Jessica Olmon is a business attorney who founded her own law firm, Vero Law Group, and built it from a garage home business to an ocean-view, Santa Monica operation, servicing over 400 clients since inception in 2011.
Her passion is to help entrepreneurs find success and freedom through their business and she does this through her law firm, as a mentor and through her new venture, Course Corrected, an entrepreneur success program.
Jessica has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Up-and-Coming Attorneys in Southern California 2016 by SuperLawyers, one of the Top 50 Up-and Coming Women Attorneys in Southern California 2016 by SuperLawyers and a Women Making a Difference by the LA Business Journal 2015.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My life experience has taught me to lead with love in my heart. It might sound a little strange—love is rarely mentioned in business and entrepreneurship—but I think that’s part of what was missing for me early on.
I used to lead with really high expectations, and a good deal of impatience. I would be friendly and easy to work with as long as things were going my way. But if something went wrong, or if my employees made mistakes, I would be quick to show my frustration. But then I had a year of not being able to find the right people to add to my team. We had multiple temporary employees coming in and out, which slowed down my momentum, and ultimately slowed down my success. I expect my employees and colleagues to have passion and enthusiasm for our work. And, for obvious reasons, you don’t always find that with temps.
So during this year, I had a lot of people coming in who were either not passionate, or not a good fit, or both. And it forced me to take a good look at myself and ask, “why am I being impatient with these people? Why am I getting annoyed with them when I know they aren’t passionate for this job, or I know they aren’t a good fit?” There was absolutely no reason to expect that every temporary employee who came through the door was going to immediately throw their whole heart and soul into a job they didn’t expect to last very long. So there was no reason for me to invest so much wasted energy into being frustrated or annoyed with them. But then this led me to ask myself, “Why treat any of my employees this way? The employees who are a good fit, and do have this passion and enthusiasm I’m looking for—why treat them this way?” So, I had to rethink my whole approach.
I realized then that the leader I want to be is one who is patient and kind and loving. I still expect everyone to give 100%, but I also want them to love coming to work every day. And I’ve found that leading with love has helped to create a much more productive corporate culture at my law firm, and it’s a much better tool for inspiring passion and enthusiasm.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure with Course Corrected?
As a business attorney, I’ve worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs from all over the spectrum. I’ve seen one person start his business with $2,000 and grow it into a multi-million-dollar corporation. I’ve seen another company with millions of dollars in investor financing spend everything and fail spectacularly. And I’ve seen everything in between. And as someone who was also an entrepreneur at the time, I had the unique perspective of working with these various businesses while building my own business at the same time. So I got to learn from their mistakes and triumphs, which gave me the foundation and understanding to know what it takes to generate my own success.
Even more importantly, I’ve come to understand that true success has to include living a life you love. I’ve seen so many people run themselves ragged chasing financial success while putting their lives on the backburner. And even when they reach their goals, and achieve their idea of a ‘perfect life,’ they often end up realizing that they’re completely miserable. So my business now centers on business and lifestyle consulting, because I’ve found when you divorce one from the other, one side always suffers. Fostering a fulfilling lifestyle that exists in harmony with your financial success is always a part of our work. Because in the end, isn’t that what we are really after?
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Course Corrected?
My greatest setback is something that I experienced last year during the run-up to our first launch. I had hired an agency to do all of the marketing for Course Corrected and two weeks before we were supposed to launch, I found out that they hadn’t done the most important part of the work I had hired them to do. By the time I found out, it was too late to do anything about it, and I had to cancel the launch. I had been up at 4am working on the product and the launch every day for months, and then it all crumbled in a moment. This completely derailed me for months and had major financial implications for my business.
I took some time to recover and get my bearings. And I realized that in the end, while I was extremely frustrated with this agency, I had to take responsibility. What I had done wrong was that I had outsourced a key component of my business to someone else without enough oversight on my end. I had assumed that I could simply put this major part of my business in someone else’s hands and it would be taken care of. So I learned a valuable lesson about how to delegate and outsource successfully. I learned that even if I’m not directly involved in doing the work, I still have to stay involved and take responsibility for oversight of the work.
The biggest highlight so far was an amazing moment I experienced on April 15th. Building Course Corrected involved creating a lot of video content. I worked on it for months. I was writing all the content myself, I was producing and overseeing production, and I was appearing in all the content. And I was doing all of this while running my law firm full time. When you are that focused, it can be difficult to distance yourself and get any perspective on what you’re doing. You become so immersed that all you can really see is the immediate task before you. But on April 15th, I finally came up for air. That was the day that we wrapped production. All the work, all the intense focus, all the late nights and early mornings had led to that moment. And I remember the exact moment so vividly. We were filming in a high-rise in downtown LA, and we had just finished the very last piece of footage. I sat down in this chair and looked out the giant window with this sweeping view of the LA skyline, and I was just overcome with this wave of relief, and an incredible sense of accomplishment. That moment is going to stick with me.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
I’m a big believer in following the desire that’s in your heart. Don’t think about the possible setbacks, don’t focus on feeling like you’re at a disadvantage because you’re a woman, and don’t get hung up on not feeling ‘ready.’ Because the obstacles will be there, you will probably encounter certain forms of inequality, and you will probably never feel ready. So the important thing is to take action. If you believe in your business, product, or project and push ahead with intention and determination, nothing can stop you.
I had Course Corrected on my mind for a year before I started. The spark was there, but I was holding myself back from jumping into it, because I felt like I needed more resources before I could take that first step. But at a certain point, I said, “you know what, this is what I want. This is my vision, and I’m just going to get started.” And what I found almost immediately, as things began to come together, is that I didn’t need resources, I just needed to be resourceful. The things we think we ‘need’ are just the mind’s way to keep us from starting. You are always going to run into unknowns in any venture, so you really can’t be ready for everything before you start. But if you’re resourceful, you will be able to deal obstacles as they arise.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
Have a vision for where you and your business are going. I truly believe this is the only way to achieve success. And I’m not talking about having a goal. Goals are foggy and vague, and they are usually stand-alone measures of success, completely disconnected from the big picture of what you want to achieve in life.
The most common goal for business owners, and pretty much everybody, is to ‘make more money.’ That’s not good enough. What does ‘more’ mean? How do you know when you’ve hit your goal? What are your plans with that money? Plus, once you’ve made more money, don’t you want to continue making more money? It’s a goal with no endpoint and no real direction.
So when I talk about having a vision, I don’t just mean sitting down and making some notes. I mean really working on creating a crystal-clear, detailed picture of exactly what you want your business to look like, what your ideal clients look like, and how you want your business to work with your lifestyle. If you put some real energy and intention into fleshing out this vision and maintaining it throughout your work, day in and day out, you will be much more likely to get there, because you will have something concrete and comprehensive to work toward.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I try to avoid thinking about it in those terms. I think for many business owners and entrepreneurs it creates an oversimplified idea about how their lives ‘should’ be, like that there is some outside rubric for measuring the ideal ratio of work vs. relaxation.
I prefer thinking of it in terms of work/life harmony. Sometimes I want to be working hard. Sometimes I get immense satisfaction out of pouring all my energy into a project even though it leaves me with little time for anything else. And sometimes I just want to relax. So what I would say is refer back to your vision, and if you’re not living up to it, make the changes.
Last year, I realized I wasn’t spending as much time with my daughter as I would’ve liked. So what I did was schedule three trips with her for this year. And I set aside the time to be with her with no phone, or emails or work calls. And so far it’s been great. But it’s all about creating a harmony that works for you, instead of trying to force some idea of ‘balance’ that might not fit with your vision.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Just going on my experience, I’ve seen a lot of women who are trying to do it all. I’ve noticed that the men I work with tend to be more singularly focused, while the women I work with have a tendency to spread themselves too thin at times. So what often ends up happening is that women work just as hard, or harder, but their work is diverted into so many different areas that they end up looking and feeling like they’ve actually accomplished less.
I would say one thing that really helped me in this area is learning how to successfully delegate. Learning to let go of the less important things and let someone else handle them—always with oversight—can free you to really dive in and put the full weight of your intention behind your project or business without distractions.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
It has made all the difference! Thanks to mentorship, I can honestly say I’m a completely different person today than I was 4 years ago. That’s not to say that I used mentorship as a crutch, or had my mentors do things for me. I took responsibility for myself and my life. But I did it with the help and guidance of mentorship.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx, and Sandra Day O'Connor come to mind.
I admire both first and foremost because they had a vision for something that seemed impossible, and was not at all a part of their reality, and they went for it anyway. Sandra Day O'Connor was one of the only women in her law school, but graduated as a top student and was offered a job as a secretary. To go on from there to become the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court is incredible. This was a woman who wouldn't take no for an answer.
Sarah Blakely was raised to celebrate failure and has story after story of how she was turned down and told she couldn't do what she wanted to do before she actually made it happen. But she had a vision, and she stuck to it. She even wrote her own patent with no experience whatsoever. She just didn’t want to spend thousands on legal fees, so instead she just bought a textbook on patent law and did it herself. And now she is an incredible success. I also love her foundation, which focuses on offering training and education for woman entrepreneurs.
What do you want to accomplish in the next year?
I have big plans! My law firm is continuing to grow, so this year we’re adding more people to our team. While I’m working on that, I’m also going to focus on having a successful launch of Course Corrected on March 20th. We are starting with a group of 20 entrepreneurs, and we’ll dig in right away to make meaningful changes and help take their businesses to the next level. And, of course, I’m so looking forward to quality time with my daughter.