Season 1, Episode 4
How Self Expectations And Boundaries Keep A Business Growing
Join Jenna Zebrowski and Lyle Leads as they discuss Jenna’s story and how she placed boundaries and self expectations in her life to grow a successful business.
In this episode we will cover:
– How being in business gives you options when you are laid off?
– What do you do if you want security and safety, but still want to be an entrepreneur?
– How do you develop an elevator pitch?
– How is networking like a series of conversations?
– How does having a solid fee structure help you reach more clients and balance your work and life?
– How a structured calendar helps your keep the life and business in focus (even with kids)
– How setting clear expectations helps smooth out the entrepreneurial life
Lyle Leads: Hello, this is Lyle with the Optimize Profitability podcast, we’re with Jenna Zebrowski, how’s that for a fun name? She’s a real estate lawyer. She works with helping people with those fun documents like leases, and business setups, and entities.
According to her, she likes to ‘keep your fanny out of the fire,’ so she makes sure the documents are what they’re supposed to be. She’s been an entrepreneur for one and a half years, and as of one month ago today, at time of recording, she’s a mom. How cool is that? So we look forward to hearing your story. What was the mindset it took from you to get from the nine to five to being your own boss?
Jenna Zebrowski: Well, it’s been quite a journey. I’ve been in corporate for over a decade. And then I had two layoffs in two years. It was really disheartening. What am I going to do with my life? All of this. And, then, I finally did what I said I was going to do. I’m going to start my own practice. And it was the scariest thing I’ve ever said to myself and the scariest thing I’ve ever done.
I took a contract job for about six months and worked really hard to get all of my documents in place, my practice, networking, everything that you need to have to start a law practice. And then as of January 2019, I stopped looking for corporate jobs and doing all of that, and set out on my own practice. And it was absolutely terrifying. And here I am a year and a half later, I have that practice and I’m not going to go back to corporate.
Lyle Leads: Great. What do you mean it’s terrifying? Explain that to us.
Jenna Zebrowski: I am an attorney. I am risk averse. I do not come from an entrepreneurial background. So it’s not, “Oh, this is fun.” I’ve always wanted to start my own business. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. I want security, and safety, and predictability, and I had that for a decade and that was really hard to give up. I enjoyed having that knowing I was getting a paycheck.
But at the same time, I’m strapped down to this desk and I need to know what’s happening, and I’m still trying to balance everything. And it wasn’t working anymore. I got some really good experience from the corporate side that I could bring into my practice. But after a decade, it was time to put my money where my mouth was and really go forth and do it. So just that uncertainty, I want to know, OK, if I follow the formula and do all these things exactly right, then I’ll be good.
And these are the steps in the process, and the timeline, and you can’t get that as an entrepreneur. I want it. I asked everybody, how do I guarantee, or how do I get this? And everyone said, you just have to trust, and have faith, and do it. And that’s really scary, and terrifying, and horrifying, and oh, my gosh, I can’t do it. I didn’t have a backup plan, so I went ahead and did it and, oh, my gosh, the crowd sourcing was right.
Everyone said, you get through the grind, you do it. That first year was tough in a lot of ways. But I’m here. I’m going forth, and I’m going to keep going so I can do it. Anybody can do it. Whether you’re ready, whether you want to, you can. You just have to hang on by your fingernails and get it done.
Lyle Leads: Did you read any books or go to conferences? How did you develop that mindset to go into entrepreneurship?
Jenna Zebrowski: Well, it was making up my mind to do so. So I said I’m not going to have a backup plan. I’m not going to try this for six months and get out of it. I have to succeed. I don’t have a backup plan, which is very unusual for me. So I’m throwing myself into this wholeheartedly. And I did do a lot of networking. I got on LinkedIn and Meetup. I talked to everybody. It didn’t matter what it was.
It didn’t matter if it was real estate, or legal related, or they were my audience. I need to go out there and practice. I didn’t have my elevator speech down. I didn’t know how to introduce myself. Who the heck wants to work with a real estate attorney when you’re hanging out with a bunch of, you know, small business owners, what the heck? Right? So I figured nothing to lose, everything to gain. So I probably went back, when we could do that, I was probably at three or four networking events per day.
I was not dealing with clients or doing anything, but for about three months, that’s all I did. I have breakfast, lunch, dinner, one or two meetings. And it was practicing my elevator pitch in real time with a real audience and getting feedback, meeting people. You go to a room of 30 people. Who’s that one person that might be someone that can get me to the next level, practicing one on ones, getting my pitch.
What do people care about? What I think they care about is not necessarily what they really want. So that first three months, I did not land a lot of clients, I did not have a lot of business. And I was tired because I was driving to a lot of meetings, but after those first three months, things started falling in place and going the right direction. It was a good move on my part, but there was no plan. The plan was to go out there, and figure it out, and I did.
Lyle Leads:That’s great. And see, that’s one of the things I love about you. You’re a lawyer, but you have personality, and personality is key in your business. I love that.
Let’s unpack the one liner, the elevator pitch, whatever you want to call it. When somebody is a new entrepreneur and they’re like, I have no idea what she means: elevator pitch? Tell us how you developed your elevator pitch. How did that develop in your head? Did you write it down? Did you write one hundred copies of it? Did you just start spouting it out? Tell us what that looks like to you.
Jenna Zebrowski: Well, for those of us that don’t know yet, the elevator pitch is you’re trapped in an elevator with your absolute primo candidate. You got 30 seconds to get them to be interested and get your card. And how do we go to the next steps? And as an attorney, you know, you can find a lot of us and we do all different things. And everyone thinks that I go to court, or deal with criminals, or have a high powered something, or other.
I sit behind a desk with a lot of paper and it makes me very happy. Don’t get me wrong, but it’s not what you’re expecting. So obviously I had to get my name out there and I worked really hard on my branding. I set up my website for my law firm as LawbyJZ.com. And I spent a lot of time trying to figure that out, and how to set myself up as opposed to the law Office of Jenna Zebrowski.
So the branding was there. And then the next step is to think about who you want to talk to. Everybody is not your audience, right? I was thinking, who can best service? And it’s been commercial real estate professionals, both commercial, and residential, and small business owners. That’s a lot different than everybody. So when I say those words, those people might only be one or two in a room, or someone who knows someone.
But those are the people I want to talk to. And then what do I provide for them? Safety and security. A lot of people sign documents they do not understand. They trust someone to tell them what it is. That person doesn’t have their interests at heart. And that may be what you understood or what you thought you signed. It is not the case and it will not hold up in court. So that’s identifying who you want to talk to, what you can do for them and doing it in 30 seconds or less.
So my elevator pitch is: Hi, I’m Jenna Zebrowski. I’m the attorney behind Lawbyjz.com. I work with real estate professionals and small business owners to lock down your legal rights in your contracts, leases and other legal documentation. Understand what you’re signing on the dotted line before, not after. Check me out at Lawbyjz.com.
That took a year and a half to get there. And I practiced it a hundred and five different ways. I would say it in the shower, or while I was driving, or anywhere else that I had a few minutes of downtime. And you meet a lot of people and I did it to every single person. It’s a lot more natural than, “I’m an attorney, and I do leases and contracts, and you should totally check me out.” So it doesn’t have to be something that you peel off every time you meet someone, but again, who are you, and make sure that they know your name. Make sure they know who you’re looking for, and what you can do for them.
Then I have my little tagline at the end: The key is that you understand what you’re getting into before, not after. So what is it that sets you apart from everybody else? That’s what I do. And that’s what everybody needs to figure out. If you’re just telling me how great your product is, I don’t care. So what do I do for you, and that’s the focus. That’s what I would tell entrepreneurs to look for. How can you help your specific audience?
Lyle Leads: I think the term is what’s their favorite radio stations WIIFM: what’s in it for me!
Jenna Zebrowski: Exactly. And once I started looking at that, it made a huge difference as opposed to I’m a lawyer, and here’s all these great things I do. It’s like I’m a lawyer. I want to help you. What can I help you with? And really making that effort to listen to and say, yes, I can do that or no, I can’t, but I have someone that can. And that was another really important thing for me, making those connections.
I have a lot of people asking me about insurance, banking, CPAs, marketing, none of which I handle. So I can say, no, I can’t help you, but I know someone who can. Only thing worse is saying, no, I can’t help you and stopping, that’s a really awful feeling to have. So I play with a bunch of people, and what comes around goes around. Some of the times those people come back to me and help out,like in a rising tide that lifts all boats.
Lyle Leads: Exactly. So it’s networking; it’s connecting with people and then knowing who they are enough to tell them, hey, there’s a person that can help you.
Jenna Zebrowski: One of the best things I ever heard, it’s not even necessarily networking, or contacts, or anything I’ve heard, it’s a series of conversations to get to. And I really thought that was great. I like to talk. I can have a series of conversations.
So who are you? What do you do? What do you need? How can I help you? And let me do that, and sometimes there’s some people that you can’t help, you’re not there for everybody. I’m certainly not. But when you find the right audience that you can help with, that you can do stuff with, then I have a series of conversations. I’m not selling a service or a product. I’m saying here’s what I can do. Are you interested? Let’s work together. And that has really helped me focus on my practice, and what I’m doing to be successful to help other people be successful.
Lyle Leads: That’s great. I love that. So what are you doing right now in your life that’s helping you grow your business and develop and stay sane as a mom sleeps?
Jenna Zebrowski: I wish I had more of that, but that mythical work life balance, having it all at once, I think we all realize that’s just not going to happen for everybody, but it’s being really selected, and focused on what I want. A part of the reason I started my practice is when we decided that we were going to start. A family is being able to be there for my family. My husband is also in the Army National Guard. So on occasion he’s gone for weeks at a time for Hurricane Harvey or covid-19, he’s gone.
So someone’s got to be at home to keep the house going and make sure that the dog gets fed and the kid as well. So that helps. So it was really important for me to have that. I got really clear, really fast on my fee structure. This is how much money I need to make per year backing into that. OK, take out 30 percent for taxes. These are my business expenses. So how much do I need to charge per item and create that certainty for my clients, either an hourly rate with a retainer or flat fee and making sure that I can do it for that flat fee.
So that was really important and I stick to my guns on that. Could you do it for a little bit less? Could I get a little bit more? This is what you get for that price. So really knowing that and people who respect that are good clients, people who don’t can go work with another attorney. So getting real clear, real fast on how I was going to make this work from a financial perspective is really important. And scheduling time management.
I carry around an old fashioned piece of paper and a pen everywhere I go, and I write it down, and before I go to bed every night, it doesn’t matter how tired I am, I get out my phone, and I put it in the calendar. Then I see I have that meeting. Oh, I have that Zoom. Oh, I have that doctor’s appointment. Oh, I have to make sure that I’m feeding my child and I don’t know what day it is.
I don’t know what I’m doing next, but it’s in the calendar and the alarm goes off and I don’t miss appointments, I don’t make clients wait. That’s really important to them and that’s important to me. So making sure that you’re not over scheduling, it’s OK to say, no, I can’t do tomorrow. What about Thursday being clear on that? If it’s that important, they’ll work with you. I’ve also said, hey, sure, I’ll give you a call at nine o’clock Saturday morning.
Sometimes you just have to work around people’s schedules, especially if they’re doing an eight to five with their own business. Sure, I can have a conversation at six. You might hear me getting the baby in the background or walking the dog, but this is what you get. I had a document we needed to get signed for a client. I drove up to their house about a twenty five minute drive, and we wore masks, and executed the documents out of the tailgate of my car at 6:30 on a Friday because it needed to be done. So that’s the important part.
Lyle Leads: There’s so many little tidbits you put there. You have a digital brain that keeps you on track, so you don’t have to remember everything. I love that. And you feed your child. You said that like four times. It’s so important.
Jenna Zebrowski: Pretty proud of myself on that one. That’s key because he’s on a schedule and he’s not going to let me forget it. So that means everything else has got to be on a schedule to write it down, make sure it’s in there, have a system that works for you and keep using it. Consistency is so key because if not, oh, I forgot I had this meeting. This didn’t get signed. This didn’t get paid for me. That could be a malpractice issue, maybe not necessarily for every entrepreneur, but if your clients or people who want to give you money and work with you, can’t trust you or can’t rely on you, that’s not the impression that you want to give them.
So you treat them the way you want to be treated, and that means respecting their time as well. If that means, hey, we’re going to do this right now, I’m bringing my baby in a carrier and we’re going to execute these out of the back of my car. But yeah, we’ll get it done and people get it.
People, especially other small business owners, are accommodating and they’ll come out in front of their house, and we’ll pull in their garage, and wear a mask, and sign things, and get it done. It’s what we do. Yeah, that’s great.
Lyle Leads: What would be a tip that somebody could do right now? If they’re a mom, they’re just a new entrepreneur. What’s some tips that you would give them to help them become a better winner as an entrepreneur?
Jenna Zebrowski: Systems is what I would say, you need to sit down and you need to get someone else to watch the baby or find some time, you need a two or three hour block. You need to sit down. You need your computer, your phone and a paper calendar. And I have actually sat down. I try to do it at least once a month on the first day of every month. And I sit down and I have all of the personal stuff and all of the professional stuff, and I get it in the calendar and the paper one goes on the refrigerator where my husband and I can see it.
And then I back it up with my professional one, which he doesn’t need to necessarily know that I have three clients on Thursday, but I do. So I can’t schedule anything before one o’clock. So making sure that all of those appointments are on there that month. And then obviously as things go on, you can add them. But before you say yes, let me look. Oh, it’s right here in my phone. I’ve got this going on.
I can’t do one o’clock. What about 2:30? And using technology is important. Maybe I can’t meet you in person. I’d like to, but we can set up a meeting, we assume via Skype, via a phone call, being creative in accommodating. You can only work after your workday at 6:30. Great. We’ll have a call at 6:30-7 and just be aware that you might see the dog in the background or something.
You know, I work out of a home office a lot, especially right now. So this is what you get. I work lean and mean just like everybody else. So no, this is where we’ll be. You’ll get it done. But it may not look like a fancy downtown law firm with high heels and marble floors.
Lyle Leads: And I love that you set expectations. That’s so crucial because somebody is expecting this marble floor in this big mahogany desk and everything. If they had that preconceived expectation, it can be hard for them to come in and say, well, who are you again? Where’s the real person I talked to, you know?
Jenna Zebrowski: Yeah, well, I mean, It’s important to be professional. Whatever you’re doing, you can be professional in a three piece suit or you could be professional in a t-shirt and shorts. I try to have the same persona no matter what, which is professional and competent. And I can solve your problems no matter what I look like. And I tell people, that’s part of my pitch. You know, I keep my billing rates, and everything where I do, I make a living.
Don’t get me wrong, I got a mortgage, too. But I work out of my back bedroom, and my computer’s a couple of years old, and I do a lot of stuff off of my phone and running around in my car, which is my part time office. You’re not going to necessarily have to come to any eight to five, and have a formal meeting, and do all of this. I do a lot of stuff online, a lot of things electronically, and I get how we’re all busy. I get it. So what can I do to accommodate that?
But at the same time, boundaries, like you said, are really important. I can meet with you, but I don’t take meetings after seven o’clock at night, it does not work with me. So we’ll either have to set another time or you’ll have to find somebody else. The more things I say no to, the more things I turn away, the better I find.
Because if you close the door to one opportunity, another door opens and that’s the client you want. Because if they’re being unreasonable or they have expectations that don’t match yours, they need to go find someone that can. It is not my job to bend over backwards to make sure that I fit everybody. It is my job to accommodate the clients that I have that we can work together every time I try to do somebody a favor or do something outside of my boundaries.
I’ve ended up to some extent regretting that it took too much time. Effort wasn’t worth it, even though we got it done. The people that understand and respect my time and theirs are a much better fit, and that’s kind of helping my practice evolve as well.
Lyle: I love that: expectations, boundaries and accommodations. That’s a great little three piece tidbit. I love that we’re going to continue this conversation.
We want to touch base with Jenna’s story and everything. If you were a real estate entrepreneur, you definitely want to check out the bonuses. We’re fixing to have a deep dive into LLC’s, how to set those up, and what they’re about, and all that fun stuff.
We’ll talk more about real estate investments, whether you’re an investor or thinking about being one.
We’re going to do that on OptimizeProfitability.com. So join us for the bonus tip. And before we leave you, Jenna, you’re a mom and you just started a new little thing where you’re helping people, you’re helping moms with estate planning. Make sure if you’re a mom, reach out. If you need some estate planning, help with things and all those fun things or any parents you got, even if you don’t have children, let her know.
Jenna Zebrowski: Everybody, let me put it this way. The state has a will for you. Is it the one you want? I don’t know. Give me a call. Let’s find out. And a lot more affordable than you think, believe it or not.
Lyle Leads: Yes, I agree with that. She’s very reasonable and she’s, like I said, fun to be around. I like hanging out with her. How can we get in touch with you? What do they need to do? Can they call you? You want to send an email? What’s the best way to reach out to you? Any way you want.
Jenna Zebrowski: Because I’ll work with you. My phone number and this is my direct dial. Don’t text me because it won’t work, but you can give me a call, leave a voicemail and it’s my phone. So I answer it and I call back. That number is 817-841-5762. My email, which is probably the best way, but some people like the phone, is my name firstname.lastname@example.org.
And it’s also on my website lawbyjz.com. You can see what I’m about. There’s also a contact me form, or if you talk to Lyle, he’ll make sure that I get the messages as well.
Lyle Leads: And on our page, OptimizeProfitability.com, or dfwtop.com/podcasts. I have links to social media.
So if you want to dig in about LLC’s… let’s do that on our bonus video!
Thanks for being on today. And we’re going to jump into our deep dive in the bonus materials for this podcast. And I look forward to having a deeper conversation.
Jenna Zebrowski: Looking forward to it, Lyle. Thanks.
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