David Dye – Founder of Trailblaze

[quote style=”boxed”]I call this habit, “Move to the pain.” What it means is that when I observe myself putting off a task because I’m avoiding it, that very task is the thing I most need to do. If it is uncomfortable, risky, or creates anxiety, I need to tackle it right away. If I continue to avoid it, it will only grow.[/quote]

From a general-session keynote, workshops, consulting, to individual coaching David Dye is a former nonprofit executive and elected official who will equip you and your leaders with practical, simple strategies you can use to achieve your goals, motivate your team, and get results.

David served as an elected city councilman, as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift where he led efforts to replicate organizations in New York, Orlando, Phoenix, and Portland, has coached leaders in more than 2000 sessions, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Chapters of the National Speakers Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Following his nonprofit career, David founded Trailblaze, Inc. where he works with leaders who want to get more done and build energized, motivated, and productive teams. He believes that skillful leaders at every level are essential to a positive future and that everyone can master the essentials of influence.

David is known for his optimism, hope, and for helping aspiring leaders gain the tools to make a difference. He makes difficult concepts understandable and helps leaders move to immediate, practical action.

His workshops, presentations, and seminars help leaders increase their influence, solve common leadership frustrations, and improve productivity through people-centered leadership.

David holds a master’s degree in nonprofit management, is a member of the American Society of Trainers and Developers, the National Speakers Association, and is the author of The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say.

When he’s not speaking, writing, coaching, or consulting, David enjoys time with his wife and daughter, taking care of African cichlids, slowly learning the art of bonsai, hiking, camping, games of strategy, and tea with good friends.

Where did the idea for Trailblaze, Inc. come from?

If you were to go through my personnel file from the company I worked with for over fifteen years before I started my own business, you would find a string of references to what I liked most. Year after year, I wrote down how much I enjoyed helping people be effective. Whether it was coaching, training, or writing, that’s always been the most fulfilling part of my professional life.

It was a small step to focus even more on my personal values and mission by starting Trailblaze, Inc to help leaders and managers get more done, build teams that care, and meet their goals.

What does your typical day look like?

The easy answer is that there is no typical day. From day to day I may speak to audiences, facilitate meetings, coach individuals or teams, research, read, write content, or I may work with my team to focus on marketing, sales, and business operations.

That said, I start most days with oatmeal, music, a must-do project, and exercise. By a “must-do project”, I mean one project I have identified that absolutely must be completed for the day to be a successful day. That project might be as simple as a fifteen-minute sales call or a full-day of content generation.

How do you bring ideas to life?

One of the reasons I named the company “Trailblaze” is because I am a hiker. I’ve always enjoyed putting on my boots and wandering around the Rocky Mountains. I find that walking, whether in a city park or in the mountains, clears my head and helps ideas coalesce.

Once that happens, I start introducing concepts in conversations, in blog posts, or as a small addition to an existing program. Then I see what resonates. What works for my clients and audience?

Only after that process do I take what resonates and craft those ideas into programs and products.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The digital revolution is slowly revolutionizing the workplace. I believe the days of fear-based, command-control management and leadership are on a slow decline. They will probably be with us for a long time to come, and yet…we have an opportunity to adopt more effective, healthier, more productive leadership practices.

It is exciting to be a part of that change in the fundamental ways we work together.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I call this habit, “Move to the pain.” What it means is that when I observe myself putting off a task because I’m avoiding it, that very task is the thing I most need to do. If it is uncomfortable, risky, or creates anxiety, I need to tackle it right away. If I continue to avoid it, it will only grow.

That’s the habit: move to the pain and deal with those uncomfortable tasks as quickly as possible.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’ve had jobs digging ditches and scrubbing gas pumps, but those weren’t the worst jobs. The worst jobs for me were the ones where I had to sit around and do nothing – where I was being paid to occupy space, but wasn’t allowed to put my attention on something interesting (like a book, newspaper, magazine…or today, the internet.)

I don’t do nothing well.

What I learned from those jobs is that I needed to work hard to make sure I was never in a position like that. I love learning and it has to be a part of my life.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I were to start Trailblaze again, I would have invested more in my branding and messaging work on the front end. However, brands evolve and I don’t think there’s any chance I could have arrived where I am without the journey it took to get there.

The journey is the destination, right?

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Build relationships. Nearly every week I am amazed at the people I meet, how giving they are, and how we are able to help one another. That can’t happen without continually meeting people, building relationships, and adding value to them.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

This is so simple, but it’s critical to any successful business (and often overlooked by people starting out). Know what your customer needs. Even if you’re creating something totally innovative vis a vis Steve Jobs, you need buyers. If no one wants to pay for what you’re offering, you’ll have a short career.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Initially, I launched with a good idea of what was important to me, but not enough of what was important to my customer. When I became clear about their needs and desires, things improved. I did this by working with a mentor who kept pressing me with questions until I dove deep enough with my customers to be valuable to them.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I worked with a small team at one point on an idea that I still feel has merit. There are thousands and thousands of nonprofit organizations in the United States (and more around the globe). Even so, to this day it is difficult to assess which are the best investments for donors and volunteers.

It feels as if there should be a way to serve as a digital clearinghouse to assess nonprofit effectiveness across a wide range of benchmarks (not just based on financial ratios or voluntary customer smile-rankings). Something comprehensive, accurate, and objective would be very helpful.

(But who would pay for it? Donors? Nonprofits themselves? Clients? All good questions. The business model needs work and the startup capital isn’t trivial.)

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

Few people know that I shed tears when Jim Henson (the creator of the Muppets) died. He was so creative and touched lives in so many ways – I was very sad when Kermit’s original soul moved on.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

My critical software and services are:

Dropbox – instant cloud storage synched to all my devices and the ability to share documents via link. I love it because it is security (automatic backup) and convenience (shareable folders, links, etc.).

Evernote – this is the one program I do not know what I would do without if it ever goes away. Evernote is my digital brain. I use it to collect information about different topics, keep notes from client conversations and seminars, scan magazine articles, clip websites, draft articles and blogs. I love it because I deal with vast quantities of information and Evernote keeps it organized, searchable, and manageable.

Nozbe – this is a task management software built around the Getting Things Done methodology created by David Allen. I love it because the system works and allows me to manage tasks and projects the way I want to (which has proven very difficult in other programs) while also synching across all my devices.

Contactually – this is a software-as-service CRM that is easy to use, helps me do exactly what I want to do with regard to my customer and prospect relationships, and is fun to use (via graphics, passive updates, and grades).

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, et al is a book I recommend to every leader, manager, and human being who wants to be more effective at whatever they’re doing.

None of us are born with the innate knowledge of how to communicate effectively with one another, much less when the stakes are high and emotions are heated. Crucial Conversations breaks it down into manageable steps and is quite literally life-changing for both professional and personal relationships.

I have a full review on my website at:

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Live Your Legend by Scott Dinsmore is a great site for anyone contemplating taking the plunge into doing work you love:

Julie Winkle Giulioni is a leadership writer with an extraordinary gift for drawing the best out of people. I consider the book she co-authored last year, Help them Grow or Watch them Go, one of the most practical and profound leadership books I’ve read in the last decade. , @julie_WG

For sales, I highly recommend Colleen Stanley: and The Sales Heretic, Don Cooper: @doncooper

For blogging and online marketing, there are many, but two of the best are Sonia Simone at and Danny Inny at

For SEO and Findability, Heather Lutze is awesome.

Connect with David at 800.972.5802 or [email protected]


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