Interview: David Marshall

A self-described “reborn extrovert”, David has put forth massive effort to connect with his community. I met David thanks to social media, and our common interests as entrepreneurs quickly drew us into conversation. We met for a couple of beers & I learned about the drive behind The Eisenhower, David’s Old Town rental property.

I want to start with what brought you to the Valley. What made you want to plant roots here for your first small business?

A:  I spent nine years in the U.S. Marine Corps as an Infantry and Intelligence Officer. Toward the tail end of my time serving, I decided that it was time for me to grow outside of the military and into a more traditional business path. As I was searching for the right job and the right location for my post-military move, the Valley was one of my top choices because of my family. During my time in service, my family slowly moved from the Pacific Northwest to Arizona because of job opportunities. Besides family, Arizona was a natural choice based on the cost of living, housing prices, and also our fabulous outdoor lifestyle. When an opportunity with Amazon presented itself in Phoenix, I jumped at the chance to move to the Valley of the Sun.

The Eisenhower provides more than your typical vacation rental — it’s a design-forward experience. How did you envision the process of designing The Eisenhower? And now that you’re living it, what is the process like? 

A: As an avid user of vacation rental companies, such as Airbnb, when I travel, I have been interested in investing in vacation rentals for some time. When I look for vacation rentals for personal use, I want to spend money on an experience that is unique and tied closely to the culture of the area where I am staying. When I found The Eisenhower I knew it had the bones of what I wanted within an investment of my own: fantastic location, historical value, and unique architectural characteristics. I envisioned the process of designing The Eisenhower as a very sequential project that would flow together effortlessly. The execution of the project has been very different and has required numerous pivots or changes to the original plans based mostly on construction constraints. The end goal has never changed, just the path toward the goal deviated from my original plan. Like all project management, it requires flexibility to change with circumstances that arise but focus on driving the project toward the end goal continuously.

I’m very interested in the “WHY” behind your work. You’re clearly not just flipping a hotel to make a “quick buck.” Why do you approach your work the way you do? Do you have a guiding mission?

A: I do…create a life where work and passion collaborate effortlessly together. I am diligently working toward the day where my passions are my full-time career, and The Eisenhower is the first step toward my end goal. I plan to continue to scale my entrepreneurial adventures outside of my W-2 job until one day; I can focus 100% of my time on these endeavors.

Where do you look for & find your inspiration for your design work? What’s a source of inspiration that surprised you?

A: History, culture, and uniqueness. I start with a blank slate, which for me is some sort of a structure that grabs my attention. For The Eisenhower had a unique combination of location and Mid-Century history.  The team and folks I collaborate with are the secrets to my inspiration. I have been a project manager in different industries for over eleven years. In my experience, forming a strong team always allows a diversity of thought and creates ideas a single person wouldn’t be able to achieve.

Challenges are inevitable in starting a new project. Which challenges have caused you the most trouble? How have you recovered from (or reframed) those setbacks along the way?

A: hahaha…The Eisenhower has been FULL of challenges. Electrical issues plagued the project from the beginning because of the old building, and it’s archaic electrical infrastructure. The electrical situation required us to think very creatively with appliances and lighting but ultimately facilitated successful pivoting. In the end, I think we have a finalized project that is better because of the challenges we experienced and the new ideas these challenges spawned. The Eisenhower was a big learning point for me. I will be looking to mitigate problems in future projects based on my latest experience. 

I love that in creating The Eisenhower you are putting forth massive effort to connect with people. Why do you feel it is important to infuse culture & community into your project? Additionally, what types of relationships are you forming, and what has that brought you so far? 

A: I am a reborn extrovert, and over the last six years have put a lot of effort into creating a connection with my community. The Eisenhower is going to be a space where guests stay from all over the world. More importantly, my guests are coming to visit the city that I love and adore. When I stay at vacation rentals, I want to rest my head in a place that represents the area. In essence, the space becomes a part of the vacation and isn’t just logistical support to your trip. The best way to infuse culture into space is through strong partnerships with folks within your community. Very early into the project, I began to reach out to local creatives, who I felt represented The Valley culture well and worked to create their unique styles into The Eisenhower. You now have a space that is a full-blown art gallery where you can sleep. I am looking to continuously expand my relationships because each relationship brings new ideas and new opportunities. In the future, I would like to create tailored experiences for my guests and help other local businesses through the use of my space. Life is all about relationships.

What are your dream outcomes for The Eisenhower and/or your work as a whole? 

A: I want my guests to fall in love with The Eisenhower and share their experiences with their friends and family. I hope that all of my guests leave The Eisenhower with a better understanding of our local culture. My dream outcomes, in general, is to expand into larger projects that have the opportunity to touch more folks. I have some future goals that I think are really fun and unique, which I look forward to diving into over the next couple of years.

Find David Marshall online, @davidkmarshall_ on Instagram.
The Eisenhower on Airbnb

Dealing with the reality of burnout

How to better recognize when burnout is approaching

Has anyone else ever had burnout creep up out of nowhere and totally wipe them out? Sometimes I can see the warning signs and make adjustments in time to avoid a major crash, but most burnouts feel like being completely blindsided by a velociraptor.

Burnout has been called the “car crash you don’t see coming.”
A few years ago, I was driving on the 101 when I was involved in an actual car accident. Approaching the exit ramp, the vehicle in front of me began indecisively straddling the line and braking intensely. On the phone with a friend, I told her, “I’ll call you back, this guy in front of me can’t decide which way he is going.” As the driver ahead of me slowed, I slowed as well, keeping my eyes locked on his brake lights. That’s when it hit me. Literally. The car behind me slammed into my Jeep.
I never saw it coming. I was so focused on what was ahead, I didn’t see what was sneaking up behind me. This is exactly how burnout has felt for me. Sudden. Intense. Unexpected. “Burnout” was recently declared a health diagnosis by the World Health Organization, and stems from improperly managed and prolonged workplace stress. They specify that “burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context…” but as we all know, burnout reaches farther than just our work. The WHO characterizes burnout in three ways: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

If the syndrome is caused by prolonged stress, then how come it feels like it sneaks up so quickly?

For me, hindsight is always 20/20. Does anyone else find this kind of clarity only when reflecting?
In entrepreneurship, you write your own rules. This means that it’s your responsibility to pay very close attention to the needs of the business, as well as the needs of the business OWNER (you!). If you’re not doing well, how will you adapt and grow your business?
This must be where that old “building the plane while flying it” idiom comes from. You won’t have this all figured out from day one, and that’s OK. You can build “burnout prevention” into your business plan as you go.
When we’re in survival mode, plowing through tasks and challenges (i.e., “the shit”), we rarely stop to notice of what else is happening. Take a break? Ha! Most business owners have never heard of taking a break because we “can’t.” Then, “surprisingly,” we’re burnt out, exhausted and unmotivated because we forgot to take care of ourselves first. There is hope. As we mature, we work to become more aware of ourselves overall. Recognizing the early signs of fatigue can become easier, and preventing burnout is possible.

Here are some of the red flags I look out for that can signal I’m nearing burnout:

  • Work-related anxiety/stress: My head feels like it’s going to burst with all my to-do’s. I’m trying to remember too much and feeling anxious.
  • Cynicism: I’m totally disenchanted by things I usually enjoy and have a bad attitude.
  • Disconnect: I’m buried in work and not giving energy to my family, friends, or self.
  • Physically tired: It’s hard to drag my weary feet out of bed and onto the floor for another day.

This is what I do when I see the red flags to try to prevent burnout and stop the bleeding:

  • Pinpoint the stressor, take a step back, evaluate, and adjust.
  • Notice when I’m not enjoying the things I love doing. Do something fun that is not work-related.
  • Self-care and mental care: This can mean many different things, depending on my needs at the moment (meditate, yoga, go outdoors, go on a date with my husband, go to a therapy session, see a play, etc.)

Although it’d be nice to wrap this up with a bow (like the “Full House” moral of the episode), the storyline of burnout doesn’t follow any rules.

I’ll probably experience burnout again. Just like I’ll probably get into another accident. Unfortunately, the chances are likely. But it’s also an opportunity to handle it better in the future.

As we learned, burnout usually comes from external sources beyond our control. So while we may not be able to prevent burnout entirely, we can get better at recognizing the signs and minimizing the impact.
Each time I experience burnout, it feels shorter and less stressful because I’m paying attention to the signs and responding (without overreacting) to get the help I need. What I do (and hope you’ll do too) when burnout does happen, is give myself some grace rather than a lecture or guilt trip. I understand that this is my body and mind telling me to slow down and pace myself.

We’ve got this.