Jeremy Streten | The Essential Systems Your Business Needs

Unstoppable CEOPodcast

In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to get more income without much extra effort while we welcome Jeremy Streten to the show. Jeremy is a business attorney who helps business owners improve their income by bringing them through what he calls the Business Legal Lifecycle. 

The Business Legal Lifecycle is a concept developed by Jeremy, wherein entrepreneurs are proactive in seeing the gaps and blind spots in their business, in order to live a more productive and non-reactive life. 

We’ll chat with Jeremy about what the typical gaps and blind spots look like for a business, what exactly the Business Legal Lifecycle is, as well as…

  • The basic things businesses need to have in place
  • Essential systems and processes
  • The biggest legal mistakes you’re making
  • Good attorney vs. bad attorney… what’s the difference?
  • The truth about self-service legal help, such as LegalZoom
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

Adam Lean:  In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to earn more income without much extra effort. We’re going to talk to a business attorney who helps business owners improve their income by bringing them through what he calls the Business Legal Lifestyle that helps build a practical pathway to building a successful business. This is P is for Profit. 

Adam: Welcome to P is for Profit. My name is Adam Lean and I along with the rest of the team at The CFO Project are passionate about helping business owners improve the profitability of their business. My guest today is Jeremy Streten. He’s a business owner, a business attorney and an author and he’s developed a concept called the Business Legal Lifecycle and I’m excited to dive in and learn what that’s about. But Jeremy, welcome to the show.

Jeremy Streten: Thanks for having me, Adam. I’m looking forward to having a discussion about this.

Adam: Yeah, so I’m excited to jump in and understand what you mean by the Business Legal Lifecycle. But tell us first about yourself and what got you started working with business owners?

How Jeremy Got Started Working With Business Owners

Jeremy: Yeah. So I’ve been a lawyer for about 16 years as when we’re recording this. And I started as a lawyer like you, people can probably tell from my accent that I’m from Australia. And I am, I started working after I left uni in a law firm. And I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I kind of fell into law and property and business type law. And I really enjoyed it. I’ve got a lot of value out of it. I learned a lot. I worked in a small law firm where I was just doing everything. And I really got a passion for helping business owners. 

And so eight years ago, I started my own law firm with my business partner and I developed this concept of the Business Legal Lifecycle, but frankly, I got sick and tired of lawyers just being there to react to problems and I wanted to be more proactive. I wanted to set up a program that people could use to be proactive and learn the gaps and the blind spots in their business. And I found that that’s worked really well to actually help people prevent problems before they arise.

Adam: Wow. So what are some examples of gaps and blind spots that, I mean, because by definition, their blind spots. They don’t know. What are some examples?

Jeremy: Some great examples are things like contracts, engagement letters with clients. Like how you actually engage with your clients. So that’s phase three of the lifecycle, which is all about having the right documentation in place to actually engage with your clients properly. Often, business owners when they start their business, they’re really keen to get in there. I know, I’ve been there. I’ve started three businesses. And you want to start working with your clients and you want to start doing things and you think, oh, I’ll worry about all the legal stuff later. 

And five, six years later, you’ve been acting or you’ve been working for someone for that long. You’ve never had a contract in place. A dispute arises over something and then there’s no agreement about how to deal with that. There’s no understanding of what happens. And so that’s a huge blind spot that I see. Another one is when people bring on employees not having things like workplace policies in place. They don’t think about what they need to have in place for their expectations with their team. 

And they start off with one or two people and then they build build build. All of a sudden they have a team of 10 and they’ve got cultural problems and team member problems because they haven’t identified what they expect people to do in their business. And these are really simple things that lawyers can help them to put in place that they don’t do because they don’t know that they need it. And so the book goes through, the book that I’ve done in Australia, UK and the US goes through why they need to do these things and how they go about doing it.

Adam: And the book is called the Business Legal Lifestyle. 

Jeremy: Lifecycle. 

Adam: Lifecycle. Sorry.

Jeremy: Don’t worry. Lots of people make that mistake. And I’ve actually thought about changing the name of it because lots of people say that.

Adam: I like lifecycle. I keep transposing those things. But what, so you mentioned one of the pieces of it. But what is the Business Legal Lifecycle?

About Legal Business Lifecycle

Jeremy: Yes. So it’s 13 phases of what you need to do in business from a legal perspective and when you need to do it. So what I did is I looked through about 5000 businesses that I’d asked for over about 13 years and worked out when the successful firms did things well and when people who failed didn’t do things well. And so I mapped out the journey through a business and when they should do and take what steps. And so it was funny. When I started my business, we got the services of a business coach, and he told me at the beginning, you’ll write a book. And I went no I won’t. But what business lawyer, who wants to read a business law book? 

And I mocked him and then I had to go back with my tail between my legs when I came up my 13 phases. In the book, we discuss, or I discuss each phase and what people need to do, what the bare minimum is, and to put in place from a legal perspective, and then who they need to speak to. Do they need to speak to their lawyer? Do they need to speak to their accountant? Do they need to speak to their bookkeeper? Who is it that they need to speak to put those right things in place for their business?

Adam: So, at a minimum, what are some basic things that businesses need to have in place if they, you know, if they’re just existing, regardless of how big they are?

Jeremy: Yes. So what I mentioned before, having a standardized way to engage with your clients or customers, having employment agreements for your team, having policies about the team and what they can do, and what your expectations are about them. Going before that phase two start up is probably the one that people get wrong the most. And so that’s like understanding your structures. So what structure are you going to operate your business in? And really understand what it is that you want, and therefore, in the long term so that you can understand which structure is right for you. 

Because there’s no 100% cookie-cutter approach to that. And it’s something that I see business owners get wrong all the time is they think they’re gonna get advice from their friend. Oh, yeah, they started an LLC or that or whatever, and they haven’t thought about what’s actually their goal and where they want to go in their business. And they need to get tailored advice for them to make sure that it’s correct, the correct structure so that they can achieve what they want to do in the future.

Adam: Okay. So obviously, you’re an expert at business law. What are the biggest mistakes that business owners make in the legality of their business and, or legal matters with their business?

Jeremy: I think the biggest mistake is not actually getting any advice and thinking they can do it all themselves. Yeah, there’s a lot of products out there that do the document generation, they do, but no one’s telling them what they actually need to get. And so that’s where I saw a gap in the market. So I think there’s this feeling that lawyer’s scary, hat we charge too much. 

And so people go, Well, I don’t need to get legal advice. I’ll go and do something else. And I think the biggest mistake business owners make when it comes to law is not getting advice. Yeah, I anecdotally, I met with a guy that I went to school with, and I left school 20 plus years ago and he’s run many successful businesses. I met him last week and he’s finally realized that he needs a lawyer. And he’s gone this far without doing one.

Adam: My goodness. Yeah.

Jeremy: He’s made so many mistakes along the way that we could have solved. And I think that, you know, just set this thought process all I don’t need a lawyer and we’re too expensive and we’re not approachable. And one of the things that I’m always very big on is being approachable and letting people talk to you because people don’t get legal advice because, for those reasons. And it is expensive, but you don’t know what the, one the hardest has been lawyers, you don’t know what the cost would be if you don’t do something. 

Adam: Right. It’s like insurance. 

Jeremy: Yeah. And it’s, and people don’t, and I understand why. They don’t want to spend the money on lawyers because they go well, it’s expensive and I don’t see the benefit of it. I, you know, throughout the book I give examples of, I call them from the case files, which is an old X Files reference, one of my favorite shows growing up. 

And if we talk about, this is what happens. This is what can happen if you don’t do those things in place. So to answer your question, the biggest mistake is not getting the advice in the first place and thinking that you can just do it yourself and everything will be okay. Because while that might be the case for a period of time, there’s always things that pop up and that you need to fix. 

Adam: So if that’s the case, people need to have some sort of, you know, a business attorney that they can call on. How do you know the difference between a good one and a bad one? I mean, just like a doctor, you don’t, you’re, most people are not medically trained. How do you spot the difference between the two?

How to Spot a Good Attorney

Jeremy: That’s a great question. And I don’t have a 100% infallible formula for it but I’ll tell you what I think are the main differences. One, a lawyer who is certain about their pricing. So, yeah, I always charged fixed fee and I know a lot of other lawyers do. So you come and get a quote for the price. If you know what you’re doing, if you’ve got the experience, you should know how much work is involved and what the value is you’re providing. 

So if they’re offering a fixed fee, I think that’s a great indication that they know what they’re doing. Second of all, the questions they ask. You know, throughout the book, I give some great examples of people who came to me for a second opinion because their lawyer didn’t ask them questions that would have got delve deeper. I tell a story in there and when I do my talks, I tell a story I won’t go into all the details about a franchise owner and he was being sued. 

And he lost this court case and he had over half a million dollars worth of debt from this court case. And he thought that he could just go bankrupt and avoid paying the debt. No one had, and he told his lawyer that was acting for him in the litigation that that’s what he was going to do. And no one asked him what he actually owned. And it turned out that he owned over $2 million worth of property, unencumbered, and his businesses. 

And because he didn’t ask, because a lawyer didn’t ask more questions, and was just acting in the litigation and just doing what they needed to do, he could have lost everything. But he came to me and we’re out because I asked the right question. So the answer to, yeah, the second element other than fixed fee is do they asked lots of questions? Are they more interested about finding out about you and your business? If they’re just there to solve one particular problem, that to me is a red flag because they don’t, they’re not looking at the bigger picture and so they can’t help you in a holistic fashion.

Adam: Yeah. And I can almost imagine that if they don’t ask the right questions, that also means that may not be business-minded attorneys. They may be great attorneys in other fields but not necessarily business and I think that’s super important.

Jeremy: Yeah, and most lawyers are excellent technicians. You know, and I know I was when I started my business. And, you know, a lot of us, and I fell into this trap, was, yeah, I knew that I could do it better in inverted commas, I knew that I could do it better than the people I was working for. And I had no idea how to run a business, I’d tell you, I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars teaching myself how to operate a business and how to run it properly. 

And most lawyers don’t spend the time doing that. So they don’t have that knowledge. So you, the questions that they ask will tell you their level of knowledge on these things and how much they can actually help you. So they’re the two main, they would, I would say, the two main factors that would pick a good attorney from a bad attorney.

Adam: Yeah. Now that it makes a lot of sense. You mentioned these sort of, you know, the service attorney resources almost like LegalZoom. What are your thoughts or feelings on things like that like self-service?

Jeremy: I think they’re great. I think they solve a gap in a market that is widely needed. I think the problem with them, though, is that they don’t tell you what you need to do. It’s literally, and I know lots of people who use them. And that’s fine. They don’t tell you what you need to do. And they also, they’re very much cookie-cutter. 

Your interest in details and they just fill in the blanks. Depending on the type of agreement or the type of documentation that you want, you need a lot more detail to go into that. I think as technology evolves, and one of the things that I’m looking at is that you’ll be able to have more automation in the future and have it done properly. Once technology gets better and II gets better those kind of things. But I think they solve a gap at the moment for very basic documentation. But I think you need to be really careful that you can’t, you might not be able to rely on them. 

Yeah, like, as I said before, I’m in Australia and I work in the UK and Australia in the US. And I often see people in the UK and Australia who grabbed a document of legals name that refers to all the US law and none of that would apply here. And so you’ve got to be really, really careful with those kind of documents, but they serve a purpose if you, that, you know, if you know what you’re doing and it’s a nice simple type agreement.

Adam: Yeah, that makes sense. One of the sort of points on your lifecycle, the Business Legal Lifecycle is protecting IP, or intellectual property. With can business owners, especially business owners that have started their own business, it’s not necessarily a franchise, it’s their own business, their own content. What can they do or what should they do to protect IP?

Protecting Intellectual Property

Jeremy: Yes, that’s a great question. I think the main thing that people miss here is registering the trademark. So our trademark is your brand. It’s your brand that should be unique that no one else has. And registering that is something that a lot of people miss. Now, if you’re running a small business, you may not need to do that. And you need to get advice from an attorney about whether or not you should or shouldn’t do that. 

But if you want any sort of scale, I strongly recommend people gonna register that trademark. It doesn’t cost a lot. It’s not a huge process, but it protects your brand from other people using it. And yeah, I have, again, a story that I use in a lot of talks that I do about a client of mine here who ran a business for 20 years, built it, it was a bakery, built it from one store to 27 stores in an area around here, never registered a trademark. 

And when he wanted to set up a franchise, he didn’t have a registered trademark. So we went to apply for it and about another 20 stores around Australia had that trademark so he couldn’t get, he couldn’t register now. It cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebrand it and if he had just done the, registered the trademark at the beginning, that would never have been a problem because no one else could have used his name and he would have been able to do it. And so a few thousand dollars early on is a wise investment. 

In saying that, a lot of people jump straight to they get a business idea and they go and register trademarks straightaway. And, you know, I always say, don’t do that as well because you want to actually prove that you’ve got a business, you want to prove that you’ve got something. Get some clients, get some team, and then go and register your trademark. So that’s the first part in protecting intellectual property. The second part is your unique systems of how you actually operate your business. And this gets a little bit more into outside law, but that also it’s the value of your business. 

Everyone in business, you know, whether you’re a lawyer, a CFO, an accountant, whatever, you have a unique way that you operate your business. And whether that be how you do your work, or just the way that you operate your business, that should be documented, and should be understood and the systems and processes put in place so that everyone understands what they do. And protecting intellectual property, which is phase five, is all about that. It’s about making sure that all of your IP, all of the, what makes you unique and your business unique is protected.

Adam: Yeah, now that makes sense. So, in your experience working with business owners, what separates successful business owners from those that always seem to struggle?

A Touch of Humility is Essential

Jeremy: Well, I think those who are willing to learn, so if they’re listening to your podcast, then they’re clearly willing to learn. I myself listen to a lot of podcasts as well. And I think that willingness to learn is really a key. I think to a willingness to be vulnerable and to admit mistakes and your own frailties, I think is really, really important because we don’t know everything. 

And that’s where I think, you know, we go back to what we were talking about earlier about people getting, you know, documentation from places like LegalZoom. Not to single them out, there’s quite a few of them. That they think that they can do at all and they don’t go and get advice. I think having a little bit of humility to understand that you don’t know everything, was about to say anything. 

Of course, if we didn’t know anything. And so we don’t know everything. And to know that and to know that we need to learn. So, you know, I read at least four books a month, I listen to a bunch of podcasts. You and I are part of a mastermind, you know, I run my own. I love to learn. I have a board of directors, and I make sure that I’m learning and I think, from my experience, and certainly in my bubble anyway, the people who are willing to learn are the ones who are more successful than those who aren’t. 

Adam: Yeah, I agree with you 100%. You mentioned you have a board of directors for your business. Tell me about that.

Jeremy: So that’s, it’s called the board of directors. It’s really a board of advisors. So it’s 10 businesses, they get together. And we do it three times a year. And you meet to discuss what’s your current challenges in your business. And we made, it’s a Britain based thing that we do and you prepare board pack, you go through everything that’s gone on for the last four months, you then have what we call board body meetings, where you meet weekly about what’s the current challenges and you help each other through that process. So it’s not a board of directors of my businesses, but it’s a board of advisors. 

Adam: Yeah. But having, you know, regardless of the structure having some input some guidance because, as a business owner, you’re sort of on an island by yourself. But having other people to look over your shoulder and help you is super important.

Jeremy: It’s like the mastermind that you and I are a part of. It’s a similar concept. Rather than the weekly meetings, it’s with everyone. It’s the, it’s three times a year. We booked two whole days off and all we do is talk about our businesses. You know, phones are off, everything’s in, and it’s from 6:30 am till 8:30 pm. And it’s just really intense working on your business. That’s really valuable. I’ve learned a lot.

Adam: So, Jeremy, if you could go back in time to when you started your business, what’s one piece of advice that you would give younger you?

Jeremy: Trust your gut. There’s a lot of times that I knew that I should do something and I didn’t do it because I was afraid of the consequences. I was afraid of the consequences to my business, to my business partner, to my employees. And not every time but I would say 90% of the time, if I had just trusted my gut when I knew something wasn’t working, say, if I knew a team member wasn’t working out. 

Or I knew that, you know, we should have taken a different path on the business, we should have contacted someone else. I feel and, you know, hindsight is a wonderful thing. I’m a lawyer. We live in hindsight so much of the time. I genuinely think that if I just trusted my gut a lot more then I would have made the mistakes that I’ve made, which, you know, we all make mistakes in business.

Adam: Yeah, now, that’s super important. I totally agree. So, Jeremy, thank you so much for being here. What’s, you know, what’s one piece of advice or wisdom or number one tip that you would give business owners?

Jeremy: It comes back, I’ve said it a few times, get advice. You don’t know everything. You can’t know everything. And that’s fine. You need to get advice and you need to understand and take that advice. Now you don’t have to do everything that people tell you. You know, I read a lot of books. I don’t do everything that the books say to do. You know, if I did that I would never have any time to do anything else. 

But you’ve got to listen to advice, listen to the reason for an ask lots of questions if you’re not sure. And then implement what you want to do and be confident in what you’re doing. Because if you don’t do that, that’s where it causes lots of problems for yourself. So take the advice and make sure it applies to you and then run with it. That’s where I think the best, you get your best bang for your buck.

Adam: Yeah. Now that makes sense. So speaking of getting advice, where can people learn more about you? Where can they get your book? 

Jeremy: Yep, yep. So the book is available on Amazon if people are interested in that. I have put together a page for this podcast as a thank you for having me on here and to help people. It’s businesslegallifecycle.com/ and then the number four Profit. And on there, I’ve got copies of chapter two start-up for the book that I’m giving away for free to any listener today because that is where I see the most problems in business. People don’t put those trucks in play. So even if you’ve been operating your business for 20 years, or whether you’re just starting up or you’ve been operating for a couple years, 

I strongly encourage listeners to go in there and download a copy of that book of that chapter. I’ve got, depending on where you are, I’ve got a copy of chapter two for the US edition, the UK edition and the Australian edition. Because in there, I talk about structures and there’s a different set. So you can go on there, check that out, have a read of that chapter. You can contact me through that page. I’ve got my email address. And I also one thing we haven’t talked about is we developed a SaaS, a Software as a Service tool that goes along with the Business Legal Lifecycle. 

And we’ve just released version 2.0. And that is, takes about 10 minutes, there’s 30 questions and it places you within the lifecycle and identifies your blind spots. So it might find, you in phase five, which is we talked about before, protecting intellectual property. It will tell you what you need to do and then it will tell you what you’ve missed in the previous four phases and identifies those blind spots. Recently released that and that works in the UK, Australia and the US. About to release South Africa in the next couple of months, which is exciting. 

And at the time of recording this, I’m about to head over there, which I’m looking forward to. And for the listeners as a thank you for having me on here, if you go to that page, you’ll see there’s a 50% discount. Normally we charge $97 for that test, but the listeners can get that for $48.50. And that will identify the blind spots. It’s, I believe well over $1,000 worth of legal value just to identify the blind spots. So if you went to a lawyer to get that same advice, it’ll cost you about $1,000 to get that advice. So I’m more than happy for people to jump on there and have a look at that. Tell me what you think of that.

Adam: Okay, so businesslegallifecycle.com/p4profit. And we’ll put that link in the show notes and you can find the book and find that quiz the Business Legal Lifecycle quiz. Wow, that looks very helpful. Well, Jeremy, thank you so much for being here.

Jeremy: My pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed our chat.

Adam: Yeah, me too. And again, anybody listening, if you need, if you want some more info on Jeremy or to read his book, or to take that quiz to see where you are in his legal lifecycle, go to his website. We’ll put that in the show notes. But thank you so much for listening. And remember, the goal of your business should be to make more profit than last year and turn that profit into cash that you get to keep. Thanks for listening.