Choosing a Business Partner – Bet on the Jockey, not the Horse

Lone Star Park by Travis Isaacs (Creative Commons License)

Lone Star Park by Travis Isaacs (Creative Commons License)

When it comes to deciding who will be your business partner or a business investor, choose your associates with as much care as you would a romantic partner. When it comes to selecting these people, don’t you just look at their reputation, their track record, or their wallet. Look at who they are as a person. Look at how they work in relationships with others, their values, and their personality. If you are going to be intimately involved with this person from a business perspective, it should be someone you enjoy being around and who has values and goals that are compatible with yours.

When Gary Vaynerchuk evaluates startup owners and businesses for investment purposes, he says he bets on the jockey, not the horse. That makes perfect sense because there are times of great ideas out there but a much smaller group of people who can take one of these ideas and execute on it in effectively. As Gary would say, “Ideas are shit. Execution’s the game.

Think of your business relationships as a “business marriage.” These are people with whom you will be legally connected and have fiduciary obligations to each other. And if things don’t work out, you will need to get a “business divorce” where one partner buys the other out or when the partners decide to shut down the business and divide whatever assets are left. I’ve worked on collaborative divorces where the owners realized that they could no longer work together on a business but they could agree on what terms they wanted for their separation. I’ve also worked on contentious business divorces where each side has legal representation and the contract negotiation is longer and the parties are much more antagonistic.

In many cases, many problems in a business relationship or the business divorce could have been avoided had the parties verified that they were on the same page from the beginning of the relationship regarding their goals, how they were to run the business, and how they will resolve problems. Unfortunately, too many people use poorly written contract templates they find on the Internet or proceed without one at all. They don’t understand that it is cheaper and easier to write an effective contract with a lawyer at the big getting of a business relationship then for each side to have to hire someone to negotiate their business break up when things don’t work out.

Choose your jockey (business partner) with care. If they treat other people poorly, they will treat you poorly. If you think you can manage or manipulate a person’s behavior, you are already asking for trouble. If your prospective partner balks at the idea of solidifying your relationship with an operating agreement or investor agreement, turn and run away. No one’s money is rich enough to make up for the headaches and heartbreak that result from not having a proper contract in place. In fact, the appropriate response to a request for a contract should be something along the lines of, “Duh.”

If you want to chat more about the importance of business contracts or how to write one to accommodate your needs, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

Entrepreneurship, Business Contracts, & Self-Awareness

Meditation by Moyan Brenn from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Meditation by Moyan Brenn from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

As a lawyer I am in a problem-solving industry. I much prefer to be on the problem prevention side than having to help my clients clean up the mess they find themselves in, but I try to help when and where I can.

The last few months have been particularly frustrating. I’ve seen multiple situations where problems could have been prevented if the people involved had fully thought the situation through, called a lawyer to help them record their agreement in writing (and had the provisions they didn’t think about in advance), and signed their contract. Let me be clear – I’m not mad at my clients or prospective clients. I give them credit for realizing they are in over their heads and asking for help. The frustrating part is knowing that they are in difficult situations that could have been prevented.

Well written contracts are business gold. They put everyone on the same page from the beginning of the relationship and they outline how the parties will deal with problems when they occur.

I wonder what some people are thinking when they work without a contract or with a poorly written contract.

  • “We were too excited about the project to worry about a contract.”
  • “We were on a deadline.”
  • “I didn’t think we needed a contract.”
  • “The template I found online looked good enough at the time.”
  • “Hiring a lawyer is too expensive.”

All of these are crappy excuses not to have a contract or to have an ineffective one. A responsible entrepreneur is thoughtful enough to know what their needs are including an awareness that they will be dealing with more pain if they have to clean up the mess compared to doing it right the first time. And if the person you’re working with doesn’t understand the value of having a legally sound contract written by someone who knows what they’re doing, I would have serious reservations about working with that person. I thoughtful entrepreneur knows it is a better use of their time and money to hire someone to draft a contract at the beginning of a project than to try to do it themselves and have to hire a lawyer later to clean up the mess they created for themselves.

More entrepreneurs need to hear and to realize, that even though they might be running a solo shop, they never have to deal with a situation alone. They don’t have to have all the answers all the time. It’s ok to ask for help. In fact, it’s a sign that you are a good entrepreneur when you play to your strengths and you let other people use their best skills on your behalf. This requires a high degree of self-awareness and humility.

Gary Vaynerchuk and his team made an awesome video about self-awareness as an entrepreneur. I regularly watch it as part of my journey as a business person.

This is an area where I have substantial interest – both as a lawyer and an entrepreneur. If you want to chat more about this topic, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

The Undeniable Tour Day 7 – Hustling Pays Off

Gorgeous View of the Bay Bridge

Gorgeous View of the Bay Bridge

The slogan for The Undeniable Tour is “Hustle Your Face Off.” This is a quote from Gary Vaynerchuk and it’s both a message I want my audience to hear and it’s my mantra for this trip. I’m trying to reach and meet as many people as I can. Although I only have 5 speaking engagements during this 14-day road trip, my days are filled with meetings and activities.

I want to give a hat tip to Brand X Custom T-shirts in Tempe, AZ who made my “Hustle Your Face Off” t-shirts for me. I’m wearing one of these at each of my tour stops. I’ve had several people tell me they love them, ask to take photos of me when I’m wear one,  and Jacob Sapochnick of Enchanting Lawyer (one my sponsors) asked if I brought a shirt for him.

To me, hustling your face off is about making things happen. You don’t wait for opportunities to come to you; you go after what you want. As long as you are appropriate and mostly professional, I encourage you to push the limits and take strategic risks to get what you want.

I want to give a shout out to Scott Goering. He’s a lawyer/mediator who specializes in juvenile dependency cases. He saw me when I first spoke at the Bar Association in San Francisco in 2012 and has been keeping tabs on me since then because he was impressed by how I use social media in my professional life.

My Hustle Your Face Off Shirts, made by Brand X

My Hustle Your Face Off Shirts, made by Brand X

Footnote: When I say “keeping tabs” I don’t mean he’s been stalking me. He’s simply paid attention to what I publicly post online. It’s part of networking and it’s not creepy.

Scott is based in San Francisco and he’d reached out to me to say that he was looking forward to my presentation at the Bar Association of San Francisco during The Undeniable Tour and the he hoped we could get together while I was in town. I filed that away with all my other tour emails and didn’t give it much thought.

About 6 weeks ago, I was in San Francisco for the Dad 2.0 Summit. The conference and my participation in it was public information – so Scott came by to say hello and to say that he was looking forward to The Undeniable Tour. I was impressed by his tenacity and that sealed the deal for him that I would make room in my schedule when I came back to town to have lunch with him to talk about his ideas for using social media in his career. I don’t consider myself an expert in personal branding or using social media but I was happy to share my thoughts and give him some recommendations of people I follow when it comes to entrepreneurship and marketing including Gary Vaynerchuk, Peter Shankman, Katy Goshtasbi, and Ari Kaplan.

One thing I’ve learned about being successful professionally is you have to go after what you want – whether that’s a job, awards, connections, or opportunities. They won’t come to you through hoping for them, you have to work for it. I encourage you to take strategic risks and be bold about what you want.

If you are interested in connecting with me while I am traveling please follow me on Twitter. If you have any questions or comments about The Undeniable Tour, please shoot me an email.

The Undeniable Tour would not be possible without my amazing sponsors: Web3Mavens, Enchanting Lawyer, Total Networks, and Attorney at Work.

All Tour Sponsors

The Undeniable Tour Day 1: The Importance of Happiness

Visiting the Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick

Visiting the Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick

Day 1 of The Undeniable Tour is in the books. I flew in to San Diego, got my rental car which I’m loving calling the Maven Mobile after my Concierge Sponsor Web3Mavens, and drove to Temecula for the night. I had to visit two incredible people before I headed north: Katy Goshtasbi and Jacob Sapochnick.

Selfie with Katy Goshtasbi

Selfie with Katy Goshtasbi

Katy is a former lawyer who is now a personal branding coach, consultant, and speaker. Her book, Personal Branding in One Hour for Lawyers, is an American Bar Association best-seller. I met Katy when she gave a talk at ASU Law School when I was a 3L. She offered a free consult to the first three students to approach her when she was done and I climbed over the tables to get to her.

Katy and I met for lunch and we talked about how we’ve both discovered how important it is to have work that is fulfilling and makes us happy.  There are so many miserable, stressed, overworked lawyers in the business and it’s sad to see that they don’t know that there are other ways to practice law. It will always be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you have to be unhappy in the process. If you’re unhappy, your potential clients are going to see that and they won’t want to hire you.

Me and Jacob Sapochnick

Me and Jacob Sapochnick

Before I headed to Temecula, I stopped by the Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick. Jacob is the creator and host of the Enchanting Lawyer podcast, which is also a sponsor of the tour. I had the pleasure of being a guest on the show last year and I’m so glad I finally got to meet him in person. Jacob has a very strong practice, without needing to be there all the time. He’s found a way to train and empower his staff in such a way that they want to work their asses off to take care of clients and he’s able to take a 2-month vacation every year and the firm will keep running in his absence. It seems like he has a remarkable team.

One of the things I love about Jacob is that he embodies the idea that every company needs to be a media company. (Hat tip to Gary Vaynerchuk.) He practices immigration law but a lot of the content he puts out isn’t related to immigration. It’s related to building a community. He puts out quality material and leverages his podcast to meet people he couldn’t otherwise have a conversation with that he’s put himself into a position where he will be top of mind when people need his services.

In reflecting on my discussions with Katy and Jacob, the running theme in both conversations is the importance of creating a lifestyle that incorporates your career and your other priorities. If you are miserable in your career, you’re doing something wrong. There are other ways to be successful in the legal industry.

If you are interested in connecting with me while I am traveling please follow me on Twitter. If you have any questions or comments about The Undeniable Tour, please shoot me an email.

The Undeniable Tour would not be possible without my awesome sponsors: Web3Mavens, Enchanting Lawyer, Total Networks, and Attorney at Work.

All Tour Sponsors

The Undeniable Tour Update – Getting Excited

California One by Thibault Martin-Lagardette from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

California One by Thibault Martin-Lagardette from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It is about 6 weeks before The Undeniable Tour starts – and I’m starting to get really giddy-excited about it! There is so much to do, so little time, and so much to schedule.

The Undeniable Tour will be a two-week road trip from San Diego to Seattle that includes at least 5 large speaking engagements at law schools and bar associations, and I plan to use my so-called “down time” to meet with fellow awesome lawyers and hopefully some of the people and organizations that I admire professionally. The list of people I want to meet with is growing every day.

I also plan to use The Undeniable Tour to have some much-needed fun. For years I’ve been fascinated by a website called Roadside America. You can enter any city or state in the U.S. and it will tell you what weird, quirky, or unique things are in that area. I’m really want to see the giant Fork in the Road in Pasadena, California. I’m a big fan of the Yogi Berra quote, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” Some of the other places I hope to visit during this trip are the Legal Grind coffee shop, the Redwood Forest, the Hat Creek Radio Observatory where they do SETI work, VooDoo Doughnut, and Ballard Locks (fingers cross that at least one of The Deadliest Catch boats will be there).

Since I haven’t gotten a “concierge” sponsor to cover my lodging, I’m beginning to make a list of hotels, B&Bs, and the like where I might want to stay. I want to find independent and unique places that have a good story behind them. My plan is to offer to feature them in a blog and video in exchange for them putting me up. Some of the places on my dream list are the Railway Inn, the Out ‘n’ About Treehouse Treesort, and the Jupiter Hotel. I need to figure out where exactly I’m going to be on each day of the tour to determine where I want to stay each night.

My Hustle Your Face Off Shirts, made by Brand X

My Hustle Your Face Off Shirts, made by Brand X

Did you see the awesome t-shirts that Brand X Custom T-shirts in Tempe made for me? My motto for this tour is “Hustle Your Face Off.” This will be the mantra that drives me every day and also the message I hope to pass along to my audience. I’ll be wearing one of these shirts at each of my large speaking engagements. (Hat tip to Gary Vaynerchuk for coining this phrase and giving his blessing to have these shirts made.”) If you want to have your own Hustle Your Face Off shirt (or anything else) made by Brand X, use the code 4TRV-16VSL-3 to get $5 off your order (expires 4/3/2015).

One of the walls in my office is covered by 4 large sticky notes right now – one for each region I’ll be hitting during the tour with color-coded ideas on each one. These are definitely helping me stay focused and organized. I included them on this week’s video update.

If you have any suggestions for things I should see, people I should meet, or places I should stay, please let me know!

Avoid Copyright Infringement in your Social Media Posts

+ I collect old cameras + Land camera 1000 w/ polatronic 1 {b} by PhotKing from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

+ I collect old cameras + Land camera 1000 w/ polatronic 1 {b} by PhotKing from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The other day I smiled when I saw a friend put a post on Facebook that included a Creative Commons attribution. He was the person who taught me how important it is, just from the perspective of respect, to get permission before posting another person’s work on your social media page. This was before I studied and fell in love with copyright.

Now, it warms my little lawyer heart to see someone respecting copyright.

And I finally have time to read Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, which is filled with helpful information on how to market your business and excellent demonstrative case studies. One of his lessons is to use each platform to suit the needs to the users. So if a site is visually-focused, like Facebook or Pinterest, you want to create posts that have images that will provide users value and hopefully they’ll share them. His book has great examples of how companies are doing this effectively and what habits you shouldn’t emulate.

This is when the red flag went up for me.

If a company’s marketing department created a photo, there’s no problem with copyright. But if a company is using someone else’s photo (because companies don’t just have to talk about themselves online), they have to deal with the question of whether they have permission to use the image in question.

A lot of companies appear to be thoughtful about making sure they are using their own photos or finding images via Creative Commons for their website or blog. However, they don’t apply the same standards to their social media posts. If you’re doing this, and pulling images from other site without getting permission from the copyright owner, you could be setting your company up to be accused of copyright infringement and face a cease and desist letter, a DMCA takedown notice, a bill, or possibly a lawsuit.

Legal Side of Blogging Book CoverI’ve been inspired by people who use social media effectively and find amazing images to incorporate into their posts. I hope to create more content on social media that’s worth sharing. If you’re in my boat, please make sure to use images you own or use Creative Commons. When I use Creative Commons, I only pull images that come with a license that let me modify (aka crop them) and commercialize them. And even on social media, give your photographer the attribution. You may be legally obligated to do it, and it’s also a sign of respect for their work.

If you need an effective legal resource written in layman’s terms on this topic, I recommend my book, The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. It covers a lot of the major issues that apply to copyright and the internet. If you want to chat more about this topic, feel free to connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me.

Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Carter Law Firm’s Top 10 Posts From 2013

I Made the Pilgrimage to the Google 'Plex in 2013!

I Made the Pilgrimage to the Google ‘Plex in 2013!

It’s been a crazy-awesome year at Carter Law Firm. Some of the biggest highlights were the re-release of The Legal Side of Blogging, the release of Flash Mob Law, speaking at SXSW, and moving the firm into a brick and mortar location.

Thank you to everyone who this year such a success! I checked the blog’s analytics and these were the most popular posts from this year.

I was so excited to meet Gary Vaynerchuk in the flesh this year!

I was so excited to meet Gary Vaynerchuk this year!

1. Using Google Image Search to Detect Copyright Infringement

2. Prankk Bros vs Providence Police Officer

3. Publishing Contracts: Copyright Assignment vs Copyright License

4. Does Your Employer Have a Social Media Policy?

5. What Happens to Your LLC When You Die?

6. Go Topless Day 2013

7. Arizona Cyberharassment & Cyberstalking Laws

8. Maintaining Privacy with an Online Alter Ego

9. Applying Minimalism Principals to Your Business

10. Bullying is Still a Big Problem

These were the most popular posts that were written this year. Interestingly, the most popular posts by far from this year were written in 2012:

I’m excited for what’s in store for 2013. I’m hoping to do more paid speaking gigs, continue to do excellent work for my clients, and my next book is due out in February! There are lots of projects in the works. I’ll share more details with you as I firm up my plans.

You can always stay connected with me on TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm monthly newsletter.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

See You In Austin!

Orange Appeal by JD Hancock from Flickr

Orange Appeal by JD Hancock from Flickr

As many of you know, I’m going to Austin this week to attend and speak at the South by Southwest conference (SXSW or “South by”). I’m so excited!

For those of you who don’t know, SXSW is a huge conference that features three track – film, music, and interactive. The interactive track is all about technology and social media.  That’s the track I’m attending. There are way more sessions than any person can attend and there’s so many opportunities to meet and hang out with awesome people in general that I’m going to probably be busy from morning ‘til night every day.

I’m super excited to go to the sessions on entrepreneurship, privacy, marketing, stopping bullying, and of course, the legal sessions. I will have the pleasure and honor of speaking about Protecting Your Copyrights In Digital Media. I’m going to talk about what your copyright rights are and your possible courses of action when someone steals your content. I’m part of the Future 15 program so I only get 12 minutes to give my talk. It’s going to be awesome.

My shirts for SXSW

My shirts for SXSW

There are so many people I hope to meet while I’m in Austin – Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Guillebeau, the guys from Deadliest Catch, and of course, my fellow legal eagles. Another person I want to meet is Charlie Todd, the founder of Improv Everywhere. He’s debuting his film about Improv Everywhere called We Cause Scenes. I can’t wait to see it.

And will someone please remind me to do a handstand in front of a big SXSW sign or display? I need to add that picture to my collection. I don’t know if I’ll have time to see the giant longhorn statue on the University of Texas campus, but that would be fun too.

A very special thank you goes out to the crew at Brand X Custom T-shirts in Tempe, AZ who did a beautiful job creating my t-shirts for SXSW.