BE A THERMOSTAT, NOT A THERMOMETER: Dave Johnson, President of MistAmerica


Michelle Micalizzi, Artist
All Rights Reserved


10% of the proceeds from the sale of this work benefits The Arizona Consortium for the Arts

My muse this week is Dave Johnson. Dave has been the President of MistAmerica since 2003.


I have known Dave Johnson since 2011 when we met at the North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce; and we immediately connected. Dave had also been a client of mine in one of my former ventures so we have had the opportunity to spend quality time together. As a result of the many conversations I have had with Dave, I am a Dave Johnson fan. Dave is a sincerely thoughtful, kind and faithful man. He is a devoted husband and father. I respect his business acumen and the level of integrity he consciously chooses to operate from in every area of his life. I am so very pleased that he accepted the invitation to be one of the 2015 Fearless 13 because I believe that he embodies the American entrepreneurial spirit.

Prior to joining MistAmerica, Dave was a principal in multiple ventures where he specialized in accounting as a CPA. He has also been responsible for the oversight of major projects including Santan Village, MGM’s CityCenter, and Encore @ Wynn Las Vegas.

The three biggest things that impress me the most about Dave are:

  1. His relentless commitment to excellence.
  2. His high level of integrity.
  3. How he is always open to learn and is full of wonder.

In a nutshell….

“You’ve got to be a thermostat not a thermometer. A thermostat shapes the climate. A thermometer reflects it.”

The leadership concept of “Be the Thermostat. Not the Thermometer” has been attributed to many leaders: Roger Ailes, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cornel West to name a few. The idea is that great leaders act, they do not react. They make things happen. They are not victims of circumstance. They see a clear vision of where they are going. They create a bird’s eye view road map and are able to adjust course when necessary. They are the example because they set the temperature for their employees, their customers, their families and everyone around them.

Dave embodied this belief when he shared his 2020 vision for MistAmerica with me. The first step in creating his vision was to allow himself to dream and then he documented that dream so he could share it with others. As I read his vision statement I was grinning from ear to ear. It is refreshing to see the level of detail, thought and enthusiasm he brought to this document. It was clearly something he put an immense amount of intense thought and energy into. I was genuinely proud of him as I read it. Everyone who leads should write a similar document so that they too can shape their climate!

Dave has a very clear picture of where he wants his company to be in the year 2020. He is operating today with that goal in mind. To name a few of the objectives he already has in place and is relentlessly pursuing: expand MistAmerica Corporate to a 20,000 square foot manufacturing, training and R&D facility; establish 100 franchise partners around the globe; and maintain the company’s 100percent privately owned and self-financed status.

Dave admits his 2020 goals are lofty. James Collins in his book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” calls this document a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Collins feels that a BHAG changes the very nature of a business. That is what Dave is up to – changing the nature of his business. The irony of this concept has not been lost on me either. MistAmerica is the “Out Door Comfort Company”. MistAmerica and Dave Johnson are out to set the temperature for their clients and for their company!


Dave took a few minutes out to answer the five Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Questions. You will not be surprised to hear that Dave believes that establishing a sound financial structure and a solid foundation is the only way to grow a company!


1.) Fill a Need

Dave was consulting at the time that he first got involved with MistAmerica. CEO Jonathan Marsh had been successfully leading his company by creating innovative projects and building a significant client base. He brought in Dave to take a look at his financial structure and internal operations because he knew he had a weakness in managing these areas of his company. He was quick to recognize that Dave had the expertise that he needed to balance out the management of his company. Dave was moving in a different direction at the time but he was unsure if it was in the right direction. He saw that his strengths did indeed fill a need for MistAmerica. Filling a need can sometimes be the thing needed to help us make a decision to move in a different direction. Helping someone who needs your skills is sometimes the surest way to get yourself off the shelf.

2.) Change Your Mind

Dave had made an investment in a fast food franchise. It was not going the way he had hoped it would and he was not satisfied with the outcome. Contrary to popular belief, part of success is investing time and money in ventures that do not go as originally planned or that actually fail. We all try to make the best decisions we possibly can. We consider opportunities. We do the research. We ask for counsel. We analyze the market. Some of us ask God for guidance. We get the best answers we can and then we jump in. Sometimes, in spite of our best decision making skills, intentions, hard work and a significant investment; things just do not work out as designed. The only logical thing to do in such cases is to pull back and consider your choice with the new information you have acquired. Dave had this type of experience and had believed he saw a good opportunity. However, it was not the opportunity he ultimately wanted so he chose to pull the plug and move on. A smart savvy businessperson knows that they are entitled to change their mind at any time.

3.) Structure is Your Friend

Dave is a CPA. Everything he does relates back to the balance sheet. Every action or non-action in business is connected to a number. He understands this concept and lives by it. Creating a strong balance sheet was the first thing he knew he had to do in order to take MistAmerica to the next level. Sometimes we have to slow down to be able to speed up safely. Dave took three years to make sure that MistAmerica had a solid foundation in which to accelerate sustainable growth.

4.) Be Humble and Strategically Plan

MistAmerica is growing internationally. This is a good problem to have, however, it literally presents an unfamiliar territory. Dave knows that he has to look at all the details carefully and consider the new challenges prudently so that MistAmerica can sustainably grow. It is important to be humble about growth so that you can be responsive to unknown landmines as soon as possible. Being overly confident that everything will go your way is not wise. Dave has had opportunities to fail in his career and has learned from each of them. Every time we fail, we grow more humble and at the same time oddly more confident. We can identify landmines sooner and we know that we have to remain vigilant to avoid them. This is the blessing of failure and why it is such an essential part of success.

5.) Do What You Fear

Dave references a few sayings that I have always loved. “FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real” and “Fear answered the Door. Faith Answered. No one was there.” He knows from experience that the only way to overcome our fears is by doing what we fear. When we do what we fear it takes all the power out of fear. He also knows that being fearless is an attitude that we choose every day. We choose to go forward in spite of our fears. We do not let fear keep us from our best. In Dave’s 2020 vision statement that I referenced earlier he states, “half- assed efforts produce half- assed results.” Don’t you just love how he says it like it really is? I do! Dave knows that we have to not only do the things we fear but do them with 120% enthusiasm! When we “Go For It” with this kind of commitment we can “make the impossible, possible”!

Thank you so much ­­­­­Dave for taking the time out to be one of the Fearless 13!

Note from the Artist:

 In the MistAmerica 2020 Vision Statement there is an illustration of four puzzle pieces fitting together that symbolize: Deliver What we Promise; Quality Over Quantity; Do What is Right When It’s Right; and Expectations are Meant to be Exceeded. I thought it was important to include the puzzle concept in the illustration. The pieces bleed into one another. There are three key areas of business for MistAmerica: Mist, Shade and Heat. The top panels are cool colors to show that the temperature goal is cool for Mist and Shade. The bottom two puzzle pieces are warm colors to show heat and the passion for the company’s vision. Each area has a thermometer that is the same temp. The numbers represent the three goals I chose to focus on in this illustration (a 20,000 sq. foot manufacturing, training and R&D facility; 100 franchise partners around the globe; and maintaining a 100% privately owned and self-financed status) and 2020 is the year the corporate vision comes to fruition. A heart represents shade because there is so much heart in the vision statement especially as it relates to serving employees, customers, clients and the world. Inside the shade of the heart are one hundred symbols representing 100 franchise partners. The light bulb for me is the un

Work was shown from December 18, 2015 – January 04, 2016  at {9} The Gallery

Thank you to our 2015 Partners:  Peg Quinn | The Arizona Consortium of the Arts | Photos by Elena & Jim | Bradford JonesBradford Jones Photography Jackie Wszalek, Splash Print & MarketingDennis Frazier, Cater Phoenix | Tony Medlock, PJ’s Florists

#Fearless #AoFDB #Entrepreneurship #VisualJournalism #Art #OneThing #Artizona #SocialPracticeArt


Entrepreneurs and inspiring stories of all kinds are Fearlessly Deliver’s muse and focus. As an artist, a business woman and a visual journalist Michelle Micalizzi paints with a purpose. The Fearless Art Projects are collaborative social practice art engagements that connect art + business + community.

THE ART OF FEARLESSLY DONG BUSINESS is an unprecedented and unique project celebrates the fearless entrepreneurial spirit by highlighting thirteen unique and fearless business leaders.

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