Tips From The Top: One On One With Dave Crisalli

I spoke to Dave Crisalli, former President and CEO of Massage Envy and the founder and CEO of PROSE, about his journey and best advice

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Adam: What is something about you that would surprise people?

Dave: My creativity. It’s easy to see why most people expect CEOs to be disciplined, focused and to be the driver of their business growth. The CEO also needs to contribute strong ideas and solutions that help their team be successful. I have found being creative is a great gift and fosters deep collaboration.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Dave: Losing my mother at an early age obviously had a profound impact.  Thankfully, I was well prepared by the time I lost her, and I am truly grateful I was given that opportunity to learn from her values and work ethic. In business, failing fast has led to important professional and business growth for me. During my decade plus of learnings at Massage Envy and now at my little start-up wellness brand, PROSE, I have never stopped learning and quickly executing against my knowledge to be better and grow.  I believe successful failure has driven most of my greatest wins in life and in business.

Adam: What are the best lessons you learned from your time leading Massage Envy?

Dave: When you build a business from scratch, you walk on a lot of glass and learn a ton. You have to buck up from setbacks. Building a brand, especially a recurring relationship model, affords you great opportunities to create real long-term value. By far and away, my biggest Massage Envy learning has confirmed that everything we’re trying to accomplish begins with the customer, employee and franchisee experience.  We start there and then we work backward to design and deliver incredible benefits for them.      

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Dave: One of the most indispensable qualities of a great leader is to never stop learning.  I read a lot and pay attention to colleagues and try to share my experience as much as I can with my teams. Our world is changing rapidly, and I understand the pace of change can be harnessed if you change on purpose, while holding your core values tightly.  I also deeply believe learning alone is never enough.  It is the execution of knowledge that is power.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?


1) Listen and learn.

2) You have to swing the bat. Have a willingness to make some mistakes, own them and fix them.

3) Be as disciplined as you are creative.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Dave: As a CEO, you are always in the intellectual capital business.  Building a truly great team will lead to high performance. Hold out for ‘A’ players. I have found sometimes it can take up to year to get the person you really want on your team. Trust your instincts and don’t settle. ‘A’ Players only really want to work with and hire other ‘A’ Players.   

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Dave: There are lots of ways to add value to others. Building an exceptional culture is one of the very best ways to enrich others over a long period of time.  Culture is everything. It’s the air we breathe, it’s the furniture, it’s the performance of the team, it’s the work ethic, it’s what happens when the CEO is not around. So, the best gift is to leave the environment better than you found it. This literally impacts everyone and therefore, it’s what we need to constantly cultivate and improve. 

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Dave: My hobbies are few and I spend nearly all my time with my family and working to grow my business interests, as well as helping my friends with their lives/businesses. 

Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Dave: Focus. Stay as focused as you can and don’t get swayed by shiny objects. I learned at an early age; focus is about saying no, not about saying yes. By design, I live a focused life and drive that culture in business too. I think we can never do truly great work if we are doing too many things that don’t tie to our vital few priorities. And because our lives are complex, the simpler and cleaner you can keep things, the deeper and higher quality your results. What’s more, when you stay focused, you complete things, and you feel unstressed and less worried about the outcomes because you gave it 100%.

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