Whatever David Mullins has accomplished, and whatever new career he has found himself in, the current director of build-out and construction at Crumbl Cookies says it’s all the result of the same decision—each and every time.
“It’s always been about taking a risk and making a change,” he says, sounding as excited and invested after 20 years as any new graduate would starting their first job. “Early on it was about taking those risks myself. Then it was my wife encouraging me. The best lesson I’ve probably learned is to listen to my wife.”
Mullins, a civil engineering major, thought he’d be building roads and other critical infrastructure. Now, he’s a general contractor and real estate agent; he’s owned his own business that designed the master plan for a gated community; and he’s traveled the country as a trainer, facilitator, and learning development specialist.
Today, he’s helping take Crumbl Cookies international.
The director talks like a man who’s used to motivating people. He’s engaged, he’s curious, and he’s invested in expanding the Crumbl experience, one whose 880 locations are staggering considering the company was founded in 2017.
Mullins’s energy, he says, was a perfect match for a company that is truly unlike anywhere he’s ever worked.
“I always thought that I worked in fast-paced industries,” Mullins says. “Every interview you’re in, you’re asked if you can manage working at a fast pace and you kind of want to roll your eyes. But if you look up the definition of ‘fast-paced,’ you should see the Crumbl Cookies logo right there on the page. And I love it.”
Mullins says everything is fast; the founders built it into the company’s DNA. That pace requires an ability to pivot on a dime when new changes arise, one that can throw even the most seasoned builders if they’re not familiar with Crumbl’s approach. When Mullins joined just 18 months ago, Crumbl had built 325 stores. Now it’s approaching 900.
That hypergrowth is now looking outside the US, and Mullins is tasked with finding the right partners to ensure that Crumbl’s expansion accounts for the new cultures and climates in which they’re operating.
Mountains & Miniatures
For a man who has sought out new career after new career, it’s no surprise that David Mullins practices some novel activities in his free time as well. He took up rappelling—the descent of steep slopes—a few years ago, and it has yet to let the executive down (metaphorically, of course).
“It might be 20 feet or it might be 130 feet, but there’s just nothing like rappelling a rock face,” Mullins explains. “You put your trust in science, in gravity, and you have a blast.”
If he’s not hooked in a harness, Mullins can likely be found painting miniatures, a skill that requires patience, diligence, and an artist’s eye.
In all things, it seems, Mullins is a true Renaissance man.
The director says that the company’s Canadian builds immediately required a pivot. It wasn’t for lack of planning but more of a realization that Crumbl’s model would require some real-time tweaking to better serve its new customers.
“It’s so important to find partners that can help you be sensitive to new cultures and communities,” Mullins explains. “We’ve been extremely lucky in finding the right people to help us grow while also appreciating that we need to evolve and adapt to these new locations.”
Those tweaks have included potentially redesigning traditional Crumbl store layouts to match international retail space availability; for other cultures, making adjustments to better match taste profiles. These questions are what keep Mullins on calls from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. as Crumbl is set to expand into new countries around the world.
With this consideration in mind, Crumbl’s expansion is blossoming. And for those hoping to expand internationally like Mullins, the builder has some advice.
“Document, document, document,” the executive says. “Take your laptop everywhere. Your memory might be good, but are you getting those critical details that can make or break you later on?”
There’s also the 1-10-100 rule that Mullins says a colleague walked him through early in his journey. The short version of that rule is investments made early to rectify a problem are literally exponentially smaller than those needed to be made down the line. That’s why Mullins doesn’t come down hard on his people if a mistake is made. As long as it’s caught as early as possible and as long as solutions are offered up, Mullins knows it’s part of any builder’s journey.
Lastly, don’t be afraid of change. Just look at Mullins’s résumé.
“If you would have told me 20 years ago what I’d be doing now, I would have thought you were out of your mind,” Mullins says, laughing. “But we’re all living longer now and have the opportunity to have multiple chapters in our careers. Find your passion and follow it.”
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