IAM1707 – Founder Brings The DC Area Tech Community Together

Podcast Interview with Brian Dawson

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”: Brian has two awesome platforms and one that started as a result of the pandemic. One of the things that came about from starting DC Tech People was making connections and opportunities. He also had a really cool Hack and a reminder with the CEO Nugget of how better it is to have speed.

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Brian Dawson Teaser 00:00

My belief and what I try to live out with the businesses is that it's the people who can respond quickly to change and can adapt, that are going to be the most successful going forward.

Intro 00:10

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs, without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the I am CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:37

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we are repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, and what I like to call the CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focused on technology. We're a technology company that does dot, dot, dot. Technology is no longer an afterthought or something that you might do and is actually a core part of your business. If you are a real estate investor, you're using it. If you're a financial firm, if you're a cleaning company, an author, or a speaker, you are using technology. If you are in any business, you are using technology, and if you're not, then you're probably going to be disrupted by an organization that is.

So this month we are going to look into purposing episodes that are around technology, whether that be firms or organizations that are actually using and investing in technology as a core part of their products and services, or potentially those individuals that are using and leveraging CEO hacks and CEO nuggets that center around technology and sharing ways that we can leverage it as well. Remember that you are a technology company that does dot, dot dot. Sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I am CEO podcast.

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today I have Brian Dawson of District Flight Deals in DC Tech people. Brian, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Brian Dawson 02:08

Thanks so much for having me, Gresh. I'm really excited to be here, talk to you, talk to your audience, and get chatting.

Gresham Harkless 02:13

Yeah, absolutely. I do know you're doing some phenomenal things in the area. And before we jump in, I wanted to reintroduce you to Brian so you can hear about all the awesome things that he's doing.

Brian's the founder of District Flight Deals and DC Tech People. District Flight Deals helps people in the DC area save up to 75% off normal flight costs. DC Tech People is a new business that seeks to bring the DC area tech community together through stories and products made exactly for them.

Brian, are you ready to speak to the I am CEO community?

Brian Dawson 02:41


[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:42

Let's do it. So to kick off everything. I want to rewind the clock a little bit, and hear a little bit more about what I call your CEO story what let you get started with your businesses.

Brian Dawson 02:49

Yeah. So a couple of years ago I was working my regular nine to five or more like eight to six I guess and wanted to start a business for a long time. At the same time, I had just gotten engaged and a lot of friends were in a similar situation. I'm from Los Angeles, my wife's from Alabama, friends getting married all over the place, so I was doing a lot of traveling that year. I've always been into the travel hacking scene, so I started to really get serious about looking for cheap flights.

Turned that into keeping track of cheap flights and then I saw that some other people had done similar things in space and have shared cheap flights that they found. And I was a subscriber to some blogs and newsletters that helped people find cheap flights. But there was always the annoyance for me of getting an email about a cheap flight but it's not from dc, it's from Philadelphia, it's from New York and you can't figure it out until you click into the email. So I wanted something just for me and figured there were other people who might want that too. So I decided to make district flight deals, which is an email newsletter where I send out cheap flights that I'm finding and then over the years,  I have kind of refined that process to be able to find pretty great flights.

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Like last year ,my wife and I took one to Rome, $283 round trip. So that's the kind of thing that I'm trying to send out to people and that people are taking advantage of.

Gresham Harkless 04:02

Yeah, I'm definitely sure everybody who's listening to this is probably shaking their head in agreement right now and looking to figure out how they can find those great deals. So it's great to hear how you scratch your own itch and then it starts to grow into a business and a great opportunity for so many others.

Brian Dawson 04:16

Exactly, exactly. Yeah. Recently, during Coronavirus it's been a little bit different. I'm setting out flights for later this year, like late 2020, or early 2021, but right now, waiting to see how things develop. Still sending out flight deals, but like I said, for the distant future. But it'll be interesting to see how that develops. And then that's led me into this other business that I've started DC Tech people. So when I was starting District Flight Deals, didn't really know anybody in the tech space in DC.

It's something I'd been interested in for a long time but just solved every problem by Googling and answering or looking for answers on forums and everything like that. And I knew it'd be really nice if I knew people in the space who I could go to ask technical questions for mentorship, that kind of thing. Then over the course of the business, I started to get to know people too, people would reach out, I would reach out to people, get to know people, and it was really helpful for the business. And so that and a desire to get to know even more people led me to want to start a site to bring the DC area tech community together.

There are some different pockets where the community gets together with meetups and stuff, and obviously, now that's on hold. But I wanted just a place to help people tell their stories, people like you, and other entrepreneurs in the area, and then figure out what could be the most helpful thing I could do to make products for these people. In the last few weeks, that's just been in the last month, I saw some friends in the DC area tech community get laid off, so I accelerated plans to make a job board and made a job board called still hiring DC so that people who have gotten laid off can find some open positions going forward. I launched that a few weeks ago and that's kind of like the first product that I see but I know that more will come. I'm just trying to get to know people and get to know what could be helpful.

Gresham Harkless 05:52

Awesome. Awesome, awesome. So I know you touched on each of the businesses and what they include. Is there anything additional you wanted to let us know that we should know about either the business so that we can understand how you serve your clients?

Brian Dawson 06:04

Yeah, sure. So right now like I said, there's a job board. The customer, there would be companies who are looking to hire, but more of my relationship is with people in the DC area and tech community who might be candidates, or people starting businesses, or growing businesses. And I'm telling their stories on the site.

As I mentioned, I interviewed you Gresh and that's gonna go live soon in the interview section of the site. And that's pretty much it for now. But we'll be adding some products in the future. So for District Flight Deals, it's people who are looking to travel for cheap and for DC Tech people, it's people who want to get to know other people in the community, learn what's going on, and maybe post or find an open job.

Gresham Harkless 06:37

Definitely appreciate you for creating that. So I wanted to ask you now for what I call your secret sauce. And it could be for you personally or your businesses, but what do you feel sets you apart and makes you unique?

Brian Dawson 06:47

I think we touched on it actually in that last question, which is, I think it's the adaptability and the flexibility. I think our world changes faster and faster and making predictions and plans for what's gonna happen is harder and harder. I think that my belief in kind of what I try to live out with the businesses is that it's the people who can respond quickly to change and can adapt that are going to be the most successful going forward. And so I think it's that adaptability.

I'm still trying to figure out with the supply deals right now, what that business might look like. I think most airlines dropped like 10% today in their stock price, and that's gonna be crazy. But that's the kind of stuff that I think means you need to be able to be flexible.

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Gresham Harkless 07:29

Awesome. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Brian Dawson 07:40

Okay. I thought about this a little bit. I think the number one thing that's changed how I work in the last four months and has definitely made an impact, is not an app or it's not a dedicated app. It's a browser, but it's called Room Research. Have you heard of this by chance?

Gresham Harkless 07:55

I have not. I have not.

Brian Dawson 07:57

So it's similar to Evernote or Notion or a note-taking app like that. But the difference is that if I'm taking notes on say, this is what I did in District Flight Deals today, I executed this marketing strategy, I fulfilled these customer requests, I can link to another note and say I did marketing and put hashtag marketing or just make a page. It's all about my marketing efforts. And kind of like Wikipedia, then you can go to the next page. But what's really interesting is that then when you go to that next page, you can see everywhere you've linked to that page from.

So it just kind of helps. It's hard to explain. I would encourage everybody to play around with it. But on the internet, most links are one-directional. They take you somewhere, but you can't see where someone has linked to that site from. In Evernote or Notion it's like that, but on Room, you can see where it's been linked to and there's just something magical about that just lets you synthesize everything you're working on, see everything as one, and it's got some really great task management functionality.

So instead of keeping my knowledge in one area, like Evernote, and my tasks in another area like Trello. It's all in one in Room and it's an amazing tool. I encourage everybody to check it out.

Gresham Harkless 09:09

Yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. So that could be like a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something you would tell a client or if you were to hop into a time machine might tell your younger business self.

Brian Dawson 09:21

Yeah, I think it would be a long kind of theme we touched on earlier. If I was to go back and tell myself, it would be that speed is better than planning. And that's obviously not always true, but in general, I think I personally have spent too much time planning, too much time predicting what I think is going to happen and you just never know until the rubber hits the road what exactly is gonna shake out.

By doing things with speed, you get advantages. So one example is have you heard of the Law of Shitty click throughs?

Gresham Harkless 09:51

No, I have not.

Brian Dawson 09:53

Okay. So there's this growth marketer in Silicon Valley. I don't know exactly what he does, but his name's Andrew Chen. He runs a great blog. I believe he's a venture capitalist too. I don't know his exact resume, but he penned this law of shitty click throughs. He talks about how when the internet first came online, the first banner ad on a website, the click-through rates were like 75% and over time, customers get used to it. They get ad fatigue. They no longer see banner ads anymore. They're invisible to me. Eventually, the click rate gets down to almost zero, and that happens to every marketing channel. And so the thing to do there, knowing that every marketing channel eventually will reach a, excuse my language, but shitty clickthrough rate is what he calls it, then the answer is to move a speed.

If you were on Facebook ads in 2012, you could have done really, really well. Now pretty hard. It's still doable. And in 20 years probably be very hard. So speed gives you that advantage in marketing channels and I think it gives you an advantage in a lot of other areas too. Just you can plan all you want, but you only know once you start doing things and you learn a lot faster by doing things. So that would be my advice to myself. And I think my advice to others too is just to do things quickly. If the cost of doing them is low.

Gresham Harkless 11:06

Yeah, that makes so much sense. And it just reminded me of like first movers advantage as well too because a lot of times, especially on social media platforms, if you were one of the first movers or within that first wave, I guess you can say you paid next to nothing for a lot of the advertising, opportunities, and things like that.

But as time goes on, there are more people that use it, the price starts to go up and then there are more people, more noise on it. So it's starting to become a lot harder to get through and have that shitty click-through I'm sure we're always searching for it.

Brian Dawson 11:36

Exactly. If you could have been on TikTok two years ago, then you know, you'd be doing really well right now. So yeah, if the cost is low, just take some gambles and try to move quickly.

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Gresham Harkless 11:44

Yeah, absolutely. And I love too where you said, speaking from your own perspective, cause I think so many times I hear that kind of self-awareness within that too because I think if you lean more way or one way or the other, it's always great to understand that you can shift that way. Because you probably already have that strategy in your mind of what you're gonna be thinking about. But now just trying to take more actions and take more gambles to see things through.

Brian Dawson 12:05

Yeah, exactly.

Gresham Harkless 12:06

Awesome, awesome, awesome. So now I wanna ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on this show.

So Brian, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Brian Dawson 12:18

To me, being a CEO means that you bear the responsibility. Hear that the buck stops with you and never happens with the business. Even if it's a decision that one of your employees made or for me, any decision that I make that ends up on any of my products, it stops with me. I'm the one responsible. And that's my definition of a CEO.

Gresham Harkless 12:40

Yeah, that makes so much sense. I think especially when we have these visions and what we want to do with our businesses, you have to keep in mind that the buck does stop with you. So a lot of times these decisions that we make are sometimes even decisions that we don't make. You have to understand that comes back around to you. So I think that's an incredible perspective and definition.

Brian Dawson 12:57

Yeah. And then because of that, it's up to you to make good processes so that people can follow good processes for your products and your systems and everything. If one of your employees makes a bad decision, then that's info for you to go back and make a better process, make a better system that's not building to that next time.

Gresham Harkless 13:12

Yeah. I love that second part of it because I think so many times we can outwardly blame people or circumstances or things, but I think if we take the brunt and we understand that if the buck stops with us and if something was a mistake and maybe we didn't communicate it, so maybe we can work on how we can better communicate that.

But I think that gives us a lot of opportunities to be our best selves. So that the business and everything around the businesses can be better too.

Brian Dawson 13:37

Yep, exactly.

Gresham Harkless 13:39

Awesome, awesome, awesome. Brian, truly appreciate that definition and that perspective. Appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you want to let our readers and listeners know, and of course, how best they can get ahold of you and find out about all about awesome things you're working on.

Brian Dawson 13:54

Sure. Get in contact me. Probably the best place right now is on Twitter. It's at DC Tech People. That's right now where I'm personally tweeting about updates to that project and what's going on. And I try to be transparent. If anybody wants to ask me questions about how something's built or what my thoughts are on making various decisions, I'm really happy to have conversations there. You can find my email if you go to Very easy to get in contact with.

Other last thoughts, I guess I'll just give a couple of book recommendations that I've been reading lately. So on the theme of that CEO question one book that really touches, is Principles by Ray Dalio. A great book really goes into that idea of how the processes are up to you. All the way that your business works, it's up to you, especially the first part of that book. Really good. And then related to how hard it is to plan for the future and how to be flexible would be Antifragile by Nassim Taleb. Highly recommend that book. That's probably my favorite non-fiction book I've maybe ever read, so, if anybody has one of those, go check those out. Reach out to me on Twitter. Would love, to connect with some people.

Gresham Harkless 14:55

Awesome. Thank you so much again, Brian. We will have the links and information in the show notes and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Brian Dawson 15:01

Thank you Gresh so good to be on the show and yeah, good one.

Outro 15:04

Thank you for listening to the I am CEO podcast, powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I am CEO is not just a phrase. It's a community.

Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five-star rating.

Grab CEO gear at This has been the I am CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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