Dr. David Baker-Hargrove is a veteran mental health counselor based in Orlando, Florida who uses the pronouns ve/ver/vers. For more than a quarter century, ve has provided mental health services to the LGBTQ+ community, with a concentration on trans-specific healthcare. Dr. Baker-Hargrove earned a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Barry University in 2002, and is a licensed mental health counselor in the State of Florida. Ve has been practicing since 1995.
Since 1999, Dr. David Baker-Hargrove has served on numerous funding opportunity review committees with multiple national government agencies, including the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Ve is also recognized as an expert witness in the areas of trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and LGBTQ+ cultural competencies by the US Immigration Court, the US District Court, and the 18th Circuit Court. Additionally, for decades, Dr. Baker-Hargrove has volunteered with the American Red Cross, serving as a Disaster Mental Health Responder. In this capacity, ve was dispatched to provide relief to the World Trade Center’s Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Ve also spearheaded the response effort for the Pulse Nightclub Massacre in June of 2016, mobilizing more than 650 volunteer counselors to orchestrate almost a thousand mental health encounters in the aftermath of that tragedy.
Currently, Dr. David Baker-Hargrove is overseeing two ventures, along with Robert, ver husband and business partner. The first is a consulting firm focusing on leadership development, business consulting, and organizational consulting. The second is a nonprofit organization concentrating on the delivery of health and clinical services to the Northeast Florida community.
What inspired you to enter the consulting business?
As entrepreneurs, Robert and I had both experienced development, leadership, and business growth individually before deciding to work together. After reading Twelve Months to Your Ideal Private Practice by Lynn Grodzki, it literally revolutionized my practice and changed my life. That is what inspired the idea to start 26Health. Robert agreed to leave his job to come work with me, and we started it and ran it together. There are many people who go into a caring practice that are rooted, inspired, and motivated by their heart or creativity, but unfortunately forget they are also running a business. This was the first project we worked full time on together and it was an unqualified success! It grew into a $100 million organization within only seven and a half years.
Now, with our new business adventures, we’re taking into consideration our financial needs and our plans for retirement. We set things up a little differently this time, making sure to give ourselves the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world with a wide variety of organizations. Together, Robert and I have a wealth of information and expertise to share. We provide successful ideas, knowledge, and experience cultivated throughout the course of our respective careers. Our niche is to create leadership and business development content, and it is unique from any content found elsewhere.
How do you organize your workday?
Every day is different when you are getting two startups off the ground. The past six weeks have been very different from the past seven and a half years of running a $100 million company with 61 employees. Creating a consulting firm and a new nonprofit simultaneously can be challenging, but it’s also invigorating. One morning, Robert and I were discussing a particular chapter of our own forthcoming book we are writing, and as we were brainstorming ideas about business development and leadership, it ended up spurring a conversation that eventually led to creating a leadership course. The next thing I knew, I was writing a curriculum. So, right now, we are creating experiential learning and developing programs. During this process, productivity can change from day to day, depending on where our strategic plan takes us.
How do you see your ideas through from conception to reality?
My husband and I brainstorm quite often. I’m also an avid researcher. In fact, it’s one of my greatest talents. It contributes to who I am as a business leader, entrepreneur, and executive. My ability to research is a part of my identity in this space. I read articles about industry trends which stimulate innovative ideas. Other times, I just let my brain go and think about what might be next, or follow wherever my creativity takes me.
Is there a trend you’re enthusiastic about?
I’m always excited about leading-edge technology. I am particularly excited about telehealth, and about how the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the opportunity for people to get on board with telehealth services. The real gift is that it proved how much patients love the idea of having access to as many healthcare services as possible from the comfort of their own home. I’m in love with the idea of exploring any technology that can provide as many kinds of telehealth services as possible for patients, thus making better healthcare available to more people.
As an entrepreneur, is there a habit you can cite that’s particularly valuable?
Productivity begins with focusing on how to make myself a master of time, which is all about adopting the proper mindset. Wayne Dyer once said, “Don’t ever say you don’t have enough time, or repeat any kind of phrases in your head like it, or you create a negative relationship with time.” Develop an exciting relationship with time, so time becomes your friend. Everything else will build from that. It will be easier to be organized and easier to be productive. Just, don’t ever tell yourself you do not have enough time. Also, don’t ever say, “I’m tired.”
If you had a time machine and could visit a younger incarnation of yourself, what would you tell him?
As a leader, be sure to maintain solid, well-defined boundaries with your coworkers and staff. Especially if you start a small company and you think you’re all going to become a close-knit family. Even if you know the lines of appropriateness and respectability, that doesn’t necessarily mean that other people do. Not keeping appropriate boundaries was the biggest mistake I’ve made in my career.
Would you like to share an unpopular opinion that you hold?
I believe that it’s possible to build and maintain a productive company with a totally remote workforce. If you focus on your culture, it doesn’t matter if your people are down the hall or at home. As the pandemic subsided, and other businesses wanted their staff to return to work at their offices, we didn’t stop our people working from home. We had our staff prove that you could go remote and stay remote. If you keep the focus on creating a positive and productive culture, it doesn’t matter whether a company works remotely or not. Within the business community and industry news, this is not a popular opinion. I don’t think my peer CEOs are getting it. It’s all about the culture. You must focus on developing the correct culture, not on where people do their job.
Is there one thing you find yourself doing consistently and would recommend every entrepreneur do to better facilitate success?
Never stop learning. Never stop learning about your industry; about industry trends; about business in general; about people; about the law as it relates to your industry or your profession or your employment situation. Never stop learning about leadership; about psychology; about yourself. You have to become an avid learner. Be excited about learning. If you’re an entrepreneur, you have to stay in love with the business that you run, and the best way to stay in love is to keep learning. If you fall stagnant and just stay where you are, chances are you’re going to fall out of love with what you’re doing at some point. I liken it to a relationship, if you stop learning about the person and you stop engaging, chances are at some point you will fall out of love with them. It’s the same with your business.
Can you share a specific strategy that has helped to expand your business?
One strategy that I think is very beneficial is to find key vendors with whom you can share a growth mindset and help each other be successful. It’s important to find vendors that feel invested in your business. Let them see how the two of you will grow together. That creates an exciting synergistic relationship. If you can find several key vendors over time and develop that synergy with a handful of them, they are going to energize and empower you. It will keep you in love with your business. You will feel good about each other and have an investment in their growth as well as your own, which serves to better maintain the relationship. It creates a win-win situation for everyone concerned.
What is a mistake you made during the course of your career, and how did you overcome it?
One strength I have is that I learn from my mistakes. I make really big mistakes, but I take them to heart and I learn from them. For example, as I stated earlier, I learned the hard way to maintain firm boundaries.
Is there an industry or sector of the economy that you can envision yourself pursuing had you not gone into mental health counseling and consulting, or that you might consider pursuing in the future?
I love to entertain. I always thought it would be fun to own a small restaurant or bar that has a cocktail party vibe. I would enjoy a place to entertain between 25-50 people at maximum occupancy with light bites and cocktails, and feel as though I am throwing a party. It would concentrate on appealing very heavily to return clientele. It would have a casual and welcoming vibe, and it would feel as though you were visiting a friend’s house.
What is the best relatively small amount of money that you’ve spent lately?
I spent about $100 being a chaperone for a trip to SeaWorld with my daughter’s third grade class. I always try to volunteer or chaperone on field trips. She loves that I’m so involved, and that’s especially important to me. When I was young, my parents were completely uninvolved at my school or any of my activities. That is why it’s so important to me that I’m present for my daughter. It benefits both of us.
Is there a piece of technology, an app, or a particular piece of software that helps you to be productive? If so, what is it and how do you use it?
I use Outlook, Calendar, and Tasks from Office 365. I love Tasks because I love lists. Office 365 has way more utility than most people know and there’s always something new to learn that can help you be more efficient and organized in your work. It definitely helps me. I also like watching YouTube videos about Office 365 that teaches new tips and tricks.
Do you have a favorite book? If so, would your recommend it to our readership?
I recommend Twelve Months to Your Ideal Private Practice by Lynn Grodzki. This book revolutionized my outlook and changed my life. The author teaches a small practice to engage with their business as an entrepreneur. By using the processes she outlined, I went from a gross of $30,000 a year in my private practice to a quarter million dollars, all while maintaining its humanitarian nature.
Is there a quote that especially hits home for you?
“The better you are in business, the more competition there will be. Keep reminding yourself, Coke and Pepsi sit on the shelf side by side, and both are doing fine.” — David Baker-Hargrove