Making Things Happen on His Own
Justin Gray, Eller Marketing ’01
CEO and Chief Marketing Evangelist, LeadMD
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Justin Gray started at the UA as a journalism major, but an influential internship changed his course.
“This was the summer of ’99, during the dot com bubble,” he said. “I was working in a marketing-focused internship role for a mutual fund company out of Boston.” It was the first time the native Arizonan had lived on his own, and the first time he’d considered marketing as a career. “It was a lot of new experiences,” he said. “I came back energized.”
He changed his major to business and began taking marketing and advertising classes. “Merrie Brucks pulled me aside during my Marketing 450 class and told me, ‘You’re going to be bored in marketing; you’d be happier in a think tank environment,’” Gray said. It was food for thought. “I’ve always been a little ADD,” he said. “I have to be doing 12 things at a time.” He’d also grown up with an entrepreneur father. “I started my first business very early, and figured I’d always have something on the side,” he said.
After he left Eller, he accepted a role with a brokerage and investment company in Phoenix. “This was right after September 11, and the brokerage that I was working for had offices in one of the buildings that was hit. They pulled back their Arizona presence. I found myself in the position of having to look for a job that didn’t fall into my lap.”
Gray joined a small office equipment company where he found himself doing everything from copywriting to design. After three years, he went into the software industry. This period, he said, was a change of fate. “It was a departure from taking things as they came to making things happen on my own.”
It all came together in 2009 when he founded LeadMD, a marketing automation and CRM consulting service in Scottsdale with the vision of transforming traditional grassroots marketing efforts through the use of cloud-based solutions. The company is growing fast, with 26 employees, multiple honors from the American Business Awards, and increasing influence in this nascent field of automated marketing technology.
“I always thought I’d build up my resume and eventually be ready to start my own business,” Gray said. “I didn’t expect that at 29, I’d be ready to do that.” He credits his experience at the UA with helping prepare him. “College for me was a define-yourself kind of experience.”
One class project he remembers charged his team with creating an event with a car dealership to benefit a nonprofit. “It was about knowing that whatever happened – or didn’t happen – was something that we were responsible for, and that the success of it was because we created it.”
Top photo courtesy LeadMD.