. But it sure is going to take you a hell of a lot longer if you’re taking the stairs. So as long as you keep making the right decisions, you can stay in the elevator. And, yeah, that’s what I try to do and that’s what I try to instill in my and my kids as well
John: I love that. I love it. So let me go back to one thing. I had a question about you, and you had mentioned your spouse. You and your wife have partnered. You really have what I think is a great partnership with Duvall and Company business, obviously. I’m sure life as well in general. Share with us what is that partnership? Why is it valuable? What’s most valuable? You shared a couple of examples that I picked up on, but what do you get from that partnership together?
David: Well, that’s a great question. One of the things I personally get from it is I get to see my wife in her element. You know, I get to see her shine, which is just really. Really gratifying. You know, it’s so often you see couples and the spouses, you know, your spouse works, but you don’t know a lot about their job. You know a lot about what they do, you know. And with Duvall and Company, my wife and I are both so ingrained in it that we get to see what each other does. And we also have realized, OK, back to the whole thing of finding people that can handle things that you’re not so good at where your deficiencies.
David: Well, fortunately, my wife is really good at some things. She has her own interior design business in addition to our company. So she’s got a great eye for design proportion. She is really good at just the social media component and understanding it. She’s really drove. She drove in and taught herself and learned a lot. I mean, when you stuff that to me it is just overwhelming when she goes, oh, well, you know, you’ve got to get on Instagram and you have to post this time of the day and this many posts and these have to be the hashtags. And, you know, no more than 10,000 hashtags on this. I mean, it’s overwhelming. And the mere thought of it makes my brain hurt.
David: But that’s my wife’s element. She gets in and she comes up with ideas where even just with our customer service, with sending pictures. Actually, John, you’re a great example for those who are watching and listening. John, it ordered a desk. You ordered a black walnut desk, which is really a beautiful word. And my wife has said, communicate with your clients. If you find something amazing, let them know. And so I was out what I call slab hunting, looking for amazing pieces of wood. And I found this amazing piece of wood. And John, you remember this? I snapped a picture of this hunk of wood and I sent it to you and I said, John, I don’t know if I’m ever going to see this again. It’s this amazing piece that, you know, any chance you want to switch this up and move away from walnut and go to PyCon and they’re just very, very different woods. And that’s something that my wife has taught me.
David: I don’t always just stick with this person, ask for this, do this. She’s like the client. They want to be involved. That’s why they’re coming to make it. It’s not just about buying a piece of furniture. It’s really about an experience. Yeah, I learned that from my wife. And just watching her grow in this company and take on so much has really been amazing for me. And more importantly than that, it’s amazing for my kids. I love that that is the example that my kids see. I want my girls to see a strong woman, a woman that, you know, is in charge and makes decisions and and and at the same time is just an amazing mom and cuddles in bed at night and reads books to them, you know, that mom really can do all. And I want that to be the example that my girls see and not only my girls that my boys see, but I also want them to see. Wow, that’s what I want when I get home. I need to find someone like Mom that is confident, that knows what she wants.
David: And then as far as just the work relationship, I will tell you it’s and this is very difficult, but we make a concerted effort to not talk about Duvall and company because it can certainly be all consuming at times when we have private time, just the two of us, and we start talking about, well, what are some of the directions we can take the company? And we really do make an effort to not do that. We schedule our date nights and we make a pact up front. We do not talk about Duvall and company. It’s just about hanging out, enjoying our time together, spending time together, and not talking business, which I will tell you is tough.
John: But yeah, because you’re passionate. I know. And you and your story about reaching out to me, I from my perspective, I appreciated that so much because and I could sense your excitement about this piece. And I’m absolutely thrilled with this desk. And I’m sure I would have been thrilled with the walnut, too. But it did say a lot about you. And it said it’s not just this turnkey business. It’s a business that’s built on this passion for what you do. And I just was what struck me that day. And again, you remember, I was like, hey, I don’t know. I mean, I’m going to take your advice from what you have or whatever you think it looks like. Like this is great. It’s unique. And it really said a lot.
John: Appreciate that, and I love you know, you are such a centered person and balanced person, I love the fact, you know, as you’re describing your leadership, Danny’s leadership, the companies that you run your partnership together, I mean, I think you’ve got a lot of listeners out there that are like, wow, you know, and I’m sure you’ve had your downs, but you’ve had tremendous success and not just professionally, but it sounds like personally as well. And just, you know, kudos to you. There are not enough people out there like you.
David: So great. Well, thanks. Yeah. And then you bring up a good point. You know, obviously, everybody likes to remember the good, you know, but there’s definitely and every company, there’s always going to be disagreements and struggles. And, you know, it’s really just about, I think, being open-minded and being willing to listen to the other person, because, you know, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t definitely some disagreements and some heated discussions at times. But, yeah, that’s sometimes where the best ideas come from. Absolutely.
John: Well, I know where we’re at the end of our time here. It’s been absolutely phenomenal. And in a minute, I’ll ask you for some parting advice to the listeners. But if people want to learn more about you, learn more about the company, what can they do? Where can they go?
David: No, sure. They ask. Yeah, they can go to Duvallco.com. It’s Duvallco.com. That’s our website that I’ll tell you really just about everything you want to know as well as you can follow us on Instagram or Facebook or any other major social media channels. Yeah, we’d love to hear from any of your listeners and we’d love to work with any of them. And actually, I’m going to turn the tables on you, John, because, you know, I think, you know, you do such a great job of interviewing people and having these conversations. I’m wondering how much do people really know about you? So I said one of my favorite questions to ask in an interview is what makes you you. So let’s turn the tables, everybody. Let’s ask John. John, what makes you uniquely you and what has brought you to this point in life?
John: That’s great. That’s such a great question. You know, I’ve been very lucky to be influenced by some great, great people. And I somehow really became aware of, wow, this whole thing where somebody can say something, do something. It impacts me. And then I have a different attitude and impact other people. And then there’s this big ripple effect. I think when I was in high school is when I was first, like, kind of connected the dots. I’m like, wow, I didn’t know what I didn’t know it was leadership. I didn’t really know about that. I just knew. That’s pretty amazing that people can leave you better than they found. You and I have just been on this life’s mission to do the same, you know, leave people better than I found them.
John: And as I learned to be a better leader and influencer of other people and also myself, I said, you know what? I think I can help other people do the same and become better leaders and influencers. And as we’ve talked about, it’s not just business, it’s life in general. So I think that’s what makes me people, you know, I just love that. I love helping them meet other people better than you found them. them. Yeah. Yeah. There are always, there are people that do that so well and I’ve always admired that. So I hope if I have a fraction of the ability that some of the top people I’ve seen do that, I’ll be happy.
David: I think I think you definitely are doing that.
John: That’s awesome. Thank you, my friend. Well, this has been absolutely fantastic. I’ve loved this. I really, truly have. You know, it’s this for me is it’s me getting a chance to learn and share some stuff from great leaders. And you have shared so many great nuggets. So we’ll have a lot of info in the show, notes, and everything, and people can reach out to you. We’ll put the links in there and stuff like that. And I’ll put the pictures of this desk because I know a lot of people are going to be wondering what it looks like. So they’ll be isolated. So
excellent. Great. Well, thanks again, David. Thank you, everybody, for joining us today. This has been another episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. Make sure you like, subscribe, share all that kind of good stuff. Go down below, give a five-star review. Of course, greatly appreciate your reviews as well as your future, your suggestions for future guests, and also future topics. In the meantime, have a great one. Thanks, everybody. Take care.
John (Closing): Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions, or inquiries, about having me at your next event, or personal coaching, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org Once again, that’s email@example.com. Thanks! Lead on!