Everyone needs the protection of their legal rights, especially entrepreneurs. The law can be scary and misunderstood, but luckily, we have people who can help us understand the law. Victoria Wieck and Jeremy Streten, CEO of Business Legal Lifecycle, sit down for a chat about the law and entrepreneurs. We examine why legal help is a must for many entrepreneurs and why it is an investment, not an expense. Learn more about why entrepreneurs need to invest in legal aid in this episode.
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Explaining The Law For Entrepreneurs: Learning Your Legal Rights With Jeremy Streten
Welcome to another episode. Many of you who are in small businesses or some of you who might want to start one, if you are living in the United States or any country, one of the biggest things that are in your mind but you do not action it until you need it has to do with the law. It is a scary thing to deal with a lawyer. Not all lawyers are bad. I have got a couple of lawyers myself and my family and they are not evil.
I always wondered why we all wait until something happens to us and then we frantically will find a lawyer. You usually find somebody at the last minute and try to understand the situation you are in. I have someone from the law profession who has been practiced business law. He foresaw the need to be proactive as a business people.
You are going to be able to operate more freely because you know that you are within the boundaries of the law that is going to protect you. You are going to have that layer of protection because you have that knowledge and also ultimately to save time and money. Without further ado, I am going to introduce Jeremy Streten, Esq. to my show.
Welcome to the show, Jeremy.
Thanks so much for having me, Victoria.
Tell me about the idea that you have, which is to help people understand their rights as well as their customer’s rights and all the boundaries. If you are in business, you have to understand the legal ramifications of every action, everything you write on your website and your employee manual. Tell me about how you came up with this idea of helping people proactively, not once they got in trouble. How did you come about?
I do not practice law anymore. I’m over here in Australia. I do this and help to expand the business out. There were two matters where I acted for clients. One was where a client almost lost $2 million of his own money and another one where two gentlemen lost $1 million of theirs and other people’s money. It was all because they did not take proactive legal advice. Victoria, it was one of those moments where I was sitting at my desk and both these things happened around the same time.
People don’t like talking to lawyers because we use terminology in the legal profession that is unnecessarily complicated and makes it seem fancier.
I was thinking, “Why won’t people get legal advice?” I spoke to both of them and asked them, “Why do you think you get legal advice? It would have solved the problem earlier if you had gotten legal advice.” Both of them said the same thing, which was they didn’t know what they didn’t know. They didn’t know the unknowns. They did not like talking to lawyers because they were scary and mean.
We use terminology in the legal profession which is unnecessarily complicated and makes it seem fancier. They saw it as a cost rather than an investment. I sat down and, by that stage, I would act for around 5,000 different business owners. I mapped out the ones in the order of things that people did well when they were successful mapped that out then I overlaid that with people who did things poorly. I mapped out this journey of the business legal lifecycle and thirteen phases of when you should take certain steps in the legal profession.
A few years before that, I had engaged a business coach and he told me one day I would write a book. I laughed at him and said, “What lawyer writes a book that people will actually read?” When I had my thirteen phases, I rang him and said, “I’m sorry. You are right.” I had thirteen phases of how we can help business owners to understand the law from a legal perspective and how they understand what they need to do in that business. That’s how I generated the concept of the lifecycle. Since then, I have taken it to the UK and the US and adapted it for the laws in the different countries. It has been a good journey so far.
The book you wrote that you thought no one would read is titled what?
That is the genesis of the service that you provide now. I have many years of entrepreneurship journey myself. Many people reading know that not all those years were rosy and not everything I have done was successful. I have had some pretty fantastic failures and I use the word fantastic in a very sarcastic way that those failures were pretty painful.
Let me ask you a question about this. A lot of times, the first question most people have when they are first starting their business is, “I got this brand new idea. I invented this. I have a new way of doing something.” Because I’m on TV and my name is quite well known out there, people would ask me, “Can you put this on TV? This does XYZ.” I always tell people, “Do me a favor. Do not tell me anything that you want to protect because I do not want to get sued later on for taking your stuff and giving it to somebody else or talking about anything like that.”
To protect your intellectual property before you tell me anything that you believe truly is prepared proprietary to you. A lot of entrepreneurs do not even think about NDAs or protecting their intellectual property, their rights or their trademarks. They do not even think about that. They keep talking to anybody who will listen. I can’t say this on this show but there are so many household products that we know of now that were not invented by those people that made all the money.
It was invented by somebody else who then got copied by somebody else and then got copied by somebody else then somebody out there, marketing genius, came in and made that amazing company. That is the first thing. The second thing I want to know is small business people are negotiating all the time, whether you are negotiating with the customer, business to consumer or business to business. When you are negotiating, I find that a lot of small business people, because they do not know, give up a lot more rights and a lot more than they have to because they do not understand the boundaries.
Most small business people are real small tacticians and technicians on what they do well and they do not understand this whole world of legal side of the business. How important is having some understanding of the legal ramifications of the decisions they make early on and ongoing? How important do you think that is in the journey of a small business person?
It is crucial. Education is the key here because there are so many different nuances to the law. There are so many different parts of the law. You talked before about nondisclosure agreements. You need to work out whether that’s right for you or whether that’s the right thing. That’s what I said before, the unknown unknowns. There is a business side of when you start that business.
You do not know what those problems are going to be. You do not know what they could be. This is where you would need to talk to a lawyer and research yourself about what it is that you might need in your business from a legal perspective because there are certain steps that you need to take in a business to protect yourself.
Spending all that money getting a nondisclosure agreement might sound all good right at the beginning but unless you have got a new, innovative idea, it is not worth the cost. You need to go out and get some clients, get some customers, see whether or not people are going buy from you, potentially bring on a team and employees and start to do that and then protect your intellectual property.
You need to do it at the right time where you have proven that you have a business before you go spend that money. I’ve seen far too often people go, “I have got a great idea.” Everyone thinks that they have a perfect idea, the next Facebook or the next whatever. You need to prove it out first and then protect it. For the first part of your question, that’s important. Make sure you have got something and then go and protect it.
Unless you do have something that’s innovative then you can look at what we call patients, where you protect the actual process of development and understanding all of the legal aspects is super important. That is one of the reasons I wrote the book. It was to have people understand what it is that they might need to do so that when they go to see the lawyer, they know what they are supposed to do and what they are talking about.
I’m going to give you an example. It is interesting because I have been an entrepreneur for many years and I have never been sued and I have never sued anybody. I’m thinking, “I’m well-protected. I have had great lawyers. Give me some advice. All my forms are up-to-date and it is current. It meets all the regulations and standards of every state in the country.”
What education does is it empowers you to then go and have an intelligent conversation with a lawyer.
When I started coaching five people because this was a special course that was probably never going to be repeated again, it was very high-powered women who were running seven-figure businesses already and they wanted to go to the eight-figures so I did a four-month workshop. The first thing my husband said to me was, “Are you not going to need some confidentiality agreement for this particular course?” I said, “Why would I need to do that?” He said if those five people were in the same group and they talked to each other and then one of them told somebody else, you might be liable for that because you were the center of gravity.
I had to go get a confidentiality agreement specific for that one thing and also a nondisclosure. There were all these things because the stakes were so high in this particular course. A lot of people are glad to make money and they do not realize how open you are. In that case, it was not even somebody suing me. It was somebody suing each other and then me being the deep pocket person at the end where I’m going to be named as a part of a party. A lot of small business owners won’t realize like, “I could be exposed to that.” You offer a tool to help business owners to see what the risk factor is in any given situation.
We have a tool that we developed. I live in a state called Queensland in Australia. We won the Queensland Law Society’s Innovation and Law Award a couple of years ago for this tool. What it does is you answer 30 questions and it takes about 10 minutes. It identifies what your legal risks are and it gives you a report that is in plain English. Everything I do is in plain English. We are not using legal speak and if I do use legal terms, I explain them.
It tells you where you are in the lifecycle out of the thirteen phases, what you need to do there, what you might have missed from the phases that you might need to go and do and then what you need to do for the future. We are very proud to win that award. It is very useful for business owners to see what those legal risks are that they can then take to their lawyer or their attorney, get them to fill the gaps and reduce those legal risks in their business.
Congratulations on winning the Innovation Award. I do think that what you are saying is you are not trying to be their lawyer. You are trying to help them come up with the risk factor and when they need it, at what point because you do not need to spend the money until you feel like there is something to protect. It could be intellectual property. It could be a right not to be sued. I always wondered why we wait until we get sick to go see a doctor. By that point, by the time you feel the symptoms a lot of times, it is a pretty tough thing to fix.
It is the same thing with legal. I find that if you can talk it out and have an understanding, make the compromise you can make upfront, you do not get sued or you do not spend not only the money but all the years of pain and the stress level that you have to deal once you are involved in a legal matter. That is not fun at all. I love what you are doing and also how you help. When I say talk about small business owners whether it is selling vitamins, cosmetics, coaching services, massage services or anything you do especially ingestibles, you are going to need some layer of protection.
When I’m on TV, both on HSN and Shop HQ now, many of you who are female and have watched cosmetics shows and cosmetics advertisements always say that you are going to get a cosmetic lift and results may vary, best case scenario is shown. They will say something like, “This is a temporary lift.” There are always some disclaimers in there so that it helps them.
It reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It does not reduce wrinkles and fine lines. A lot of people overlook that. With ingestible, it is the same thing. There is the equivalent of that in everything. You have to cover yourself because there could be somebody who sits there and say, “I use this $30 cream. I’m not looking 40 years younger. I do not know what happened.”
That’s the point. A lot of people do not realize that they can protect themselves. They do not think, first of all, that they might need to. You can’t protect yourself from everything but there are a lot of things that you can protect yourself on. If people do not look and do not understand the law, we have a tagline, “You can understand the law without a Law degree.”
That is simply by explaining it in plain English for people. People can understand all that stuff they need if they go looking for it. If they look at it, it is not an area, especially with what you are talking about, where you want to do it and ask for forgiveness later. That does not work and that can get a lot of people in trouble.
Jeremy, if you had to give entrepreneurs three tips on how to protect themselves aside from using your tool, what else would you say? What are the top three things entrepreneurs can do?
The first thing is education. You do not have to go under a Law degree but research. There is lots of great material online. There is a lot of stuff on our website but there is also lots of stuff on lots of other websites and great tools to educate yourself. The second thing is do not think that by being educated you can go and do it yourself. You still need a lawyer or attorney to do that.
Now, there are lots of great tools out there. I was on a call with a gentleman from Connecticut. We are talking about the legal shield. That’s a great tool and that serves a point but you still need to go and get legal advice. It is educating yourself but know that you still need to get legal advice. What education does is it empowers you to then go and have an intelligent conversation with a lawyer.
A lot of people say to me, “I want you to do that. I want my lawyer to handle that.” This is a partnership. It is like medicine. You go to a doctor. The doctor is not going to fix you. You have to do something. You might have to change your lifestyle. You might have to take some drugs and have to do something. It is still something you need to do. It is the same with the lawyer. You still need to do that.
The third thing is to be curious as to what might happen and do not think that you will fix everything later on. Those two gentlemen are just two examples. They lost $1 million of other people’s money and nearly lost $2 million of his own money. I talk about that around the world. I have been to the UK, US south Africa and lots of places around the world. I talk to lawyers about this and they all come up to me afterward and say, “I had someone who had a very similar situation.” It might sound extreme, maybe they are not losing that much money but this happens all the time. People need to be curious about what is going on so that they do not fall into those traps that are so easily avoided.
All three pieces of advice you gave are very relevant. Number one, educate yourself. I say, educate yourself because let me tell you something. This happened to a lot of my friends and the fact that I didn’t have any money. I had to educate myself because I thought I could do it by myself helped me. It helped me figure out what kind of lawyers I needed. Number two, I told you I have two lawyers in my family and yet none of my family members were able to help me. I didn’t use them for my business because they did not relate to what they were doing.
A lot of people think the law is black and white, but that’s not the case. If that was the case, there wouldn’t be a need for professional lawyers. We wouldn’t even need a Supreme Court.
My sister does Family Law and my brother does logistics. Educating yourself and understanding what you need so you can surgically find a lawyer who specializes in that particular category. That is the first thing so you are hiring the right people. Two, do not do it yourself. When you say do not try to do it yourself, what I did was when I negotiated these mega contracts, my contracts were north of $1 million to $10 million at a time, I did most of the business deals myself. Meaning that, “Do you want to take returns? We want to pay you 30 days, not 45 days.” All things were already negotiated between me and the other party then I hired a lawyer to put that in writing.
If my lawyer did not understand my business, how are they going to negotiate on my behalf? I didn’t want to pay my lawyer to try to explain to him what I do and what is special about me. I was paying $1,000 an hour and that was going to be a north twenty hours just to educate them. I would have a meeting with my lawyer and say, “Here is what I’m negotiating with. They already told me they are going to do XYZ and they are not negotiating these things. I compromised on this. I want to put this in writing so that there is no more room to move around what we have already said.”
Every word can mean twenty different things. I want to make sure that what I thought agreed on is what was agreed on. Later on, if there was a problem, if whoever I was negotiating with left the company and I’m dealing with a new guy or girl who didn’t want to honor the contract, what are my options at that point? How do I exit the agreement? I wasn’t going to do it by myself and because I was educated, I was able to do it at a pretty affordable cost with top-notch lawyers that surgically came in and fixed that.
Lastly, being curious. When you look at the US Constitution or the State Constitution of California or any of these things that people say are so crystal clear, there are lawyers on both sides arguing this for generations already. It is the same document. It is not a huge document. It is just a few pages. Every word can mean different things. Jeremy, you might find this interesting. Great lawyers are some of the most creative people because they will look at the same word and they will find ways to shape their narrative where you come out on top or they will shape the narrative where you can get more money or add layers of protection without sounding like it is a disclaimer.
The lawyers that I had hired when I was first starting out are now all in their 80s because I have had the same lawyers forever know my business. I do not have to explain to them again and again the new thing. They are now my family members. They come to our birthday parties and everything. It could be a great relationship. They were starting out back then or I was starting out and it is great.
That creativity is right and great lawyers are creative. A lot of people think the law is black and white. If that were the case, there would not be a need for professional lawyers. You would not even need a Supreme Court. We have a high court over here. There are lots of shades of gray. You are right. You need to be able to look at different words, work out what does that mean, how that can be interpreted and how that should be interpreted.
I do not know a lot about law. I’m a real creative person. I design jewelry for a living. I draw and paint. The one thing I do know for sure about law is that there is always an exception to every law. “What do you mean there is an exception to this? This is such a simple little sentence.” I enjoyed our conversation, Jeremy. I have told every lawyer I ever met to come up with a course or informational webinars so that entrepreneurs are walking into their entrepreneurship journey with some kind of legal shield around them.
Not because they are trying to screw somebody over but because a lot of us give our heart and soul and we work to provide value to our product. We are not aware that we might get ourselves in trouble because we are so eager or we want to protect the product too well. Thank you so much for coming in. How can people find you and connect with you more?
If people want to find out more, we have created a webpage as a thank you for having us on the show. People go to BusinessLegalLifeCycle.com/milliondollarpassion as one word. They will get a page with lots of free resources. If they are interested in taking our legal risk assessment tool as a thank you, we have a 50% discount tag on there.
There is a code that you can use, it is usually $97 and it will be $48.50. It identifies well over $1,000 worth of legal value for people. If they are interested, I do provide a lot of content on LinkedIn. If they search for my name, I’m the only one with the spelling of that name on LinkedIn. People will be able to find me there and I would love to connect with the readers of the show.
Thank you so much for coming in. Thank you for reading, ladies and gentlemen. Until next time, please stay healthy and happy. Remember, happiness is a choice and I hope you make lots of great choices.
- Jeremy Streten, Esq.
- The Business Legal Lifecycle
- LinkedIn – Jeremy Streten