Jabez LeBret | Lessons Learned From a Tough Childhood and the Value of Nurturing Business Relationships

Jabez LeBret 11:27

business? So my mentor in high school art Dolan, for the first year, all we talked about when we talked about entrepreneurship was communication and understanding humans. So he had me read articles on like, body, you know, how to read somebody’s body language on different ways to interact and communicate now, Maslow’s hierarchy down to, you know, understanding different personality types. And so he really, and I was like, whenever we’re gonna start talking about business, and he’s like, you don’t get it like this. This is because your business is understanding people and understanding how to communicate. And I was like, Oh, you’re like,

John Corcoran 12:03

The Karate Kid here.

Jabez LeBret 12:06

Get it ever sent. I’m like, why am I wanted to I want to do business. Why are we not doing business? He’s like, young son, you don’t misunderstand. So yeah, that kind of set me on a trajectory of thinking about communication and understanding people in a nuanced way. But I was too young. And I didn’t really know what I was doing. And so it’s like, you know, when a young kid learns a new skill, they kind of just flop around with it. No, but I kept kind of pushing at it. And I got a job after high school. And I kind of like got worked my way up the job a little bit. And then I got recruited by another company. And then I worked up there. And then I got recruited by 18. T. And I started working there. And then I met a guy named Patrick and he was getting his master’s at Gonzaga University in Spokane. And Patrick pulled me aside one day said, Jabez, like, when are you gonna go to college? And I was like, I have to college college isn’t for me, like, come on. Like, is I didn’t even graduate from high school, like, this is ridiculous. And he’s like, No, I really think you should go. When I reflect back on kind of that moment, we’re just coworkers, right? The relationships that you build throughout the journey, it’s not always about the relationships that you’re gonna have forever. And it’s not always about the relationship, being the biggest relationships are the most key, monumental like person that you’re like, Man, if I can only get to know this person, everything will fall into place. That rarely happens, by the way. But but sometimes it’s just those little relationships, that can have a pretty big impact on just your overall trajectory and opportunity. And so I kind of took what he said, the heart, and I was like, well, maybe I should try. And so, you know, I tried to get into Gonzaga, and they said, No, first and then I went back and convinced them to let me in and got my GED. And, you know, eventually went back and started college. You know, and I think that that’s interesting. That’s such a quick Pivotal, and then I didn’t work at 18 T anymore. And then Patrick graduated, and went on to his life. And I’ve never talked to him since like, the I haven’t talked to him 20 plus years, you know, but he had a huge impact. And then after college, obviously, you know, I kind of started to hone in and learn the skills. And I had a mentor in Seattle, that was really monumental in helping me understand how to build a network, and then take it that kind of next level.

John Corcoran 14:22

Yeah, yeah, you have so many, such a variety of background and experiences. So one of the stops along the way. You were doing a lot of legal marketing, working with law firms, and I’m kind of fascinated by people that are able to infiltrate worlds where, you know, there’s a high degree of trust, and where they’re clearly an outsider. So I’m a recovering lawyer. So I can say this, but lawyers tend to like want to hire other lawyers to do their marketing. It’s the stupidest thing ever. But you know, it’s true, right? They want to hire other lawyers to do their marketing. So how did you end up building a marketing firm focused on law firm Thumbs up, given we’ve we’ve talked about your academic background isn’t exactly going straight through Harvard Law.

Jabez LeBret 15:08

So they it’s funny I remember very clearly I was at an event, a law firm, illegal event, a bunch of lawyers, and somebody said, Oh, you’re a non lawyer. And I was like, not a lawyer. No, you’re the lawyer like, I am not the not. It’s like calling me a nonsmoker. No, I’m not a nonsmoker. You’re the smoker, you are the lawyer. I am not a non lawyer. I was like, so offended I seen if I had my book back there, I was so offended.

John Corcoran 15:33

It’s like people draw that distinction, like in seconds. They sniff it out.

Jabez LeBret 15:38

It’s unbelievable. And I was like, okay, yes, fine. I’m a non lawyer, big problem in the legal industry, if you’re trying to break in into that industry as a non lawyer, to get any sort of trust at all. So the very first thing that I did, that that began the journey of trust, is that I wrote a book. So my business partner, Mark Homer and I were at a conference. And we were just kind of trying to figure out like, how we got to find a better way to like, connect with these lawyers and to get them to trust us. So we wrote like a 250 page book on how to market your law firm. And it was awesome. I mean, it was a really, really good, we gave away all of the secrets, like we didn’t keep anything back. And we just said, here’s everything that you need to do from start to finish, to do it, right. Knowing that a lawyer is not going to want to spend their own time, which is billable hours, writing a blog post, necessarily, or tweaking their SEO or trying to figure out the best next design thing for this, like, they’re just not going to want to do that. So they’ll enough of them would hire us. And that was our first step. And it worked really well, I started getting us speaking engagements and getting us kind of in front of, of lawyers. And then I figured out that lawyers have their continuing legal education credits that are mandatory. And there’s two areas that non lawyers can create CLE courses. One of them is in ethics, and one of them is in technology. And so I created a technology CLE and then I created a bunch of ethics of marketing CLAS, the ethics of marketing. And then next thing I knew, Fast forward several years later, you know, I’m, I was considered a leading expert in legal ethics and 36 states, you know, in the US and had dozens and dozens of CLS vendor that I had created under my belt that you know, we’re helping kind of guide and lead law firms and states all over the country on the legal parameters and how to put their law firm online.

John Corcoran 17:36

Yeah, that’s such a great lesson because law degree and no law degree then you establish your bonafide you establish your credibility, you could point to all that and say, this, these says, my credibility in this field. Yeah,

Jabez LeBret 17:48

I mean, they say like, oh, well, you’re not a lawyer. And I’d say, Well, yeah, but you just read my article in the American Bar Association, so rarely other lawyers Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. So. Right, right.

John Corcoran 17:59

So you ended up selling that agency and what inspired to go start a tuition free boarding school for girls

Jabez LeBret 18:10

are too much bourbon on vacation. That’s actually kind of

John Corcoran 18:15

my thought you were drinking gin drinker, that’s what I read by I am, I love gin. That’s the problem, it should just stop too. I

Jabez LeBret 18:21

should have stuck to it. So what my wife and I were on vacation up in Northern California. And we were just sitting around and literally having some bourbon just enjoying ourselves and my just like a flash in my brain. I had this idea. And I was like, Holy crap, I think I can build a high school that will pay for itself that we could use to leverage to help underserved youth or youth youth like me, like kids that were like me. And my wife is brilliant in she also understands really well, that I’m an idea machine. And she’s kind of more than the ops side of the fence. And so she was like, great idea. go think about it. And if in three to six months, you still are thinking about it, we can talk about it, like go do some research and see what you can figure out. So I went away, and I did a bunch of research and they came back and hey, I think we got a good idea here. You should, should help me figure this out. So she’s like, okay, so she started doing some research as well. And next thing we knew, I was like, Oh, my gosh, once you know something you can’t unknown, right? So like, once you figured something out, you cannot know the knowledge you have. And we had a really, really innovative idea for a school that would have a really big impact on kids lives in. You know, I think that when you start to get into that sort of territory, man doing marketing for law firms, that was awesome, and I’m so grateful for that business in for my business partner and all of our staff and everything but how do you not go do that thing?

John Corcoran 19:56

Yeah, like I feel like this before. This is before you sold it.

Jabez LeBret 20:00

Yeah, this was before I sold it. And so I had to go

John Corcoran 20:03

driving you’re driving you towards, like, I want to do this next thing,

Jabez LeBret 20:07

oh man. So I got to see Ali’s. I was traveling all over the country, right going to deliver CLAS and to, you know, work with bar associations, and meet with clients. And so while I was doing that traveling, you know, you get downtime when you’re traveling for work. So I’d set appointments with education leaders in K 12. And so I started meeting for for a couple of years, I got a chance to, like meet with, you know, this person and this educator, because, you know, I’m not an educator, right? I don’t come from K 12. In the sense that I’ve never been a teacher or administrator. So I had a lot of questions. And so I got to spend time just kind of asking questions and running my idea by people and, and then, you know, my wife and I kind of tweaked the idea. And then we had something that we really had a solid plan and kept sharing it with more and more people. And a bunch of people said, That sounds awesome. Like that. Will that would 100% work for the kids. But I don’t think you could get it off the ground. That was almost 90% of people’s response. Draw a little bit. Worst thing you can tell me is yeah,

John Corcoran 21:10

I’ll show you.

Jabez LeBret 21:11

That’s an amazing idea. And it’ll never be able to happen. And I’m like, oh, yeah, yeah, yes, give me a minute.

John Corcoran 21:18

So, unfortunately, it didn’t work out. You ran into trouble before the pandemic. But let’s talk about what what happened.

Jabez LeBret 21:26

It didn’t it didn’t. So we did launch. So we were able to launch and we were we were at school for two years, which is pretty amazing. And then we actually ended up opening the borings program. And we had students lived with us 24/7. You know, we picked all girls to start with, because we needed to just focus, and had all these plans for expansion. You know, we just found another school, we’re merging with the next, the next school year was going to be 65 students. The very next school, we raised over a million dollars in about 18 months to launch the program, it was there was a relationship Crash Course right there, and then the market. And March rolls around 2020. And all of a sudden, like you’re running a boarding school, and that’s a brand new innovative boarding school. And, you know, the pandemic starts and the funding dries up, because nobody’s funding innovative programs that are just getting off the ground. And, you know, we can’t keep the students for safety reasons. We, nobody knew when the pandemic started, what the heck was going on. And, you know, so we had to send all the students home and get them set up at home. So they could do online school. And they all came from really poor, you know, households. And so we had to get on food. And we had to get an internet, like not all the household houses have internet, we had to like getting some laptops. And then we realized, there’s other siblings that don’t have laptops. And so they’re fighting over laptops. So we had to get everybody in the house, a laptop and like, it became this ginormous lift to, like, undo it. What was was almost as big Not really, but it felt like it was as big as getting it off the ground. And then once we got all the students stable, we took a breath, and we’re like, Okay, what do we do? Like, what, what’s next? Like? How do we how do we get good? When would this get open? Again? Like what would what would that possibly look like? And we talked to our donors. And you know, our biggest donors were pretty awesome. And they were like, you know, it’s amazing what you did. And we’re really glad that you did it. But we just don’t think it’s going to happen right now. And so we kind of went back to the drawing board and said, well, we can’t wait. Like, I mean, we have like a two year old like, yeah, we can’t just we can’t just put our entire life on pause for a complete unknown that we have no control over. And so we ended up, you know, kind of really winding it down from there.

John Corcoran 23:52

Yeah. It must been hard during the pandemic, wanting it downs. Sending kids home, it must have been just incredible setback.

Jabez LeBret 24:00

Yeah, I mean, yes, hard for hard for us for sure. But the kid that you know, you’re sending home, and mom’s drunk at 10am, every day. That that, that is hard for them much, much, much harder for them. And to have known that you had somewhere that they were safe and happy and growing. heartbreaking, and I don’t know, a way to really explain what that felt like to have to do that. You kind of have to remember, you were trying to your best and you can’t control everything in life, and it’s going to happen. And about now four months ago now. We got a call from a school we had got one of our girls and we’d gotten you know, the child protective services involved a really bad situation. We got her into another program that was actually a boarding school for foster youth. I’m in California. And so we were able to get her into the program. And we got a call from them four months ago, that she needed to have our transcript updated because she’s applying for college, which is crazy. Like they were dropouts when they got to us. And you just you’re just like, Yeah, okay, that that is why that’s why we did it. Yes, we were only one part of that, that humans journey, but God like, Thank God, like we finally, yes, it something happened. Great. And I know that there’s more impact than we know. And I think that’s something that we often forget, is that you don’t always get the call. That gives you the really big win, that you see and feel, but that there’s big wins that happen, and you just never hear about them. And so that’s why you kind of have to always be striving to make an impact and connect with people because you just never know.

John Corcoran 25:52

Yeah. Now, like many entrepreneurs, your next venture was one that in many ways didn’t have the same constraints as your previous venture. So Lotus Launch, let’s talk about that. It’s an online content library, helping entrepreneurs manage their journey to a million dollars in revenue, don’t have to deal with a physical location, or any of those sorts of things.

Jabez LeBret 26:18

Don’t have to deal with nonprofit stuff. Right? Right. So

John Corcoran 26:21

much easier. So talk about that.

Jabez LeBret 26:23

Yeah, we took our entrepreneurship as the foundation of our high school. So all of our education included in an entrepreneurial angle, because we believe entrepreneurship is the single most valuable skill set. Even if you don’t become an entrepreneur, like even if you go to work at a company being having that skill set of entrepreneurship is really valuable to you know, especially now pivoting right pivoting, and being able to be a problem solver, and be resourceful, and grit and determination, all that stuff. So we said we have all this curriculum that we had built for high school to teach entrepreneurship. And we’re like, man, we still want to teach, we still want to make an impact. And I was like, why don’t we take this? We’ve built companies and sold companies, let’s take this retool it, make it more aligned with where you would be if you were actually in business and running it. And let’s get this thing online. And let’s just start helping entrepreneurs understand the nuts and bolts of the building of the business. Right? So we’re not coaches, we’re not there to like consult you, we’re there to Hey, say, Hey, do you need to understand cash flow management? Do you need to? Are you hiring your first employee? Are you firing your first employee? Are you just trying to make more sales and get your website to be better, like wherever you’re at, we’re building courses for every single little thing that you might need to do. So you can go on and say, Hey, I think I want to spin up a LinkedIn campaign, go to LinkedIn courses, and they teach you all about LinkedIn and how to like use it to grow your business. And it’s really a way for us to kind of help continue to give back to the community and the entrepreneurship, community, EO particularly. They’re huge instrumental in our projects, in getting CeCe Academy off the ground, they were huge and winding down, and not you know, wanting to go jump out of a window, they were huge for the support to get that getting computers and laptops for families like it was eager to stepped up. fellow entrepreneurs that came in, you know that to help with that. And so any way that we can give back to that community in any capacity, I’m all in.

John Corcoran 28:24

So through Lotus Launch, and through others that you talk to in the world of entrepreneurship or coming up young kids, let’s go back to relationship building. You’ve been through a lot in the last few years, these types of trying times tend to test our relationships, and they tell us which are most important to us. What are the lessons that you share? Now for others out there, especially young kids coming up about the importance of relationships now post pandemic? Yeah, man,

Jabez LeBret 28:55

I had this mentor in Seattle, that’s new in real estate broker ridiculously successful. 20 years ago, when I was living in Seattle, he taught me this concept called contribution networking, which is the concept of contributing to the other person with no intent of getting anything out of the relationship. So I’m not I’m not what’s in it for me, I’m not how can you help me? Who can you connect me with I’m here to simply say, who are you? What are you doing? Where are you at now? Are you stuck or need on anything that I can help with? And I may or may not be able to help? But that’s my intention. And that’s what I’m there to be to work with. And I think that that concept, while it was incredibly impactful for me through all of my professional life, now more than ever, it is is proven to be the most. I would say the only way to really start to build strong relationships and build a strong network today. Is coming at it with that heart of I’m not here for what’s in it for me. I’m here for the other person. In oftentimes you walk away without having gotten or even sharing really a lot of what it is that you’re doing or what you need. And that’s okay. That’s not the point, what ends up happening is that that person begins to trust you, they begin to feel more comfortable connected to you, they begin to really let their guard down and want to become more interested, invested in the relationship itself. And there’s nothing stronger than being able to have that with another individual. And whether they ever help you or not, isn’t the point. You just all you ever do is work to contribute. Oh, doors just open up, left and right. When that’s that’s your approach. And it’s kind of a I don’t mean to get woowoo errs in there. But you know, it works better now than it ever did.

John Corcoran 30:45

Yeah. Yeah. Great advice. My last question, I’m a big fan of gratitude, especially expressing gratitude publicly to peers and contemporaries. Those who’ve helped you along the way. You’ve mentioned names of a number here. But who would you call out? Who would you want to thank publicly for helping you along the way?

Jabez LeBret 31:03

So I, you know, obviously, my wife and I, Becky have worked together on multiple projects, and build school and built our businesses together. And that’s awesome. And I give her praise constantly everywhere. So I’m going to I’m going to, as I love her, and absolutely, the one person I would like to call out of I don’t get a chance to very often is definitely my business partner from the legal marketing agency, Mark Homer. Incredible guy worth connecting with, if you’re listening to this show, go look up Mark Homer, from GNGF. He, he taught me so much about the act of running a business over the 10 years that we worked together and our business were business partner for 10 years. And I would watch him just master operations in a way that I had no idea what I was doing. And it is so important that I was like, Oh my gosh, I see now why this is matters. And it’s like it just in he’s such a kind soul and just really is a stand up human. And he was you know, when we came to him and said, Hey, we gotta go do the school thing. I need you to buy me out. He didn’t even hesitate. He’s like, I get it. You know, like, it’s this has been awesome. But I understand why go in. That’s the kind of person that I call them Bangladesh, friends, those ones where you could be in Bangladesh, pick up the phone, call them and say I needed to get here. And they’d get on a plane and come and say okay, why am I here like, he’s one of those which is, which is always nice to have those in your life.

John Corcoran 32:30

Jabez thank you so much for sharing your story. Today. Where can people go to learn more about you and what you’re focused on?

Jabez LeBret 32:38

Yeah, of course, socials are great. I’m on LinkedIn, on Twitter on all those places, obviously, lotuslaunch.com if you want to see our business stuff that we’re up to, but certainly I’m on LinkedIn or Twitter is a great place to connect or you can email me [email protected]

John Corcoran 32:52

Awesome. Jabez, thanks so much. 

Jabez LeBret 32:54

Thank you so much.

Outro 32:56

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at smartbusinessrevolution.com. And while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.