As a fully licensed mental health counselor for more than two decades, David Baker-Hargrove (ve/ver/vers) has accumulated a wide variety of experiences throughout ver career, each contributing to ver formidable skill set.
A practicing mental health professional in the Orlando, Florida area since 1995, David concentrates ver efforts on the LGBTQ+ community in general and the trans community in particular. Ve also has a substantial background in corporate accounting.
In 1999, David began serving on several government funding opportunity review committees at the national level, including the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), where ve worked on multiple multimillion dollar projects. In 2001, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place, David Baker-Hargrove lent ver services to the American Red Cross, acting as a Mental Health Responder for the many traumatized souls around Ground Zero of the World Trade Center. In 2002, ve graduated with a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Barry University, adding to ver already impressive roster of credentials. In 2016, Dr. Baker-Hargrove took a leadership role in the response effort after the Pulse Nightclub Massacre in ver home city, overseeing the mobilization of more than 650 volunteers and coordinating nearly a thousand mental health encounters with those affected.
Simultaneous with seeing clients and running ver private practice, ve also became an expert witness on the subjects of trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and LGBTQ+ cultural competencies with the US District Court, the US Immigration Court, and the 18th Circuit Court.
Additionally, ve has a plethora of nonprofit leadership experience. A recognized expert on nonprofit organizational development, Dr. Baker-Hargrove has a proven track record of launching successful, sustainable nonprofits from the ground up. Ve also has an established history of assisting charities and humanitarian entities with fundraising, structural, and mission-oriented issues.
Presently, Dr. David Baker-Hargrove is engaged in launching two new endeavors. Together with ver husband Robert, ve is preparing to debut both a consulting practice and a new nonprofit venture.
The two currently work and reside in Orlando, Florida.
What do you currently do with your company?
My husband and I are in the initial planning stages of opening two startups. First, we will be re-opening BHC Assessment and Consulting, which used to be my private practice. It will be focused on leadership development, business consulting, organizational consulting, and creating courses and programs that are designed as experiential learning practices from our published work. The second startup will be a community health center, focused on health and clinical service delivery. The foundation of both companies will be based on the book we have written together demonstrating a lifetime of experience as leaders and our success at building a $100 million company.
What was the inspiration behind starting a consulting firm?
The inspiration came to us when we recognized the power of having a good reputation and a solid track record for our innovations in revitalizing stagnated businesses. That realization inspired the notion that we would do exceptionally well in a consultant space. My research uncovered many opportunities to produce powerful messaging content around leadership development, leadership education, and business building spaces. These are all areas in which we excel.
What defines your way of doing business?
What defines my way of doing business is truth. Always being truthful, always being authentic, and being as transparent as is appropriate.
What are your keys to maintaining productivity?
My productivity emanates from my dedication to time management and consistency in exploring new tools for organization. Technology is a great resource for assisting with organizational skills. I use Youtube to learn helpful tips and tricks for productivity with Microsoft 365 and all manner of other tools, and then teach these things to others to increase their productivity in turn.
How do you measure success?
Sometimes it can be difficult to evaluate your own progress when it comes to success. I once saw a Harvard researcher give a lecture on the topic. One thing he talked about is, when human beings set a happiness goal, right before we reach it, we tend to already set another goal beyond that. So, by the time we reach the first goal, it is no longer as relevant to us because we are already looking forward to the next one. I believe that observation is very true for anyone who is an overachiever, a leader, or an entrepreneur. We keep setting one goal, then another, and another. As a therapist, I always try to remind my clients (and myself)to benchmark, acknowledge and celebrate their successes. It’s too easy to overlook them in favor of charging ahead and pursuing the next goal.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in my career is that ‘culture’ is not a buzzword or some sort of business fad, but rather it is the cornerstone of any successful company. I firmly believe that if you want to maintain an edge over your competitors, you must either align yourself with someone who really understands how to build a successful organizational culture, or become that person yourself. This is especially true in today’s business climate.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, significant changes took place to the average workplace. Remote work became the norm for many companies—especially those based in offices—and as a result, there was a shift in the dynamic in favor of physical health, mental health, and work life balance. Some CEOs think that things went a bit too far in that respect and are trying to bring everything back to the way it was pre-2020, but those in the younger generation of the American workforce are not having it. If we really want to succeed and build the current workforce up to be the next generation of leaders, then we’ve got to meet them where they are. I think that my peers, by which I mean other CEOs, are going to get a rude awakening in the next few years. They don’t seem to put the same weight on company culture as the younger workers do. Personally and professionally, I don’t agree with that assessment. I think culture is going to be the most important aspect of growing this next generation of leaders.
What advice would you give to others who aspire to a leadership role?
Leadership requires a willingness to know yourself. You must be open to learning about who you are as a person and as a leader, and be willing to grow within the context of that identity. Being a leader is hard work. The most difficult part is that you have issues coming at you from all directions. Everybody wants to tell you who you are. You must be able to know when to engage with that, when to accept things for what they are, when to grow as a person, and when to leave a situation. There are times when you must confidently and legitimately say, “That is not me.”
It’s also important not to become jaded or defensive. You must keep your humanity. You must know yourself, or else people will take advantage of you. You must know how to weather storms and still be able to love your business and love what you do for a living.
How would your colleagues describe you?
A common phrase that Robert and I have often heard regarding our business relationship is that Robert is the head and I am the heart. I would say that sentiment is accurate. Of the two of us, I tend to be the passionate visionary. For me, business is personal. I’m either all in or I’m completely checked out, and there’s rarely a middle ground. So, I think my colleagues would describe me as energetic and committed to my passion for healthcare, for business, and for public service.
How do you maintain a work life balance?
I maintain work life balance in a few ways. I will journal, meditate, and assign myself what I call mindset projects. I will research new ways of self-growth. I find that these methods are beneficial as a business leader, but they are not discussed in the context of leadership very often, and neither is the importance of a work life balance. I’m living proof that such balance can be achieved. I face the same challenges in that respect that most other people face; juggling a career, a marriage, and a child. Each and every one of us must learn to balance all of these important aspects of life.
What is one piece of technology that helps you in your daily routine?
I love Microsoft Office 365. I love how it integrates seamlessly into my phone and my laptop. Having two completely different companies, I can have two different email addresses and two different calendars unified on my phone. Maybe I’m easily impressed, but I think that’s awesome!
What has been the hardest professional obstacle you’ve overcome?
Me! I am at the same time my own greatest resource and my own worst enemy. I can be as brilliant as I am bumbling. I tend to over-focus on the instances where I have made missteps. I know for some people it can be hard to imagine that dichotomy. But anyone who shares the personality profile of an overachiever, entrepreneur, or visionary likely falls in the same category of vacillating between brilliance and bungling. So, I’m consistently trying to manage that disparity, which has been my hardest professional obstacle. Fortunately, learning difficult lessons has always been one of my greatest strengths. I learn from my mistakes, and see each one a gifted learning opportunity.
What is a piece of advice you have never forgotten?
My own therapist provided me with a great insight in a conversation I once had with her many years ago. She told me that everyone in life is all the same; that we’re all just making it up as we go along. That information was so liberating. It made me feel as though I was on a level playing field with the rest of the world, rather than always feeling less than others. That knowledge was, and still is, an empowering gift.