Justin Gray is the CEO and Chief Marketing Evangelist of LeadMD, a marketing and customer engagement company based in Scottsdale. He’s also involved in PaidSuite and Six Bricks, his newest venture in edtech.
What part of Arizona do you call home?
Scottsdale, AZ (I was born and raised in Fountain Hills, AZ).
How did you get started in the tech industry?
I’ve always had an interest in technology—from computers to video production my father brought home gadgets and we played with them as kids.
What was your very first entrepreneurial venture?
I opened a lemonade stand when I was 8 years old. Everyone does this, but mine was more indicative of who I am. In a couple hours I figured out I could sell a lot more than lemonade. I opened mine on a golf course and I learned that the “sandwich cart attendant” was not very well-liked, so I started selling anything I could get my hands on from my parent’s home: sandwiches, gold tees, golf balls, granola bars, candy—literally everything. I knew it was costing me nothing; it was basically an arbitrage. Buy for a dollar and sell for two is fundamental business, and that day I learned the cheaper you buy, the more profit margin you earn. In eight hours I made just over $900. My parents found out what I had done and made me split the cash with them—another lesson. On day two I only made it until just after lunch when the golf course, who had received complaints from the food cart attendant, promptly kicked me off of their property. Looking back, I have never learned more in a day and a half than I did with this first attempt at commerce.
How did you come up with the idea for LeadMD?
In relation to all of my companies, the market has determined the model. With LeadMD, contacts of mine were looking for digital marketing help and I wanted to support them all, not pick just one. PaidSuite was an idea I was introduced to in my last job as an employee where we saw a huge underserved vertical. Six Bricks was built to meet the #1 challenge our LeadMD clients express to us: hiring marketing talent.
What was the biggest challenge in executing this idea?
In any startup or growth-focused business, everyone has to be at 120 percent. Everyone has to be engaged and feel connected to the goal. It is incredibly hard to find talent that truly fulfills their potential each and every day, especially in Arizona.
What is your favorite part about running a business?
When you see someone you trained and enabled come into their own and “act as if” they were the owner, it literally brings tears to my eyes.
How long have you lived or worked in Arizona?
I was born and raised in Fountain Hills, AZ when it was a suburb of Scottsdale. Arizona has come a long way, and it still has a long road ahead. We need to attract talent to our universities and they need to want to stay post-graduation. Tech is becoming a viable sector in Arizona and groups are starting to come together. It’s still very much in the first inning of growth, and frankly that’s what is exciting to me.
If you could only describe your city with one word, which word would it be?
What’s your favorite thing about living in Arizona?
Honestly, it’s the potential for change. Change is in the air, and unlike areas like San Francisco and New York City, there’s not a huge barrier to entry in terms of cost of living.
What’s your least favorite thing about living in Arizona?
I can’t stand that we are letting really bright and ambitious people slip away to other areas of the country due to the allure there. We need to create that allure here.
In what area do you think Arizona still has a long way to go?
Education: We have to shed the “party school” monikers and start producing top tech and business talent.
Culture: We need foster a better sense of unity in Arizona. We are all so spread out, it’s hard to connect.
Business incentives: The Bay Area tech bubble has not burst, but it is starting to displace. We need to incentivize the movement of growth businesses to Arizona.
The foodie scene is growing bigger and bigger by the day here in Arizona. What is your favorite place to get breakfast in your city?
I’m not a breakfast guy but I LOVE Harlow’s—old school excellence.
What’s your favorite place to grab lunch?
Peter Piper Pizza. I take my godkids, and secretly I love that crappy pizza.
What’s your favorite dinner spot?
Durant’s. Velvet on the walls and enter through the kitchen. ‘Nuff said.
What’s your favorite place to work in your city aside from your office?
I would literally be making something up here—I work from the office when I’m in town. I truly believe being in one place with our people is beyond powerful. I ask them to do it and I’m un-compromising in my commitment to being there every day for them.
Best place for a meeting over drinks?
Postino – hands down. That bruschetta though.
What is your favorite memory from Arizona?
Greasewood Flats on the day after Thanksgiving was a Fountain Hills staple, especially after we had all gone to college and would be home for the holidays. Everyone would meet up and have way too much fun. I couldn’t wait for Thanksgiving to be over and for Friday to come. They tore Greasewood down about a year ago, and as we’ve all gotten older we have families of our own, but Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday—likely for the memories it brings.
What is something about living in Arizona that only a local would know of?
Arizona is truly beautiful. I don’t think I ever noticed it growing up, but now if I can make it home for the sunset it’s a really cool way to end the day. If you head up to Sedona or Flag you get an entirely different type of terrain and experience.
Any tips for new Arizona residents?
You have to make it happen in Arizona. You have to go out and make an effort. Arizona has a kind of shell that you have to break through. I’ve lived in big cities and I was honestly amazed at how easy it was to kind of “fall” into things, events, friend circles, groups, etc. Arizona has the same opportunities, but you have to insert yourself.
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