The Entrepreneurial Doctor with Dr. Justin Baeder

Dr. Russell Strickland [00:20:11]

OK, so you said if you if you’d like to become a principal, if you are a principal and if you oversee principals, there are things that The Principal Center and each of those levels. Is that right?


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:20:22]



Dr. Russell Strickland [00:20:25]

I know that you’re talking about the business model. One of my former students works with school districts on developing codes of conduct for their employees. And he used to when I was actually helping him through the distillation process, he was always in a different hotel, traveled all the time, all the time, all the time. And in the past few years, he’s taken on more of a of an online model. And he said he can’t believe it is travel time is down. He’s actually seeing more people, but even on a per meeting basis, so to speak, he’s seeing their revenue go up as he’s moved to an online model and he can’t fully explain it. But there’s just efficiencies there that are hard to pin down, so. Not only is he on the road less, he’s not in an airplane and therefore able to meet more people more often. But but in addition to that, if he just looks at it on a per meeting basis, he still sees that revenue going up. So that’s the way the world is, the way the future is here to stay. I think we’re here in the COVID pandemic right now and a lot of people are shifting even more towards online models. But I think we’re going to see that that’s going to continue in the years to come that that that we’re going to have businesses taking advantage of not needing as much office space because they can get people working from home more and more and more.


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:21:41]



Dr. Russell Strickland [00:21:43]

Well, tell me, is there anything in particular with The Principal Center that you’d like to share with us any any specific stories where you really help someone in a way that maybe you weren’t necessarily expecting or that that came off as a as a great success story for you?


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:21:59]

Well, one thing I really enjoy at The Principal Center is the opportunity to help people who are either just getting started with their careers or who are ready to move to the next level in their careers or take advantage of some of those opportunities to to to make themselves a good competitor for for the job. Because a lot of people who are the best at the work are the worst at self promotion. And getting hired often is somewhat an exercise in self promotion. And it’s very uncomfortable for people who are very humble and and don’t like to stick to their own horn. So one of the things that I do is help people with the resume, with their cover letter, with their interview skills. And that’s really fun to see, because in a lot of cases you find that the people who have really been doing the most meaningful and high level work in a school district are not the people with the titles or the big salaries. They’re the kind of unsung heroes who are content to be behind the scenes. But also they get paid half as much and they often work twice as hard. And it’s very gratifying for me to see people really take on those senior leadership roles when perhaps without some help they would have kind of shied back from them or they would have kind of lost out to more aggressive and and self aggrandizing candidates.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:23:13]

Right now, it’s absolutely true. You get there are people who are really good at doing the job. They’re people. They’re really good at promoting themselves. And those are seldom the same person. So to be able to get the folks who are the most valuable players to be standing up in front of it more often is is really worthwhile. Tell me about some of the other things that you’re doing there, because I know that you have a podcast, right? There’s other things going on. Tell us tell us what else you’ve been up to lately since you graduated.


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:23:45]

Yeah. So the podcast has been a ton of fun and just a great way to connect with other consultants and authors and thought leaders. And it’s it’s amazing, The doors that a podcast will open people who would never return an email or answer a phone call from from someone they don’t know, not offering to pay them a large amount of money. A podcast is different and it really does build relationships. And I would say for the first four to five years, that really was one hundred percent of the goal of the podcast was to just to build relationships, to get to know people and to have some good, good, free content to put out for people. So that’s that’s been a lot of fun. It kind of keeps me connected to the issues that that people are writing about and thinking about and solving within the field. So as a specialist in one thing, it’s easy to get kind of dialed into that and that only and having a podcast with a much more diverse range of guests on a wide range of topics really I think has been good for my health from my perspective.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:24:45]

Yeah, that’s true. And it gives you a broader worldview. I have one of my guests that I recently recorded a podcast with just to talk about the range of folks we have. You work with principles and you have a podcast of your own and are doing all sorts of entrepreneurial things. I’ve had superintendents on I’ve had former students on iPad book publishers, but this guy earned his PhD in organic chemistry and he was completely blind from birth. And if you’re familiar with organic chemistry, it’s all of these pictures of these balls and sticks that are all connected together for these long molecule chains. It’s very visual the way it’s presented. And he developed sort of accessibility tools to help him be able to get through that. And other people are now able to use. And then he went on to do cool things like set up truly blind taste tests for the Francis Ford Coppola Winery and help a particular phone manufacturer make their glass more silky. Just really cool things that he talked about. And I don’t know where I would have gotten that if I hadn’t been doing something like this. It is really cool that all this unique conversations.


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:25:57]



Dr. Russell Strickland [00:25:58]

So what what’s next, what’s on the what’s on the horizon for you?


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:26:03]

Yeah, so I very much enjoy what I’m doing and doing more work at the senior district leadership level and trying to to to look at some of the problems that individual administrators are dealing with and try to take those upstream a bit. One of my podcast guests that I was thrilled to to be able to interview earlier this year was Dan Heath, author of many books with his brother Chip, just tremendous business-to-business author, very well known in the mainstream business world. And he came on my podcast and talked about his book, Upstream, and really presented his model for thinking through not just the problems that we might have to face right now, but the problems upstream that caused those downstream problems that we’re dealing with and having heard for years and years what school-based administrators are dealing with, I realize that a lot of the solutions need to come from senior leaders in the district, superintendents and assistant superintendents, some expanding my work in that area and work more with the central office leaders.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:27:09]

So what’s an example of one of those problems that some of our audience that might be principals may be dealing with on a daily basis that you that you see there might be some upstream solutions to?


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:27:19]

You know, I was just talking with someone today who’s a principal in a very large school district, and a lot of my work focuses on teacher evaluation and teacher feedback and that kind of instructional leadership process that administrators do one on one with teachers. And this particular principal was describing the system that they use. And we were talking about how we could get them set up in our software. And the system that this principal’s describing to me was extremely complicated, unnecessary, unhelpfully complicated and involved a ton of work, very, very tedious work on the principal’s part to document everything and just a particular way. And I think if central office leaders knew what that process really looked like for principals, they would very quickly say, what we need to streamline this. We need to focus much more concretely on what the teacher needs and what the principal needs and not worry so much about all these forms and fields that need to be filled out because it’s a distraction from the real work of improvement. And I think there are lots of things like that where if we if we listen to our people who are on the front lines and really doing the most substantive work, we can use that not to say, well, you just do whatever you want, but we can use that to create excellence as a system and say if you are struggling with that, probably everybody else is struggling with it, too, and just not complaining. And that means we have an opportunity to make this better. And really only senior leaders can capitalize on those opportunities.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:28:37]

Because they’re not going to make it better just for you, but for all of your peers. Everybody, it reminds me of my my son has a hearing loss. And so four years in school, he had an IEP. So we’d have a meeting with about four or five people in the school to decide what sort of things we need to do to help make sure he was going to be successful in school, despite the fact he has a hearing loss and in the forms they had to fill out. There was a section where they said, well, what what did you guys consider in terms of of an intervention? And so the person would write down, for example, that he should get preferential seating near the front of the class and can hear the teacher better then write under that. It says, what options did you also consider but ruled out? And literally every single time they did it, it would be they would fill out the form the same way. We also consider not assigning him preferential where you could hear the teacher better and we rejected that option. Did that spot really need to be on the form? I mean, if that’s how everybody is going to answer it all the time, I mean, it’s great if you say, well, we consider A, B, C and D and we picked A that we considered A and not A, you need to write both of them down. Yeah. It seems like that’s an area where you could make life a little less complicated for everybody involved, because I know there were some some folks that spent half their time in these IEP meetings. They spent half their time helping kids and the other half of their time filling out these forms. So, yeah, I guess that’s that’s going to be a problem in a lot of areas.


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:30:05]

And I think especially when it comes to things that are inefficient, the inefficiency of someone who’s on the front lines doing the work doesn’t appear as a budget line item to senior leadership right now. If you get software that makes it much more efficient to write good IEPs that don’t waste a lot of people’s time, well, that software is going to be a budget line item that that the senior leader has to approve. So I think there really is an obligation there to look at the efficient functioning of the system and to listen to those front line people about where the where they’re losing the time.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:30:36]

That creates what essentially is an opportunity cost. We talked I talked to our students who are working on their dissertations all the time, like you want to get this thing done as soon as possible because you can see the money you’re paying in tuition. And it sucks. Right. It’s a huge number. And you’re paying that every year, every quarter or whatever it might be. But what you can’t see is that when you graduate, your income is going to go from here to here and you’re losing all of that for every extra year you spend working on this program, this dissertation program, and so and that’s one that that students look at and after the fact I say, oh wow, I see that. But when you first tell them about it, while they’re in the process, it’s hard to identify that, in fact, you’re losing money because you’re not doing what you really want to be doing right now and making the money that comes along with that.


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:31:24]

And really, I feel like an asset, like any asset, when was the best time to start saving for retirement? Well, the day you’re born, it’s a great day to start saving for retirement. It’s better better late than never. But when it comes to the doctorate, I wrote a book before I finished my doctorate and that was probably about an equal amount of work to compared to the dissertation. The book probably would have sold better if I had finished the doctor at first and had that on the cover. So yeah, it is a missed opportunity.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:31:51]

You should get a second edition out there with with doctor on the other. That’s definitely one of those low hanging fruit items. But yeah, you’re absolutely right. It it’s one of those things that when you get that that doctoral degree doors open, opportunity knocks and it comes with a premium because now you’re your doctor. So I tell our students all the time, listen, folks that need you when are going to treat you the same. Everybody else you meet is going to treat you differently. Your wife, your mom, your kids are not going to call you doctor for anything that everybody else will. And and it’s amazing when you start to see that how how how it can change things in ways both subtle and gross. So it’s kind of cool. So the you mentioned the book, what was the title of the book, I want to make sure people go out there and check it out.


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:32:40]

Sure, yeah. So the book is called, I’ve got It here… Now We’re Talking: Twenty-One Days to High Performance Instructional Leadership. And it’s just about getting into classrooms every day and having conversations with teachers about their practice and something everybody wants to do. But I have a model that makes it doable and efficient and and helpful.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:32:59]

It sounds like you’re taking that now to the next level, because your book is about getting principals to look at their front line workers. And then you’re talking to senior leaders about. Getting getting in there and talking to their front line worker, so it’s sounds like it’s a bit of a common theme.


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:33:14]

Yeah, and it definitely has led to an idea for the next book.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:33:17]

So very cool about. So you’ve already mentioned one one interesting podcast. Yes. But has there been anything else that you think this happened because of the podcast, the business, the doctoral degree that that you found surprising or interesting that you think you never could have seen that that would have happened to you before? Years ago.


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:33:40]

Yeah, I think just just the opportunity to have one on one conversations with people who have been kind of my idols in the profession. There are people who just don’t let random educators pick up the phone and talk to them. And those doors have been opened. So some of the biggest names in the field have have gladly made time on their schedule for for an interview. And that’s been a pleasure. And then selfishly, I get to ask the questions that I’ve always wanted to, to be able to ask those people. And, you know, in some cases now the retired and they’re even harder to get access to some. I’m really glad that I started the podcast when I did to be able to to talk to some of those amazing guests. One of the things that I, again, never really intended to do with the podcast was, was monetize it or get sponsorships. And we started to get I was surprised at how many requests we would get to to run ads on the podcast, often from venture backed software firms. I mean, I think that’s probably in every field there is a software startup that has a lot of money and needs to get their message out. And certainly there are a lot of podcasts, but software is a is a huge field for investment dollars. And one of the things that those investment dollars to get spent on is marketing and podcasts are great marketing, especially when it reaches an ideal audience. So we get we get inquiries all the time for podcast advertising. We turn a lot of them down just because of our advertising, our own programs. And that’s that’s great. But it was a door that that came open, even though we never really set it up to go that way.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:35:14]

Yeah, no, that that’s that’s true. I have with this podcast, I just really want to get the word out to folks who are doctoral students who are going through this right now, that you’re not alone, that everyone faces challenges in this process and that they got through it. You can get through it, too. And then all of these amazing opportunities, like you mentioned today, Dr. Baeder, this is the brass ring that’s worth going for. So keep it up. Don’t quit. Keep going. And if I can get that message out to one person with each episode, then I think that that will have the upside will carry his weight. So I appreciate you being on with us today to help do that.


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:35:50]

Well, I appreciate the opportunity and I agree completely that it is it is worth it, it is worth it to finish faster rather than slower. It is worth it to get help. So I’m grateful for the work that you’re doing to help people cross that finish line more quickly.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:36:03]

Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate that. Well, again, thank you so much for being with us today, Dr Baeder. I want to let everybody know once again this episode was brought to you by Dissertation Done. If you’re working on your dissertation about to start working on your dissertation or considering abandoning the dissertation, reach out. That’s first go to And we’ll talk to see if you’re a good candidate for us to help you get through this process years faster than you would on your own. And if you’re out there living your unconventional life right now and you want to get that message out to people and expand your authority in the eyes of those that you hope to serve, maybe you need to write your book. And we are taking people through that process, getting you from a blank page to a published author in our Expand Your Authority program. You can find out more about that by reaching out to us at My guest today has been Dr. Justin Baeder with The Principal Center. And real quick before we go, please let everybody know how can they reach you? What’s the best way to get in touch with you if they want to follow up?


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:37:02]

Sure,  you can find me on Twitter @EduLeadership. That’s E-D-U leadership or at


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:37:08]

So that’s @EduLeadership on Twitter and on web browsers everywhere. Thank you so much, Dr. Baeder.


Dr. Justin Baeder [00:37:19]

Thanks, Dr. Strickland.


Dr. Russell Strickland [00:37:20]

All right. Go out, live your unconventional life. See you next week.


Outro [00:37:28]

This has been an unconventional life. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed today’s episode, subscribe now to keep getting inspirational stories of unconventional lives as soon as they’re released. Until then, go out and live your best unconventional life.

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.