Welcome to Powerful Leaders, No Apologies.
Beth and Debbie interview Jodie Baker, founder and Group CEO of Xakia Technologies, discussing her career journey and her mission to make legal tech affordable and accessible for all. Jodie shares her challenges as a female founder in a male-dominated industry and emphasizes the importance of being authentic and creating a successful business to inspire others.
[5:43] Fierce female inspiration
[12:07] Overcoming obstacles
[35:41] Apologetic women
Debbie Foster (00:03):
Welcome to the Powerful Leaders. No apologies podcast, a show about women who are ready to own their power and change the world. My name is Debbie Foster.
Beth Thompson (00:12):
And I’m Beth Thompson. Our guests are fierce and fabulous women who are making a difference in their personal and professional communities. Are you ready to be inspired? If so, stay tuned and also check out our email@example.com slash powerful leaders. Here’s the show.
Debbie Foster (00:34):
We are so excited to be back for another episode of Powerful Leaders. No apologies, we didn’t joke about the hats, but I mean, we’re really close to our little swag store, Beth, so I can’t wait to see the final proofs and give the sign off on that so we can have a little bit of powerful leaders. No apology swag.
Beth Thompson (00:55):
We are, we’re very close and I’m looking forward to it. I know we’ve kind of previewed and given our approval on what we will and won’t sell. I think you practically can put a logo on anything these days, but we kept it small and contained. I’m super excited about this episode. This individual is someone that was on my list from the moment we conceived the idea of the podcast. Jodi and I met, I don’t even know what year it was now, but we were newbies at the clock conference, which actually happened again last week. Neither one of us was there, but we were Booth neighbors and it was our first time there, and I just remembered thinking, wow, you’re an Energizer bunny. You never stopped. You never slowed down. You and we’re, we’re going global because we’re going to Australia today. You will understand in a few moments when Jodi speaks with us, but I was just super impressed and obviously we haven’t seen each other in quite a while, but LinkedIn kind of helps bridge that, bridges that gap. And just looking forward to chatting with you and hearing what you’ve been up to. I know one thing you’ve been up to that I just asked you about, which you can maybe mention or not, but welcome to the show, Jody Baker. We would love for you to share with the audience who you are. Tell us a bit about your, who you are, what you’re doing now, what your career path has been. I know it’s very impressive.
Jodie Baker (02:15):
Thank you so much for having me, Beth and Debbie. I’m very excited to be here and hopefully my Australian accent is maybe the first on this show, so that’s always nice. I think it was 2017 at Clock Beth, we met and it was my first foray into the US market. I had lived in the States for a few years, but my first foray into the market with Zakia, so certainly very memorable for me and shame not to be there this year, but I have just been to the US in April. So hard for me to back that up all the way from Australia. Gee, I guess my story starts, well can go back as far as you like, but from a career perspective, I started as a lawyer. I started life as a lawyer in private practice and then quickly went to the in-house side of things.
I tend to be the sort of person who sees an opportunity and jumps pretty quickly. So when one of the business leaders there said to me, Hey, do you want to come and work on the business side? I said, sure, why not? And jumped over and found myself as a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs through that journey, which is actually one that I don’t talk about very often. But when I look back and I really think about the skills that I acquired in that period of time, I was only in that role for about five or six years. Really, really critical to my entrepreneurship and the things that I bring to the table today around financial business model capabilities and all of the things that I have to do to build a business. And so that was really good. I muddled around for a few years with little kids, dabbling in different things and trying different ideas, but really this part of my journey kicked off when I was in Kansas City working remotely for one of the stockbroking firms back in Australia and loved the flexibility, loved the remote working, looked around the legal industry and saw quite a few new and interesting things happening around virtual law firms.
And came back to Australia and started Australia’s first virtual law firm, which was pretty exciting, my first business, and learned a lot through that process and got to touch on the technology space for the first time and really understand what was happening in terms of legal tech and all the innovation in that space. And identified a gap in the market for in-house legal software that really was SaaS driven, affordable for small teams, and just so many pain points that teams were locked out of solving because they just couldn’t afford the software. So really kicked off something that was all about being able to pick up a piece of software, keeping it simple and certainly affordable but powerful at the same time. So that was the abridged version of how we got to here, but it’s been mostly in the legal and financial space.
Debbie Foster (04:48):
That’s awesome. Jody. And I know that corporate legal, we have had some guests on who have talked about corporate legal and how legal operations has really changed how they think about using technology and working more efficiently, and products like yours are helping them do that. So we love that you’re here talking about all things technology, especially so often the smaller teams can’t really get the budget that they might need for some of the bigger products. So I think your product is serving a really cool space in the market. One of the things that we always like to hear about from our fierce female leaders is what’s inspiring you? Is there podcast books? Do you have go-to people that you follow? We’d love to hear a little bit about what’s inspiring.
Jodie Baker (05:43):
I think that it’s always a combination of things, right, Debbie? So there’s never one thing for me. There’s not one thing, but probably the two things that drive me in a long-term sense. One I posted about on LinkedIn recently. So really about changing the way that the legal industry operates in terms of its productivity and its digitization. Legal is one of the last parts of corporate, the corporate world to really digitize and think about its productivity in a very proactive sense. But a lot of that has to do with the fact that the software that’s out there is just not affordable for the mass market. So those smaller teams, we actually service the larger teams as well. But the thing that drives me is that notion that if you’re going to move a whole industry, if you’re really going to change the culture and the mindset and the whole productivity, then you have to take the whole market with you.
You can’t just market to the very, very large teams who are well-resourced. So from my perspective, there’s a need to be thinking about the big structural shifts in the industry, which is hacking back to my Goldman Sachs days, really looking at big structural shifts in industries, what drives that, the underlying pressure points that will really drive people forward. And there’s a fairness element to that for me. There’s just a sense that if you leave a whole portion behind, then you can’t actually say that you’ve really changed the industry. So you’ve got to be looking at that grassroots component and that fairness barometer inside me just says, well, you’ve got to be able to make that accessible for that group. So it might sound a little bit boring for some people I guess, but it is certainly something that motivates me is just to make sure that that’s a possibility for the entire industry.
And then the second thing that drives me, I’m definitely a feminist at heart. And so I’m very active in the women in tech, women in legal tech community, particularly here in Australia, and a very big supporter of any woman who’s putting an entrepreneurial venture together. Try and make as much time as I can for anybody who wants to tap into my experience and my network and my knowledge around building businesses and what have you. So part of that for me is about creating a successful business and having, being a role model, it’s not a word that I use comfortably, but by creating a successful business, I hope that that is something that other people can look at and say, it can be done, and they can find their path. It doesn’t have to be the same as mine, but if there are components of that that resonate with them, then that’s certainly something that I think I’ve achieved in my journey.
Beth Thompson (08:15):
Where do you go for inspiration in terms of a role model for yourself? Are there any other female leaders or entrepreneurs that you’re watching or reading or listening to podcasts that help to keep you educated, motivated? Because no matter who we are and where we are, whatever stage we need to have other people that we’re aspiring to be like or to learn from emulate.
Jodie Baker (08:41):
So I think I’ve always struggled with this, actually, Beth, there’s often who is your mentor and who is your role model and all of those sorts of things in the legal tech space, actually, there are so very, very few. And even in the tech space, there are very few. So there’s not really a single person that I look at and say, that’s what I’m trying to emulate or that’s what I’m trying to do. And I think that I looked for a long time, but actually the authentic answer for me is that to be authentic, I have to just be myself. And I tried to look for people and say, that’s what I want to be, or that’s who I’m trying to aspire to emulate. But that felt forced to me that those people weren’t like me, that they were different, and I was much more comfortable being authentically myself and felt like I could walk my journey more emphatically rather than trying to be or do something different.
I am inspired though, by a whole bunch of different things out there, and it’s a real combination for me. I do spend quite a lot of my time looking at business books or reading business books. So things like Blue Ocean Strategy, crossing the Chasm, product led growth. There are all sorts of things that are very product and business related that resonate with me, and I’m regularly referring back to those sorts of things. There’s a podcast called saasta, which is as it sounds all about SAS businesses and how you can build scalable SaaS businesses. So those things have been very business oriented, not so much leadership oriented, but very business oriented. But actually I tap into a lot of parenting. It sounds ridiculous, but a lot of parenting philosophies when I think about leadership and building the business and what have you. And there’s one article that I read so long ago, I actually had a bit of a look for it last night because I was preparing for this podcast and I couldn’t find it, but there was an article that has been very influential for me that was around an anthropological study that was done between somewhere in South America, a South American community and Los Angeles, and it was looking at the parenting styles, the difference in the parenting styles between the two communities.
And the conclusion, I won’t bore you with all the details, but the conclusion was benign neglect is the most effective form of parenting in terms of teaching your children how to be independent and think for themselves, but feel safe and know that they’re loved and all those sorts of things. So that I think in terms of leadership is very similar to the style that I have, that notion that get really strong, great people, make sure that they have the right conditions, the right environment, and then trust that they’re going to do the job that they’ve been employed to do and be there to catch them if they fall or guide them along the way. But helicopter parenting doesn’t work so well most of the time, and I don’t think it works in leadership either.
Beth Thompson (11:25):
And I think you’re right. I mean, there are so many parallels between parenting and leadership, so appreciate that. And I think the fact that you haven’t necessarily seen any role models to emulate it maybe is a perfect segue into maybe some challenges or obstacles that you’ve overcome in a fairly male dominated industry, especially in the tech space and an entrepreneur, an owner of a tech company. I mean, that puts you in a whole nother stratosphere, but have you overcome some obstacles or challenges that you faced because you’re a female or just in general, we would love to hear about some of that and how maybe you overcame?
Jodie Baker (12:07):
Yeah, so in the legal tech space specifically, which is a thriving industry now, there are just so many legal tech vendors. If you look at clock, there’s just hundreds and hundreds of companies out there now selling their wares. So I think about that as my industry. Obviously we sell to the legal industry, but legal tech is really where my peers are. The challenge for me has been being taken seriously in that market. There are very few female founders, very, very few female leaders, and I just cannot count the number of times I’ve been referred to as a lifestyle business and always by men. And I really bristled at that for a really long time. I really struggled with that notion that people just look at me as wanting flexibility to be able to pick up my kids from school, as if that was the reason why I was getting up at five 30 every morning and doing calls around the globe.
And that’s the notion that there’s just a kind of casual, flexible, easy, calm, easy go attitude to the way that I’m trying to build this business. It meant that I had to work harder and be louder and try and make the point over and over again that no, we’re here to build a business. We’re here to sell a product. We’re here to do it just as seriously as everybody else. The venture capital, venture capital environment was quite interesting for me quite early on, and is probably the best example of how that not being taken seriously. Piece played out for me. We have not taken venture capital funding, but there’s a combination of reasons for why that is the case. Very early on, we were given advice not to by women. So if you need to take venture capital funding, hold out, hold out, hold out.
As long as you can hold out another 12 months, go and find funding from somewhere else, hold out a little bit longer. And then if you absolutely have to take as little as possible was generally the advice that we were given. So we are mostly funded from employees, including myself and then a few others. So lightly capitalized is probably the right way to describe us, but very, we’ve largely bootstrapped largely a sort of bit by bit. Nonetheless, venture capital firms reach out to us on a semi-regular basis. And early on, I used to take those calls and speak to them. The conversation with one of them was the nail in the coffin. However, when I told the story about how we came to be, I mentioned that we were living in Kansas City because of my husband’s work, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So the story goes on. That was the only mention of my husband. At the end of the conversation, at the end of the meeting, the venture capital, the person who was representing the venture capital firm said to me, right, okay, so can you explain to me how many of your clients have been introduced to you, not by your husband? And I said, sorry. Oh
Debbie Foster (14:53):
My gosh. And
Jodie Baker (14:54):
He said, well, is he not driving the business your way? He has been very supportive, and I love my husband dearly, but no, he’s not actually involved in the business. And he did not make that introduction or any other introduction and so on. So that was a pretty clear example to me of how people were viewing me and whether I was doing this seriously, whether it was me that was driving it and the venture capital funding went away. So we haven’t pursued that since.
Debbie Foster (15:26):
And just to be clear, Jody, that wasn’t like 20 years ago.
Jodie Baker (15:31):
No, that was probably five years ago. And that company, that venture capital firm has gone on to fund one of our male founded competitors. So that’s no surprise to me. I mean, there’s lots aroundabout venture capital funding and how little is out there for women, which is all problematic, and I have lots of opinions about that. But the underlying attitudes are actually the thing that is most difficult. If you’re not going to be taken seriously by the funders, by the buyers, by your peers, you have to work a lot harder just to have your message heard. Because if people are dismissive in the way that they’re receiving it and they’re dismissive in the way that they’re assuming you are running your business as a lifestyle business, then it’s going to be very difficult to break through that and say, Hey, we have a serious product that you should be looking at as a prospective buyer or as a prospective partner, or whatever that might be. So I feel like I’ve had to work a lot harder just to get past that piece. I think that we are past it well past it now, but certainly for the first three years, I would say that lifestyle business was an expression I heard a lot.
Debbie Foster (16:38):
Beth Thompson (16:38):
You hear it from prospective buyers as well across the board, or was it Wow. Yeah, I wish this episode was on video because our mouths dropped. Both of us were like, wait, what did you just say?
Debbie Foster (16:50):
Wow. Well, yeah, that’s crazy. So kind of switching gears for a second into the title of our show is Powerful Leaders, no apologies. And as we were researching our show and what we wanted it to be about, we started reading about apologies and about how it’s just a fact women apologize more than men. And there’s a lot of reasons for it, a lot of background stories about how women are grow up, how little girls are trained and raised and in business. Sometimes for me, I know for sure Beth and I have talked about this a lot, kind of became a filler word. I just started everything with, well, sorry, actually, and I don’t know that I was even really aware of it before we started doing this podcast where suddenly every time I say the word, sorry, I stop. And I think should I have apologized for that? Because we always want to apologize when it makes sense or I’m typing an email and I just started off with, sorry. And finding different ways to say that. So it’s been interesting to hear our podcast guests talk about their perspective on women apologizing, and we would love to hear yours.
Jodie Baker (18:04):
Wow, I think that that’s definitely true. I noticed that even in my 16 year old daughter, that there’s a tendency to apologize unnecessarily as though that’s, you’ve got to step back somehow. You’ve got to step back. And if you’re stepping forward, you are in somebody else’s way. And she pulled herself up on it at about 12 months ago, and her New Year’s resolution this year was to stop apologizing unnecessarily, which is quite interesting. So I think that the next generation is a little more in tune with that, or at least I hope so. And she has been, where are we at five, six months through the year, and she’s certainly still sticking with that. She’s still pulls herself up on it. And I would like to say that she’s actually broken that habit, which is just fantastic. But I think that it’s definitely an element of who we are as women that we naturally step back, whether that’s to apologize or make way for something subliminally, consciously, unconsciously, definitely there.
Beth Thompson (19:05):
Thank you for bringing up your daughter because we haven’t actually spoken about teenagers, and your daughter sounds very self-aware if she made that herself, her resolution. I know personally, I was not very self-aware Now, having done the podcast at all the times that I now start to say it, but don’t say, it doesn’t come out of my mouth so readily because it was a filler word. It was kind of the soft launch into my idea. It’s going to be maybe well received if I say, I’m sorry, this might not be a great idea, but why would I be sharing my idea if I didn’t think it was a good one? And I’m going to apologize beforehand. So I, I’ve learned a lot, but at 16, I would’ve never ever been that. So thank you for sharing.
Jodie Baker (19:52):
Completely agree, very self-aware. But I think shes also representative of a generation too. I think that she, she’s a very self-aware young woman, but they are encouraged as a generation to be stronger and to be a little more forthright with their ideas. And I love that they’re so strong in their opinions and feel like they have a right to be heard, which is just brilliant
Beth Thompson (20:17):
Parenting, a teenager, a teenage female. What advice are you giving her or would you give her? Maybe you don’t give it less asked, but I would love to hear how are you navigating my daughter’s? Well, out of routines now, I have a little granddaughter, actually, I have three grants, but since we met, I think yes, since we met, well, I have more congratulations, but anyway, thank you. I would love to hear how do you parent a 16 year old
Jodie Baker (20:41):
Benign neglect? Obviously neglect. She is. She’s very clear about what she wants to do with her life, and I don’t necessarily mean in terms of her career, but she’s got a very clear sense of where she’s going and the sort of person that she wants to be. So it is my job at 16 to get out of her way, to be honest. And she’s not a crazy go getter or somebody who’s just jumping into the world before she’s ready, but she’s learning and she’s taking on challenges and opportunities as they’re presented to her. And so I really, I’m half joking when I say benign neglect, I really am getting out of her way because she’s discovering things for herself at a beautiful pace and creating the opportunities for her, making sure that she’s safe in the choices that she’s making, but making sure that we let her discover things for herself. We don’t need to tell her all of our whys, wonderful experiences and our own opinions in exactly the place she should be for discovering those things for herself. And as we all know, when we learn things for ourself, we learn a lesson and we hold onto it as opposed to somebody just telling us and going in one ear and usually at the other when you’re 16. So making sure that I give her the opportunities to discover that for herself is really my primary modus of Brandi.
Debbie Foster (22:03):
And my daughter just turned 30, and it’s been really interesting to watch her as she’s grown into this successful adult. And to talk about her memories. I travel a lot when my kids were young, and that was just their version of normal. In fact, I remember my son had a friend that he was pretty close with in grade school. I don’t know, he was probably 10 or 11. He came home one day and he said, mom, guess what? Jake’s mom doesn’t travel. And he couldn’t believe, wow, Jake’s mom didn’t travel. And every kid grows up in a house that becomes their version of normal for good or for bad. And I think it’s really inspiring and cool to hear you talk about how you’re parenting your 16 year old. And I think it’s also really, it’s been very inspiring and cool for me to watch my daughter tell the stories of growing up and watching her mom travel and run a business. And even when I thought I was doing all the wrong things for my family, it still made an impact on her this many years later. And I’m sure Beth can tell very similar stories as she, Beth was a single mom juggling all of those things too. And still, at the end of the day, we look at them and think, despite all of that, they still came out great adults.
Jodie Baker (23:25):
Well, maybe because of that, right? Don’t apologize for it. Yeah,
Beth Thompson (23:28):
It’s true. Strong women raise strong women, I guess. Yeah, which is great. Before we head into the final segment and question we ask every guest, I do want to throw one more bonus question out for you, which is, what are some words of wisdom you would give to any female considering entrepreneurship? What advice would you give them before they head down this path? Because it can’t be, it’s not an easy one. We’ve heard that.
Jodie Baker (23:54):
No, it’s definitely not an easy one. And you have to be prepared to work really hard, really, really hard. And it’s not fashionable these days to talk about working really hard. Everybody’s appropriately focused on wellbeing and balance and making sure that you are looking after yourself and all of those things. But entrepreneurship leaves less room for that. You have to have the capacity to work really, really hard, particularly if you’re juggling other things like a family. So I guess the advice from me would be to look at that closely and think about your passion, think about what drives you. Right? Back to your very original question, Debbie, around what motivates you. It has to be something that drives you like almost in a core way, something that’s right inside you that says, this is really important to me and I have to be able to find that energy and that will to go on from deep inside.
And if you’ve got that, then just go for it. Just go for it. You will come up against everybody who tells you it’s a lifestyle business, and you have to shake that off. And there are tons and tons of hurdles along the way. I could write three books about the story and the hurdles that we’ve had to overcome, but if you’ve got the will to do it, then just go for it, because there are too many reasons to say no. There are so many reasons to not do it, but if you are excited, then get going because the satisfaction and the rewards around being able to achieve what you have a vision for are so great that you really just have to get going.
Beth Thompson (25:30):
That’s great. All right, last segment. We ask every guest, what is your leadership superpower?
Jodie Baker (25:37):
I think my superpower is that I am, I allowed to say terrible words. I just get shit done.
Beth Thompson (25:44):
Jodie Baker (25:46):
I am very anti standing still both physically and mentally, but even as a business or most importantly as a business. So I can just get things done. And I am not one for perfection, so I won’t ring my hands over should we go left or right? Maybe we go straight ahead and sometimes we go backwards so that we can go forwards. But I just keep going so that get shit done is definitely a mantra that applies to me.
Debbie Foster (26:14):
I love that because Beth and I are also on that team, the G S D team for sure. So I love that. That is a great superpower and what you have built, Jodi, is really impressive and I love that you decided for, I’m sure a lot of reasons that you were just going to clear that path on your own and not have big private equity firms come and help you do it. And look at the amazing success you guys have had. Very cool. We’re really happy to have you on the show.
Beth Thompson (26:45):
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a delight. Yep, you too. Good to see you. And that’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to Powerful Leaders. No apologies. Be sure and subscribe to our show and help us spread the word by sharing our show with your network,
Debbie Foster (27:02):
And check out our show firstname.lastname@example.org slash powerful leaders for resources and ways to connect with us. See you next time.