Today we spoke with Layne Lyons JD, lawyer and legal coach for female entrepreneurs. She provides the legal foundations for coaches and consultants to safely build on. This is because when it comes to service-based businesses, content, money, and relationships should be protected. From burning out to defying the odds, Layne Lyons JD shares with us how her hardest experiences have given her the greatest gifts.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:00:01] So I see a lot of areas that entrepreneurs neglect to think about, the biggest ones, probably their content, protecting their content, their money and their relationship and their relationship.
Sam: [00:00:33] We’ve all heard the stories of partnerships gone awry. You pour your heart and soul into something, and then because of the fine print or a bit of contract law, you’re left with nothing. What happens next and how do you use your experience to help others? Layne Lyons is a lawyer who believes that you can’t grow your business from a place of fear. She uses her twenty six years of experience to protect female entrepreneurs, both their businesses and their peace of mind. She uses plain English in her contracts because she knows that legal stuff is often intimidating and overwhelming. Layne, it’s a pleasure to have you on Ideamix radio today.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:01:18] Thanks so much for inviting me, Sam. It is an absolute pleasure to be here, Layne.
Sam: [00:01:22] You are your company and product. Describe for us in a nutshell what you do.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:01:27] Great question, Sam. So, as you mentioned, I’m a lawyer and I work with women entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses. So that means that I work with coaches, consultants and other service based entrepreneurs to provide them with the contracts and the legal foundations that they need to get their businesses set up properly from the foundational level so that they can build on top of that.
Sam: [00:01:53] That’s a great and very concise description. Thank you. What, in your view, Layne, are the most common areas entrepreneurs with service based businesses neglect to think about as their companies get started and as they grow in scale?
Layne Lyons JD: [00:02:09] Yeah, OK, so I see a lot of areas that entrepreneurs neglect to think about. The biggest ones, probably their content, protecting their content, their money and their relationships. So the more that an entrepreneur gets out there and the more that she is visible and sharing a lot of her content and building a lot of relationships, the more risks there are – just sort of a numbers game, the more you’re out there, the more risks there are. So what I see is a lot of entrepreneurs putting out incredible content. And of course, content doesn’t just mean the written work, it does mean the written word, meaning whatever we put on our website, our blog posts, our articles that we write. But it’s also all of the techniques that an entrepreneur has curated and created from the journey that an entrepreneur has taken, meaning all of the courses and the classes and the trainings and the late nights with the ideas circulating in the entrepreneur’s mind. These all come together as content, and when content is unprotected, it can be swiped, repurposed by someone else and stolen right out from under an entrepreneur. The second thing is money. So a lot of entrepreneurs think about how to earn money, but they neglect to put processes and procedures in place for how to keep that money that they’ve earned. So when we’re talking about money, we’re talking about refunds, chargebacks, unpaid invoices and these I see every day. So we’ve got to have systems and a process in place to make sure that once an entrepreneur earns income, it stays nice and safe and sound in the account where it belongs. And the third thing really, I would say is relationships. So, of course, the more an entrepreneur grows, the more networking there are going to be more relationships. We’ve got to think about relationships with our one on one client or group clients, our memberships, if we have them, our mastermind’s, if we create them, and then we’ve got to get a bit broader than that and start thinking about the dream team that we hire and making sure that we’re protecting the relationships there. So that’s with our team. If we’re going to be on podcasts, if we’re going to host a podcast, if we’re going to speak on stages or lead retreats, we want to make sure that in every different stage of the business, we’re thinking about who we’re in relationships with and making sure that we have written agreements to cover those relationships and circling back to make sure that our content is protected, our money is safe and sound, and our relationships are all very aligned so that we can run a drama free business.
Sam: [00:04:57] A great example of Layne Lyons speaking in plain English there. Thank you, Layne, for that description. I love that framework of content, money and relationships. It’s basic and simple and intuitive and the best way to think about any business.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:05:16] Right.
Sam: [00:05:17] So, Layne, you found your way back to law as a result of a previous entrepreneurial experience. Tell us a little bit more about that.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:05:26] Of course, when I was a health coach – well, first I was a lawyer. So, I was a lawyer and like a lot of lawyers, I got burned out physically. I became wheelchair bound. I know that’s sort of an unusual thing, but I got very fatigued from all of the stress of the work that I was doing. And when I was in a wheelchair for five year, a motorized wheelchair for five years without the use of my arms or legs due to what doctors were calling an incurable disease. And lo and behold, as you can see – spoiler alert – I healed myself and once I got better and was able to get out of my wheelchair, I wanted to share with other people what had made the biggest difference in my healing journey, which was the power of food as medicine. So I went back to school and I became certain I was never going to practice law again. And they went back to school and I became certified as a health coach. And I started working with entrepreneurs, always the same audience. I love working with entrepreneurs. I was helping them to not get burned out. I was getting great results. I was on the top of my game and I was loving life. And that’s when an opportunity came my way from another entrepreneur, another coach who invited me to go into a collaboration with her. And I’m going to say the same thing that I hear from clients all the time, which is I didn’t want to make things difficult. I didn’t ask for a written agreement because even though I was a lawyer, I didn’t want to lawyer up. Everything felt so in the flow and in alignment. And we were on the same wavelength and it felt miles and miles away from the world of law. So I entered into the working agreement, into the collaboration with this other coach with no written agreement. And you can imagine the unthinkable happened. And I got completely burned, all of my content gone, all of the money I invested down the drain and all of my hard work right out from under me in typical ME fashion, the same woman who healed herself from what doctors called incurable. I’m kind of an unstoppable force. So when I realized that I had noticed an unstoppable with a capital U, right?
Sam: [00:07:43] Yeah, absolutely.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:07:44] So when I realized that that was happening and when it became the writing was on the wall and it became very clear that we were going to part ways first. I mean, first I was shocked, right? I mean, that’s like the first thing that happens is like, how could that possibly happen? And then I think I got a little bit angry, but pretty quickly I got motivated and I sat down to my computer and I started drafting the written agreements that I wished I would have had with her. I didn’t even think about doing that one way or the other as a lawyer. I just that was in my heart and soul. I guess our training kicks in when we need it, right? Absolutely. So there I was. I drafted all of the contracts that I wished I would have had with her, everything I would have needed to protect myself. And when I was finished doing that, I reached out to a couple of coach friends in my at the time in my health coaching circle and said, hey, what contracts are you all using? And I got the same answer from every single one of them. We don’t have contracts and I started to write them in there. I started to draft all of the contracts that every entrepreneur needs to protect herself, her hard work and all of her business investments. So once I was finished with that suite of contracts, I really was doing it as a labor of love. But once I stopped, once I finished doing it, I offered it to a couple of colleagues and realized that this actually was a viable business. And sometimes that’s how the best businesses are born. They’re born out of an experience that happens to us personally that we have a reaction and we take an action in order to resolve that. And then we find out that other people can actually benefit from that kind of sweet spot that we created for ourselves.
Sam: [00:09:26] One hundred percent, I think some of the best businesses are born out of a personal need and particularly personal, in your case, very visceral experiences and your instinct to do this, to understand it for yourself, but then to make it available to other people that you knew in the coaching space who you knew had the same problem makes total sense.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:09:49] Yeah, it’s about the lemonade, right? It’s about taking an experience that just could really be kind of shattering. It did end my health coaching career because I shifted over to legal coaching and it became such a demand that there really was never an opportunity to go back to health coaching. But this is what happens if you can figure out and you can as an entrepreneur, you can know when it is time to pivot that is going to really set you up for success.
Sam: [00:10:18] Totally true. Couldn’t agree more. Layne, from the very beginning, you decided to focus on female entrepreneurs, tell us why, because some would say that all entrepreneurs need the right legal framework, irrespective of female or male.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:10:40] Yeah, and I do have several clients who are men, who are folks who identify as men. So I’m not excluding men by any means. I’m just focusing on women. And I made that choice because. Well, of course, we’ve all heard you have to shut down your offerings. And if you try to be all things to all people, you will be nothing to everyone. So that’s a motivating factor. But really, it’s more of a personal decision for a long, long time. And I’m going back to my days in law school in the early nineties. It’s been a man’s world. I was trained at Duke Law School and I was one of only a few, a handful of women even in the early 90s. We should have had more women representing. So I really came up in a world where men. Yeah, we were told, you know, Barbie, in the seventies, women can be anything, women can be president. But look, it’s been a man’s world. And it’s so incredible to me that we just got a woman in the White House who is not someone’s wife. She’s there on her own merits, on her own accord. And I just I want to support women. I believe that the future is female. I believe that women bring a different strength to the conversation, a different problem solving skills from men. And I want to be a part of that wave that’s helping women get there at my company. We measure our success by the success of our clients. So it is my absolute honor to be able to help women grow their businesses and enjoy more success, because that’s a win for me as well and a win for us as women.
Sam: [00:12:27] I couldn’t agree more. I think even though we’ve made so much progress and every opportunity is available to us, there’s still a catch up that we’re really playing in this world of men. And I think we all need all the help we can get.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:12:41] And I’m happy to be happy to be part of that.
Sam: [00:12:47] So a key part of your journey, and you referenced this earlier, was your age, your medical odyssey. Looking back, how did that change who you are and who you became?
Layne Lyons JD: [00:13:01] That is such a great and deep question. So the the quick and sassy answer is it made it so I can’t work on weekends. I have to take breaks. I have come to really love my weekends where I used to just…I think back to how I got sick in the first place. And it is just from burning that candle at both ends nonstop. So it’s really given me a newfound respect for the word rest and self care and to really prize those things and take so much ownership in saying, OK, it’s six fifteen PM, I need to stop for the night rather than going. I used to go like a little machine. But also on a more serious note, if I may. And of course I think for so many of us, I know for me and I hear it from so many women in so many people who I need, that the hardest experiences in my life have given me the greatest gifts. I think it’s Edward Munsen who has the quote, the stronger the breeze, the stronger the trees and being sick like that and being told I would never walk again and having my husband told too…We’ve been married 20 years and he was told to prepare for me not being there the following year. That’s heavy. That’s a lot.
Sam: [00:14:21] My goodness, that’s terrible.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:14:23] But they called it an incurable disease. Well, here I am. Here I am to tell the tale. And it gave me here I’m going through the process of healing myself and coming out on the other side has given me insight into my own strength and resilience and my unwavering perseverance. It reinforced what I already know, which is that I can do anything that I set my mind to. And it helped me listen to my heart and to know what I already knew as a lawyer for my clients, but maybe took on for the first time for myself, which is we have to investigate multiple angles and options and not just accept what’s in front of us or what’s told to us by some kind of authority. And it gave me a lot of compassion for other people because in all the hospitals over the eight, eight plus years, in all the hospitals, in all the countries, on all the continents, I saw the absolute vulnerability of so many people at their sickest and most hopeless moments. And it just made me fall in love with people and their courage. And we all know that being an entrepreneur isn’t always easy and we will always, always come up against obstacles. So being, quote, incurably sick and then healing myself has actually helped me apply that resilience and strength and perseverance to some of the day to day challenges that come up as an entrepreneur.
Sam: [00:16:03] I mean, such important life lessons that came out of this for you and and and really, as you said, fed into who you are, but also the entrepreneur that you proceeded to become, and in all your interactions with people, both in your work and on personally, agreed totally. So let’s shift gears a little bit. Tell us about a key change or pivot that you made with your business over these last few years, and why you did that.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:16:36] Yeah, I think that the biggest pivot actually kind of relates to the last question, and I added a team. I used to believe that I could do it all by myself. And I think, you know, if we think we can do everything and say yes to everything and be in every place all at once, that’s how all of that burnout happens. But I had to get real and admit that I can’t do everything. And honestly, we all have our skills and other people are just better at some tasks than I am. And I think recognizing one’s own skills as an interior conversation is really an important key in an entrepreneur’s journey. So some things are in your zone of genius and some are not. Me personally, I’m great at writing contracts and I am fabulous at working out complicated legal issues and turning it over in my mind like a puzzle and seeing all of the angles. But I am not great at managing my inbox or my calendar. I’m not great at writing sales copy or scheduling social media posts. So I took on a team for other members, team members who are great at that and also employees. I have a team of nine women that employs other women and that allows me to focus on the things that I am really great at.
Sam: [00:17:59] It’s a core skill, I think, and this idea of entrepreneurship, I think many people misunderstand it and think that it involves doing everything yourself, as you said you started with. But I think recognizing, you know, one, that that’s just not sustainable, but also understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are and finding people with different and complementary skill sets makes it just a more successful and better endeavor for each entrepreneur.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:18:29] Yeah, I think there’s some kind of a misconception that owning your weaknesses is a weakness when exactly the opposite. Quite exactly what you’re saying. That’s really a strength to know where you are strong and know where you are not and to be able to ask for help and enlist, support, and delegate. That is a great strength.
Sam: [00:18:50] Totally agree. So Layne, in the course of growing and scaling your business, what do you view as your most effective method for growth?
Layne Lyons JD: [00:19:09] OK, well, I provide a very high level of support to my clients, and that’s given me a name in my industry as someone who will be in your corner as you grow. So that’s really resulted in a referral based business. Most of my new clients are referrals from existing clients. I don’t do any paid advertising. I don’t do any social media advertising. That’s all coming from word of mouth. And I think one way I know that’s not relocatable. That’s sort of something that has of course, I cultivated it, but it’s also something that depends on other people. So in thinking about what can an entrepreneur also do, what other avenues and areas have I been successful with? And in several networking groups with other entrepreneurs who serve the same audience as I do. And I think that’s a big key as well, because every week I connect with them and we share our experiences and hearing other entrepreneurs, other high level CEOs who are at the same place that I am hearing what their experiences are and sometimes what their pitfalls are, really helps me grow and helps me develop myself as a CEO and my offerings for my audience. Also, I’m the resident legal expert in many mastermind’s and private groups and the guest legal expert in several mastermind’s. And of course, I also speak on summits and podcasts like, of course, Ideamix radio, and that really helps you reach new audiences as well. So I think those things combined, you can’t just focus on one avenue to try to get all of your clients, if you can, can figure out a couple of really key ways and maximize those. That’s the sweet spot.
Sam: [00:20:59] I think you’ve made a really important point, which is this combination of networking and finding new opportunities to put yourself out there, but really combining that with an extremely strong referral based network. Because that network is, I mean, it’s gold in any professional services business to have someone you’ve worked with recommend you to anyone else in their circle. So it’s a super powerful method, I think, that you’ve sort of grown into over time.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:21:34] It’s been wonderful.
Sam: [00:21:36] So who do you view as the most critical members of your team, you talked about having a nine person female team that supports you. What do you view as some of the most critical functions?
Layne Lyons JD: [00:21:49] OK, well, besides that, the work that I do, which is the legal work and being on stages and podcasts and coming up with new offerings, the next top person is my executive assistant who manages me. She’s managing my inbox, my calendar. She’s overseeing all of the projects for the rest of the team. I do not know what I would do without her. She is like me every every step of the way. And then I’ve got a content and speechwriter who writes all of my big speeches and presentations. We hope we could create those. And she writes all of my content. And she’s very focused on sales driven copy, which, as I mentioned earlier, is not a strength of mine and not something that I know a lot about. So it’s been great to outsource that to her. I have a visibility strategist who pitches podcasts and other opportunities for me. There’s just not enough hours in the day to get that one done, although I sometimes look at her job and wish I was doing that. That looks really fun. There’s just not enough hours. I’ve got two entry level. They do different kinds of tasks. One is very, very detail oriented. And I give her projects that I know have to be one hundred percent accurate, anything client-facing. And the other is a bit more of a data entry support staff for the rest of the things. I have an accountant and then we come to perhaps the most important person on my team, which are my business coach and my business mentor. They both help me step into my role as a CEO. They constantly, consistently help me be bigger and better than I would be without either of them. They’re not just there helping me add systems or maybe streamlining something, but they’re really about that bigger picture helping me when I get stuck because running a team and running a whole business and serving, I have over two hundred clients serving. All of those people all at once sometimes can get me up against a roadblock. Sometimes I’m stuck with something where I’m at an edge, as we call it, or a growth point of growth edge where I need somebody else who’s on the outside, who’s been where I am to be able to step in and say, OK, wait a second, I see this a little bit differently. You may not realize, but you’re in your own blind spot. For example, if you step to the left just one inch or two inches, you’ll be there. And so I recommend to everyone to absolutely have a business coach or a mentor on your team to be able to help you grow.
Sam: [00:24:23] It’s such a great point, I think so many of us get so focused on business function and people that enable business growth and we don’t. It’s not always intuitive, I think, for people to think about who are the mentors and advisors and coaches to you as the CEO and leader of your business that can enable your growth because in your growth lies the growth of your business ultimately.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:24:52] Exactly.
Sam: [00:24:53] Amazing. What keeps you up at night right now?
Layne Lyons JD: [00:24:58] OK, so stargazing? No, I live in Hawaii in a very rural area with no light pollution and we have the most incredible meteor shower earlier this week and I stayed up way past my bedtime on lounge chairs, out by the pool to be able to stare up into the sky. It was like two shooting stars per minute. So that’s pretty incredible, right? It was the Geminids and it’s like the biggest one of the year. But so that’s personally what keeps me up – the stars. But seriously, business wise, what’s keeping me up right now is my upcoming trademark launch. I’ll be offering trademarking services to my client so that they can trademark their name, their logo, their taglines, their slogans. And I am so excited about it. And some nights I cannot fall asleep because I’m laying there dreaming up new creative ways to design the intake process or had to streamline and systematize things. And sometimes – hang on. Hang on, listeners. Here comes a big nerd alert. Sometimes I lay in bed and I make up hypothetical trademark situations in my head and I try to figure out how would I resolve a specific issue with the US Patent and Trade Office or how would I overcome an objection if I got one? If I was filing a trademark for a client and we got a specific rejection or a specific objection, how would I overcome that? You know, when I get into a project, if I’m really excited about it and my creative fires are burning, it’s often really hard for me to let it go. And I’m a little bit like a kid on Christmas. I just can’t wait for it to launch.
Sam: [00:26:38] Amazing. I look forward to it, I’m sure that would be so helpful to so many of the entrepreneurs that you work with.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:26:45] And so fun for me. I’m really looking forward to it.
Sam: [00:26:48] It’s the perfect intersection. So last question, Lynn. If you could go back and change one thing about your life or something in your business, what would that be?
Layne Lyons JD: [00:26:59] I missed a flight. I was headed to Costa Rica for a very close friend’s wedding, and I’m not a rookie traveler, I’m a full time nomad. I’ve been to over forty five, over 40 countries and forty five states, and I’ve lived on almost every continent. I am not a rookie traveler, but somehow I cut it too close and then I couldn’t get on another flight. There wasn’t a seat on another flight for thirty six hours. So I missed the whole thing and it still makes me super sad. And every time – I’m friends with both the bride and the groom – and every time I talk to both of them, it’s like the first thing that I think of is just this pang of regret. But of course, I have never missed another flight since.
Sam: [00:27:42] Lessons learned and friendships that endure.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:27:46] Definitely.
Sam: [00:27:48] Here’s something else you should know, as many as 50 percent of business partnerships fail in the first two to three years and given that number, it makes perfect sense to take the necessary steps to legally prepare for a breakup down the line. Thanks to TechCrunch for the data used in today’s episode. Layne, we love your story because you channeled some hard experiences and turned them into something that’s both inspired you and helped a lot of other people. Thank you so much for coming onto the show today.
Layne Lyons JD: [00:28:22] Thanks for inviting me, Sam. It was wonderful to be here. Thanks for listening, everyone.
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