Kicking us off for a whole new year of EO Chicago Member Spotlights is Rafi Arbel, the president of Market JD, Inc. Founded to meet the digital marketing needs of small- and medium-sized law firms, Market JD’s goal is to provide their clients with a greater return on investment, flexibility, and personalized service so they can focus on their legal cases. A former litigator with his own practice, Rafi has also earned his MBA with honors from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Let him take you on a trip through his entrepreneurial journey from inspiring conversations to the challenges he’s overcome.
EO Member: Rafi Arbel
Company: Market JD, Inc.
Years in Business: 11 years
How long have you been a member of EO Chicago, and why did you join the organization?
I have been a member of EO Chicago since September 2020. I joined the organization so I could connect with a group of peers who could hold me accountable for the goals I set. I also wanted a place where I could explore new ideas and form friendships with like-minded people.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a vendor at Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park. I sold peanuts, Pepsi, and hot dogs.
Can you describe your entrepreneurial journey? Where did you start and where do you hope to go in the future?
As a child, I used to ask neighbors if I could shovel their driveways for $10. On snowy days, I would run home from school so I could get in as many driveways as possible before it got too dark and icy. Later, as a Pepsi vendor at Wrigley Field, I loved working on commission. I could make as much as I was willing to work for at 25 cents a cup. In college, I would sell rides home from the University of Iowa for $40—door-to-door service—to earn gas money and insurance. These formative experiences shaped my personality and, later in life, gave me the courage to stop practicing law and start a job selling to lawyers as an employee of a Fortune 100 company. Eight years into that job, I went back to school at night to earn my MBA. A few months after graduation, I opened Market JD, a digital agency that helps lawyers connect to prospective clients.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love when my clients sign a new, large case from our marketing efforts. That’s when I know we’re doing our job well.
What daily challenges do you face at work?
Our business is very labor-intensive. It can’t be automated or scaled easily without decreasing the quality of the product. Finding the right people to help us grow is always a challenge.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
I’ve had very few mentors, so most of the advice I’ve followed comes from books. However, a VP of sales once advised me to stay as close to the revenue as possible. Even in the worst economies, you need salespeople.
What are your goals for the future of your business?
I would like to maintain our standards of excellence while tripling or quadrupling our revenue in ten years. To get there, I need to build a larger team of top-tier talent.
What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
This doesn’t sound very cool, but I’m excited about a site we’re building that will aggregate the performance data from several third-party sources into one dashboard that I can use to report to our clients. It will be a real time saver and provide us with another competitive advantage.
What brought you to Chicago?
I was born at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, where my immigrant father worked as a cardiologist. I think Midwesterners are some of the finest people in the world and I have no desire to live anywhere else.
Who or what inspires you?
I love growing things. It excites me. I wake up every morning excited to help a new or existing client build their firm—so we can build ours in the process.
If you could go back in time five years and share advice with your past self, what advice would you share?
Hire faster and more aggressively. The money will be there—don’t worry.
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
I never realized how affected I am by my ADHD. It’s pretty remarkable that I could graduate college, let alone law school. Perhaps my greatest accomplishment is learning to focus, prioritize, and complete unpleasant tasks. It isn’t sexy, but it has been the key to my success.
How do you find work-life balance?
When I’m not working, I spend time with my wife, three sons, and Buddy, our four-legged dependent. And when they’re still asleep on Saturday mornings, I sneak in 18 holes of golf.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
From a very young age, I always knew I loved to sell and dreamed about owning lots of businesses and becoming fabulously wealthy. I’m still dreaming.
What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
I walk every day with my wife, play golf every weekend with my friends, and eat Shabbat dinner every Friday night with my father and sister’s family.
What’s one thing left on your bucket list?
I’m more interested in meeting fascinating people in interesting places than skydiving or trekking across the Sahara. I recently had a stimulating conversation about healthcare policy with two drug researchers I met at a modern Middle Eastern restaurant in Denver. Those are the sorts of experiences I’d like to replicate.
If you could recommend one podcast, what would it be?
I enjoyed Revisionist History, a podcast by Malcolm Gladwell, which delivers great insights on the forces that shape our culture and society.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading American Nations by Colin Woodard and The Accidental President by A. J. Baime and listening to Black Wave by Kim Ghattas.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?
Sadly, it was Francesca’s on Taylor, which closed due to the pandemic. When my wife and I were struggling financially as young adults, that’s where we’d go to indulge.
What is your favorite part about working in the Chicagoland area?
The people. For the most part, they are interesting, kind, and decent. A close second is the economic opportunity offered by this vibrant metropolitan area. In spite of our problems, this is still a great place to do business.
What is your top Chicago activity?
I love hiking in the fall in Chicago. If you know where to look, the natural beauty is magnificent.
Where’s your favorite place in the world to visit?
My sister and brother-in-law live on the rim of the Grand Canyon. They always make our trips there intensely fun.
Thank you to Rafi Arbel for sharing his story for our January member spotlight. The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a global business network of more than 14,000 entrepreneurs in 198 chapters and 61 countries. EO is the catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.
If you’re interested in becoming an EO Chicago member, check our membership requirements and submit an application to join today.