A very diverse conversation. We talk about some tech geekery, from Atari to AI, machine learning, and robotic dogs, before transitioning into leadership and culture topics. We discussed at length about the bad reputation technology leaders often get due to misplaced expectations and proper communication. You’ll enjoy this!

Shout out to episode sponsor WindowCraft (https://windowcraft.biz)


Aaron Spatz  00:05

You’re listening to America’s entrepreneur, the podcast designed to educate, entertain, and inspire you in your personal professional journey. I’m your host, Aaron Spatz. And on the podcast, I interview entrepreneurs, industry experts, and other high achievers that detail their personal and professional journeys in business. My goal is to glean their experiences into actionable insights that you can apply to your own journey. If you’re new to the show, we’ve spoken with successful entrepreneurs, Grammy Award winning artists, best selling authors, chief executives, and other fascinating minds with unique experiences. We’ve covered topics such as how to achieve breakthrough and business, growing startups, effective leadership techniques, and much more. If you strive for continual self improvement, and enjoy fascinating and insightful conversation, if the subscribe button, you’ll love it here at America’s entrepreneur I just want to thank you for being here. I really appreciate it. We’re gonna dive right in. I’m, I’m excited to welcome to the show today. David O’Hara, David O’Hara comes to us from a background starting in technology. It’s really carried forward all the way to this day. But he is a founding member of the Forbes Dallas Business Council. And he’s also the president of improving. David, I just want to welcome you. I want to thank you for being here this morning. It’s great to be here. Thank you. Absolutely. So the my favorite question is Are you from DFW? If not, Where are you originally from?

David O’Hara  01:35

Okay, no, I’m not a native Texan. Even I was born in Chicago. And we kind of moved around through the Midwest growing up, did end up in San Antonio for a good portion of my childhood. And then worked our way back through Ohio to New Jersey, graduated high school from the eastern seaboard there in New Jersey, and and then managed to make my way back to Texas. And so I’ve been back in Texas since 98. Okay, and in Dallas since 2001. Okay, wow. So

Aaron Spatz  02:13

you’ve been here, there and everywhere. Yeah, we

David O’Hara  02:17

moved around a lot growing up. And honestly, I think that that’s, that’s part of what’s given me my my love for people having to make new friends. And honestly, it created a lot of closeness with my siblings. So we didn’t have a whole lot of folks that we knew some of the places that we live. So been to put up with each other. I can say I’ve got great relationships with them now, in part because of that.

Aaron Spatz  02:43

No, it’s fantastic when there’s nothing like a little bit of adversity or a little bit of uncertainty kind of brings you guys together, which is, which is really cool. You know, it’s one of the sites that can help bring your family closer, if it’s done the right way. Sounds like you guys had a you guys made the most of every moving opportunity. And just near real estate real estate close, for sure. Yeah, that’s awesome. So tell me about how you how you eventually made it to the metroplex. And you know, what, what kind of work? Have you been doing? Like, what’s, what’s the story of getting here to Dallas?

David O’Hara  03:15

So yeah, I’m growing up, I’ve always kind of been a nerd. And so that has been a part of who I you know, I guess how I am, and got into computers. I remember from my ninth birthday, I got an Atari 800 XL, which was amazing to me. And I got in lots of trouble staying up until 2am. And my mom would come in, realize I had been sitting in front of that computer, teaching myself how to program. And so I’ve been self taught. I’ve actually never taken a CS class. I went to school for to go to medical school, actually. But that’s really where my heart was, and pursued that and figured out a way to make that a career worked in San Antonio, we ran an ISP. So back in the dial up days, we got the modem online and listen to the squelch, did up for whatever you were doing. And then left there in 2001, and moved up to Dallas, and a number of kind of startups along the way, some businesses that I managed to put in the ground and learn a lot, although they didn’t survive, but then in 2007, was when I found the group that founded improving and so we started improving, and it was just a little little group of us, you know, and trying to build a business. That was a great place. And I actually joined as a senior consultant. I was one of the developers But even in my interview with Curtis, our CEO knew that I had been given more gifts and would end up using those. And along the way to, to, to my benefit, I think he saw some of that as well and was willing to invest in me. And as we grew and added more, more folks and added more locations back in, gosh, I guess 2012, I was able to step into the role as president of this Dallas enterprise. And yeah, it was, it’s definitely been, it’s been an adventure, for sure.

Aaron Spatz  05:43

Well, it like, I’ve got to go back and address something that you said just a few minutes ago. So make sure I’m sure I heard you, right. So you went to medical school. So did like where did that sneak its way into here.

David O’Hara  05:57

So that was kind of our growing up, I was going to be adopter of my brother was going to play football and my sister was going to marry a really great guy. You know, we had kind of that cleaver ish family were these are your, like your things. And we’re going to do and so and I love biology, and I love medicine, and the body is fascinating. And science is awesome. And so I was on that path, I did actually get into medical school, and then ended up dumping out of that to, you know, to pursue technology.

Aaron Spatz  06:37

Wow. So it’s, it’s just, it’s just one of the things technology has been a part of your blood literally, since you were a kid. And it’s just one of the things that’s it was just, it’s hard to walk away from like you had to keep going. You had to keep pursuing. It’s obviously a passion of yours, but something that you you just you love doing you love learning. And I think it’s one of the I think that’s one of the things that is attractive about technology is there’s something changing about it every single day, you’re you never really fully caught up on everything that’s going on, because there’s just so much so much to study. And so what does that I mean, what has that journey been like? I mean, cuz I’m thinking about where you started off at the ISP. And I’m just like, I’m laughing because I just remember your 56k modems, and you’re waiting for the dial up, signal, the whole that whole sequence to complete, and then you’re just praying that it doesn’t drop signal. And that you know, that that had been pretty cool knowing that you started off in that kind of spot, and then look at where technology has come just just in those few short years.

David O’Hara  07:37

Yeah, well, in 56k modems was towards the end of mice, right. I had a 300 baud modem when they were originally and you actually had to put the phone on the coupler. And the family loves to tell a story they had gone away for one weekend. And this was before the internet was a thing. And so you had to have phone numbers and use the house phone and you called into bulletin boards. And while they were gone, I managed to run up about a $400 phone bill with long distance calls, which made for a really uncomfortable conversation with my father when he came back. But, you know, it was as I saw, the doors that that opened in terms of information, things you can learn that those seeds that were planted when I was young, I think I saw a lot of that in the in the 90s, the late 90s, we were at an inflection point where information was becoming more accessible speeds were increasing the the connectivity that it was creating in us as communities really was fascinating. And that kind of propelled me into web development and software development and building and using technology for connecting people. You know, it kind of was that intersection of interesting the technology and passion for me people. And his people or relationships are just the the currency of life. And I think they’re what we’re made for. And so that intersection really was fascinating to me and was cool. Now, fast forward all these years, you’re right technology is moving at a pace that we can’t hardly keep up with. You could spend every minute of just about every day trying to learn something new, and not get the half of what’s going on in our space. And so it’s really created a lot more. We used to be kind of the jack of all trades. And I knew, you know, I can do networking. I can do hardware, I can do some software, I can do a lot of different things. Now there’s a lot more specialization. There is hey, I am this type of developer. I do mobile apps, or I do web applications or you know I build blockchain do stuff like that, like the ability to be knowledgeable across all of the things that are moving right now has become massive lift.

Aaron Spatz  10:10

Wow. Well, yeah, I mean, so let’s let’s kind of go a little bit more macro now with with tech. So what do you see being some of the biggest challenges right now that we’re facing in terms of harnessing and leveraging technology because there’s just, there’s so much out there. I mean, we hear and read in the news, you know, almost every other day about about cybercrime cyber threats, but then you’re also looking at job expansion, you’re looking at the way that it’s affected us, personally, you’re looking at and we will, we won’t sit on this topic, hardly at all. But then you’re looking at, you know, tech giants censoring people in what they’re saying online. I mean, there’s just, there’s this whole plethora of thing like technology has literally become integrated with our lives completely. I mean, like our homes even have so much tech in them, you could you could run your house, probably from your phone at this point. So what do you see being some of the challenges that that we’re going to have to really get our head around and overcome in the next few years?

David O’Hara  11:05

Yeah, I think you touched on a big one for me is, you know, the whole cybersecurity, like, what does that mean? And what does that look like? And if we start talking about cybersecurity, how do I keep my things secure, whether that’s my bank account, or, you know, privacy, from a privacy perspective, my personal information? You know, there are so many companies out there that are monetizing our behaviors, whether that’s locations or the things we say, or the things that we we talk about, you know, that that movie, the social dilemma, I think, kind of cracked open a few folks perspective, in terms of Wow, here is where technology will not intended for these consequences, has created some of the things that we’re experiencing now as a society, you know, people give up their privacy for convenience. And are we intentionally making those trade offs and I think that type of conversation is going to continue to be a bigger and bigger piece of what we’re having to think about. I know, from a tech perspective, folks, we’ll hear about cybersecurity, you’ll hear about AI and ML machine learning. Those are a little bit still kind of, we’re figuring out what they can do and where they’re useful. What is the problems that they solve? I don’t know that those are ready for primetime just yet. But I can tell you as a coming is definitely coming. And things are going to continue to get smarter. I mean, our, our Alexa now has started recommending to me things that I should buy, and she just sits in the kitchen. And you know, that’s a little bit like, Okay, wait a minute, how often are you listening to our conversation? And, you know, my wife will talk about the fact that we mentioned we need, she mentioned, we need new throw pillows or you know, a rug or whatever. And suddenly it shows up in your Instagram feed. And it’s like, well, wait a minute, how did those dots get connected? Amazing, really smart people working on those things? Yeah, I think that from a technology perspective, because our industry moves so fast. We don’t even know what jobs are gonna look like in a decade. I mean, we have jobs now that didn’t exist 10 years ago, like, you know, iPhone designer, or iPhone app builder wasn’t a thing because iPhone didn’t exist a decade ago. And so I think that, that that pace of innovation is positive. Because there’s going to be things that will show up, and opportunities to do new cool things. You know, podcasts, they’re generally well, not a brand new concept radio has been around forever. This as a format and as a function of how we get information. This is kind of a new concept. And so I’m excited for what the next decade holds. Yeah,

Aaron Spatz  14:14

for sure. I mean, it’s it you just kind of outlining all of that is it’s an exciting thought to realize like, man, we, I mean, I remember when the iPod was this, I mean, it was as large as my cell phone or larger and it was just had that huge little dial in the middle and how cool that was and how edgy that was. And now all of a sudden, I mean, literally everything is on your phone, you know, and then they kept they kept developing them. So they’re like, even smaller and smaller, just, it’s just absolutely fascinating. And then they like wait a second, we’re gonna combine the mp3 player with a phone, you know, and it was this, this this whole novel idea, right, like real quick, cuz you mentioned AI and machine learning, so I’m gonna throw a curveball, it’s not really a curveball, it just it might sound you know on the fringes of conspiracy. theory, which is this is not at all what I’m where I’m going, I just want to get your take on. Like, you’ve seen some of those videos, right? Like, it’s like these mechanical looking dogs that are being trained and like they get knocked over and they correct themselves. I can’t help but think like, man, there’s, you know, there’s certain like TV shows, right? Or movies are set in the future. And we’ve got our streets guarded by these different machines. I just I can’t help but wonder how far away are we from there? And in what can we do to make sure that we don’t become a society that ends up killing itself? Through technology?

David O’Hara  15:37

Yeah, that’s an interesting one, right? Because I’m a kid that grew up in the Sci Fi genre, right? We watch Robocop we saw you know, AI robots. A lot of people have different opinions of that Will Smith movie. But but that movie is based on an Isaac Asimov book that was from the 50s. Right. And so like, we’ve been thinking about this, this has been on our conscious for a long, long time of oh my gosh, like, what if these crazy dog robots like suddenly decide they don’t want to listen to us? i Yeah, it’s it’s a great question. I know that from an AI perspective, there’s there’s a huge difference between generalized intelligence and specialized intelligence. So building a dog robot that knows how to get up, when you knock it over is a very specialized intelligence understanding, hey, I need to, you know, traverse in a certain way or move in a certain way, versus something that’s just generally intelligent, and wonders about its existence on this planet, or, you know, the these types of moral dilemmas that oftentimes sci fi novels, but in front of AI as as a, you know, as a plot device? I don’t think we’re as far along with the generalized intelligence. Now, that said, we just talked about how things are accelerating super fast in space. So could we get there in the next few decades? Yeah, I think that’s possible. And I think that there are a lot of things that are feeding that in terms of, you know, Wolfram Alpha, if you’re familiar with that. That’s kind of the the system that underlies a lot of what Alexa can know, goes and seeks and searches to answer, you know, the who won the, you know, the Super Bowl back in 1979. Right. They call one shot answers, like there’s a right answer to that question. Yep. There’s a lot of this type of general intelligence precursors that underlie that, that are really interesting. And I don’t know, I also know that the the human species were pretty adaptive. And we seem to we seem to stick around in spite of ourselves. Yeah. And so I guess we’ll, we’ll see what what comes out of that.

Aaron Spatz  18:11

That’s a fair, that’s a fair answer. I just just generally curious because you know, then you’re, you’re reading like, I read these articles are seeking of stuff that Bezos or Bill Gates or Elon Musk is talking about in terms of the advancement of technology. And then your Musk is working on this neuro link where you’re wiring up a brain, and you can control things just by just thinking about it. And just like, totally mind blowing, and I’m just, I’m curious, where, you know, where we’re headed. With all that stuff? I’d like I realized, no, nobody has a clear answer yet as to what that’s gonna look like. And your point is very well made in terms of being adaptive, and in, you know, reacting to the way that that we that our lives have been affected, I mean, a dumb example. But very practical, is we are all so spoiled now. And COVID really helped push this, this whole thing on us, which was, you know, utilizing a service like Amazon Prime to get crap right on my doorstep. I mean, I need something whether it’s ballpoint pens, or a painting, or food or whatever the heck it may be. It’s on my door, whether it’s through the grocery store or through through a large e commerce platform. And so how quickly we’ve adapted to that, and then you can’t help but wonder, okay, how does how do drones fit into this whole delivery system? And the final mile of, of that supply chain, it’ll, it’ll be it’ll be fascinating. It’s just, it’s a fun topic to talk about.

David O’Hara  19:41

Yeah, well, and you mentioned drones. We were just talking this weekend. So living up in Frisco, you know, Frisco was intended to, to have an air taxi, a landing pad. So the the star were the Cowboys their practice facility. Uber had planned in total I think it was 2020 to 2023 to start air taxis using I think using drones, to drone people to the airport, and to have this air taxi deal now they’ve sold that off to another company who claims that they’re going to stay with it and that we’ll still get these air taxis. But I’m like, How far is it from I let the air taxi fly me as in person back to I remember the little drones that we got, you know, not that many years ago that were little control drones. My son that I played with, like, that leak is huge and has been in not very many years.

Aaron Spatz  20:40

Yeah. Oh, yeah. Huge. No, I said, I actually said in one of those meetings, there was a meeting where the executives from a couple of different large companies, but one of the main guys from Uber was there and where they were talking about their vision, exactly what you’re describing in terms of this one seamless experience for for the end user. And so their idea is to not replace every vehicle in the United States, because they know that, as Americans, part of our part of our pride is in that freedom of going on a road trip or going in just doing whatever the heck we want to when we want to, and having a vehicle that you own as part of that experience. But then, but but they said, but the case could be made that we could maybe replace one of your vehicles in terms of your commute to work. So that the idea being that you literally you leave your door, you leave your apartment or your house, and you catch an Uber via, like taxi like ground, it’s completely autonomous was was the entire point is gonna be this entire autonomous chain. So you take this car, car takes you to this high rise, the high rise has like this elevator takes you up, you jump on some of these air taxis your taxi takes you to another building on the other side of town you go down. I mean, it’s this whole seamless, it was supposed to be completely autonomous chain of things that happened. So it’ll it’ll be interesting. It’ll be interesting to see how that happens if it happens. You know, in fact, I don’t think it’s better if it’s just when and cost is obviously gonna be a big part of that. Is it? Is it going to be? Are the economics going to work out so that you are incentivized to utilize a service like that? So anyway? Yeah. And

David O’Hara  22:18

I think that we as humans are probably going to be the bottleneck will be the throttle on that, right? Like who’s comfortable with an autonomous vehicle right now? I’m, I would be interested to try it, you know, my kids might be in for it. I will tell you, my parents will not be interested in a car that drives itself. And so where is that, that, that boundary of convenience and trust? I’m willing to take on a certain amount of trust in this system so that I get the convenience? It’s a really interesting, interesting time. Interesting space, for sure.

Aaron Spatz  22:57

Well, we’ll see where it goes. I’m curious. I’m curious. So when we get back from the break, let’s shift gears. David, I want to go now, back back to what we’re working on. We’re about to what you’re working on three improving I’d love to understand what was that journey like for you, as you know, you started off from what I could tell you’re you’re doing consulting work, and then you’re eventually advanced your way into the into the president role of that company. So I’d love to love to explore that. And more. So to get back so incredibly grateful for our amazing sponsors. And so I would just want to give a quick shout out our show sponsor to new today’s show is brought to you by window craft. So when to craft you can go back can actually watch Luke Morrow he was on the show. Just last week, actually, he’s he’s the president and owner of window craft. And so what’s really cool about these guys is one year there are DFW Bay’s of showroom in Dallas, they also have an office up in Gainesville, and they service the entire DFW area. So I mean, I think he said something like 200 mile radius, and it’s pretty, pretty crazy, the lengths that they’re willing to go, they have their own in house installation crews. So which is amazing, because you’re getting consistency in terms of workmanship to the actual install. And so they’re the quality of the product in the way that it’s done is done the same way every time if you’ve got a really competent group of people working on this, but what’s really cool is they do a lot of the higher end new construction and replacement work. So like the steel, bronze, iron, architectural stuff, they can do that in terms of Windows, they also do especially door systems of sliding, folding, stacking, pivoting, like all these crazy, really, really cool designs. So I encourage you to reach out to them window craft dot biz, is the web address and see what they can do for you. So incredibly grateful for them. So David, let’s jump right back into it. So I appreciate you going down the rabbit trails with me as relates to technology. It’s a it’s a fun, it’s just a fun passing conversation. But let’s roll back over to improving. So, one share with everybody what improving does just so we have a little bit of context as to what the company’s mission and what its focus is on. And then help me understand your journey. In your progression within the company.

David O’Hara  25:02

Sure. So improving, we’re an IT services and consulting company. So we do everything from design and ideation of a solution implementation, we help other companies to learn how to embrace technology and deliver value faster. And so it’s kind of we do the gambit of anything technological, that you might be interested in. And I think that that dovetails in, that we’re a technology company that said, it’s not just about technology, a lot of what we focus on that our primary goal is building environments of trust. And so that’s a little bit of an odd thing for some folks to hear. They’re like you’re a consulting company, who focuses on trust, what’s, what’s that? I think goes to our, our guiding principles. And I think that’s part of why I am where I am today is because of that DNA, when improving started, it was really about building a great place to work. You know, we’ve all had places that we work that maybe weren’t great. And so we wanted to be different. And that meant that we focused on things other than just, you know, the technology. One of the, what we realized was that when we look at business, and it, it doesn’t have a really great reputation in the marketplace and with CEOs. And that’s something we want to change, we want to change the perception of the IT professional. And we realized that the way to do that was to focus on building trust, to go and repair that relationship. You know, regularly folks were talking about their IT project says over budget or, you know, under delivering, they didn’t give us what it was we need. And that really was because of this this rift, right, this broken trust. And so we talked to our clients regularly, we talked to our improvers, we talk to even our vendors and our partners about how are we building trust? And what are the things we’re choosing to do each and every day? That focus on that?

Aaron Spatz  27:35

Wow, well, you know, obvious question, and you already somewhat answered it. But explain to me, though, why you perceive there to be this massive trust gap, who as it relates to the technology side of the house, versus the executive leadership of a company.

David O’Hara  27:52

So I think it goes back to that the failure to deliver, right, so saying that you’re going to do something and then not following through. Usually, that’s broken trust, it doesn’t matter if that’s in the workplace, with your co worker, with your boss, at home with your spouse, or your kids, like when you don’t deliver. That’s really that’s really the thing. And for us, the the best way to achieve that is, you know, big shocker communication, right? We hear this from our therapists, we hear this from, you know, our community groups, our friends, like, the key to great relationships is communication. And so we take that and weave that into our process. How are we communicating regularly with all of our stakeholders? How is it that we’re interacting with them? And what are the things that we are doing, that are building trust? And not that we’re perfect? Like there are times you’re not going to be successful, right? There’s going to be breaks in trust. The key there is how are you addressing that? Are you covering over it and blame shifting, or you owning that declaring the breakdown and being like, Hey, listen, you know what, I need to write this wrong. And here’s what happened. Here’s where we are. And here’s how I’m going to fix that and move forward. When you do that you actually build more trust. But I think a lot of people have a tendency to want to, like something goes bad, I want to hide it. I want to cover it up. I feel like somehow that makes me less than and therefore, you know, I’m not going to be honest about it. And it’s just this this perspective that has really eroded a lot of you know how people experience even business in general. I mean, I would point to, you know, the term capitalism, right? That carries some connotations. Now, if you’re a capitalistic business There’s somehow that’s a negative thing. Well, no, it’s not like capitalism is what allows and provides for businesses to be successful. It’s it’s what’s lifted people out of poverty out of their situation, it’s provided opportunities. It’s something that’s the biggest force for good that is existed. And, but it’s kind of got a bad rap. And I think it aligns with that as well.

Aaron Spatz  30:31

That’s crazy. I’m, I am trying to hold myself back from diving into some political oriented discussions there because it capitalism is is the fuel that that helps people stay inspired and motivated, realizing that man, you know, if I wanted to start a lawn care business today, I could go do that. And I could go reap the rewards of, of that particular business. I know, that’s just just an easy example. But going back to your point, though, about technology, and the the trust, it’s been the a little bit somewhat disintegrated. And I’m curious why that why that may be housed, specifically as it relates to technology. And so my theory is, I’m hearing you talk and just some of my own experiences with that. And I’m curious what your feedback is to this, but it’s technology projects in general are incredibly expensive. There’s a, there’s a ton of moving parts to it. And there’s and I think for a lot of folks, there’s a lot of variable costs. So hardware costs may change. The requirements maybe weren’t not completely, perfectly spelled out. And so it goes back to your communication point. 110%. But then you get you get deep into the weeds of a project, you realize that you Specht out the certain technology and it meets the initial requirements. But now, there’s, there’s this underlying current of hey, well, we really wanted it to be able to do this, why isn’t it be why isn’t able to do this for us? And you’re like, well, we can do that. But we’re gonna have to go back around to go add X, Y, and Z and, and now all of a sudden costs get inflated. I mean, is is that A is that a good? Or is that a really bad representation? Or a sample of kind of how, how maybe trust has been kind of chipped away up?

David O’Hara  32:16

Yeah, I think I think that’s a good example. Because I think that’s been a lot of people’s experience, right? And it comes back to, I guess, human nature, we don’t like to say, I don’t know, or I’m uncertain, you know, asking somebody about something that they’re supposed to be an expert in, like, and they? And their answer is, I don’t know, or here’s kind of what I think. But if you’re not honest about that, if you say, Well, I know for sure, and it is x. And that’s not true. Like, at what point do you come clean about that? Right? So for us, that’s where how we approach things isn’t honest conversation is, here’s what I think. Here’s what we do know. Technology’s super complicated. To your point earlier, there’s a lot of moving parts, there’s a lot of decision points. And if you’re not honest about it, and knowledgeable about when I make this decision, what are the second and third order consequences to that, then you can run down a rabbit trail. And certainly if we’re trying to cover over what we feel like might be a lack of competence, or something that might reflect badly on us, rather than being honest about, hey, this changed, and here’s the deal, then you can very quickly get to where you’re spiraling out of control. And we’re at two and three times the budget, and we have half of what we need to be functional and like, oh, my gosh, how did we get here?

Aaron Spatz  34:01

Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s a horrible feeling. As a whole, especially, it goes back to a lot of these different businesses, or these different roles within companies were, what I like to refer to it as there’s a knowledge monopoly. So it’s something that maybe you as the leader aren’t able to completely get your head around, because it’s not. It’s something that is foreign to you. It’s a it’s an aspect of the business that you need, and that you need to understand at some level, but there’s always going to be a reason or a technical explanation as to why something’s different or why’s change. And I think a lot of executives lose patience with that, or they get frustrated because they, you know, without casting blame, like, again, it needs to be this abundance of clarity as it relates to the goals, the expectations in setting all that straight because you’re an executive leading a technology initiative is going to have some goals that he really wants to hit. But there’s other things that I think He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, or she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. And so you start to go down this whole proposal process. And you’ve like, I’m just using a dumb example of like, maybe you need to spec out a whole new like little server farm or something. And so there’s a whole bunch of stuff that goes into that. And then you get to the end of it, you’re like you’re racking all the servers, get everything spun up your, you know, you plugged in you you’ve sized and installed all your battery backups and power supply. I mean, you got the whole gamut of things running, and then then you come to find out, Oh, hey, you know, well, we actually, what I, what I thought I told you guys was I needed this. And then you realize Holy crap, like, we either need to go buy a bunch more stuff, or we need to replace what we have. And so it creates this whole little bit of mistrust, because it’s like, well, I thought, That’s what I told you at the beginning, you know, and so it’s like this, this definitely little cycle of, of knowledge of okay, what, what does the decision maker, in this case need to know that way? As a technology provider, you’re able to adequately address every need, and so is have you found a way yet, in terms of how to how to avoid a lot of that pain?

David O’Hara  36:14

Yeah, I don’t know if we found the best way to avoid it. But you touched on something that’s really important and honesty about what I know. And what I don’t know, has to happen on both sides of that. Right? Well, from the the folks that are implementing it. And from the executive, you know, executives that say, Well, I’m not good with technology. Well, Oh, okay. But you can’t just say I’m not good with people. So like, I ignore the people part, like, you need to get educated to some degree and become knowledgeable, if you’re going to be responsible for this. So be honest about what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense. You know, we in our conversations, we will work to clarify expectations and say, Alright, what did you mean by that? Or helped me understand? What are the results that you’re looking to get out of this? And give me the why not the how, and, and then the how, and why will align better? But also being honest about here’s what I understood in what you said, and then here’s what you said that I have no understanding of that. And how do I get more educated about that? How do I learn more about that, because both sides need to be honest about what they know, and what they don’t know. And the claim of a lack of competence is just something that it doesn’t fly as an executive back to our earlier part of our conversation. Technology is here. And it is evolving, and it is moving. And it is fundamental to our businesses. I can’t think of a business out there that doesn’t have every one of its dollars of revenue running through some sort of technology. So the claim ignorance of technology. I mean, yeah, fly,

Aaron Spatz  38:10

doesn’t fly at all. For sure. So then let’s let’s then kind of fast forward to so how did you find yourself into the role of president

David O’Hara  38:18

of so one of the big things that improving is we promote from within we have a culture, both of growth mindset, but also supporting people as they’re growing. And when we find folks with those attitudes and aptitudes, those abilities to be an executive, we have a variety of programs that we feed into them, and help them to grow. All the presidents across the the organization have all been promoted into that position. All of us and a number of us have come from the consulting base. So we’ve been in the business, we understand what it is we’re asking of folks, we’ve been through, you know, been through that and lived it. And so it was something that, as I mentioned, Curtis, our CEO, and I discussed early on, and he was like, alright, well, let’s, you know, let’s see where this goes. And along the way, he’s walked alongside me and poured into me, I had an opportunity to walk alongside others and pour into them. We just have this culture of supporting each other’s growth. Right now we have this program called the improving path. And so it’s all about your path as you move. Inside of improving, some people may move beyond improving, but how do we support that growth in a way that’s aligned with your objectives and the business’s objectives and we can kind of focus on that sweet spot and support that.

Aaron Spatz  40:03

So when you’re when you’re going through your journey there, I mean, did you have mentors? Or was this just something you just get a natural curiosity about different aspects of the business? Like, how did that? I’m just trying to understand like, what were the mechanisms for you? Or what what kind of what kind of clicked for you that caused you to kind of pursue that route?

David O’Hara  40:22

Yeah, well, yes, I’ve always had a natural curiosity, and been very much a self learner. That said, we have programs, one of them that was started by Curtis called the integral business program. And so this is a 13 week program, I’m actually just about to kick off another one next week, where we take a group of six folks and put them in, in a class together, they meet every other week, we have group meetings, we read six books, in those 13 weeks books that are kind of the the core framework of who improving is how we operate, and then how we show up as executives, as leaders, as managers, some of that self awareness and self personal development. And so we have that program, we have a bunch of different learning programs that we have built. Some of them are as long as two years, some of them are as short as that 13 weeks that just help you foster the personal development help you build your awareness of the business. Why conscious capitalism, which is a philosophy that we are very rooted in? Okay, so why, what is conscious capitalism bring? And why is it that the four pillars of, of conscious capitalism, how does that impact our culture? How does that help us to show up as executives as improvers, just as people? And it’s, yeah, it’s a pretty intense program. But it’s something that I think makes us more capable as leaders.

Aaron Spatz  42:16

Well, you crack the door open, so I’m just gonna go blasting through it. So walk me through conscious capitalism.

David O’Hara  42:22

So conscious capitalism is the idea that our businesses should exist for a purpose greater than just making money. You have to be profitable as a business, if you’re not, you go away. But you should have a purpose beyond just profits. And that purpose is one of the four pillars. And so the four pillars are purpose stakeholder model, which is a model that not only focuses on providing value to the clients, to your employees, to the shareholders, but also to the community, to the industry, to your vendors and your partners, that larger ecosystem that really makes you who you are as a business, and how is it that you’re providing value to that larger collective? The third pillar is, and I mentioned this earlier, it’s an intentional culture, right? Every company has a culture, you get people together, and they start working, like, culture shows up. But it isn’t always cultivated the way that it should be. It isn’t always navigated. And certainly as businesses evolve, and we know businesses have life cycles, culture needs to shift and change. And that said, you don’t want to break your culture. And we talked about this regularly as a as a leadership team is, you know, does that honor our culture? And if the answer’s no, we’re not doing it. We’ll find some other way. But because that culture is it’s a strong bonding agent, it’s really what brings people together. It’s why people show up to improving it’s because of our culture. And then that last pillar is conscious leadership. You know, that growth mindset that I mentioned before, like, Am I growing? Am I evolving? And am I aware of the business? Jack Welsh, former CEO, he calls it managing by walking around, like, Do you know what your people experience every day? And we feel that that’s just kind of fundamental to what makes us who we are.

Aaron Spatz  44:32

I mean, there’s a lot of golden that in terms of those four pillars. I mean, we could probably spend 30 minutes or more on just every one of those pillars by themselves and just go into deep dive there. But, you know, you got me thinking about the culture aspect of companies. I think that that in and of itself is a very fascinating discussion, because it’s one of those things that people have a hard time articulating or wrapping their head around in terms of like, how is it that a culture in company acts is, you know is a certain way and you go run across the street or right next door, and the culture of that organization is 180 degrees different or 90 degrees different just feels so different. And I like I’m not gonna pretend to have a great answer, maybe he has, maybe you can fill in a little bit more insight here, but like my view, or just what I’ve observed, has been there’s, it is it is a leadership component, and it’s the prioritization of the values of the company and the values of, of the, of the why of the vision of the mission of what that company does, and, and then and then, once you have that, though, then you got to go and hire the right people, and you’ve got to, you have to continuously realign and continue to stay centered, and remind yourself of those values, and just keep those on the forefront. Like what, what’s your feedback on that?

David O’Hara  45:49

Yeah, I think that culture really is a outcome of where people’s behaviors align with values, right? That’s what produces culture. And then that’s what we experience, right? You’re right culture can be kind of that intangible thing, where it’s like, well, I know when I see it, but it really goes back to those values, what are your values, we all live out of our values, we make eight out of them. And companies are collections of people. And when you have people that are aligned in those values, and then their behaviors tend to pull in that similar direction. And we talk about so we have three values, that core values that make up our identity, when we have Excellence, which is not an occasional act, but a consistent habit, we have involvement, and the phrase that goes with that is our success, as a consequence of our collective involvement with dedication, and dedication is thinking of others more without thinking less of ourselves. And so we have those things, not just posted on the walls, because they’re people that you know, they slap it up on the wall, and they’re like, these are our values done. But it’s like how, how does that show up on a day by day basis, absolutely. experience that your people have something that I’ve talked about with our team is people’s ability to experience the culture is in a direct correlation to their managers, internalization of them, and living out of those values. If I’m living out of those values, My people are going to experience culture. And that starts at the top. So how we show up here, in living out those values day after day after day, and consistent fashion, means we’re spreading the culture. And when they have experiences that don’t align with those values, that’s the tearing down of the culture. And so that for us is why we have a weekly practice. And some of us have daily practices of here’s the value that I am focused on this week. And here’s how I’m going to live that out.

Aaron Spatz  48:13

I mean, it’s, it’s brilliant, because that makes total sense why in a job posting would be filled with an internal candidate, especially if they’re already exhibiting the values of the company, because they want to have been a part of the culture, it’s been ingrained in them. And they’re, and they’re a great model and role model for that. Obviously, there’s 100 Other things why that happens. But it’s just it’s another. It’s another benefit of that, in to your point, though, too, is when people show up, it’s like, that’s why it’s so important to hire carefully. That’s why hiring processes for companies are often so rigorous, and so careful, is because there’s a culture that you have to protect, especially if you’re hiring into a leadership position, for sure. That person’s values has to line up really well with the companies. And that’s got to be a great fit. Because if it’s not, then your culture in a corner, that company could get sideways and then it then you start to kind of lose a little bit of a handle on that.

David O’Hara  49:15

For sure. It’s one of the things that we found as we’ve woven these guiding principles through our interview process. You know, our our interview process culminates with an executive interview with me, and I talk about here are our guiding principles, your five commitments to you as a company and here are the expectations of you as an improver. And this is our philosophy, conscious capitalism and why this is meaningful to us and making sure you hear that repeatedly and that I understand where are your values? What is it, that you have that at the core of who you are that you’re living out of? So that we can make sure that there’s congruence, not that one’s right or one’s wrong, but if they’re not aligned, there’s gonna be friction, and there’s going to be challenges that may ultimately be impactful in some negative ways to you as an individual, to us corporately, like, we need to be able to figure that out and help to create some of that alignment.

Aaron Spatz  50:23

That’s brilliant. That’s brilliant. So like, as you start to wind down here, I want to give you one last segment here, which would be what advice do you have for those that are wanting to follow some semblance of your footsteps, right? So they’re there, they’re in a technologist, or they don’t even have to be in technology. But what do you what advice would you have for those that are they’re seeking leadership positions within any given company? Like what are what are some things that you have found to be just helpful for you as your guiding principles as you advance through your career?

David O’Hara  50:54

Yeah, as you discover things, seek out like minded people, or similarly interested folks, I came here to improving because I found out there was a better way to build software, this Agile methodology thing, and it was like, who’s doing any of this, it wasn’t really a thing in the market 15 years ago, except for this company that was like, we’re interested in this thing. And I became a very little fish in a big pond in terms of knowledge. When conscious capitalism was something that came into our awareness, it was, okay, who’s doing this spending time with other people that have those ideas, and can feed into you becomes really, really important. And so finding those like minded groups, and just be curious, you know, that’s, that’s really been kind of at the basis of all that I’ve gotten. It’s

Aaron Spatz  51:59

fantastic. So how can people get in touch with you David? How can they follow you and learn more about what you and improving you’re doing?

David O’Hara  52:08

So our website improving calm is a great place to start in terms of who we are and kind of what it is we do. For me personally, I’m on most of the major social medias at David mo Hara. That’s me. And and then I have a blog that I don’t update nearly as frequently as I should. And driven to develop.com

Aaron Spatz  52:39

Fantastic. I’m Trump trying to throw all these up there, man. You’re giving me Give me Give me Give me a lot driven to develop calm. Let’s see. Make sure I got that up there. Right. That’s it. Beautiful. Well, awesome. Well, David, I just want to thank you. This has been this has been an absolute blast, really enjoyed. Speak with you. Thank you for sharing a bit of your journey and some of your experiences along the way. Really, really appreciate it.

David O’Hara  53:00

Thank you for having me. This has been great.

Aaron Spatz  53:06

Thanks for listening to America’s entrepreneur. If you enjoyed the show, please leave a review or comment on your preferred social media platform. share it out with friends, family, coworkers, others in your network. And of course, you can write me directly at Erin at Bold media.us That’s a Ron at Bold media.us Till next time

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