Discover how Jason Lee transitioned from Corporate America to Entrepreneurship.


Adam:

So excited. Welcome to another edition of the franchise consultant podcast. I’m your host, Adam Goldman. Very, very excited to have my good friend here, Jason Lee, from here in Houston. Just share for everyone a little bit about what you’re doing. I just thought you’d be a great person to have on the show.

Jason:

Yeah, well, it’s great to connect with you. Again, I’ve enjoyed our interactions via LinkedIn. I know you’re actively involved with Leo and a lot of the other organizations here in Houston. So you’ve done a phenomenal job building your brand and, and it’s great to see I know you’re very well connected amongst the entrepreneurial community. And we’re big, I’m a big fan of that. But to give you a quick backdrop, as the vice president of exponent, I’ve been with the firm for about three years, our firm has catered to the entrepreneur. So I think I can share some great examples of what I see and do daily working with individuals who, who are willing to bet on themselves, right? People who have decided that they’re no longer To put their success in someone else’s hands, but they’re, they want to take control of that success for themselves. And so, you know, my clients range from people who do have franchises as part of their portfolio to you know, individual entrepreneurs to people who run and own and operate, you know, a couple hundred million dollar company so, and I get to see the best of both worlds, the bad, the bad and the good. So, my journey was one of corporate America, you know, kind of executive and I say corporate, I was in the retail sector. I grew up running health clubs, connecting people serving started I was just a little, you know, a young guy in the gym, and ended up running multiple units, getting to know I guess, addicted to the corporate paycheck for a long time thinking that was a great thing. And then I got my first taste of private equity ownership what that felt like the lack of people connection, what started to happen from that, and then the fallout even to our paychecks and to the people, and when it became about profit It’s not people, I lost my taste for it and decided to branch out, try new things. And that’s ultimately what led me to here. So I’ve been an entrepreneur for about the last five years.

Adam:

That’s great. That’s great. And Jason, I mean, what are you seeing right now in the Houston theater in general, when it comes to layoffs, and what’s your take on the current economic environment right now?

Jason:

Well, I mean, it’s evident and I think because the energy sector across you know, anything outside of the industry, I mean, this is something that’s Paramount, we’ve never faced me the closure, just so many businesses that this new energy loss has never been new, I think oil and gas have had its ups and downs over the last I don’t know ever since it started. But, you know, so that part is not new. But this whole The, the compounded effect of the lack of travel, people burning up fuel, and then people not being able to get out of their houses have been pretty, you know, pretty damaging, but I’m also seeing the potential and opportunity to exist, as I think people are going to see and have a chance to break through and expose themselves to something new. We’re seeing people pivot, you’re seeing this social media environment of new levels and ways of communication. So that part’s getting excited. So I think there’s probably never going to be a, there’s ever been a time to branch out and explore and try new things. I believe that this is probably going to be one of those times for those people who are just done with someone else, determining they are, you know, their destiny, and willing to go out and do something new. I think this is gonna be a great time for that.

Jason:

So you realize this kind of goes against conventional wisdom, right? I mean, if you look at the media and everything else, people would say, it’s a horrible time to start something else bunker down, go into your house is now a good time to investigate and maybe even start a business do you think?

Jason:

Well remember, if you’re gonna start a business, and you’re going to start laying the foundation, that’s going to happen over the next few months, right? You’re not going to sign up and And tomorrow you’re out running your new business but perhaps you’re using this additional time to get some lawyer with businesses to get to know your do some soul searching, right some guiding some investigation into what it is that you want to do. So, you know, perhaps you’re sitting there going well, I know, I got laid off. I don’t think now you know, there are millions of other people fighting for the same job that I had. Perhaps it’s a good time for me to start pursuing. You know, real estate mortgages, franchise concepts, what am I passionate about, right? Maybe shifting gears to no longer have a job, but have a career right, you know, no longer have a something that you know, pays the bills, but something that feeds your soul. But this is a good time to start looking internally, about why you’re here on earth and what you’re trying to go do with it. And then perhaps, break into a new marketplace, something that you always wanted to do, but you just need an excuse to do it.

Adam:

That’s great. And Jason, one of the things that I’m impressed by with you is just how involved you are in the community. You told me recently about something that you have going on on Facebook. Could you elaborate on that?

Jason:

Yeah, I with a desire, through Well, really through Facebook, where I kind of don’t advertise my business. It’s more about me as a person, but I believe people are drawn to the human component of who you are. And for us right now, it’s trying to bring clarity to that. And so I wanted to create a platform that I’m going to do over the next 30 days are bringing guys like yourself, industry experts, entrepreneurs who have, you know, I’m using the term breakthrough, because they broke through barriers or obstacles, most of the guys and gals that I know, that are running into or have created something, it’s because something happened that forced them to step out of their comfort zone. And so, right now, there are some key fundamentals from financial literacy. Right. So this is a great time to learn and understand how money works, how to restructure and organize your finances to go out and fight the good fight of the entrepreneur, you know, to also learn and pick up, you know, certain skill sets, or where do I want to go. So I’m going to bring on real franchise owners guys who started the concepts to share their story, I’m gonna bring people like yourself who work with nothing but entrepreneurs out and similar to what you’re doing with your podcast. The idea is to help people who are stuck, potentially gain access to resources that might inspire them to do something great. So, yeah, I’ll be doing that over the next 30 days to try to help bring awareness both to my peers who I know that bring great value, but also to serve individuals who are potentially stuck or feared or driven by fear right now, and we want to help them get over that.

Adam:

You’ve talked to me a little bit about some of the friends that you have in Houston that are having some sort of fears. Could you share some stories about what you’re seeing specific from them right now?

Jason:

You said fear or having…

Adam:

Fears.

Jason:

Oh, I can say specifically, you’re talking about friends or people who are faced with that. I know that my wife has oil and gas. And so a lot of her friends are in oil and gas and they’ve all been impacted by it. And so what happens is there’s a daily content, you know, a daily dose of this negative environment and doom and gloom. Where it Yeah, if you were to look at that as a singular focus, meaning I’m only going to stare at my current industry, then you would say, yeah, this doesn’t look so good. But I’m arguing and challenging those same folks to say, perhaps you’re not thinking outside. Perhaps this is a chance for you to think outside the box me. You love what you’re doing, or were you just comfortable doing what you’re doing because I think that’s really what most of them are afraid of. They’re they here. You know, here’s, here’s a good example.

Perhaps, if you have ever considered getting into real estate, you might say, you know, Well, yeah, but you know, the housing markets gonna be messed up. Well, part of the housing market will be, but there’s going to be parts that are going to be able to excel potentially in the investment real estate space. So perhaps if you listen to a, an overarching theme of there’s not going to be any as many houses selling if people don’t have jobs that are not 100% accurate. If you’re working with individuals who are interested in learning how to invest in real estate, so it’s just getting acclimated and educated and not just listening to what you and or believe to be true. But going out and seeking industry professionals and letting them tell you, and trust me, if you call somebody who’s an entrepreneur and they’re having success, they will answer the phone. And if you’re especially you’re calling them to find out how they did it, because they love to share their story.

Adam:

So that is true. True. That is true. And look, I want to expand upon your experience in corporate America. I know that you were in the fitness wellness industry for years. How do you see Coronavirus as affecting that industry? Because I think the winners and losers in that industry the next couple of years

Jason:

Oh wow. Man, this one hits close to home because I’ve watched

some of my closest friends, people who own and have created things from scratch in the fitness industry just get demolished in the last few months. You know, I think the I think we’re already seeing in the fitness space that there is the super-luxury line which is like the lifetime fitness, the upper echelon, the equinox of the world, they already had big cash and good models and so I think those are sustainable and will continue to be the mid guys were the ones that were starting to hurt the LS 20 fours and you just saw it 24 I don’t know, was just reported that they’re potentially looking at some bankruptcy filing. But there’s a lot of information out there that I think, you know, you’re the whole dynamic of what’s going out into the world.

As far as the way fitness changes and the way people do fitness is going to be different. Those who, who didn’t stand out are going to struggle, but and then also, I think a lot of these clubs where you’re piling in people on top of each other, that’s just going to be different. And so it might not be permanent, but it will be different because numbers aren’t as driven to go back. I think it could be a problem. I think a lot of your studio concepts where you can still charge a premium for a small group, keep the distance from one another, but you’re dealing with small real estate with a higher premium per ticket. I think that’s going to be something that I believe will be potentially sustainable because they’re not trying to fit you know, they’re not counting On fire, you know, 300 members in their prime time stacked next to each other on elliptical to pay for their $20 a month, $30 month monthly dues. So I think you’re gonna see a lot of pain in the mid-sized space, some execution that can be done on a smaller scale. And then and also, I think there are more loyal members of the concept ideas, right? So if I’m in a concept, I’m more committed because I’m part of this team culture, that’s what a lot of these franchises do is they go out and build these little mini micro-communities. When you’re a member at a big gym, you’re not part of the community, you just go there because it’s convenient, cheap. When you’re a member of a concept I did. You know you feel like you’re part of something similar like a CrossFit or something you feel like you’re part of that little community and so I think those people are going to be more loyal to the brand that they’re a member of personally.

Adam:

It’s interesting, you should mention that because yesterday my wife and I big orange theory fans, mm arms theory home workout. I was pleased. They had their offering for free. on YouTube. They had 20,000 subscribers in one day. I thought, I mean, that’s just unbelievable. They’re not making money off of it, but they’re creating loyalty. And you’re right. They have a tribe. So I thought that was interesting.

Jason:

Exactly. And that’s what there’s those businesses have excelled at, right? It’s just being part of something different than just access to a place to work out.

Adam:

Yeah, absolutely. So tell me more about your growth show, I was able to listen to a little bit the podcast for our listeners that aren’t familiar with it. Talk a little bit about that.

Jason:

Gulf Coast gross shows, really a lot of my clients, a lot of my passion lies in industry and supporting the industry. And my clients, in particular, a lot of individuals who run and operate, you know, midsize companies, service companies in the industrial space. And so, with that being said, I wanted to kind of, you know, I was amused by an organization called the Economic Alliance, Houston port region. This is a phenomenal platform that educates and helps their stakeholders better understand how to grow and in service, really the environment that you know, covers from the Ship Channel, all the way down through the port region and then all across the Gulf Coast. And so the idea was to take a lot of work that is being done behind the scenes. I you know, when you go into a lot of these board meetings, you’ll hear some great things that are happening, that that you don’t hear out in the world, the environment, the work behind the scenes that goes into creating transportation that will allow us to continue to fuel jobs and growth and create jobs. And then also, you know, I use the term making industry sexy, there’s a significant shortfall for individuals, and these trade positions and these craft jobs. You know, it’s not so much a cool allure anymore, but you can go out and make a lot of money coming out of school or you know, if you’re shifting jobs and looking for a career To change, there’s money that’s being had and made, where there’s a really big shortage of careers. And so my job is, or my goal with that show is to just bring awareness of the needs of the industrial and environmental areas across the port region.

Adam:

That’s interesting. So tell me about a sort of profession that people might not have thought of before where there’s an opportunity, right?

Jason:

Across that region, oh, there’s tons. I mean, there’s, you could go into any of these trade schools, whether you’re being a, you could be an operator. So I have a guy friend of mine who was in retail, who spent, you know, the majority of his retail, got tired of working like that and being inconsistent from a compensation perspective and solve the writing’s on the wall for retail companies that were starting, you know, now they’re going to be suffering going out of business. And, you know, over at night he started going to school to become an operator. And now he’s got a full retirement benefits plan significantly over six figures. salary, he does work shift work, which is not always the funniest, but at the same time, has built a level of security and financial security that he didn’t once think that he could have doubled his income and, and has a very good sound job that’s considered essential. So they’re there every day, he’s still keeping his bills paid right now. So, all the way from that trade jobs from pulling wire to turn wrenches, there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity. If you’re not afraid to, you know, if you’re the type of person who wants to get out from behind your desk, it’s the kind of place where you could thrive and succeed. And the interesting component is the amount of income they can make. You can typically walk into a job in that region for six-figure income relatively quickly.

Adam:

It’s funny you should mention that because, in the franchising world, we’re finding a shift away from businesses that might have been retail. It’s pretty hard to run a hair salon right now. Right. Hopefully it’ll open soon into Things that are kind of essential services. Things like water restoration, painting, or fixing concrete. And so I’m seeing or even tree trimming, I’m seeing lots of interesting space right now. Just it’s interesting how things change and shift us so much. That’s one thing I’m noticing.

Jason:

I’m telling you right now, if I was going to go and get into the business, for myself, I would be looking at all these essential businesses, and then I would make a list of who do they never, you know, who, no matter what happens, who’s got to get up and go to work? Because that’s people are people gonna make that decision going forward. Right. So it’s interesting to me that there are franchise concepts that allow that what a great, what a great opportunity.

Adam:

Yeah. So just when she gets here a little bit, I think you’re one of the best of all the people I know, the best book promoting yourself. And I think you’re good at marketing. A lot of the people that are listening to this podcast are people that are either thinking about starting a business or already started a franchise business. And I’m sure you could appreciate that a key component of that is marketing. Mm-hmm. Does your business do you have any tips for that about how best to promote yourself or your business?

Jason:

Absolutely. So mine’s rather unique because promoting my business was more complicated because I’m with regulatory licenses and things I have to be mindful from a compliance perspective. So it’s, I use the term to be so visible and help people become so aware of you that they want to know what you do without you telling them what you do. And so, and that’s really kind of been my objective, and I appreciate the compliment, by the way, but really, it’s just a matter, of having a sincere desire to know other people. So if you’re, if you’re not passionate about whatever You choose to do and passionate about people, marketing is not going to come naturally. So but if you’re passionate about, let’s say you, you know, you sign up for this franchise concept, you get enthused about the franchise concept that you have to realize that’s now you, meaning whenever you go to church, whenever you go to the store, wherever you go, you don’t clock in and clock out from the franchise business. And so people, you know, if you’re the mosquito business guy, they need to know you as the big guy might not be sexy, but you got to be the bug guy where you go. And you know, it doesn’t mean you dress around in a costume saying yourself the bad guy, but your moral compass, your communication style, the things that you’re choosing to do. Those things you can go out and brand yourself to where people are drawn to you and said and when I have questions about what you do and how you do it, and then they go, Okay, that’s the bad guy. That’s the person that they immediately are drawn to you and your services as opposed to The 14,000 different ads that they get coming through their channels. So always my wife, she gets up, she laughs at me because I say we always have to be on-brand, right. So being on brand is, before you push send before you do anything, and I don’t, I’m not flawless here I made that mistake. But, you know, I usually even in my backyard or wherever it’s, you know, before you go store before you go do this, we got to make sure we’re buttoned up and good to go. Because I’m in business for myself. So I want to make sure I’m always looking the part and trying to deliver on that. And so trying to do that and being authentic are the things that I would recommend is that you have to commit to marketing as not a marketing my business. You know, I’ll give you an example of these big companies right now through social media trying to tap into certain channels and all their stuff gets drowned out because they’re putting these charts in these things out these graphs and trying to talk about the business. Well, you know, people aren’t even connected to that, but a sincere person Running a business that’s in the fight doing things, try and help serve others post a raw authentic message about the work that they’re trying to do in the community. And that they’re going to get 10 times as many views as the interesting charts and graphs from the big box retailer company that they sent out from their social media channel that looks like an ad. So it’s learning to get beyond that and connect to who you’re trying to reach. And do it by being personable and authentic.

Adam:

Thank you so much for that. That’s great advice and you triggered a thought. When I was in the office cleaning business. One of the people that I thought was the best salespeople guy by the name of Sean Iverson in San Antonio. look the part like Mr. Clean right then instead he called himself Mr. Clean even look like the guy on the bottle. And he used that to his advantage. He became the cleaning, commercial cleaning guy. So it just totally resonates with what you’re saying right now about being a personal brand and everything else. Jason, I like Mike, the people that I’m talking to on the, on these podcasts to let people know how to get ahold of them how to people want to get a hold of you, how would they get ahold of you?

Jason:

The easiest way to reach me is through our you can contact me directly at jlee@smartgrouphouston.com. But the best thing to do is just follow me through LinkedIn, you can always find me at Jason Lee, our company’s name, exponent, it’s easy to find us on the on through LinkedIn, and then just reach out to me directly. That’s really what I recommend.

Adam:

Thank you so much for being on the show. And it’s so great talking to you today.

Jason:

Thank you, sir. And we appreciate all the hard work that you’re doing to help people create new opportunities for themselves.

Adam:

Thank you

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