The C-Suite Insider: Intuit CEO on Leadership, Except at Home

Intuit CEO Brad Smith wakes up at 4:30 a.m.; likes P90X and poetry.

BySusanna Kim and Michael Rothman
November 05, 2014, 5:24 AM
PHOTO: Intuit CEO Brad Smith, pictured at the first annual Quickbooks Connect conference hosted by Intuit in San Jose, California, writes poetry and plays the saxophone.

Intuit CEO Brad Smith, pictured at the first annual Quickbooks Connect conference hosted by Intuit in San Jose, California, writes poetry and plays the saxophone. 

Intuit

— -- Brad Smith, P90X fan and CEO of software company Intuit, said there were two moments when he knew he was a leader.

"First, it hit me coming up through karate," said Smith, who has a black belt. "When you hit a brown belt, you become a student-teacher. At that moment, it shifted my mind. It became about teaching others and the capabilities in others. I was as responsible for their progression as I was my own. That really let me know I love management and leadership."

His mother and father were behind the other instance, back when he was 3 years old.

"I used to walk around with a stick," said Smith, whose company owns Mint.com, TurboTax and other personal finance and business products. "My dad used to call me Moses. It's on a home video. He said, 'That kid would rather lead no one than follow anyone.' I had dogs following me in the neighborhood. I had neighborhood kids coming over."

As part of ABC News' "C-Suite Insider" series, Smith talked about about hobbies that occupy him when he's not leading 8,500 employees and the eighth-best company to work for, according to Fortune.

What's your favorite app?

"An app now called Refresh. It can go into your Outlook calendar or your Gmail calendar and then it will see who you have an appointment with; then it will go out on their social sphere and pull in everything in there, including their birthday, the latest blog they posted, any article they've written -- anybody that's referenced them. So, when you sit down with them, you can immediately reference things."

An active user of social media himself, Smith tweeted an image of his new mustache for Movember, to raise awareness for cancer.

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Here's some quick questions we asked the CEO.

How many hours do you sleep?

"You go through periods, where it's just intense and you are working on very little sleep and doing whatever it takes to achieve the mission. And there are other times, where you find the balance in life. On a typical day, I've always been a morning person, so I get up early."

Typically, that's 4:30 or 4:45 a.m.

"I work out every morning, I do P90X and I watch [CNBC's] 'Opening Bell.' Then I read a couple of papers, Wall Street Journal and others. I get into the office about 7 a.m., then I usually get out of the office a little after 7 p.m. I get home, I have dinner, then I spend a couple hours with my girls. I'm in bed about 9 p.m. That's the program!"

When did you start karate?

"It started back in the ninth grade. I had one of those years, where I encountered a bully and I didn't do so well. I was embarrassed and I went home to tell my mom and dad that I had really lost in this fight. My dad gave me the classic statement 'I'm proud of you because you stood up against what you're afraid of, because that's the definition of courage.' But then, he said, 'Look, even though you are a football player and an athlete, maybe what you want to do is develop the ability and inner confidence to take care of yourself.'

He received a black belt when he was 18 years old, but he didn't stop there.

"I ended up getting a second degree black belt and I taught. I had a couple of schools we owned in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. I taught karate and I stopped training in a dojo, about the age of 28 or 29. Now, I practice on my own. The more you get into it, you realize it's less about [fighting] and more about avoiding the situation."

Favorite snacks and drinks?

"I am a dichotomy of tastes. I'm big on water and I do a protein drink in the morning, but then I eat off the kids menu after that. So, there's only like six foods I like. I like quesadillas. I like hamburgers. I like sushi. I like pizza, PB&J, or breakfast any time of the day. My wife teases, because she loves to cook unbelievably great dinners for my daughters, then there's this little menu for me and it takes like five minutes. It's literally off the kids' menu. Crunch Berries works too."

When you're at home, who crunches the numbers -- you or your wife?

"I do. She runs the whole house, but I'm the CFO. She's the CEO; I'm the CFO at home."

You play music and write poetry?

"Yeah, guitar and sax and I write poetry, which says I try to act like I write songs, but not very well. I wrote one for my wife before we got married called the Eagle and the Dove. They ended up putting it on the front of our wedding invitation, which I had no idea. I wrote one for each of my daughters the night they were born. My first one was 'The View from Down There' for my first daughter because I was on the plane five days a week and I hoped she would never lose the innocence of down there, because I was sacrificing so much and I hoped she looked up to me and said, 'He's trying hard.' For my second daughter, it's called, 'The Second Can Be First.' I didn't know I'd ever be able to love my second child like I love my first, she came out and i was amazed I could love them both equally."

What do you play?

"I play rhythm and lead. When I was playing in the 1980s, it was Billy Ray Cyrus and mullets and I had my earring in my ear. [My band] played a lot of Eagles and we played a lot of Bryan Adams. We played pretty much any classic that was on the radio at the time. It was the Michael Taylor band, named after my first cousin."

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