How Do Small Businesses And Startups
Do Legal? We Asked Them!
If you’ve ever been hit with a legal obstacle as a business founder, have you ever wondered: How do other people deal with this?
When it comes to starting a business, getting your ‘legals’ done isn’t the most exciting part…
And because it’s not a very popular topic of discussion, you’re often left figuring it out on your own.
Don’t worry, there’s good news – you’re not the only one!
We’ve interviewed 6 cool startups and small businesses to find out about how they deal with the legal side of things, amongst the exciting work they do.
Lachlan Fea is the Head of Growth at RocketFIN, a “growth-focused digital marketing agency that partners with e-commerce and professional services businesses who are looking to scale their revenue, fast.”
The business was started to help businesses quantify the results of their marketing campaigns.
“I started RocketFIN to help my clients get real, tangible results from marketing; that yes, if you put $1 in, you could get $5 out.”
“When you’re selling online or booking appointments, the ROI is all there, laid out plain to see. No fluff. Nothing to hide behind. You can account for every dollar.”
“Digital marketing is as much science and math as it is art.”
Solidifying client relationships
Like many digital marketing agencies, getting this business off the ground required a few legal considerations. In particular, when it came to providing the service to their customers.
“The most important thing for us was having comprehensive contracts that covered what we can do, what we can’t do, what constitutes our intellectual property and what happens if we have a falling out, or if our clients lose money (thankfully, this hasn’t happened).”
How did Lachlan and RocketFIN deal with this legal concern?
“For us, I looked for a legal service that was accessible, affordable, and would suit our circumstance as a new business.”
He used an online service that involved “paying a small up-front fee to get access to customisable legal templates.”
As Lachlan explains, this was an ok solution to begin with, but the need for more comprehensive legal support soon became clear.
“As we started working with clients who had larger budgets, it became even more important that our terms of service documents, our contractors’ agreements and other legal docs were all watertight.”
“Having legal agreements in place is so, so important in our line of work, and that’s before insurance, too!”
With this experience behind him, we asked Lachlan if he’d do the same thing next time.
“For standardised documents, absolutely. It’s great to see digital disruption in law; it’s something we’ve seen take the accounting and finance space by storm in recent years, and it’s certainly helping young law firms – like Sprintlaw – innovate, to the benefit of their clients.”
Having the legal side of things under control, RocketFIN could continue to grow with confidence.
For Lachlan, this meant getting back to his favourite part of the job – the numbers.
“I’m extremely competitive and love looking at the numbers. For me, digital marketing is all about delving into data to find insights and creating high-level strategies. Then, getting to work to figure out how we combine that information with awesome creative and compelling copy, to explode our clients’ sales.”
The rest of the team can focus on their projects too – no matter where they are in the world!
“As a digital marketer, we’re literally able to work on campaigns with the brightest marketing minds from all around the globe. What this means is that we can easily work with businesses from Canada, New Zealand, the USA and the UK, and if needed, have boots on the ground in those locations too.”
“The ‘glue’ for me will always be a small, local set-up, but don’t be fooled, many micro-agencies and nomadic agencies like us are still working on big campaigns for big-name brands.”
This week, Lachlan and the RocketFIN team have a lot to look forward to:
“We’re onboarding some exciting new clients this week, so I’m really excited to start whiteboarding and talking strategy with them; figuring out how we kickstart their campaigns so they hit the ground running.”
Natasje Garbers is the CEO of Set Book, an “online platform that allows creatives such as photographers and filmmakers to book locations for their shoots without difficulty.”
“It also allows property owners to create another stream of income without effort or inconvenience, by allowing the creatives to book their homes for various shoots,” Natasje explains.
As a photographer herself, Natasje started Set Book out of necessity.
“I constantly struggled to find locations, negotiate with owners or even just get in contact with owners.”
“Creating new content regularly means I always have to keep my eyes out for the best new thing, and the current industry standard was taking too long to solve my needs.”
So, she created a solution to her own problem!
Getting Legal Online
When getting Set Book started, Natasje faced a very common legal issue – signing people up online.
“Being an online platform, we wanted our site to be the most convenient and fastest way to take or make bookings, however the fact that we were hiring out spaces belonging to other people meant that our Terms of Service needed to be constructed carefully to consider the needs of both the property owner and the creatives.”
“The hardest part by far was trying to work out an easy to way to get our clients to sign the agreement, without them leaving our website.”
How did she overcome it?
She got in touch with some lawyers, who helped her design Terms of Service fit for her website.
“The lawyers we decided to go with are specialised for our industry, we wanted to make sure we chose people who understood our problems.”
Thankfully, it’s been a good experience!
“It is an ongoing relationship now as they handle all our contracts and legal needs.”
“They are friendly, they take time to explain things to us without legal jargon, but I know they put a lot of time and effort into our contracts.”
Natasje stressed the importance of working with a law firm you trust and can build a relationship with.
“If we ever have any legal issues in the future, the relationship we have built with this firm guarantees that we will be using them again and again.”
With the customer contract sorted, Natasje could continue enjoying the best parts of her job – “to travel the country, get involved in local community and meet interesting people of all walks of life.”
The Set Book team always ensures they are having fun too, while doing the hard work: “No matter what project we are working on, being in the creative industry means that it’s always something interesting. Whether it’s managing a film about grave diggers in the middle of the night, a World War II bunker scene, or a photoshoot for a music label.”
We asked Natasje what she was most looking forward to this week.
“Scouting a location in Central West NSW for a TV commercial . I love hearing from directors about how they envision their work and being able to find the perfect location to bring it all together!”
Kiri Yanchenko is the founder of AMPERNA®.
“My range, AMPERNA is the first Active Probiotic Skincare range in Australia specially formulated to help address problematic skin. We are in business to help people feel more comfortable.”
Kiri started the company because of her personal experiences.
“I have been through a challenging time with acne and perioral dermatitis over the past few years and finally managed to get it under control through a combination of diet and changes to my skincare regime.”
“These conditions are very difficult to help when you also suffer from sensitive skin.”
So Kiri went out to find a solution in Australia, hiring a chemist to help her.
“I realised that there was nothing available in Australia that was really effective for people with sensitive/problem skin. I spent the last few years working on a new skincare range for all skin types – it features probiotics as its main active ingredient and is the first range of its kind in Australia.”
Many different legal considerations
Building the business from scratch, Kiri needed legal assistance with a range of things, including trademarking, checking the information on her labels and website, website terms and conditions, NDA documentation for manufacturing and contract negotiation.
She used Google and Facebook to search for a lawyer, and ended up getting in contact with a lawyer through a Facebook group.
“The experience was amazing, however as we grow I will need lawyers who specialise in particular areas.”
Since Kiri needs advice on such a range of areas, each time she needs a lawyer she searches on Google or talks to her business mentors. That way, she can find the best lawyers to help with each document or service she needs.
Knowing her legal issues are in the right hands, Kiri enjoys her favourite parts of the job: “Helping my customers, and the fact that I can work with my mum and husband every day.”
This week, Kiri is looking forward to “a bunch of meetings I have set up myself as well as answering my customer enquiries.”
Kurt McCarthy and Tiana Eliseeva faced a very common, but tricky, legal issue when they started their business, Tutable.
“We began with three founders, and it soon became two.”
“We weren’t sure what the best, most amicable and most legally strong, way to split was, and how shares should be managed.”
They consulted the legal team in their co-working space, who helped them reach the best outcome for a tough situation.
Having the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a lawyer was a big help.
“I was actually quite nervous going into it. I’d never needed to see a lawyer before and I didn’t know what to expect. But it was just a conversation.”
“I got to ask very specific questions and have them answered in a way that a broad Google search would never have managed”
Now, they are focused on growing the business together.
“We are a platform connecting people with skills, to people who want to learn those skills.”
“We offer Learners ease of access to people in their area who can teach them whatever they want to learn, and Tutors a platform to earn money sharing their passions.”
They started Tutable after seeing the growing popularity of online and gamified learning, but the failures of self-directed learning.
“Online courses have a massive drop out rate. It’s clear that people want to continue their education long term, but there is no substitute for having the tutor in the room, and there is currently no main hub to facilitate that.” (Until now).
Now they say that they love “hearing from people who find value in the platform!”
As they grow, they’ve been able to build a great team too.
“We’re a small team and there’s a high level of trust and autonomy. We are easygoing and allow each other to treasure our personal time, while still staying accountable.”
What is the Tutable team looking forward to this week?
“We’ve just printed a bunch of advertising material which is due to arrive this week! Is that nerdy?”
Ailsa Veiszadeh from My Virtual Outbox was able to share her experiences with us too.
Like many businesses starting out, she was concerned about her business structure and client contracts.
“I did spend a lot of time researching my business structure, but my main legal issue was my client contract and ensuring that I adequately covered off basic contract requirements.”
She spent some time talking to other virtual assistants for advice, but eventually got in touch with a lawyer.
“I ended up contacting a lawyer that was referred by a good friend. I trust her judgement and the lawyer she referred was super helpful and we got to where I wanted to be easily.”
Having her business structure and contracts set up properly allows Ailsa to enjoy the real reasons she started My Virtual Outbox.
“I started my business because I wanted more flexibility and more control over how I spent my time and the type of work that I did.”
“The best part of my job is that no two days are the same!”
Last, but not least, we got to chat to Jeremy Stone from Creative Cities 21.
Jeremy started Creative Cities 21 with his wife, Angie, to “re-energise people with creative learning escapes to great cities of the world.”
Based on their own creative immersion experience in New York, the pair decided to take what their learnt and share it with the world.
“It was so beneficial and inspirational to us, that we thought others would benefit.”
“We came back home, did some research on the power of creativity, training programs, wellness travel etc. and started up the business.”
A lawyer for startup needs
Jeremy and Angie faced the common, but difficult, transition from corporate life to starting their own creative business.
“One of the legal issues was setting up the T&Cs”
“I asked my accountant for some suggestions and went and met with the legal firm.”
Although the experience was fine, Jeremy notes that next time he’d look for somewhere more suited to their startup business model.
“They were a little too big and busy to cost effectively serve a startup.”
Knowing there are law firms that are experienced with serving startup legal needs means Jeremy can look around for a more suitable lawyer next time round.
For now, Jeremy is focused on helping the Creative Cities 21 participants to “learn, grow and have fun.”
This week, he’s looking forward to: “setting up the new template for our newsletter, and finalising our bloopers video of a recent corporate shot!”
Thanks to these 6 great, new businesses for sharing their experiences with dealing with legal issues.
It’s good to know that every business has to deal with the legal side of things – you’re not alone!
Plus, when you need legal advice, there are professionals available who can help small businesses and startups without breaking the bank.
Working with a lawyer doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Phew!
The big takeaway from our interviews was that you should look for a lawyer who:
What’s more, there are many ways to find a legal service: searching online, social media, and personal referrals.
All in all, startup and small business legals can seem confusing, but they don’t have to be.
Find a lawyer who makes it all simple – so you can get on with the exciting parts of your job.
If you’re looking for somewhere to start, Sprintlaw specialises in legals for small businesses and startups. Get in touch with us for a free consultation about your legal needs!