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Transcript Episode 33

Episode 33: Simplifying the Legal Side of Your Business with Autumn Witt Boyd

 

Transcript Episode 33

Stephanie Skryzowski 

Welcome to the 100 Degrees of Entrepreneurship Podcast, the show for purpose driven entrepreneurs who want to get inspired to step outside of your comfort zone, expand it to your purpose and grow your business in a big way. 

I’m your host, Stephanie Skryzowski, a globe-trotting CFO whose mission is to empower leaders to better understand their numbers to grow their impact and their income. Let’s dive in!

Hey, everybody! Welcome back to the 100 Degrees of Entrepreneurship Podcast! I am here today with my friend, Autumn.

Autumn Witt Boyd is an experienced lawyer who helps coaches and course creators reach their big goals faster and smarter. Together with her team at the law office of Autumn Witt Boyd she helps online businesses understand, protect, and enforce their rights with sophisticated business and intellectual property strategies. The AWB firm also offers plug and play and cost-effective legal protection with their customizable contract templates.

Autumn loves helping digital entrepreneurs put together collaborations and partnerships, grow their brand with trademarks, and protect their content with copyrights. But most of all, Autumn is a trusted advisor whom entrepreneurs can rely on for practical and proactive advice when they need it. Autumn also hosts Your Legal Roadmap® podcast, which teaches business owners about the legal issues they may face as they grow a profitable and sustainable business, why they’re important, and how others in their shoes have handled them.

She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with her entrepreneur, husband, David, twin boys, Sam and Tyson, and daughter, Vivian.

Autumn and I have known each other since the beginning of both of our businesses. I can, first of all, attest to her legal support and advice and her team as well as her customizable contract templates. I’m super excited to have her on the podcast today because I feel like the legal stuff in your business is kind of similar to the finance stuff. It feels scary, it feels overwhelming, you don’t know where to start, you don’t know who to turn to, and so you kind of cobbled together things that you find online through Google. Okay, anybody else? Just me? I’m raising my hand over here.

I have worked with Autumn throughout the years to help me protect my business, and myself, and my clients, and my team – and she’s awesome. Today on our episode, we talked about her journey from working at a very traditional law firm, all the way to owning a growing business that she has today working with online business owners. We also talked really practically about some of the things that you can do, no matter what stage of your business you’re at, in order to make sure that you’re protected. And she really simplifies it.

I know for me, I felt super overwhelmed from the beginning, “Oh, my gosh, what are these 57 things I need to do to legally protect my business, I need a copyright here and a trademark there. And I need this contract and this agreement,” and it felt very overwhelming. And so if you’re like me, and you also feel very overwhelmed. She breaks it down into very simple things that you can do at each stage of your business. So I’m really excited to share this conversation with you today with one of my good business friends, Autumn Boyd. So I hope you enjoy this episode!

Hey, everybody! Welcome back to the 100 Degrees of Entrepreneurship Podcast, and I am super excited to be here today with my friend, Autumn Boyd. Autumn, welcome!

Autumn Witt Boyd  

Hi, thank you so much for having me!

Stephanie Skryzowski

I’m so excited to chat with you today because we have sort of been running a parallel business journey, for at least the last four or five years. I think we initially made a connection almost five years ago.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Mhm.

Stephanie Skryzowski

So I’m super excited to chat with you. And I would love for you to tell our listeners a little bit about your business journey. So, Autumn’s a lawyer, but I will let her tell you all the details. But I’d love to hear where you started out and what your business looks like right now.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah, so I’ll kind of start with now. I love it Stephanie, because you know, things are trying to open back up post-pandemic, I’ve been going to some networking things locally. And my business has really changed in the last year to 18 months. I don’t even know how to describe it. So I’ve been working on this. So I would say I own a boutique law firm. We specialize in working with online businesses. So really just online education businesses, of course, creators and coaches. And we provide full service legal support.

My background is as an intellectual property attorney. Copyright and trademarks are my jam, but we do a ton of contracts, help with setting up entities, LLCs or corporations, all the, “Oh my gosh, what do I do? I have an angry client,” You know, or “Someone bashing me on social media,” kind of like help in a crisis. We do basically everything except file lawsuits and we don’t give tax advice. That’s where we kind of draw the line. We are helping a lot of people who are growing and building teams. We do all that stuff.

And to go back to not the very beginning. But kind of the journey to here. So I had a really boring normal lawyer career path for a while. I went to Vanderbilt for law school, got a clerkship with a federal judge here, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I live; and thought that I would just work my way up and be a partner at a law firm someday, I worked at a law firm and then got hired away to a copyright infringement law firm, which was a teeny tiny law firm.

And it was virtual! This was back in 2008-2009, when running a virtual business was still pretty hard. There was no Zoom, we used AOL Instant Messenger to chat. I mean, it’s hilarious!

We were some of the earliest adopters of Dropbox. But that didn’t even exist until I want to say, 2010-2011. But it showed me like working in that firm, the partners were in Pennsylvania and Colorado, I’m in Tennessee, it showed me that we could do this very old school job of lawyering with all these rules and regulations, but you could still do it in an innovative way in a forward thinking way.

So through that job, I was a litigator. So I was in court all the time, I was mostly just sitting at my desk writing briefs from things. But I telecommuted, but our cases were all over the country. So I was in Tennessee, but I had a trial in Pennsylvania, that was almost four weeks where I was flying back and forth. Or I would go to New York for depositions. We have cases in Alaska and Hawaii, it was bananas. And so that was super fun and glamorous in the beginning.

It was that I really always wanted to be a copyright lawyer. So it was a total dream come true to land that job and be doing the thing I’d always said I wanted to do. And then I got married, and I had babies – I have twins. They’re now nine. But so as they started getting older, it just became less of a dream job and you know, working 60 hours a week, even if you’re at home in your yoga pants, and it’s super flexible. I could take them to the doctor or I could stay home with them if they were sick, it still just became really unmanageable for our family.

So in 2014, that trial, that four week trial was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back, where my husband was like, “I know you think you’re holding this together, but it’s not really working for our family.” And so I kind of looked around and tried to see if I could take a job at a law firm. Well, I knew what that looked like, no flexibility. I was kind of just trading the devil I know for another devil.

I looked at maybe in-house or doing something totally different. And I realized, I really do love being a lawyer. I like talking with clients and helping them and helping them figure out solutions – being strategic and creative. There were a lot of things I did that I didn’t want to give up. So with the support of my husband, who’s also an entrepreneur, and he was kind of like, “I could do this. You can totally do this.” I started on my own.

So in 2015 I started the law office of Autumn Witt Boyd, which was just me. In the beginning, I very much thought, “I’m going to be a solo lawyer.” Lawyers, thankfully, we can charge a pretty solid hourly rate, I was like, “I’m not gonna have to work that much. It’ll be fine. I can just be on my own” Things change as you kind of grow. And I fell into this world of online business kind of accidentally, and have just grown from there. So happy to talk more about that!

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah, I love that. Was there a decision point when you were like, “You know what? I’m not just going to be a solo lawyer, I am going to build a team.” Because I kind of thought the same thing for myself. I can charge a decent amount. I can make a decent amount of money, just by myself. And I think about my own journey. I don’t know if there was like a specific thing. Was there a specific point where you were like, “No, I’m building the team. This thing’s gonna grow and scale.”

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah, it was very incremental. So I don’t know if there was a day when I woke up. I was like, “Today, I’m going to build a team.” But I think it was… I remember hitting some ceilings. And so I think those were kind of decision points or inflection points where maybe a year in my business took off pretty quickly. I started getting referrals and doing good work, and then people would send me more work. I very quickly worked myself back to 60 hours a week. And I didn’t have any help. I was having to work after the kids went to bed. And I was like, “This is literally what I just left. I am like the worst boss!” Turns out, it wasn’t just that job. It is my own self being an over worker, type-A overachiever. But that’s another story.

So I hit that ceiling where I was like, “Okay, this isn’t working.” And I was making decent money. But still, I had not yet replaced my salary in my last job. So that was one of my early goals. And that’s kind of the bad thing of coming from being a lawyer because I was paid very well.

Stephanie Skryzowski

High bar to replace.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah, it was pretty… It was this very nice six-figure income. So to get to that level of profitability and paying myself – that’s not that easy. Despite what all the internet marketers will tell you. I think that was the first kind of inflection point, and I got pregnant my first year in business. Which was just kind of timing, like the timing was right. And I was getting older. I was 36. So I was… not ‘now or never,’ but I was like, “if we’re gonna do this, let’s go ahead and do this.” Yeah, my boys were four, so we didn’t want them too far spaced apart.

So that was the first one where I was like, I’m going out on maternity leave. I want to actually take a maternity leave. I need somebody like running my email at least. And like kind of keeping the lights on. I didn’t know what kind of baby I was gonna have. Was gonna be hard or easy? It was very difficult with my twins. Vivian our third ended up being like an angel baby. And I was back to work like two weeks just cuz I was kind of bored. But that is not always the case.

So I hired a virtual assistant at that point. And it was the scariest thing because like my revenues were, you know, y’all can’t see the video, but like a roller coaster. They were up and down. I’d have great months, and I’d have slow months. And so like the idea that like, I’m gonna promise this person a steady paycheck, and she was still like, she was a contractor. But still, I like wanted to tell her like some predictability.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Sure.

Autumn Witt Boyd

And it was like five hours a week. I mean, it was hardly anything. But even that just like it was a significant expense, it was an ongoing expense. So that was the first hire. And then I think after I came back, after the maternity leave, I hit kind of another ceiling, where I was, like, you know, the administrative help is great. But I really need somebody that I can hand legal work off to.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Mm-hmm.

Autumn Witt Boyd

So then I was kind of like, is that person a lawyer? is that a paralegal? There are kind of some options. And depending on your business, you may see this too, like, what is the right next person to take some work off my plate? I did some experimenting and I did it in like small pieces. So, I hired a contractor to do like one little thing to kind of test her out. I did end up going with a lawyer because I felt like I really needed to be able to hand things off totally. And a paralegal, you still have to supervise. So I tried that. And it was kind of I would say for the next maybe year or so it was just like little bits and pieces here and there.

And then a friend introduced me to someone I wasn’t really looking to hire, but I was kind of like thinking like, maybe like this contractor didn’t really work out or like she was never really giving me attention because she was juggling six other balls. Like maybe I could hire a part time, and the work had become more steady. So like as we grow, like, hopefully your client base, if you’re in a service business, you know, becomes a little more steady, where it’s the roller coasters, a little more evened out. And so it felt slightly less scary to bring on someone else.

And a friend had just introduced… I mentioned it to a friend like, “Hey, you know, I’m starting to get busy. I’m thinking about maybe hiring.” She’s like, “Well, I have this friend, who was a stay at home mom. Moved here. She doesn’t have any family here. So, she wasn’t working. But her kids are in junior high. And she’s looking to get back into the workforce. Like, would you like to meet her? She was a partner at a big law firm in Michigan.” And I was like, “Sure!”

So we went to lunch and you know, got along great. And so I, you know, offered to bring her on. But I was still super scared. Because again, like, it’s a big commitment to hire a real employee. So I brought her on as an employee, but it was hourly. So it was like if the work is there, the work is there. If the work is not, I wasn’t outing any money. Because that was what I was really worried about was like if we don’t have the work, and I’m paying this person. Does that mean I’m not paying myself? Like, how does that work?

Stephanie Skryzowski

Right.

Autumn Witt Boyd

And then she was great, that has become more steady. And then, I think there was a point like about three years ago, so maybe two and a half years into my business. When I brought her on, I brought on another attorney kind of similarly just hourly to fill a different need. Next, we brought on a paralegal, similarly, like maybe 10 hours a week, because I needed help with just like project management tracking things, which paralegals are great at.

We did a little retreat at our office. And I looked around, and I’d always kind of had this or I would joke, like, “I want to build an all girl band.” Like I just thought that would be so fun to have, you know, I love working with women, most of our clients are women. Law is so male dominated. So just to be able to offer women jobs that were non-traditional, that are really hard to come by in law, you know to have a part time schedule that actually allows you to hang out with your kids.

So like I remember looking around, I mean, like I actually built this thing. And it was still like so cobbled together, like everybody was very part time. I think that was a moment that I was like, “Okay, like we’re all getting along.” And I’d never been a manager, like I didn’t know any of that. But I was like, “I’m kind of figuring this out as I go and the clients are happy. And we’re like building this thing.” So I would say that is kind of that was a long way of saying, I did kind of come to that point.

After that, you know, it was just kind of building more and more. And I just took the leap this month of moving everyone to salary, which is like, “Aaah!” Very exciting! Yes.

Stephanie Skryzowski 

I love that. Because I feel like building a team, as an entrepreneur can feel so far outside of your comfort zone for all of the reasons that you listed. Like you’ve never been a manager before, the commitment, like the financial side of things, all of that is very scary. What if the work is not there, and we still have to pay them, but I love how you sort of dipped your toe into lots of different waters along the way, so that when it was time to like make that big leap, “Okay, we’re moving everyone to W2 salary.” You’re like, “I’ve taken all these little steps along the way. So I feel maybe not 100% comfortable with it. But like, more comfortable.”

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yes. Yes.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Has that helped you kind of build your confidence and other potential like risks that you’ve taken in your business?

Autumn Witt Boyd

Oh, that’s interesting. I still have like all the frothy feelings. Like we just changed our whole business model of how we start working with clients.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd 

At the end of last year, and I remember saying to my team, “Okay, so no one’s gonna hire us for like six months. I just want everybody to be ready. This is probably not going to work unless…”

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah. Just set that bar real low.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah, like super low. And we’ve had explosive growth. So they were all like, “Haha! You are hilarious!”. Like, we literally had to limit the number of clients we could take a month, because we had so many coming to us. It’s been bananas. So I don’t know that that ever goes away. But I think it has given me the confidence to like, “We’re gonna try this thing. And like, if it doesn’t work, it’s fine. It’s not the end of the world, we’re gonna learn something from it.”

I think hiring is one of the scariest things because all these laws and rules around it, and you know you worry you’re going to do the wrong thing. But even with that, like if you make a bad hire, and I’ve certainly had some bad hires, which I put on myself, not the person, some red flags that made them not a good fit that I should have seen earlier. And I’m getting better at that. But like, even that, like you part ways, and it’s usually fine. Yeah, I think my risk tolerance has grown. But it doesn’t mean I don’t still have that like feeling in the pit of my stomach, like, “Uhhh, is this gonna work?”

Stephanie Skryzowski 

I know. And I feel like instead of that feeling, when you’re first starting out, it becomes like the feeling it’s more like you dread, and then as you continue to grow in your business, the feeling gets like slightly less dread and slightly more like exhilaration.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Feeling. But I feel like that scary feeling never really goes away.

Autumn Witt Boyd

And I’ll preview what I think we’re gonna talk about in a little bit. We can talk about it now, if you want, but like, having a grasp on my numbers, has been revolutionary, and like, “Okay, this is a little bit of a risk, but like, I have done the math, and I feel confident that if it goes bad, I have a quantifiable… I know what my risk is better.” I know, I’ve got this cushion or I know, bringing on a new person. I know what that’s going to cost me not just in salary, but also like running my computer and all the benefits and all the other things like that’s been enormously confidence-building.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah, absolutely. I was gonna ask that, like, what your process is for managing the numbers in your business? And then how does that knowledge really empower you to grow? I think you just answered that at least partially. Because yeah, I think then you can really assess the risk. It’s not just going into this unknown, like, “I don’t know how much this was gonna cost me and I don’t know how much I might have to dip into my savings.” And I think with your business and my business, if you’re paying someone a salary, but maybe the client work isn’t necessarily there, you can sort of map out. “Okay, how long is it going to take till that person sort of becomes profitable.” I don’t know if there’s anything else you want to say about that. But yeah, managing your numbers and how that sort of empowers you and your business.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah. So one thing I will say, and I hope you would agree with me, I did my own books in the early days.

Stephanie Skryzowski  

Yup.

Autumn Witt Boyd

So like, I sign up for QuickBooks Online. And once a month, I would like sit down. I would do in the evening, I would like pour a glass of wine, and like for the Kardashians, on the TV, or whatever. And I would like go through and code everything. But it was really helpful to really see where the money was coming in, where it was going out, what I maybe needed to adjust, or watch. Making myself do it every month was really, really helpful.

And then maybe your two or three, I can’t remember, it was taking longer, because we hadn’t like we were trying to have more transactions. And then with having other team members. I was like, “I don’t think this is the best use of my time anymore.” So I did hire a bookkeeper. But it was really helpful. Like, I know all the categories. I know how things work, I know what things should look like, I can get into QuickBooks, If I have a question and like, kind of find my way around. And so having that grasp, as a business owner, like not just outsourcing it completely, I think is important. And I still like nobody touches the bank accounts but me.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Nobody runs salary, but me like I do payroll, I do, And like there’s probably some of that I could delegate at this point. But I just like to have my hands on it and it makes me feel better, so getting into that rhythm and that habit of being able to run a report or see and analyze things I do – I’m bad at math. But this stuff is pretty simple math, it’s not that hard.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd

You can put formulas into spreadsheets. I always joked that I went to law school, so I wouldn’t have to do math and then haha, right?

Stephanie Skryzowski

Right, right.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah, sometimes.

Stephanie Skryzowski

But to your point. I mean it’s not really math. Like there’s not a whole lot of math involved in managing your numbers. I love that you made that choice to just own it for a couple years and I feel like in the… especially in the online business world, we are fed this like, “Outsource everything. If you don’t like it, outsource it from day one.” Maybe that’s great for some things, but for a lot of things it’s not, and I’ve done that myself at different pieces of my business and like outsourced Facebook ads when I had no idea anything about Facebook ads.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Right.

Stephanie Skryzowski

I’ve gotten burned and I’ve lost money because I don’t know what the heck is going on back there.

Autumn Witt Boyd

You don’t even know what questions to ask or what to be looking at. Yeah.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Exactly, exactly.

Autumn Witt Boyd 

Well, and I’ll give a plug so I am in Stephanie’s membership, which I’m going to get the name wrong. The CFO Corner?

Stephanie Skryzowski

CFO corner. Yeah!

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yay, I got it right.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd

So like the tools in there. I’ve been doing my own books and working with a bookkeeper was kind of like step one. And then like the tools that you provide. I put together a budget for the first time like I’d always just been kind of winging it. I did some forecasting, like figuring out, you’ve been really helpful. We talked about cash flow, and it’s another just kind of like next level like, okay, we’re running a real business here, like, what do we need to be doing with the numbers? Or what do we need to be watching?

I remember we had a call maybe a year ago, where we talked through some of the hiring questions like, what do I need to know before I hire? Or what do I need to think about? How do I need to analyze profitability, even capacity planning. As a service provider, I sell my team’s time, basically. Whether we’re doing that hourly or not, it’s a limited amount of it. And so like figuring out, when are we hitting our capacity? When does it make sense to make that next hire? When is it too early? Or this year? It was probably too late.

Stephanie Skryzowski  

Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd

But it’s always hard. Like you’re either always a little bit ahead or a little behind.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd

So there’s no perfect answer. But having those tools to kind of like play around with the numbers a little bit. Like, if I do this, what does that look like? Or if I do that, how does that change things. And like kind of watching my profit margin, which wasn’t something I was very good at, that does require a little bit of math, but it’s built into the spreadsheet.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yes.

Autumn Witt Boyd

And being a service business, I think we hear these numbers sometime from like, course creators or other, you know, people who maybe have these different, really high profit margins. They’re like, our businesses are different. And like, it’s okay to have a lower profit margin, because so much of my revenue goes to team. That’s just the business we have. And that’s okay.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Exactly. Yeah. Like if we had a 70% profit margin and a service business, like.

Stephanie & Autumn

Something’s wrong.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Exactly. There’s a problem somewhere.

Autumn Witt Boyd

I’m working too much, probably,

Stephanie Skryzowski

Exactly, Yes. I love that so much. And I feel like it’s the future vision piece. That’s that next level, bookkeeping is all looking at what’s already happened. But that’s only going to help you make so many decisions. It’s that future piece that I love that you’ve been able to incorporate into your business, because it really does, It’s a game changer in making decisions, but also like giving you some really solid confidence behind those decisions. Like, okay, I know, I can hire this because I have mapped out what my bank balance is going to look like in the future if I hire this person.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Mhm. Now, well, the other thing I mentioned to like, so I work with a CPA, for our taxes, and he is actually more proactive, like we do some planning. But just to point out, it’s kind of a different way of looking at things. So you know, I make sure I save enough every month for my taxes based on the percentages that we’ve looked at.

But you know, I asked my CPA recently, I was like, “Hey, we’ve got quarterly coming up, like my business has really changed over the last six months,” We take a look. And like, because he had given me estimates for the whole year, when we filed our taxes. And I was like, “I don’t think that’s enough. Can we look at this again?” But even then he was like, “Well, you really only need to pay this much.” you know, but like, you can’t really rely on that as that’s all you need to save, like the quarterly number is not necessarily going to get you through to the end of the year.

So just also kind of having that, like the planning, and making sure that you have set enough aside for the right things. We had a big surprise tax bill when my husband was early in his business, and it was like, “oh, like where are we going to come up with a five figure check?”

Stephanie Skryzowski

Cash.

Autumn Witt Boyd

That is not a good surprise.

 Stephanie Skryzowski

Yep, been there. Also, that is not a good surprise. Like I always say you never want to be surprised by your numbers like period. Good or bad, Like you don’t want to be surprised you should be doing the work throughout so that you’re never surprised by your numbers.

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Okay, I’m going to shift gears just a little bit and talk about the legal stuff. I talked about this on your podcast, like some of the biggest mistakes, if I were to look back on the past six years in my business and identify mistakes that I have made they’re pretty much all around the legal stuff. Basically not having the right contracts in place, with contractors, with employees, with clients. And your firm has actually helped me solve lots of those problems this year. So we’re in a much better place now.

But I feel like the legal space kind of like the finance stuff is very far outside of people’s comfort zones. Like it’s technical. It’s handled by professionals only, like the average Joe, the average Jane is not handling their, well shouldn’t be handling their legal stuff.

So I feel like it maybe takes somebody to really like push themselves to contact you to work with you to buy the contracts because we feel like I mean, I know I did. I’m just gonna Google that. I like pull something together. I work with amazing people. I’ll never need this.

Autumn Witt Boyd

I’ll never have a problem. Yes.

Stephanie & Autumn

Yeah, that’s not the case. So, how do you kind of help entrepreneurs push through that discomfort to actually start working with you? And how does that work?

Autumn Witt Boyd 

Yeah, well, I love first of all, I just love acknowledging that like, it can be uncomfortable. And that was something I didn’t realize when I first started until a coach pointed out to me, she’s like, “legal is really intimidating.” And I was like, “No,” like, I’m so nice. And I tried to make it really approachable. We use plain English. She was like, “No, no, like, you’re not intimidating Autumn Witt Boyd, but like, the idea of it is very intimidating.”

Stephanie Skryzowski

Right.

Autumn Witt Boyd

But that was helpful to hear. What we try to do is make everything very easy. So not overwhelming, not like you need to these 17 things right now.

So the way I like to approach it is your legal protections for your business should be kind of proportional to where you are in business. And that also is in proportion to your risk. So lawyers, we’re all about like risk mitigation, how can we lower the chances that something will go terribly wrong, that’s kind of how we’re always looking at things. And so it’s very easy to overload your things, especially if you’re newer in business, and you go to, you know, a regular business lawyer, they’re probably gonna want to do 25 things, maybe they’re used to working with a larger business.

So especially for newer businesses, I really encourage you to think about like, I think as lawyers were trained to look at risk, but normal people are not. You have to pretend you’re a lawyer here for a minute and think about where things could go wrong in your business. A lot of people worry about getting sued, I will just tell you, anecdotally, your risk of being sued is very low as a new business owner. So I mean, you can kind of have that back your mind. But that’s probably not what your biggest risk is.

What we have seen working with hundreds of online business owners is your big risk is something going wrong with a client, like either they want a refund or you mess something up, and they want you to fix it or they’re trying to get you to go outside of the scope of a project or, you know, maybe you’ve got an online community and somebody is misbehaving like stirring the pot causing trouble, somebody steals your intellectual property, like that’s just where we see most problems happening from like, I would say like zero to 100k annual revenues.

And so what we have found the best way to kind of put some guardrails around that is like you mentioned his contracts, you know, having an LLC or corporation, if that’s something we can talk about if you want to, but that’s not really going to impact these issues. So we really encourage people to start by thinking, where are you making your money? And how are you protecting yourself around that. So for most kind of creative entrepreneurs, it’s going to be like a one on one client contract. If you’re a coach, it’s gonna be a coaching agreement. If you have an online course, it’s what we call Terms of Use, you know, that box that you check that probably no one reads at check out, but they do have important things there.

 You know, we like to really think about protecting your revenue stream first. And then like you said, as you grow, maybe you’re adding team members, maybe you need an agreement with your contractors, or maybe you’re hiring people to just come help with a project, you know, making sure that you’re reading their contract really carefully. That it says what you think it says, and you’re going to get what you think you’re going to get, that’s where we see. And that’s where I recommend that people start. And that is not that scary. Like, that’s a pretty, you know, you can kind of put that in a box, you can set aside half a day to like, figure it out. It’s not that overwhelming.

Stephanie Skryzowski

That is not that overwhelming at all. I wish I had thought about it in that context, from day one, like, “let’s just protect our revenue and we’re gonna start there.” Because I mean, that’s obviously the lifeblood of your business. So I love that. So beginners are gonna protect our revenue, once we start bringing people on, we’re going to put the right agreements in place for our contractors, our employees. And then I know you work with some of like the most premier online business owners in the space, who are at six figures scaling to seven figures, maybe way beyond that into eight figure business owners. What are they looking at in terms of legal?

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah, so you would be surprised at how many people come to us at seven or eight figures of annual revenue and like, they never took care of the foundational things.

What we like to do, and this is kind of how we change things is we start with a legal audit. So we look at their whole business, people don’t like the word audit, a legal planning session. We kind of want to look at everything. So what we find when we do that, we kind of peel back the curtains. Because a lot of times they’ve done things kind of ad hoc, or like little by little like, “Oh, I did a trademark here or I have this agreement that I worked with a lawyer, but this one I just pulled off the internet.” So it’s often kind of a bit of a mess, which is fine.

You know, usually, actually, it’s funny, one of my larger clients came to me this week, and she had had a problem with a client. And so she asked me to look at her terms. We’ve been working together, I think three years. So I looked at her terms, and there was something weird in it. And I was like, “you know, I don’t really like that. I wouldn’t recommend that we keep that I think your prior lawyer worked on these.” And she was like, I can’t believe that, that you haven’t worked on these. We’ve been working together for three years. And I said, you know, “if it ain’t broke, there was nothing for me to fix. I didn’t have to come in and redo everything.” So often that’s fine. And like I encourage people not to beat themselves up, you know, if they have done things kind of ad hoc, because working with a law firm, full service, it is you know, a higher level investment.

It’s a budget line item is not something that you even need to do, really before seven figures, but so what we see is just kind of cleaning up some of that stuff and maybe, you know, things that their team members cobbled together or like, they haven’t looked at their contracts in a couple years. And maybe they’re not even doing business the same way. So that just needs to be cleaned up. The rules around privacy changed a lot in 2018, which we probably all heard about GDPR.

And so sometimes we’ll find that our clients weren’t really worried about that. And that affects like having a privacy policy on your website. So maybe they weren’t really thinking about it, or maybe they did the bare minimum. But now they’re like trying to spend a bunch of money on Facebook ads, and now Facebook is going to check you for compliance, people don’t always know that. Sometimes I like my facebook ads keep getting rejected. So sometimes we’ll just be cleaning up that kind of stuff.

So you know, it can be all over the place, we do a lot of work on team, you know, kind of like the work we did with you just okay, we’re like pulling on our big girl panties. Now we’re gonna really like make sure we’re doing the right things. And that is one area that like, it’s very easy to mess up. So when you do get further along, and you are hiring real, like you said, W2 employees, there’s lots of rules that come along with that.

Stephanie Skryzowski

I knew this from my days working in a large nonprofit organization and kind of running HR as a finance person. But every state is different. And so every single state has different requirements for even simple things, like when somebody leaves the company do you have to pay them out for their unused vacation, like every single state is different.

And so when you looked at our stuff for our employees and our contractors, we actually have different agreements for our different employees and different contractors based on what state they live in, which is something that as a remote company, like a completely virtual company, I didn’t really even talk about that. But if you want to, like do things the right way, as you’re growing a business like this, you kind of need some legal support to do that for you. And I think that templates can get you so far. But then, you know, there’s no time to then, you know, bring in someone on one support. So we’ve actually bought a handful of templates.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah.

Stephanie Skryzowski

From your company as well. And they have been so helpful. So at what point would you say like, who are the templates good for? And then, you know, the templates get you to a certain point. And then what is that point? When you’re like, Okay, you probably should have a lawyer.

Autumn Witt Boyd 

Yeah. So I would say, anywhere up to really half a million in annual revenues, the templates are going to pretty much get you where you need to go.

I would say if you have a single revenue stream, that is kind of weird, like the way you do things. Like if you look at the template, and you’re like, gosh, like this just isn’t really because the template is meant to cover like most scenarios, or like the most common ways that we see people do things or the most common problems. And so I would say if you’re you know, maybe not at that point, but you are saying you’re like this just isn’t really a good fit. That might make sense a little earlier.

But I will say like working with a lawyer on a custom contract, you know, at our firm $1,500 to $3,000. Like, it’s a pretty significant investment if you’re earlier in your business. And honestly, again, you’re probably not going to get sued. I mean, not I’m knocking on wood. Never say never. But suing someone is very expensive.

So I think a lot of us are worried that like a disgruntled client is going to run to court. Well, I will tell you, if it’s over something like I don’t know, $5,000 to $10,000, like they’re gonna spend that to sue you. And most people don’t have that to just like, throw at something that they’re angry about. So that’s a little behind the scenes. That’s not legal advice. But I’m just telling you as my experience, most small businesses are not suing one another.

So the template is probably going to be what you need, I would say when you get to that, like half million to a million dollars in annual revenue, you’ve got more at risk, you’ve got probably more like intricate ways that you do things or just things, we work with a fair number of like doctors turned coaches. There’s some kind of specific things that they worry about. So I would say at that point, you know, you want to start looking at your contracts a little more carefully, and maybe bringing in a lawyer to either just give him a review, which is not as expensive, or if it really is kind of a mess, cobbled together from different things. Often we find it’s simpler and cheaper to just kind of start fresh.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd 

Because we have really good forms, we use our templates as our kind of starting points. Yeah. And then we can customize them really easily. It’s often more efficient to do it that way. Rather than trying to like rework your contract that maybe is missing a bunch of stuff, or it’s kind of written in non-lawyer. So that’s usually at that point. And I do like almost all we’ve taken on like maybe 15 or 18 new clients this year, and almost all of them our first project was cleaning up their contracts. That’s where we would probably start. And then the team stuff is often the next thing.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah, and I can say definitely a plug for Autumns contracts, but we’ve purchased several from you for different things. I love how easy you make it. And I just think that goes back to the like, we want to make this very straightforward. I mean, you purchase on your website, and then you have the template to like, customize and know what you need to and it’s like, it removes that barrier. That scary barrier, which I love and.

Autumn Witt Boyd

And there’s prompts throughout the template to like walk you through, like ask you questions. Maybe you didn’t think about like help you kind of make the decisions. Yeah, we try to make it very easy.

Stephanie Skryzowski

And I feel like just knowing that I have that in place and knowing that I am not the person responsible for like drafting it, it was done by a professional. I’m like, okay, I feel like a lot more at ease. And then the other thing I’ll say is, I feel like oftentimes when we’re building our forecast, so I’m kind of jumping back to numbers when we’re building our forecast. And our projections, we don’t put enough money in for things like this – for accounting numbers help as well as legal support. It’s not that again, to your point, Autumn, it’s not that we think we’re gonna get sued, but like, this is something that you need to maintain in your business on a regular basis to make sure that you are covered.

And so if our listeners, if you’re building out your forecast, make sure you are putting some money in there to you know, make sure your numbers are good. Maybe that’s a CPA, and then some legal support as well. And maybe it’s just a few $100 on a contract template.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Or maybe you’re at the point where you do need some sort of one on one personalized support. And I will say, like, I made a pretty decent investment into some legal support for my business this year, with Autumn’s firm. And I will admit, I was like, “Do I really want to pay like several dollars for this? Is it worth it?” You know, what, yes, it’s worth it. Does it suck to pay a big bill for anything?

Autumn Witt Boyd

I know.

Stephanie Skryzowski 

But now I know that my business is protected, my team is protected, I’m protected. My everybody is protected. Like, that’s kind of invaluable. So if you don’t have that built into your forecast into your budget right now, I strongly encourage you to do that. Because it’s worth it. It’s like, you know, I feel like when you buy tires for your car, that’s like.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Fixing your air conditioning. Yeah, you’re like, Ugh.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Oh, it’s the worst. But like, if you don’t do it, you’re gonna blow a tire on the highway, and then your car’s gonna crash. And I mean, you know.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah, well, the other thing I will say is kind of think about it in relation to other expenses in your business. It’s usually much less than your spending on other things, even though it can feel like a lot. A couple $1,000 can fit but like, what are you spending on having a new website designed? Or like if you’re bringing on a marketing strategist? Like I feel like a lot of us spend a lot of money on things or like, you know, a mastermind or a coach, like, yeah, legal (unclear) makes you money.

So I know it feels different than like a marketing expense or a coaching expense. But it really, it’s one of those things that should be in your budget every year because something’s gonna come up. You’re gonna have a question, you’re gonna have a problem, you’re gonna have a new idea that you’re not sure how to make it work like it is the cost of doing business.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah, yeah, I love that. You’re right. And we spend all this money on like, “fun things.” And compared to that legal expenses, probably like a tiny fraction of that, but equally important, so yes, love that love shifting the thinking from like, “I don’t want to spend money on this. It’s like buying tires.” to like, “you know, this is the foundation that’s gonna get me to that next level and protect me to help me get there. So like, it’s worth it.”

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah. Yeah.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Love it. Awesome. Well, this has been such a good conversation, I have a few more quick questions for you, to round us out today.

So my first quick question is, I know you are a busy mom of three, you have a thriving business. And so we are all looking to be more productive, more efficient, what’s your favorite productivity hack or tip or trick that you use either in your business or your life?

Autumn Witt Boyd

Well, so we, as a team, we’re all working moms. And we were all struggling with time management. So I actually had connected with a client of ours, Kelly Nolan. And I’ll send you her info. So you can include it if you want. She did a training for us and helped us, I’ll split the secret cuz she teaches in a different way.

But it’s basically you take your to do list and put it on your calendar every day. So you’re actually like blocking off time, like, Oh, I have to run to CVS and pick up the kids medicine or I need to go to the grocery store. And normally I would just be like, Oh, I put a post it on my car. I’ll be like, oh, get to it at some point. And then like about six client calls, those are all my schedule, like those are kind of booked.

And so like starting to treat your tasks or your to do list like it’s an appointment has been like mind blowing, especially for our part timers who maybe only have a certain amount of time a day that they can give to work or that they’ve got it helps you identify like, are you trying to do too much, you stop just like every day, I was like circling things on my to do list and like moving them to the next day. I hadn’t gotten to them. And now I’m like, Oh, well, there was no way I was ever going to get to all of those because I was in calls for six hours.

So that has been just like life changing for our whole team. We are all really enjoying that it feels a little strict at first and like, oh, I’ve got like, like your schedule, you can move things around. And like no day really goes like you think it’s going to go and it’s fine.

The other thing Kelly taught me was building and flex time. So as a lawyer as a law firm, like we can plan things and we do proactive things, but we’re pretty reactive, like a client gets sued, and they call us and like oh my gosh, like now our whole week has to be cleared because we’re handling that.

Knowing that that’s going to happen. It may not be predictable, but like knowing that something’s gonna happen and building in some flex time so that like I don’t schedule eight hours of calls in a day and then I never get to my email or I never can handle something that pops up. So those have been hugely helpful.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Ugh, I love that so much because I do the same thing, I’m in calls from 9 to 5 then I’m like, “Oh wait, how do I deal with an emergency.”

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah, or like a team member has a question and I never have time to answer it, or, yeah.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yeah, and then, you know, I’m turning my laptop on after the girls go to bed, to work on the actual client work that has to get done. Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd 

Yup.

Stephanie Skryzowski

I like that, I like that a lot! Calender management is like, that is the thing, that’s the key. Okay second question is what is the favorite book you’ve read that is non-fiction?

Autumn Witt Boyd

Okay, non-fiction, so I love this book called Never Split The Difference, it’s by Chris Voss, he did some rounds in a lot of podcasts maybe a year, a year and a half ago, so you may have heard of him, he is a former like, lead hostage negotiator for the government, and so it’s a negotiation book, but it is applicable in like every part of your life.

It’s not about like, bullying someone else in to doing what you want them to do, it’s like, trying to understand their motivations, what are they trying to get out of it, like how can you really propose things in a way that like, makes it easy for them to say yes, or like what can you offer them that maybe doesn’t cost you anything but it really benefits them.

It like revolutionized my thinking about all, And I negotiate a lot as a lawyer, so that’s kinda why I read it, but it’s, even like, he gives an example like, if you’re waiting for a flight and you’re trying to get upgraded, just think like that like, how can you kind of approach things maybe a little differently? So that is a really good one, and I think there’s an audiobook to if you like to listen, but I literally like, I took notes as I was reading it and I pulled em out like, if I got a kind of tricky negotiation call, I’ll like pull them out and like, review them before the call, I still refer to it.

Stephanie Skryzowski 

Oh my gosh. I love that so much.

Autumn Witt Boyd

It’s really good.

Stephanie Skryzowski 

I hate negotiating, and I just looked up on Amazon, it has almost 19,000 five star reviews. So.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah, but it also makes it less scary cuz you can kinda go in with a game plan. I know a lot of women who hate negotiating, cuz it feels combative, or it feels like you’re going to be taken advantage of, it has changed my approach to things.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Awesome, I’ll definitely going to check that out, okay my lats question is imagine that you have a week day completely free from work and all like, responsibilities, obligations, what do you do?

Autumn Witt Boyd 

Am I child free, or is this like optional?

Stephanie Skryzowski 

Child free is an option.

Autumn Witt Boyd 

Okay, so child free, if it’s in the summer, I’m headed to the adult pool, which is my favorite place on earth like, with a good book and just kind of, relax and chill. If I’m with my family we like to go on adventures we don’t like to sit around, so probably be like going on a hike, or checking out and go in the children’s museum, or something around town, just to stay busy.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Yes, and I’m sure that’s not hard to do when you have 3 little ones.

Autumn Witt Boyd

It is always busy. Actually I was trying to give one of my kids like, special one-on-one time, you know with three, it’s, that is hard to do and especially for working parents like, family time tends to be “Everybody together” but I was trying to give one of em some one-on-one time, and one of my kids like, “No! I really like it when we do things with our whole family!” like, that’s really sweet like, would you then, stop fighting. We’re all together.

Stephanie Skryzowski  

Exactly, I will do it if you will stop fighting.

Autumn Witt Boyd 

Yes, Exactly.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Love it! Alright, awesome, well Autumn, where can our listeners find you and is there anything that you want to share with them?

Autumn Witt Boyd

Yeah! So awbfirm.com is the hub for everything, you can find our contract templates there, if you’re looking for one-on-one legal support, you can find information about that there as well. I am no longer releasing new episodes on my podcast but we have 170 episodes of the Legal Roadmap® Podcast, so if you have a question about a contract, or a copyright, or a trademark, you will find information there.

You will also find really awesome interviews with some of the top online business owners talking about like, their legal challenges, which I think sometimes, nobody talks about it because it’s uncomfortable or maybe they, you know, don’t want to share if they’ve been through a tricky situation, there’s a lot of people, including Stephaine, shared really honestly in those interviews, so go check that out that’s our best resource.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Awesome, yeah, it’s so good. And Autumn works with some amazing clients, and so it’s great to hear their stories, from the other side behind the curtain, it’s great.

Autumn Witt Boyd

And Stephanie, are you an affiliate for our contract templates?

Stephanie Skryzowski 

I am not, but I should be, I tell everybody about them, yes!

Autumn Witt Boyd  

You should be! Hahaha. Sign up to be an affiliate then drop your link.

Stephanie Skryzowski

I’ll definitely do that cuz I tell everybody how great they are and how easy it is to use.

Autumn Witt Boyd 

Good, good, good.

Stephanie Skryzowski

Well, Autumn, thank you so much for being here, this was a great chat and will talk to you next time.

Autumn Witt Boyd

Thank you!

Stephanie Skryzowski 

Thanks for listening to the 100 degrees of entrepreneurship podcast. To access our show notes and bonus content, visit 100degreesconsulting.com/podcast. Make sure to snap a screenshot on your phone of this episode and tag me on instagram @stephanie.skry and I’ll be sure to share. Thanks for being here friends, and I’ll see you next time!

Transcript Episode 33

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