#35: Storytelling with Ann Jenrette-Thomas [Podcast] Skip to the content

#35: Storytelling with Ann Jenrette-Thomas [Podcast]

GBM_Podcast(epi-35-Ann-Jenrette-Thomas)Today’s interview is with Ann Jenrette-Thomas of Esquire Coaching Inc. Ann and I had a great conversation around being an LGBT business owner, coming out to our families, how to leverage being a lesbian in business and all of the wonderful things she is doing in her coaching practice focusing on the legal field.

Below are the items mentioned in this episode of the podcast:

Free e-book for listeners: Sassy Time Management System

  • Email: info@esquirecoaching.com
  • Headline: Sassy Ebook

Listen to the episode by clicking the play button below!

Would you prefer to read the transcript than listen to the episode? No problem! Read the transcript below!

AUDIO TITLE:  Episode #35 – Ann Jenrette Thomas

Jenn T Grace:

You are listening to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast, Episode 35.

Intro:

Welcome to the Gay Business and Marketing Made Easy Podcast where you’ll learn how to do business with and market to the LGBT community in an authentic and transparent way. We’re talking about the $790 billion lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. We’ll help you grow your business, gain market share and impact your bottom line. And now your host – she’s an entrepreneur, a marketing maven and an advocate for the LGBT business community. Jenn, with two N’s, T. Grace.

Jenn T Grace:

Well hello and welcome to episode number 35 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn Grace, and we are now in the middle of May. I am so incredibly grateful to be finally what feels to be spring in this part of the country. I don’t know about you, but it certainly is nice to actually see flowers blooming and trees being green again and all that fun stuff. I know I’ve been moaning and groaning about the winter the entire winter, so finally I have nothing to complain about in terms of the weather because it’s just gorgeous here. So yay, spring is here which is very exciting. And let’s see, let’s think about what is going on in today’s episode. So as always I want to start in the beginning and just kind of share with you a couple of things that are coming up that you might be interested in hearing about. And then I’ll give you a little snippet of what is to come in today’s episode. And then also a little insight into our May 30th episode as well.

So let’s see, first thing’s first. I want to share with you that the date of the next webinar is on May- let me check my calendar, I should know this already but for some reason I don’t. I know it’s next week, let’s see. May 21st. So if you are listening to this as the episode comes out, you can join the next webinar on May 21st. If you are listening to this sometime in the distant future, or the not-so-distant future I should say, the June webinar will be on June 17th. So every single month without fail, I have a webinar that goes on and I get to meet great people and I get to answer some awesome questions that you have. So if you’re interested in checking out the webinar I highly encourage you to do so, which you can do by heading over to www.JennTGrace.com/webinars. Each of them last about an hour or so, and there’s plenty of time for Q&A, and in this particular one I want to talk about the Mozilla Firefox issue that happened in March. And- or actually it might have been April. But I want to talk about that as a case study and what you as a business who’s looking to reach the LGBT community can learn from the kerfuffle if you will, of what happened with them. So I’m looking forward to talking to you all about that on the 21st.

So my second call to action, if you will, for you is to consider joining my mailing list. It’s so exciting to see so many people on a regular basis joining the list, and being able to have access to some really valuable content, I feel anyway. And you know I don’t bombard your inbox, I don’t go crazy spamming you, I really am very cautious and methodical about how often I reach out to you. So hopefully you’ll consider doing that, and you can certainly do so by heading over to my website, which again is www.JennTGrace.com, and there’s a couple of places on there that’s pretty simple that says, ‘Join the Gay Business and Marketing Insider.’ So that would be pretty cool, I would love to see you there.

Speaking of loving to see you, I have some really interesting news. So I was looking at my podcast, and I was looking at the number of people who are listening, and how many episodes are being listened to, and on what devices. There’s all sorts of great statistics that can be found by having an upgraded package which I just recently did, and I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner. I actually- when I first started the podcast which was in January of 2012- is that right? January of 2013, excuse me. So when I first started the podcast last year, I had access to the stats but there really wasn’t a lot to look at so I just kind of got rid of them. And I decided- hey let me go upgrade again, check out who’s listening, where they’re from. And I am blown away by the results. Like partially- and then the other part is totally expected. So here I just want to share with you the top four places that are listening to me. And these top four blow away the myriad of other places. So I didn’t look at how many states I have people listening to me from, but I did look at the number of countries, and there are folks in 45 different countries listening to this podcast, which I thought was so awesome and so amazing. So my request to you, is if you live in one of these 45 countries that is not the United States, I want to hear from you. Not to say- don’t get wrong here, if you are in the United States I would love to hear from you as well, but I’m really curious to know from folks who are in all of these countries across Europe and Asia and Africa, how you found about this podcast, and what you’re learning from it. I’m really, really interested in hearing that. So the top four places we have California in the US as the number one spot, which doesn’t surprise me a whole heck of a lot. Connecticut, my home state comes in number two. And then New York which is bordering Connecticut comes in at number three. So that’s the top three. But the fourth one absolutely blew my mind. The fourth location who has the highest number of downloads of this podcast is in Beijing, China. How frickin’ awesome is that? I would never in a million years have guessed that I would have three US states and Beijing as my top four listener geographic destinations; I think that’s totally awesome. So if you are in Beijing, and you are listening to this right now, I really want to hear from you, I truly, really want to hear from you. Just take a moment, shoot me a quick email, and just say, ‘Hey, I’m one of your listeners from Beijing.’ I just really would love nothing more than to see that come through my inbox, I think it’s really awesome. And I’m not entirely sure how you found me if you are listening to this, and you’re listening from Beijing or one of those other 45 countries for that matter. I really just want to know how you found me. I think it’s really cool, I love, love, love hearing from people and every time I put out a podcast, without a doubt I always hear from somebody. So please don’t be listening to this and thinking, ‘Oh, she doesn’t want to hear from me. I’ve got nothing good to say.’ That’s not true, you have something great to say, I guarantee it. Just take a moment and shoot me an email, send me a tweet, throw me a message on LinkedIn, connect with me, whatever it takes. I’m really, really curious to hear from you.

And of course I want to hear about your business, about your story, all that fun stuff. So anyway, that was my short tangent on where people listening are; I think it’s super exciting. And one other thing I guess I’ll note since I’ve been kind of chronicling my running journey with you as we’ve shared the last couple of months of episodes together. Is that I did my second 5k race this past weekend, which was on- I believe it was May 10th, so this last Saturday. I got the joys of running by the beach in Rhode Island; it was a very nice run. A little bit rainy but it was a nice run. And I’m super excited to say that I beat just shy of five minutes off of my record, which you know clearly when you run once race, everything’s a record. So the second one I took off almost five whole minutes so I’m super excited about that. So I’m really thinking that this half marathon that I’ve signed up for and sometimes wonder why I’ve done it, I think I’m going to be okay and that’s in November. So I will continue to keep you guys updated as I go through because it’s nice to know that you care, and you take the time to shoot me messages about that, it’s really cool to see. So thank you for your continued support, I certainly appreciate it.

So now we have today’s episode which is with Ann Jenrette Thomas, she is an attorney, and she is with Esquire Coaching; she’s the founder and CEO. And we had a really awesome conversation, it was just kind of fun to dive into what her business is up to, how she’s serving the LGBT community, and all those awesome, great things. So without further ado, let’s just dive into the interview.

Alright, so I am very pleased to be talking today with Ann Jenrette Thomas who- we connected through a mutual friend named Jennifer Brown, and Jennifer’s name has come up many times on this podcast, she seems to be the hub of LGBT activity and moreso I think connecting lesbian business owners to one another. So I’m really excited to talk to Ann today, and I would love for you to just tell us a little bit more about yourself, maybe share some of your story, and kind of what your path looked like that led you to where you are at this point in your career today.

Ann J Thomas:

Sure, I’d love to. And by the way, I’m super excited to be on this show, thanks so much for this opportunity, Jenn.

Jenn T Grace:

My pleasure.

Ann J Thomas:

So basically about me; I have always been an activist at heart. And I have this really funny story of when I was a kid, I- you know I’m an only child and so I imagined a lot. Like I would play and have a really vivid imagination. And one of the things that I remember playing was that I would be like a leader or rescuing or saving peoples’ lives. But specifically, in my imagination there would be like some kind of danger and inevitably there was like a gap, you know we were trying to get from one place to the next, and there’s a big gap and people can’t get by or whatever. And so I would put myself in the middle and basically be a bridge, you know so that people could walk over and get to the other side.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s hilarious.

Ann J Thomas:

I know.

Jenn T Grace:

We need some type of music in the background.

Ann J Thomas:

Exactly. Exactly. But you know the funny thing is like now that I’ve been sort of reflecting on my life I feel like, “Oh, I get it. I actually am a bridge, but not in that way.” You know. So move forward into the future and when I was in college I was a leader and always rooted for communities that were underserved and underrepresented, like the LGBT community and people of color, and women. I was just always trying to fight to empower folks. And then I wanted to make a bigger impact so I went to law school, thinking that I would do civil rights work. And I didn’t end up doing civil rights law, but I worked in the non-profit field; you know really supporting non-profit organizations and their legal issues. But I wanted to go back to making a difference in peoples’ lives. And so that’s how I came across the industry of coaching. And so today I own Esquire Coaching and what we do is we help lawyers to not only have professional success with business development and so forth, but also feel personally empowered. So that’s how I feel like I’m a bridge today, is that I’m able to walk across so many different lives and personalities and really help bridge a way.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really interesting. Have you found that because you wanted to be a civil rights attorney that in some ways the coaching that you’re doing, that has any impact on it in terms of just your natural state of kind of wanting to be an advocate?

Ann J Thomas:

I think it does. I think there’s always, always a soft spot in my heart for diversity. You know diversity and inclusion, and in particular, working with communities that have felt oppressed. And so I think in my coaching, part of the people that are attracted to what I’m doing are women, members of the LGBT community, and people of color who basically have- are tired of feeling like they have to work twice as hard to get half as far. And I think that’s- so instead of it being an activist on a global level, I feel like now my activism is on a personal level. That through that knowledge and empowerment, they are able to really rise up and just be the absolute best that they can be. So that- it’s exciting for me.

Jenn T Grace:

That is so well said, the whole idea of personal versus global. You know like you always hear about people wanting to make an impact, but I feel like I think very similar in the sense that if I can empower one individual person, you have no idea the type of impact they’re going to make on their community. So it’s kind of like that trickle-down effect.

Ann J Thomas:

Absolutely. I totally agree with that.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s pretty cool. So this is pretty exciting. I feel like you probably have tons of gems of wisdom for us, and what I like to do is start off the top of the episode with just kind of asking for a fun fact or something really random about yourself. I know that you were sharing with us about your youth, being a bridge figuratively and literally, which is hilarious. But I’m sure there’s probably some other just kind of a fun fact to just get us flowing. What do you got for us?

Ann J Thomas:

Okay. So I love, love, love to dance. And you know despite being in a corporate environment and things like that, I will still take dance breaks during the work day, just to go and have fun, and get out some energy and just add some joy to the day.

Jenn T Grace:

That is funny. They do say- I think it’s like if you get up and just move around for like ten minutes once an hour, that it’s supposed to help like your creativity. So it’s probably even moreso when you’re dancing around the office.

Ann J Thomas:

Well it’s just so much fun.

Jenn T Grace:

I hear you, that’s pretty funny. I can see you just like in your corporate setting, just mosey on through, busting out a move in the middle of the hallway. That’s got to be good though, because I’m sure it creates a good atmosphere for the people around you, and it doesn’t keep things as- I feel like especially in the legal world, things can get very dry, very quickly. So it’s good that you have a sense of humor and can kind of have fun while you’re at work.

Ann J Thomas:

Oh yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

Very cool. So I want to ask a whole host of questions of you, but- so be prepared. One of the things I want to talk about though is some kind of coming out story, because I know that you are focusing on- you specifically have it seems like three areas; focusing on women, people of color and LGBT people. So clearly you don’t have to come out as a person of color, and you don’t have to come out as a woman, like those are just obvious things for people. Or actually I can’t even say that for people of color, because I feel like there’s a lot of instances where there’s still some sort of coming out happening. But I feel like that’s a topic for another day. But in terms of LGBT, can you just share maybe some sort of coming out story that you had, that maybe it’s something that relates to your business and your client focus, or maybe it’s just something that’s maybe a first coming out story from your past whenever you came out, or with friends, family, whatever it happens to be. But the purpose of why I ask this is for the people who are listening to this who are not part of the LGBT community, I don’t think that anyone truly understands how often we have to come out. Like sometimes it’s a daily thing, sometimes it’s multiple times a day depending on what you’re doing. And I think people have it in their minds that once you come out, you just come out and that’s it. So I like to highlight just the many different ways that coming out looks like for different people.

Ann J Thomas:

Oh that’s such an important and great point that you’re making. Because it’s true, you have to come out all the time, and I know Jenn, that you have children so they are outing you too. So for me, I am a very feminine looking lesbian. And so most people never, never assume, even if they’re gay, that I’m gay. And so it’s a constant- oftentimes just a subtle way, I’ll say something like, “Oh yeah, my wife,” and then I get the double take. Like, “What? What did you just say? Did you just say…” And some people are trying to be politically correct and not say too much.  But I think a story that I want to share is when I first came out to my parents, because my parents are Indian immigrants, and I am their only child, and I’m a daughter. And so just imagine, like there’s a lot of cultural pressures and a lot of just- you know, some expectations of how I’m supposed to be raised and be as an adult. And so I was about nineteen, so this was roughly twenty years ago.

And at that time I came home, and I told my parents, I was like, “I need to talk to you, I have to tell you something.” And I went and made a special trip home from college. And I couldn’t quite say, “I am a lesbian, or I’m gay.” I ended up saying, “I don’t like boys in that way.” And I mean obviously the message got through, and my parents like- they were not happy. They cried. My dad at that moment did end up hugging me and telling me he loved me. But what I think was really surprising and unexpected for me is at the time all of my gay friends in particular were like, “Oh don’t worry, it gets better. Like it gets better over time, they get used to it. Your relationship will mend.” Because after the initial hug, things went really south. But my- that hasn’t been my experience. I think the- all the extra cultural elements and just the expectation and what they have had to face, because there just aren’t that many people that are out from my region of India that are like in the US. And so it’s been- even though it’s twenty years, it’s been so much denial on my parents’ part. I’ve had to constantly- especially the first decade or so after I came out, when I was “of marrying age” in their opinion, just constantly saying, “No, like this is who I am and I’m in a relationship.” Or really trying to help them see that this is who I am, not some- not some phase, not some influence of others or anything like that. So yeah, I think that’s my story.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s interesting, and since you’re married now and you were of marrying age at a certain period of your life; what was your family’s reaction to your marriage?

Ann J Thomas:

They are not in support or favor of it. My dad is really- he’s gotten a lot more angry and, I don’t know. It’s kind of heartbreaking, actually. And my mother, she follows the traditional line. So she won’t go against my father or anything like that, but she does- she’s nicer to me and to Valerie, my wife, than my father is.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, that’s- I feel like that’s so common and so unfortunate in so many regards. But it seems like that experience for you probably only makes you more effective in the work that you’re doing, which is helping advocate for others. I would imagine that there’s probably a lot that you can draw from that personal experience.

Ann J Thomas:

There really is, and I think the most shocking maybe is to really have love and compassion anyway. You know, I really can understand- I don’t agree with, but I can understand my parents’ perspective and I have been able to put myself in their shoes and really recognize some of the reasons why they’re so limited in their ability to embrace and accept who I am. And so that ability to be compassionate and loving anyway, I think is one of the biggest lessons. And at the same time to not internalize that. To not have their world view or their opinions- or even their at times nasty reactions to me impact how I feel about myself. You know now that took a long time. I can’t say that that was instantaneous. I internalized those negative messages, I felt horrible about myself for a long time, and with consistent persistent work I’ve gotten to this place of personal empowerment that really nobody can shake.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah I feel like you kind of bring up a point because oftentimes I don’t think that we as people in the LGBT community give those around us enough time to process, when we actually are coming out. So like I can think of examples where- and you know I think it’s even true for my own family. But like if you’re coming out to your parent, you have to give them time to process; because everything that they thought your life was going to be has now been kind of flipped upside on its head, and I don’t think that you can realistically expect them to just be embracing of that overnight. And I think that most people are expecting that, so when that expectation is not met, that’s when you know, some sort of downward spiral occurs for a lot of people. Where I think you’re coming from a perspective of, ‘You know I can understand their point of view. I don’t agree with it, but at least I can understand it,’ which makes you far more empathic and being able to kind of overcome any type of negativity that is coming of it. So I think that that’s so much more profound than a lot of people might realize.

Ann J Thomas:

Thank you, thank you.

Jenn T Grace:

Wow. I feel like it’s so- all too common to have experiences that are similar to yours, but I think that as long as we’re talking about it even here on this podcast, I think that there’s bound to be a lot of people who can learn from that and hopefully- my plan always in these interviews is to educate and enlighten people so that way they can make better decisions in regards to the LGBT people around them and how that impacts the lives of people that are around them as well. So this is a great way I think to start off our conversation today.

Ann J Thomas:

Awesome.

Jenn T Grace:

I had no doubt we were going to have some good stuff and we’ve already dove in, this is fabulous. So one of the things that I’m really curious about- and I’m just curious about your business in general, because I know that you have a coaching practice and I have, I feel like a thousand questions about how it all logistically plays out. But I think the more interesting topic would be- or the interesting question would be did you have an ‘ah-ha’ moment where you basically realized that this is what you’re meant to be doing? Like what you’re doing right now. Or maybe what you’re doing right now still isn’t quite what you want it to be? Or maybe there’s a series of ‘ah-ha’ moments; I know for every person it seems to be very different, so I’m just curious to what your perspective is on that.

Ann J Thomas:

I feel like it’s just been a journey. And I don’t necessarily that this is the end of it. Like honestly I still feel like I’m supposed to just have a much larger impact on a much larger stage. And so I know that this is part of the process, but in terms of an ‘ah-ha’ moment, really it’s when I’m with my clients. You know, and I see that transformation whether it’s all of a sudden they are really embracing the fact that they are a leader. Or they’re feeling so empowered to go out and you know, get new clients. Or they are developing some of their softer skills, softer side. You know they are developing more compassion, they’re developing just strength in who they are. And I think that that then goes and has this ripple effect in the rest of their lives; whether it’s building business, or it is being a better spouse, a better parent. And when I see that, I just feel elated. Like I don’t have children, but I imagine that how I feel when my clients are succeeding is the same type of joy that I would experience at watching my own kids blossom. You know?

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, absolutely.

Ann J Thomas:

So I feel like I’m fortunate that I get to have a lot of those little ‘ah-ha’s that make me feel more like a confirmation. Like yes, you’re on the right track. Yes, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really important to have, because I feel like there’s a lot of people who have clients and all they care about is the money, and there is no like deep sense of satisfaction or gratification for what they’re doing, they’re just doing it kind of like in a more rogue way. Like this is what I’m supposed to be doing, this is how I make my money, but yet I don’t really care about the impact that’s being had. So it’s nice to see that the ‘ah-ha’ moments are just- probably plentiful, because I’m sure you’re having them on a regular basis because it’s just reaffirming that you’re on the right path.

Ann J Thomas:

Yeah, it is. You know and I think that’s important too, that you should always check in for yourself. Like what is the point of living a life or going to a job where all you’re getting is money and not getting fulfillment? I mean we spend so many hours at work, you have to find a way to make sure that it’s the right path for you- at least I believe that.

Jenn T Grace:

I 1000% agree with that one. But do you think that there is some part of our culture that just kind of says that your job should just be satisfactoring, it’s just something to collect a paycheck from?

Ann J Thomas:

Oh my God, I think that message is constantly reinforced in our culture. And I also think that there’s a socioeconomic component to that. I think when you are lower middle class, or poor, or maybe even middle middle class, et cetera, that there’s this notion of just you just do your work. You know put your head down and do your work, and even if you don’t like it, even if it’s not fulfilling, it’s a paycheck. And I have seen this mentality and this notion really continue. And then I think if you’re privileged enough to either have more money or exposure to factors that will allow you to think about fulfillment, then that comes into play. You know, otherwise I don’t think it does.

 

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. I totally agree. I think that the messaging is just so- it’s so not what it should be if you think about it. And I certainly have not come from a privileged background but I feel like just typical average middle class background. And there’s just something that’s always resonated, or always just been inside me that knows that I can’t be doing something that I don’t like doing. Like it’s just- it’s not in my nature, and that it goes in the past for when I had- you know working for actual large companies and just not being happy at what I was doing, and knowing that it’s like, ‘You know what? I’m willing to take a leap of faith knowing that whatever’s on the other side is going to be better than what I have right now.’ Even if it’s a big old scary leap of faith and there’s no cushion, there’s no financial cushion or anything. But I’ve always known within when it’s like the right time to make those types of decisions. And I think that a lot of people are shied away from making drastic decisions like that. And I certainly wouldn’t recommend to anybody- especially having a family, which I’m really good at taking calculated risk. But that’s not to say that doesn’t scare the shit out of my wife every now and then when I do it. So- but I feel like society doesn’t actually embrace that type of- that type of personality. I think that’s definitely like an entrepreneurial type of trait, which I’m sure you can totally relate to.

Ann J Thomas:

I can. And at the same time, think about it. Like we- our educational system is designed to help create worker bees. You know? That education started post-Industrial Revolution, the way that it is now. And that was all geared to help make sure that we have people that will know how to listen to authority and follow rules to be able to work in factories and then things of that nature. So our system was designed in this way to say, “Alright, you know, just do your work.” You know? You don’t have to question authority. I mean we’ve moved away from that a bit with like college and all the different types of thinking but- anyway sorry that’s a tangent.

Jenn T Grace:

No, I think it’s a good tangent because I think that what we’re getting at is that you can be doing what you enjoy doing. And if you’re not, you should evaluate how to make some sort of change to allow that. Because just think of how much more productive you are when you’re doing something that you enjoy. Can you imagine what the world would be like if people were actually in positions that they enjoyed being in like across the board? I feel like that would be amazing. Lord knows it would never happen, but it would be so amazing to actually see it come through fruition.

Ann J Thomas:

It really would be amazing. You know and they’d feel valued for things that they enjoy doing. I mean what’s better than that?

Jenn T Grace:

Seriously. Just even small levels of acknowledgment I think can go such a long way. And most people I feel like don’t actually get that which is so- again, unfortunate.

Ann J Thomas:

Mm hmm.

Jenn T Grace:

So I guess it’s somewhat along these lines. What keeps you inspired and motivated to continue doing what you’re doing every day? You’re a business owner, you are juggling undoubtedly seventeen different things at all given times. Some of which you are fabulous at and others which you’d just rather pull your hair out than have to deal with. So where is the source of inspiration for you, and the motivation to just keep on chugging along every day?

Ann J Thomas:

Well number one, it’s just seeing the impact on peoples’ lives. I mean I can’t stress enough how much that feeds me, you know? So even when things get tough- and they do, you know? That’s the nature of business. That there are downtimes and there are really difficult times as you’re trying to maneuver. But knowing that I’m making a difference in peoples’ lives really motivates me. And then I also- I learned a really painful lesson when I was leading a non-profit when I was younger. And at that time I worked 80-100 hours a week, you know nonstop, just so committed. You know just nonstop. I really did not take care of myself at all. Well ultimately I ended up burning out, getting an ulcer in my twenties-

Jenn T Grace:

Oh my.

Ann J Thomas:

I know and being in the hospital, and that taught me that self-care is crucial. So now what I do is I make sure to meditate or do yoga, or do something that restores me, you know? Something that is really just specifically for me, and doing it daily. You know, I don’t think that that’s selfish in the way a lot of people think it’s selfish; I think it’s essential as a business owner especially. Because if I am not alert, if I am not my best, then everything is impacted.

Jenn T Grace:

That is such a good point. I was actually on the phone with a friend yesterday who- she’s been working for a fairly large non-profit for many, many years and just decided to go out on her own and freelance, and now she’s just trying to figure out how to be a business owner essentially. And she was saying how- because we were talking about running and trying to run a race together sometime in the fall. And she was like, “When I’m not exercising I just feel depressed, and I didn’t realize how important that daily exercise that I was doing- that I now feel like I don’t have time for because I have to run my business.” And I was saying to her like, “You hear all sorts of people in different Facebook posts saying, ‘Oh, put it on your calendar and make sure that you get it done.'” And I said that to her, I’m like, “I don’t want to sound like a Facebook post but honestly put it on your calendar. Put exercise in your calendar and make it so it’s a non-negotiable block of time, as if it were any other meeting.” Because if it really has that much of an impact on your business, then it’s certainly something that’s worthwhile actually factoring into your business. Because I don’t think enough people do that at all.

Ann J Thomas:

I totally agree with you. And that second part of what you said is the crucial part. Make it non-negotiable. I think oftentimes- and I’ve been guilty of this myself, so it’s not me preaching to the choir. But I have blocked off a time to exercise and then I feel like well, let me finish up this report or follow up on these emails, and not honor it. And that reality is as a business owner, I mean we have to stay alert and sharp, and exercise helps with that.

Jenn T Grace:

Absolutely. Yeah I block it out on my calendar, and I have a very specific routine. And you know occasionally I end up on a call that was unexpected and I just rearrange my day. And occasionally if I have to cancel a meeting because it’s not as important as my exercise, I will. And I’ve said that to people and they’re like, “What? Why would you even consider doing something like that?” And it’s like my exercise and my mental clarity is far more important than whatever meeting that was. And that’s something that’s hard for a lot of people to grasp.

Ann J Thomas:

Jenn I love that. That is brilliant.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s not always the easiest decision but I feel like it’s that important, at least to me anyway.

Ann J Thomas:

Mm hmm.

Jenn T Grace:

Wow we’ve got some- I feel like we’re coming up with some good nuggets here, nuggets o’ wisdom. So this- I feel like my questions are naturally flowing much smoother than sometimes they do. So what is a piece of advice that maybe you were given that’s just kind of been one of those guiding principles that you’ve used in your business? Or is there a piece of advice that you give to others- especially since you’re a coach, that is one of those guiding principles that you think that others are actually using and implementing or executing.

Ann J Thomas:

Well you know I’m actually going to share something that I had received, it’s a piece of advice that I received that I think is fantastic. And that is that nothing is permanent. That means that failure or the bumps, or the challenges that you deal with; that’s not permanent. And it also means that the good stuff, when you’re riding high and things are going really well, but that’s not permanent either. Now that might sound depressing but for me it keeps me on my toes, you know? It prevents me from just getting cocky or too like, you know just resting too much, and instead saying, “Okay, this is amazing and I’m going to enjoy it but at the same I’m not going to think that I can not do anything or not continue to look for new ways to innovate and just keep going.”

Jenn T Grace:

I feel like that’s- it’s about not being complacent as well, right?

Ann J Thomas:

Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really good. Yeah, I feel like that’s a really good piece of advice for sure. And nothing is permanent and that’s a wonderful way to look at- especially when negative is impacting you, to just realize like, listen this isn’t going to last forever, I can get through this. I can restore my peace of mind, et cetera.

Ann J Thomas:

True and I used to struggle with that. You know I had a very, very much a perfectionist tendency. And so failure was so hard, and I would take it so hard. And then I would drag it out because basically I’m like sitting there and reliving that failure over and over again and making it such a big deal. And I was like, you know what, if I really reflected on some of those big moments where I felt like I failed and- I realized that eventually I got over it. It didn’t end up ruining my reputation forever, or whatever it was.

Jenn T Grace:

And there’s always so much positive to be learned from something negative happening. Right? And I don’t think that often enough we’re focused on what is that silver lining that can come of this really crappy situation.

Ann J Thomas:

Absolutely.

Jenn T Grace:

Very good, good stuff. So I kind of want to switch gears because we’ve been talking about business and inspiration and motivation. But I want to talk about the LGBT community, and marketing to it. We are going to stop for just a second to hear from the sponsors of this podcast, the Peak Performance Podcast.

Alright, thank you Michael. Now let’s get back into our interview with Ann. I always love when I’m talking to a guest who is part of the community who has a business that also is working with the community. Because I’m sure you’ll have interesting insights around this. So my first question for you is if somebody is listening to this, and I have a good mix of LGBT people and then allies to the community who listen to the podcast, with the commonality for the majority are all business owners or working in some kind of like marketing capacity. So they’re listening most of the time to hear what they can do better as it relates to marketing themselves to the LGBT community. So my question is do you have any piece of advice, either if it’s just a one tidbit or maybe a series of them, that you think could actually make any of the business owners listening to this more successful in how they’re reaching out to the LGBT community?

Ann J Thomas:

Yeah. I think- I think it’s really important to always watch your language and your images. And I think that, you know I know when I came out twenty years ago, things weren’t as safe to be a gay person and an out gay person as it is today. And I think that that continues to play a role, meaning people are looking for clues and cues about when they can come out. And so if you are marketing or doing anything- I mean any, any, anything on your website, your brochures, any time you’re interacting with people; make sure that there is a consciousness about using inclusive language and inclusive images so that at every point that you’re coming in contact with prospective clients or allies, that there is a safety that you’re creating so that they feel welcomed. You know I think that that’s really important.

Jenn T Grace:

I thoroughly enjoy that. And to elaborate, what would you say- so if somebody is listening to this and they’re thinking, “What exactly does she mean by inclusive?” How would you describe that to somebody who might actually not know what that means?

Ann J Thomas:

So for example using language like partner or spouse instead of just saying husband or wife. Using images that would show same-sex couples. It doesn’t have to show anything racy or anything, but that there’s an acknowledgment that okay, this is part of the population as well that we serve. And really like when you are- if you’re in meetings or at speaking engagements, or things of that nature, making sure that you throw in language that will not just be exclusively heterosexual. You know really being able to make sure that if you can, throw in an example that will include maybe a gay and lesbian family or a gay and lesbian couple or something like that.

Jenn T Grace:

That is so perfectly stated. I think that that’s something that’s often overlooked so that’s great, great advice. Do you, or have you felt like you’ve been able to use your status as someone who’s part of the community in your business? Or just in your marketing efforts personally?

Ann J Thomas:

I do. I think one of the things is I’ve been able to leverage my identity by making sure that I create programs that are specifically for LGBT lawyers. And you know first I think part of this leverage, it had to start internally. For a long time I saw who I was as a disadvantage, you know? I felt more oppressed by being gay or being a woman, being a person of color. And it really took some internal work of recognizing, ‘Wait a minute, hey I have insight into three distinct communities. I can show where they intersect, I can show where there are differences. And really be able to leverage the value in that.’ And so today I can see, and I own and I claim that. And I help my clients claim that; their own power in their diversity so that they can leverage that in getting clients, in marketing, in just really being able to grow their own businesses.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s so important. And it goes beyond LGBT which is what you’re saying it’s a matter of leveraging your identity, whatever that identity may be.

Ann J Thomas:

That’s right.

Jenn T Grace:

Beautiful, I love it. That’s good stuff. Do you have any experience with supplier diversity? Speaking of leveraging identities.

Ann J Thomas:

Not so much, no.

Jenn T Grace:

Because I’m just thinking as you’re talking because you’re focusing on helping people really leverage who they are. So whether that is being LGBT, being a woman, somebody of color or even a veteran. There are government and corporate initiatives that are really about helping people leverage their status in their individual minority group. So for example you being an LGBT business owner, there’s a ton of opportunity for you to become a certified LGBT-owned business, which then basically gets you a seat at the corporate bidding table when- if corporate were your actual target market. So if we’re thinking of this hypothetically. You know like even if we can use my business as an example. Being a certified business owner, I have kind of an upper hand if you will, in being able to bid on contracts by companies who have a supplier diversity initiative. Which is really to say that the supplier diversity, what they’re trying to accomplish is to make sure that maybe it’s 7%, maybe it’s 10%, maybe it’s even higher than that. But their procurement dollars, they have to purchase their services or goods from 10% of businesses or are owned by some minority group. And there’s like the top minority groups. So people of color, women, LGBT, veterans, and actually people with disabilities. So those are like the top five that people are- there are certifications for, and now it’s not that you’re going to get the job because you are one of these particular minority groups, but it gets you at least the opportunity to bid on something that as a basically- like a straight, white male for example has absolutely no leverage in that regard. So it’s really just an added- it’s kind of like an added weapon in your bag of tricks in terms of being able to get more business. And then there’s also the opportunities to be able to connect with other LGBT business owners, or other African American business owners, or other women business owners; however it happens to shake out, to have those business to business type of opportunities as well.

Ann J Thomas:

Oh that sounds wonderful. I mean I’ve heard about it a little bit but I have not taken advantage of it.

Jenn T Grace:

Well we’ll have to talk offline and have a conversation, because I think that you’d be prime for it. So that’s just another random tangent that we’ve gone down. So let’s talk I guess a little bit more about your business, and is there any type of program or tool, or maybe even just a book that’s kind of helped you streamline the way that you go about things?

Ann J Thomas:

Honestly, I think that as a business owner it’s really important for me to continuously keep learning. I feel like I am the ceiling of my business as the CEO, and so working with coaches has been important for me so that I can continuously up level my game and I’m always, always, always reading, listening to audios, you know just trying to learn as much as possible so that I can just keep- not only myself learning and growing, but help make sure that the business continues to expand.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s- I love the way you phrase that, that you’re the ceiling of your own business. That’s such a perfect way of summing that up. I feel like I’m the same way, I’m a total sponge. I get sucked into anything that has any type of- it could be about- I’ll give you a good example, this is pretty entertaining. The two news stations that I watch are on channels four and six. And five happens to be PBS. So in my travels going from one news station to the other, I just randomly end up on PBS and I got sucked into something about beheadings in London in like the fifteenth century, the other night. And it’s like on for like five seconds, like just enough for me to go from one station to the next, and I’m like sucked in for half an hour on London beheadings. And it’s like- there’s really no business component to that whatsoever, other than the fact that I am a sponge and I just want to absorb as much as I can about everything possible to a fault almost.

Ann J Thomas:

But isn’t it great though? I feel like- I’ll tell you, I had such a steep learning curve, because as a lawyer you don’t learn anything about building business, you really learn about the art of being a great lawyer. But when I became a business owner, my goodness, if I didn’t have or take advantage of the different business development books, marketing, sales and conferences and webinars and coaches; I think I would have just been done. You know?

Jenn T Grace:

And maybe that’s why there’s such a high failure rate for business owners, right? Because there’s a lot of them that probably don’t have that mentality of ‘I need to consume and absorb as much as humanly possible to make this successful.’ A lot of them are ‘I’m good at my craft, and that’s all I’m good at.’ And then subsequently the business falls apart.

Ann J Thomas:

Oh absolutely. I mean the reality is your craft only takes up about ten to twenty percent of the actual business deliverables. The rest is about marketing and sales.

Jenn T Grace:

Yup, and if you don’t want to be- if you don’t want that to be the case and you want to focus on your craft then don’t start a business.

Ann J Thomas:

I agree.

Jenn T Grace:

So speaking of your business, is there something that’s happening in it right now that’s just exciting? And is there a new project, a new initiative, website, or anything that could be happening that just you’re really fired up about?

Ann J Thomas:

Yeah, I am super, super excited- well can I share two things if that’s okay?

Jenn T Grace:

Of course. No, absolutely not.

Ann J Thomas:

So the first thing I want to share is we have a new book called ‘The Happy Law Practice,’ that came out and it became an Amazon number one best seller in the law practice category.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s amazing.

Ann J Thomas:

So that was just really exciting. Because you know, it follows my philosophy of really bringing a very holistic approach to business development. So there are chapters on concrete business development skills like marketing and sales, and content leadership and so forth. But there’s also all these chapters on stress management, and working with your personal relationships while you’re in a demanding career. And just really a very- and even on nutrition and so forth. So it’s just exciting. So I’m very proud of that. And the second thing that I’m really super excited about, is I have this program called the ‘Diverse Rain Maker Program.’ And it is an amazing opportunity exclusively for people who are women or people of color or LGBT, and it is designed to not only give concrete business development skills and leadership skills, but I have this whole component called ‘Smashing the Inner Glass Ceiling.’ And that is really about personal empowerment and owning who you are, owning your identity and leveraging it. So I’m so in love with this program.

Jenn T Grace:

Both of these things sound amazing, and now of course I have follow-up questions.

Ann J Thomas:

Okay.

Jenn T Grace:

So in the book, it’s ‘The Happy Law Practice,’ but what you were describing seems like it might be applicable to people outside of the law community. Is that accurate?

Ann J Thomas:

It is. I would say maybe there’s only two chapters out of the 21 that are law-specific.

Jenn T Grace:

Oh sweet. Yeah, it definitely sounds like there’s some good information in there. And you just used a phrase which I have not heard these two words put together, but I feel like there’s beauty in this phrase. ‘Content leadership.’ Could you elaborate on what your thoughts are around what content leadership is?

Ann J Thomas:

Yes, absolutely. So it is the concept that in this day in age, that in order to attract your market, you have to provide great value. And one of the best ways to be able to provide value and leadership is to constantly put out great content. You know to be a thought leader, to be able to provide information so that your customers or consumers are able to make informed decisions. It’s no longer about hiding the ball. And this is particularly relevant in the legal profession where traditionally, you know there was a mystique around lawyers. And I think this is true for other professions as well. But today you know, if you really want to get more clients then you have to be willing to share more information.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s- I feel like exactly how I built my business. With the whole content- I’ve just referred to myself as like a content creator, you know it’s a content strategy or a content marketing strategy. But I think it’s beautiful how you’re saying it’s content leadership. Because at the end of the day you’re trying to lead people with your great content. So that’s so- I love that, I love that terminology.

Ann J Thomas:

Oh good, you should use it.

Jenn T Grace:

I very well might, and I will give you credit when I do. So this has been super exciting. Can you just share before we close out, where people can find out more about you, more about your program, your book, et cetera?

Ann J Thomas:

Yes, absolutely. So you can learn more about me and my company Esquire Coaching at our website, www.EsquireCoaching.com. And from there you can get access to our book, ‘The Happy Law Practice.’ It’s also available on Amazon. And I have a special gift that I’d like to just offer to your listeners. If anybody’s interested I have a great eBook called ‘The Sassy Time Management System.’ And I know for a lot of business owners, one of the things we struggle with is time so I’m happy to give it for free, you just have to email info@esquirecoaching.com and just put Sassy eBook in the headline.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome. When did you create this eBook and how did that play out?

Ann J Thomas:

I created it years ago just as part of one of the offerings that I give to my coaching clients because one of the things that I saw people struggle with a lot was not only managing their time but how to make the best use of their time as it pertains to their overall life and business goals. And so this is more- this is much more than just ‘Okay I’m blocking some time.’ It is really about developing what your overall goals are.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s awesome, that’s totally awesome. I was not expecting that so it’s really good. Excellent, I’m hoping people take you up on that offer. I will also take you up on that offer and email you.

Ann J Thomas:

Okay, great.

Jenn T Grace:

I’m all about time management. I think it’s such a critical thing that many of us can really screw up, myself included. Fabulous. Well this has been such an awesome interview, it was so great talking with you. I hope you enjoyed yourself as well. I did. I think what you’re doing is amazing. You know please keep up this amazing work of supporting other businesses and being able to effectively reach the LGBT community. We need it, we are happy to contribute and we just need to make sure that more people understand how to reach out to us in the right way, and thank you for what you do.

Ann J Thomas:

Oh you’re very welcome. Thank you for being here and we will certainly stay in touch.

Jenn T Grace:

Awesome.

Alrighty. I hope- I sincerely hope that you enjoyed this interview with Ann. I feel like she had such great gems of wisdom kind of sprinkled throughout the entire interview. I really hope that a lot of what you heard today, you’re able to take and implement into your own business. I think it’s only natural since she’s a coach that she’d be coming up with some really awesome stuff. So I had a great time talking with her, I hope you had a great time listening to her. And let me just share with you a brief tidbit about what’s to come in the next podcast.

So as you know, I kind of fluctuate between the educational podcasts like I did last time around a couple weeks ago which was about LGBT Chambers of Commerce. And then today I have an interview. I’m actually going to switch it up as I seem to do quite frequently, and do another interview next week. And that is with the owners of Teazled. So every week you get the joy of listening to the Teazled commercial at the end. And I finally got a chance to sit down with the owners of it, which are both called- both called. They’re both Dina’s, so we have Dina Proto and Dina Poist-Proto who are joining us in the May 30th podcast; so I’m excited about that, and I think you’ll really enjoy listening to some of their story which is pretty inspirational. And another thing- and I haven’t even mentioned this yet, I don’t know how- I honestly don’t know how it’s possible. But it is indeed May 15th and I am just now mentioning this to anybody, is that coming June 1st I am doing the Thirty Days, Thirty Voices: Stores from America’s LGBT Business Leaders. The podcast series that every single day in June there will be an interview from an LGBT or allied business leader who is doing something as it relates to the LGBT community. So they could be experts in it, they could be marketing to the community, they could be a successful LGBT business owner; they really range from all over the map. So every single day in the month of June you will have an interview from some really awesome business leader. And the one thing I do want to mention is that these interviews are indeed from last June, so if you’re around and you’re a long-time podcast listener which I hope you are, because now that I know from my stats that many of you are which is super exciting that I know that. But they are the ones that I used last June, and an interview a day; that’s about an hour a day for the entire month of June. So there’s thirty hours of content. I have a hunch that you may not have gotten through all thirty of them, so perhaps this year you can catch up on some of the ones that you missed. So there you have it, and you know what now I’m thinking of the possibilities of somebody listening to every single podcast. If you are that somebody, please reach out to me. I would love to know if somebody listening to this right now has listened to every single podcast, which I believe this is episode 35. I had 30 last June so this is about 65 that I’ve done. So if you’ve listened to all 65 plus hours of my rambling on and on about gay businesses and marketing, I would love to hear from you, I think that’d be really cool.

So if you are listening to this and that’s you, please reach out. That’s all I ask. I just want to hear from you, because I love meeting new people, I love talking with new people and it’s just- it’s always fun. This is one of the better pieces of what I do is being able to connect with you. So thank you as always for your time.

And before I bid you ado, I do want to throw in the commercial for Teazled which happens to also be the sponsor of this podcast. So have a listen to Teazled and I’ll be right back.

Alright, alright. Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. You know how much I sincerely love and adore all of you. Please feel free to reach out to me if I don’t reach out to you first. Alright, I’ll talk to you on May 30th. Thanks so much and have a great week!

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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