Interview with Jahaan Blake
Betsy Jordyn: Well hello everyone. I am super excited to interview Jahaan Blake, our latest Consultant Institute grad who has launched an amazing website and has a fantastic business all ready to go to start attracting tons of leads and future clients, but before she moves on to this new phase I wanted to take a pause and learn more about her experience. So, Jahaan, welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time and sharing your experience.
Jahaan Blake: Hi, thank you. Thanks for having me.
Betsy Jordyn: So, before I share more about your business, tell me about you, your background and what led up to you wanting to start your own consulting business.
Jahaan Blake: Sure. So, I’ve worked in sports my entire career. Started my career with the Boston Red Socks. I was there for two world championships, an amazing time. Went to the Dodgers and then came to Chicago where I live now to work for the Cubs, all under the umbrella of customer experience, how do we take our front line and align them to our brand promise. So, I’d done that for 17 years and I loved it. I loved when I [inaudible 01:08] the team, and then I met my husband and I finally felt settled in the city and decided, you know what, I love what I do but I know that if I do it for multiple organizations, I can do it quicker, faster, better and have a little bit more freedom as well. So, that’s where – that’s how I got here.
Betsy Jordyn: So, it sounds like there was a combination of a personal journey and a professional journey. So, it sounds like what I’m hearing you say is from a professional standpoint you like the opportunity to go from different club to club to club and working with all the different organizations, so you knew that there was an opportunity to go to the next level from that standpoint, but then also getting married that you wanted to kind of create an alternative kind of stability for your lifestyle as well. So, it seems like there was two-fold.
Jahaan Blake: Yes, exactly. It was kind of like the stars aligned and it was one of those things where it was perfect timing, and I felt like I was ready to start working with other organizations, but then I also felt like I was ready to just not slow down in the workforce but have more control over my personal life and my professional life.
Betsy Jordyn: So, that’s a key word I hear a lot is like taking control, like that – was there a feeling that when you worked for somebody else it’s sort of like it was great for a while, but not feeling like you have all the control over, you know, your earning power, your time and what was that experience like that made you feel like I need more control?
Jahaan Blake: Yeah, you know, it depends on the situation. Some places where I was I had great mentors and that’s what kept me there so long, but things change in business and people move on and so I didn’t always have that, so I noticed that when I wasn’t – didn’t have a mentor and I didn’t have the structure that I liked, that made me want to be on my own, right. So, when you have a great working relationship with somebody and they understand your working style, they understand that, you know what, Jahaan is on from 9:00 AM to noon and after that her brain shifts and she starts again at like 6:00 PM, you know, whatever it may be, having that understanding with somebody made my life easier, allowed me to do my best work, be the best version of myself.
So, when that was taken away it was the one thing that was just always hanging over my head and I just knew I could be a better version of myself, so that’s what kind of led me to just branch off on my own.
Betsy Jordyn: So interesting because it’s a combination of like I need the environment to support what I did and then once that happened, sort of like the challenge that for others might be seen as something negative you turned it into this opportunity to push you towards moving towards what you wanted to do.
Jahaan Blake: Yeah.
Betsy Jordyn: So, if you’ve been wanting to do this for awhile, what held you back, like what kept you from taking the leap?
Jahaan Blake: You know, it’s funny, it is having that great working relationship with somebody. I get my energy from other people. I love being around other people. I love people just when we get each other, right, and like we just work well together. So, when I had those situations I never – I just didn’t want them to go away. But that would kind of just keep me in that sort of well this is comfortable.
However, on the other end, I had my father and my inner, you know, dialogue, if you will, just kind of just poking me saying you know what you really want to do. Like you have the safety net, yes, it’s a great working relationship, but you do know what you really want to do. You’ve always been like this since a young age. You started your own soccer training camp, you know, for all the younger kids in your high school to help them get to where you were. So, I knew it was in me, but it was comfort in a very positive way that I was afraid to kind of step away from.
Betsy Jordyn: What I’m hearing ultimately is you wanted to do this for a long time. It fits your personality, you’re always had an entrepreneurial drive, and when it was too comfortable or when it was just enough good that’s actually what kept you there, and then when it became less good, that’s when it propelled you forward. So, that’s the hidden gift is as being when it’s just good enough is actually probably keeping some people from moving forward to what they really want to do.
Jahaan Blake: Right, yeah, exactly.
Betsy Jordyn: So, tell me about the experience since you left your full-time employment and been out on your own. What’s been some of the highs, some of the lows, and what have you learned along the way?
Jahaan Blake: So, I again the stars just aligned. When you want to do something you just – you figure out a way and you think everything is pointed towards you, and so the focus is on you. So, when I decided to leave I just – I had – right out the gate I came out hot, you know, I had a six-month contract to work on a Super Bowl and partner with another organization to help them with their relationship with the NFL. It was just perfect. It was one of those perfect opportunities.
And so then after that, you know, the same thing, posted something on Instagram about being done with Super Bowl, and someone called me that day. I hadn’t slept less than 20 – maybe – I think I slept – I was up for 20 hours and someone called me and like can you come and help us with a project? And so, it just kind of snowballed for the past year and a half of different projects that I could do. So, it made it sort of easy.
But the one thing that was missing was my identity and like I didn’t have a chance to pause and say okay, what’s my brand, what am I going to focus on? Cause I can do a lot, you know. I can plan your events. I can do customer experience. There’s just a whole bunch of things that I love to do, but I didn’t feel very focused, did not have a website, business cards or anything, you know, still operating off of Gmail which isn’t bad, but it just – I just knew that for me I wanted a brand around what I do and how do I package it up and sort of, you know, take it to people to help them. So, that was – it was great at first, but then I just – as I started to slow down, I’m like okay, and then I got married in-between all that.
Betsy Jordyn: Wow.
Jahaan Blake: Yeah.
Betsy Jordyn: So, it’s like the same part of the story is things – when things are just good enough it actually masks the work that you really need to do. So, once the work kind of settled and the marriage was established then you realize, okay, I needed to set up this foundation of my business.
Jahaan Blake: Exactly.
Betsy Jordyn: So, you keep talking about sports. So, I would make the assumption if I was listening in that you’re a consultant to sports related organizations. Is that what your brand is all about or how would you describe the brand that you’ve identified?
Jahaan Blake: So, I work with organizations who have a front-line staff, and I help them align their front-line staff to their brand promise. So, this can be sports, hospitals, you know, it can be any different industry. You know, yes, sports is my background, but the great thing about front-line staff and for them to be able to do their job it’s all the same, right, it’s all scalable, if you will. And you can go from organization to organization because at the end of the day when you have a front-line staff, they’ve taken this job and they do want to do well. Everyone has different motivators, but they do want to do well. You have to give them the tools to do so.
Betsy Jordyn: So, how did you move your understanding from hey, I work with sports organizations, the kind of work I’ve been doing, you know, like I got work with Super Bowl, to really pivoting your understanding to say, you know what, it’s really organizations with a front-line staff? Like how did you come to that realization that your brand was actually a lot bigger than you thought it was?
Jahaan Blake: You know, it’s a couple things. One is, you know, one day I was just like oh, this is what I love about my job is the employees. It is the one thing I missed about working for, you know, in corporate is being able to see the front-line employees and being able to hear how they’re doing and how they’re growing. And I knew that was it. It’s like that’s the thing that’s missing and that is the most important thing to me because it helps, you know, grow your brand. So, it can really completely can transform or make a break in organization and a customer’s experience with them.
So, I knew that was it, and then I also knew that when people would move on from different jobs over the last 17 years, they would still call me regardless of what industry they went to. And how do I do this? How did you get, you know, this group of employees to deliver so well on this? How did you turn this ship around? So, you know, and I knew people were having troubles at their different organizations so that’s when I knew I can take this to other outside of the sports world.
Betsy Jordyn: So, the couple things that I heard you say in that is one, you were really just tapping into your passion and saying I just love the front-line employees. I see them living the brand. And it sounds like you were paying attention to the questions that people started asking you about like they recognize that there was a connection between you and what the front line is doing and how it relates to creating a company’s brand image, you know, frankly in the view of the marketplace. It’s all – they make it or break it on the front line.
Jahaan Blake: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Betsy Jordyn: So, for those who know other organizations, so let’s say that there are people who are listening in on this interview and they know organizations that have these big front-line staff that aren’t necessarily performing to the brand standards, can you describe what you do with them to help them and what the value that they would get?
Jahaan Blake: Yeah, so a lot of times organizations will come and say okay, my team is not delivering. I need a training. We need a motivational speaker to come in and motivate [inaudible 11:07]. You know, I don’t know what to do but I think those things will work. I hear that all the time. So, you know, what I do is I can talk to them about that, but then I try to understand [inaudible 11:16] and, you know, I start at the beginning and do an assessment, work with them to understand, you know, the executive team and their viewpoints and help them align it. Then I can work with them to help them cover their employee motivators, their customer motivators, you know, do some – what I love to do is the live like site visits when I shadow employees and shadow, you know, kind of follow the customer journey.
That’s when I find out so much about what’s going on and able to figure out the root cause of the problems and understand why employees are – why the service is inconsistent, why it’s hit or miss, why people aren’t motivated to deliver that service. From there we take all that data and we’re able to design solutions. Another solution can be a whole host of things. It just – it depends on the organization, but basically, we can come up with a solution that takes the employees, the customers, the executives and takes all that data and puts it together and turns out a program, if you will, that helps elicit the behaviors that they want from the employees.
Betsy Jordyn: So, it sounds like you’re doing a lot of assessment, a lot of digging, digging, digging, get to the root and once you figure out the root then you come up with a customized solution for that particular client to help them implement it based on whatever their starting point is, whatever they have or whatever they don’t have. You customize it.
Jahaan Blake: Uh-huh, yeah.
Betsy Jordyn: So, it’s interesting, you mentioned like the coming to you of the training and one of the things I always say is like training is often necessary, rarely sufficient. That’s like the number one thing that people think why they reach out to a consultant. Why do you think that is? Why do you think that training is such a go-to solution?
Jahaan Blake: You know, everyone talks about communication. Our communication is bad, you know, the employees claim they don’t know enough, they don’t know how to, you know, do their job and so let’s train them on how to do it. So, it just seems like okay, if I tell them what to do, they will go and do it. Well there’s a lot more behind it, and how do you motivate, how do you inspire your employees to deliver the behaviors that you want to see?
Betsy Jordyn: Sounds like you’ve got to move them beyond the idea of like okay, this might feel like a quick win, just tell them what to do when there’s a lot more factors that probably take longer but will give them better results.
Jahaan Blake: Right, exactly.
Betsy Jordyn: So, you seem really clear about your brand, like as I’m hearing you talk, I feel the clarify, I feel the confidence. How did you get to that clarity and confidence around what you do and the value that you can create for your future clients, or your current clients and your future clients?
Jahaan Blake: Yeah, you know, it really – again, it comes from just my work over the past 17 years and, you know, I get that clarity from the – really the front-line and understanding and then what, you know, all the outcomes that come after that. But it’s really just that the watching the front-line transform and to be the best version of themselves where they knew they could do it. I knew they could do it, they wanted to do it. So, it’s that gives them the confidence cause I’ve done that so many times and just to be able to see the transformation and how it makes such a difference across the organization, that definitely has helped me in my career.
Betsy Jordyn: So, the idea is that at this point where the clarity came from is really analyzing, the same thing that – it sounds like what you did for yourself is what you do for your clients. So, your clients have a complex thing, you go, and you dig deep, and you analyze, and you come up with a solution. It seems like when you were confused about with your – what your brand messaging was and you wanted to have a brand, your ability to kind of dig in deeper and go to the root to say this is what I’ve always been passionate about, this is who I am and what I’ve been, and validating that has been the key transformative element is looking backwards and validating that my past does matter, and my past is actually going to be the platform for my future. It’s just repositioned it into a little bit of a different way versus being an employee versus being on my own. Did I get that right?
Jahaan Blake: Yeah, exactly, well said.
Betsy Jordyn: Is there anything you would add?
Jahaan Blake: No, I don’t think so. I think that would be the biggest piece.
Betsy Jordyn: So, we’ve been working together for several months now. So, we’ve had a lot of great discussions, a few brand wrestling sessions. How would you describe the process of working with somebody? Could you have gotten here on your own or what do you think the value is of having a mentor like me to help you work through this brand process and your business foundation?
Jahaan Blake: Right. I, you know, I don’t know if I could have got here without working with you. I probably would, but I don’t know that the product would have been as great as it could have been. Again, I like working with – I get my energy from people and so now I’m in an office of one.
Betsy Jordyn: Yeah. That’s a huge issue.
Jahaan Blake: Right. So, you know, how do I – who am I talking to cause my husband doesn’t know how to build a brand or a website or any of those things.
Betsy Jordyn: He would just say oh Jahaan, that’s so great. I love whatever you’re doing.
Jahaan Blake: Yeah.
Betsy Jordyn: Oh good, I support you.
Jahaan Blake: It’s not it. That’s not what I need. And I love everybody, all my old colleagues and, you know, and they were very supportive and gave great feedback, however I just needed somebody who was, you know, on the outside and who has done this before, and I can leverage their expertise. So, I didn’t know what I needed, but thankfully somebody did when I was talking to them, they heard what I was saying and heard. It was one of those no-brainers like okay, how do I do this?
Regardless of like how many clients I had or how much money I had, it didn’t matter, just this made sense. This was the right investment to propel me to what I wanted to do a lot quicker. And like you said, go slow to go fast and all that just – it made sense, so I just feel very confident in what I’m doing and my approach because of your expertise.
Betsy Jordyn: Aw, thank you. So, but you know, all processes are, you know, I know I challenge my clients because I’m helping you pursue your best cause I’m not interested in just a business that will make money. I’m interested in helping you create a business that aligns, you know, with your greatest gift and your strongest passions and everything that’s really important to you. So, there is some degree of a pushing part. What would you say are some of the places where I pushed you that has been the hardest for you, but you’re so glad that you got pushed there because now you see something better on the other side?
Jahaan Blake: Well that’s a good question. You know, you pushed a lot – what’s funny is I – whenever I go work out and when I’m in the middle of it, my workout, my instructor is trying to motivate us and yell at us in a positive way –
Betsy Jordyn: I don’t yell, by the way, I’m not a yeller.
Jahaan Blake: And you know, cheering I should say.
Betsy Jordyn: Yeah.
Jahaan Blake: I always – in the process I’m like oh God, I hate you [inaudible 18:33], you know, whoever it is I just – at that moment I’m like I’m so mad at her right now, and then when I’m done, I’m like oh, that wasn’t that bad, I’m okay, that was great, I feel much better, so glad I came. So, it’s the same thing with you. I don’t ever say I hate you [inaudible 18:48] and I know that if I don’t – I know what you’re saying is right. I just, in the moment it’s harder, but then when I’m done, I’m always so pleased with the outcome, although it’s difficult sometimes to get there. And I would take the difficult one that I’m talking about is just the writing portion, right, how do I reframe it so my website’s not like everybody else’s.
Betsy Jordyn: Uh-huh.
Jahaan Blake: How to write the story of what I do, so often when I, you know, was in corporate and would, you know, need a consultant for whatever reason, usually it was for [inaudible 19:25] market research, bring someone in but I really couldn’t tell what they did on the website. I didn’t really know what they were – what made them – set them apart from other organizations, and we saw that a lot and so I knew – I was like it’s the right thing to do but how do I make these words sound, you know, sound authentic.
Betsy Jordyn: Yeah.
Jahaan Blake: I don’t, you know, I don’t want to sound like a sales person but how do I make them sound authentic but be able to speak to my, you know, my ideal clients, if you will. So, I would say that was the toughest part, just shifting from business writing to I guess marketing writing.
Betsy Jordyn: Yeah, I think that that’s a challenge for most people because think about it, we’re all trained to speak corporate lingo, and to be successful in a company, you know, you have to be able to string together all that corporate lingo and to, you know, somebody’s going to be able to understand it, but from a marketing standpoint you could do that. I mean you could have a website that has a bunch of marketing lingo, but it really still provides that barrier.
I would have to say that you’ve done an amazing job, so for those who are interested in looking at an amazing website, The J. Blake Group is where you need to go. You’ve done an amazing job too with your images. One of the things we talked about was how important it was to have images on your Home Page and to create that connection with your future clients, and you just did an amazing job with your images. Did you ever have any challenges with putting your picture on the Home Page and naming your business after yourself and kind of being seen so strongly like you are now?
Jahaan Blake: No, not necessarily. I, you know, again, I wanted people to know like this is me, this is who you’re working with.
Betsy Jordyn: Yeah.
Jahaan Blake: [inaudible 21:11] It seems right, you know, I feel like 17 years, I have a reputation, so why not continue that reputation and show people who I am. I think again going back to when I worked for different teams, I, you know, if we needed a consultant; it was like who is this person? And you couldn’t really find – like you just – there was no connection. There was no way to just kind of get to know who they were, and sometimes you didn’t get to meet people in person. So, this kind of alleviates that, that problem, having the picture up and telling that story of who I am.
Betsy Jordyn: And speaking of telling stories, how confident do you feel now about being able to articulate if someone asks you, you know, how do – what do you do? Do you feel like now after doing all of this brand work, do you feel like you’re more equipped or kind of the same? Do you feel like you can answer that question pretty readily with just about anybody?
Jahaan Blake: Yeah, I feel more equipped. It’s nice to – my 17 years of, you know, experience and how do I boil that down into a two-minute or 30-second, you know, pitch, if you will, or blurb depending on who you’re talking to. And yes, I feel so much better now and I’m able to just kind of spew it out and say it, and I actually like to say it daily just cause it just – it helps again, office of one, sometimes I can go just the whole day without talking to anybody other than my husband. So, I like to say it out loud every day just to kind of practice.
Betsy Jordyn: Yeah, you brought up the practice several times in our community of making sure that you do it. It seems like it’s athlete in you and knowing how important practice is, or is that just something that you intuitively know as it relates to this particular work? Cause you mentioned the practice a lot of times even just separately asking can we do more practice; can we do more role play?
Jahaan Blake: Right. Yeah, I’m sure it has to do with the athlete in me. I just – I like to be prepared. I may or may not have a problem with perfectionism, so I know that if I say things out loud I’m comfortable when I am talking to a potential client or a client it makes it so much easier. I’m not worried about did I sound right, did I whatever? I haven’t said that in awhile. It just comes out naturally, again because it’s a different, you know, world now. Now I’m selling my services, I’m trying to help organizations versus before I was internal a consultant. And I didn’t have to sell myself as much.
Betsy Jordyn: Right. But you had to sell your products or your approach, but now you have to sell the whole kit and kaboodle. So, it’s just a little bit of a transition. So, if I were going to summarize what I heard you say about your overarching story is you’ve had an entrepreneurial drive and a passion for working with front lines for a long time, long part of your career. You wanted to go out on your own and your dad and others knew that you were to go out on your own, but what held you back sometimes was it just being just comfortable enough. And what kicked you over it was when it just stopped being comfortable.
And what worked for you in the beginning is the same kind of thing as yeah, you got enough work, but once the work went away, then again that provided another catalyst for you to say all right, I need to go build my business foundation in a stronger way, I need to have a clear brand, a clear way of attracting clients and doing what I need to do. And what I find really interesting is the approach that you took in how you engage with me is the same thing it sounds like you do with your clients.
So, you resonated with my approach because I’m as a consultant like you, I do the same thing. You’ve got to slow down and go, you know, slow down to speed up, go slow to go fast, do it in a systematic way, dig in, do the analysis, and then move forward with a more focused, structured approach and then you practice your role play. Sounds like that’s a lot of what you do for your clients.
Jahaan Blake: Yeah, yeah, that was well said, yeah.
Betsy Jordyn: Okay. So, if somebody’s sitting there on the fence right now. So, there’s probably people in different buckets right now. There’s one group of people who might be listening and saying I want to start my own consulting business, and I want to get over the leap, but I don’t have contacts like Jahaan. I don’t have an ability, you know, I’m not going to just get people [inaudible 25:27] contracts that I can survive for the six months. What would you recommend to those people to get them over the hump to say, you know, go forward just because you knew even if you didn’t get those contracts you probably would have still taken the leap?
Jahaan Blake: You know, it would be a few things. One is, you know, if this is something that you want to do that fire is not going to go away. It’s just – it’s going to nag at you and you’re going to look back and regret not taking the chance when you had to cause let’s be honest, we’re all smart adults, and if you are thinking about going off on your own, then you have something, you know. You’re good at something, so you can always come back and find a job. Like I can always get a job.
So, I mean that’s one, and two is working with you helps you get over those humps and helps you figure out how to – okay, how am I going to find my ideal clients? I don’t know, you know, I don’t have a network, like why would people want to hire me? I’m telling you just from being on the other side, when you use the model that Betsy has that you have it helps you get there. It helps you land those clients or people are going to start to notice who you are because of your approach. I definitely, just being on the other side and not looking at all these websites and trying to work with all these consultants and nobody ever had a website like yours.
Betsy Jordyn: Like mine?
Jahaan Blake: Well like yours and the way you –
Betsy Jordyn: Oh.
Jahaan Blake: And like the way – no one, you know, everything was, you know, just that website and the bio and the approach, it wasn’t very – it wasn’t – it was just – it wasn’t very thought out.
Betsy Jordyn: Oh, well that’s one thing I for sure do is think it all out, just like you do. That’s where it’s like I’m a lot like my clients. We kind of think alike. So, there’s another group of people who might have said to you that they’ve been in business like you did. So, you at a certain period of time where you were – you could have gone contract to contract, and they might say well I’ll just continue to go to contract to contract and then until get a ton of money I’m not going to go invest in somebody. What made you decide regardless of the money I have or how many leads I potentially can land for another six-month gig, what made you stop and say I want to go and build this foundation?
Jahaan Blake: Well I don’t know, just competitive. I want to put a product out there and I want it to be, you know, I want it to be great so I knew leveraging the expertise that somebody would make – would just make sense and really probably just competitive against myself and just continuing to want to advance my career. So, you know, when I was in sports that’s all we did was benchmark and learn from each other and learn from different organizations who did it well, so why wouldn’t I do the same for myself?
Betsy Jordyn: That makes a lot of sense.
Jahaan Blake: Yeah.
Betsy Jordyn: That makes a lot of sense. Well the thing that I loved about working with you on the whole is just so much of your thoughtful approach and how you handled your business development, and I feel like for me on the other side is the kinds of questions that you asked me or could you do this or could you offer that helped me refine even the way I was delivering what I was doing because there’s things that I offered but I didn’t know if it was valuable or not. But I really appreciate the way that you just are constantly – you’re just this continuous improvement junkie, you know. You’ve never going to be satisfied. You’re always going to be there, and you really push everybody around, which is what makes me so excited about your brand is that front-line, you know, a lot of people right now have huge issues with the front line.
It’s such a major issue today because you’re dealing with organizations that don’t have a lot of money to invest or they don’t – let me rephrase it. They have money to invest but they don’t always do it in the right way cause it’s more that short-term, short-term, short-term, let’s get a motivational speaker, pop a bunch of money, and now what are we going to do here. Or they might go and put the training program in there or just do some rah-rah recognition, and what makes me excited and why I even have the Consultants Institute is I want people who are going to provide real solutions, and I know who that I know from being in this field for so long, you’re going to be somebody who delivers that front-line experience that aligns with a company’s brand promise.
You are going to be able to take a hospital and make sure that the entire patient experience from every single touch point is going to be perfectly aligned and give that patient that superior experience or you could take it from the sports angle, you could take it from a hospitality angle, you name it. You can do that, and imagine what our world is going to be like when you get all those clients to be able to do that, what all of our customer experiences are going to be like. Imagine what our world’s going to be like where we call up a call center or we go somewhere and we’re not getting dropped around everywhere and getting caught in this endless phone tree.
I just – I cannot wait to see the impact that you’re going to have and just if I play a teeny, tiny role I’m super excited, but for anyone who’s listening, please check out Jahaan’s site, The J. Blake Group. Anything else that you’d want to say about your business growth experience and I just didn’t ask you the right question?
Jahaan Blake: No, I think this has been great. It’s been fun chatting with you, and I would definitely say you played more than a little bit, a little part, in the success that I’ve had so far. So, it was more like this. Thank you.
Betsy Jordyn: Thank you. All right, thanks so much.
Jahaan Blake: Thank you.