Get to Know Deem President David Grace

December 11, 2020

[Following is a transcript of the video.]

Get to know Deem President David Grace.

Tahnee Perry: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us today. I'm here with David Grace, who has just been appointed as Deem’s president and leader of the company. David, you haven't had a chance to host one of these interviews with me before, so I thought it would be great if we can start by learning more about you and your background. So, why don't we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself?

David Grace: Sure. First, thanks, Tahnee, for doing this and thanks for taking the time out of your day to do it. My background is in business travel - I started in business travel about 25, 26 years ago. And all that time has been spent either with National Car Rental and then with Enterprise after the acquisition in 2007.

I've had the opportunity to live in Boston and in L.A. and St. Louis, and now my duties will be out in San Francisco areas. So, I've been all over the place from that standpoint. I've been very lucky to have a lot of great opportunities and this one is just another one that  I’m really excited about. And being a part of the Deem team.

On the personal side, I have four kids. Married. One thing that allowed me to take the advantage of this opportunity is the fact that all my kids are either in college or out of college. And, certainly with Covid, they keep coming back more often than we thought. But that's not an issue since they're old enough to take care of themselves, thank goodness.

So, I’m really excited about the opportunity and to work with everybody at Deem. It's a great team and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better. And also making a footprint in the marketplace.

Tahnee: And you also have a son based in the Bay Area, so, even more excuse to spend time out here with us.

David: Yes, that is true.

Tahnee: So, I just want to switch gears quickly. I'd like to talk about innovation, because innovation is one of the core values here at Deem. And I think innovation is really important to what we do. So, can you talk about what it means to you and why you think it's important for Deem?

David: Yeah, when I think about innovation, I think, innovation is solving for something or improving something. I think a lot of times when people think about innovation, they automatically think about technology. And, I guess, that depends on what your definition of technology is.

But you can be innovative in a lot of different ways, and at Deem, we're going to hit that definition on multiple fronts. It's really important for Deem because where Deem is today, Deem is a challenger in the marketplace. And you've got to be innovative to make some progress and be able to disrupt what everybody accepts as the norm.

So, if all we did was come in and be the same, then that would be a very tough challenge. And chances are, we'd have to compete by price and that's not necessarily what we want to do.

We want to compete by having a better solution that drives value, and innovation really is at the core of doing that. And, we have a great team of people. Smart people with great industry knowledge that are coming up with some great ideas that we're building, and we'll start bringing to market over the next year or so, or less.

Tahnee: So, you've spent some time talking to the team about the concept of combining innovation and execution, and that's how you really succeed in the marketplace. Can you talk a little bit about that?

David: Well, there's a difference between being innovative and innovating. You can be a person who, you know, you can be innovative and come up with a lot of great ideas. Innovating means you're executing. And, at the end of the day if you're not executing upon your ideas, then they don't do you a lot of good. So, really, we want to focus on executing and hitting the mark the majority of the time.

We all know we're in technology. There's no such thing as technology hitting the mark 100 percent of the time. But it needs to be pretty reliable, not only for our employees but for our customers. And so, that's why I think execution needs to really be one of the top things that we focus on at Deem.

Tahnee: Another core value at Deem is trust and transparency, and we do spend a lot of time talking about what that means to us personally, as a company, and how we exhibit that externally. So, what does trust and transparency mean to you?

David: You know, it means reliability. And trust and transparency can be both in the human level,  it can be on the technology level. And it's how you sell. It's how you communicate. It's how you represent your brand and also support the customers that really are trying to support their customers, meaning the end travelers within a corporate account.

So, having the trust and transparency with your employees and with the customers gets you to the point where they know you're going to deliver upon what you say. And they can count on it being what you said it will be. So, it's not a matter of just hitting dates, it's delivering the right product at the right time, and getting their feedback.

And sometimes you may have an issue. Be transparent about it. Don't try to cover it up. Just go right out and say, yes we know this is an issue. We're going to fix it - here's when it's going to get fixed. And that goes along with, yes we're building this product. It's going to be out at this point in time, and that's what you can expect it, and this is what it's going to do.

So that everybody has faith in each other that we're going to be in this together and support each other. And we will figure out a way to get through, whether it's a challenge or a way to really leverage the innovative products that we're going to bring into the market.

Tahnee: So, it sounds like execution is going to be a big priority for us going forward, as usual. but can you talk about some of your top priorities that you have for Deem?

David: Yeah, I think we have a lot of momentum right now. The reality is I've been on the Deem team for over a year, now, as the chief revenue officer, and working hand in hand with John and the rest of the executive staff. So, this isn't a big change that you sometimes see with somebody brand new from outside the organization coming in for various reasons.

We've already been lining things up pretty well. I think that's going to help for a smooth transition, which is really one of my big keys is not to get disruptive and make sure what we're building and the customers we're targeting, we continue down that path and gain that momentum.

But, ultimately, we’ve got to start growing share. We need to win more customers and obviously not a lot of people are traveling right now. But that's going to change, and the more we win now, the more we'll have success later as far as when they start traveling.

And then, what we launch into the marketplace, we want it to be transformative. We want it to be the platform off of which we can transform travel. And, at the end of the day, that's going to really define our success.

I think in 2021, we will lay the groundwork for the majority of that to be in place so that subsequent years, that innovation, that transformation, will become very obvious. And it will start gaining critical speed.

Tahnee: Well, that's what we have time for, David. Thank you very much for joining me today, and thank you everyone for watching.

David: Thank you, Tahnee.

[After closing logo:]

Tahnee: Great. I thought that went well. How’d you feel about that?

David: Yeah, I give it about a seven out of ten. (laughing)


Tahnee Perry
VP, Marketing

Tahnee Perry is a marketing executive with 15+ years of travel industry experience. She fosters a passion for excellence in execution and builds high-performance teams. Previously, Tahnee drove creative and marketing strategy for B2B information solutions company, Northstar Travel Group, and for travel research authority Phocuswright. She's a frequent industry speaker and guest lecturer at Stanford University.

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