Jo Rogers has built a reputation as an impactful Public Speaker and Lawyer to SMEs. She has helped numerous early stage businesses to raise their game to raise significant funding and achieve stock market listings.
Jo joins Annik in conversation to talk about Terms and Conditions, being colourful in a grey-suited world and starting small to make it big.
Annik: I’m here with Jo Rogers. Now, Jo is a lawyer and a speaker. Today, the reason I am interviewing Jo is because she has this vast knowledge on contract law.
I’m sure a lot of you know this problem. You’re a coach, you’re a consultant, you’re entering a new relationship with a client or with a corporate contact and then suddenly you think: ‘Damn it! How do I really make this all work, do I need terms and conditions? What if I work with them for three months but then they drop out?’ We’re going to talk about that but, before we get into the nitty gritty, I have a question for Jo – how on earth did you end up becoming a lawyer? No offense. Lawyers are cool, well, semi-cool but, to be honest, you’re probably the most fun one I know. I always imagine lawyers to be boring, having a suit, but look at her. No tie and not very serious. How did you become a lawyer?
Jo: Annik, I feel like you know me at a different point of my life. I have not always been as amazing as I am now.
Annik: And how humble she is.
Jo: There was a time in my life where I was very much the corporate lawyer. Big companies, big firms. I was very much in that mold. I wore a grey suit, I was very grey in my personality and it’s only been working with my own business that I started to be a bit more colourful. You’re just meeting me at a different point of my lifestyle
If you’re sending an email to somebody and saying, “These are the terms on which I do business.” You are absolutely creating a contract. The fact that it’s from your email address means that you’re effectively “signing” the agreement.
Annik: Lucky me. Jo, your main focus are small business owners. People like you who either run a small coaching business or are more established one, doing big gigs like a thousand plus audiences and selling thei programmes from stage.
Let’s get into the terms and conditions. We started Speaker Express in 2011, doing it for the fun of it until it got fired and we really started commercialising it from 2013. We ran a certification programme at the time and people just gave us money and we trained them. There was no contract, there was nothing signed, not even sure if that was a ‘legal’ relationship (we were paying taxes though). What’s the minimum you have to have in place to enter a contract relationship with a client?
Jo: That’s a really good question because often people come to me and say, “I need some terms and conditions. I need something to put into paper.” and I say, “Progress not perfection.” The way you did it is actually the way that most people do it.
Annik: And it’s not illegal?
Jo: There is nothing illegal about it at all. It’s absolutely a fine way of doing business.
Now, I preach progress rather than perfection. I believe that you want to start off, you don’t want to spend too much money. If you’re early doers and you got your first coaching client, do not spend money on getting terms and conditions perfect. Absolutely not. But, once you’re somewhere established, you need to take the next step up. You need to raise your game a little bit. I tell when it usually clicks in for people is when client start saying, “Actually, I’m going to stop paying.” and then you go, “Wait a minute. You got to keep paying for the next six months.” and the person says, “Why? Where does it say that?” and then you have to go back through emails, you have to go check what was said on stage or how it was sold. That’s when things become a bit messy. But, up until that point, you’ve really got no issues.
There are always difficult questions. The agreement will determine whether you can get a refund or not. That’s why it’s important for you to read the terms of business if they get sent through.
When you say “illegal”, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a relationship by email. There are good reasons to put things into writing. One is when the two of you — when an issue happens — when the two of you have a dispute of some sort, you got it in writing. It’s very clear. You’ve got clarity. You know exactly what those terms are. You know how the two of you are going to deal with it. The more detailed the email, the more detailed the contract, the more likely you are able to find a resolution.
Second thing is; is it legally binding? Now, there are many different nuances and I’m not going to go through them here. This is not going to be a law lecture. Absolutely not. There are nuances that when a contract is put into place and really what you need in the first instance for the both of you to be clear on are the terms. One of you would say, “Here’s what I’m offering.” and the other person says, “Yes, I accept what you’re offering.” There are rules within that and legal nuances which we’re not going into. Effectively, you need to be as clear as possible on the terms that you have.
Lastly, you need to make sure that you know which version of the agreement you’re looking at. For example, I sent you an email saying, “Hi, Annik. I would really love to be part of your programme.” and you send an email back saying, “Yeah. Here are the terms. It’s £5,000 for the year. Have a think about it.” Two months later, I decide to join. By that time maybe your fees might have change. Maybe it’s more expensive, maybe the terms have changed. At what point did that contract come into place? Those are the good reasons to have something in writing. Something very clear in writing that says, “These are the terms of our relationship. This is what I would do. This is what you would do. I will pay you on time, you would deliver the programme/content.”
Annik: I know many speakers, coaches, consultants and other service based businesses might be wondering: “How does it work if I have a conversation with a client on the phone and then client says, “Okay, I’ll buy.” I send them a PDF of the terms and conditions. They say, “Cool, I’m gonna start paying.” So you set-up GoCardless or PayPal but nothing is signed.
Jo: Great question. Actually, this is really interesting.
Jo: I actually had this with a client recently and they said, “Well, no. We need a contract. We need somebody to sign it.” Why do you need somebody to sign it? What you need is offer and acceptance. That person had accepted by email that creates a contract. Let’s say you join up to something on a website and you’re going to pay for something. You checked that box that says I’ve signed the Terms and Conditions. You’re accepting their terms.
Annik: I get that but, just with an email, there’s nothing signed and then I can even later say, “I’ve bought a six month programme” and suddenly I go after three months, “You know what? Can’t be bothered anymore. Don’t have the time. I don’t want to pay more. I’d rather buy some new shoes.” Would I be able to get out of it along the lines of, “Oops, I know there were terms and conditions maybe, I don’t know, I’ve never actually read them”.
Jo: There are two points there. One where you’re talking about refunds, which we’ll come back to shortly.
One of the things about creating a contract saying, “These are the terms on which I do business” and they’re coming back and saying, “I want to do business with you.” – you are absolutely creating a contract. The fact that it’s from your email address means that you’re effectively “signing” the agreement.
Annik: So it’s my responsibility to read those terms and conditions?
Annik: Wow, good to know! So if you send something or you receive Terms and Conditions attached, if they’re in your inbox and then you start paying someone – Oops – you’re actually binding or agreeing to the terms and conditions.
Annik: One more question: Say there’s a person going to a workshop and buys something. Let’s say they buy business coaching. Whoever they bought it from, was really good at selling and told the client, “Yes, you will benefit so much. Your business will grow by XYZ%, you’ll be generating so many more leads, etc.” Three months into the programme, the client realises, “I’m actually not getting the results. I bought something and I’m not getting value from even though I have applied everything I was told.” What can you do then? If you have to keep paying for something you are not getting value from. What is a good middle way?
Jo: Here is always the difficult question.
Annik: That’s why they have it in small print.
Jo: That’s always a difficult questions. Let’s just say we do have an agreement in place. The agreement is what will determine whether you can get a refund or not. That’s why it’s important for you to read the terms of business if they get sent through. You also have to be careful if it says, “subject to terms of business.” and they sent a link through. There’s nuances around that as well.
Really you need to read the contract because it will say, you can refund within 14 days or you can refund within X amount of time. When you’re buying something and it costs a lot of money, you have to make considered choices. Just because it’s £5,000 and I’m going to teach you how to speak does not necessarily mean that it’s going to give you everything that you need and that you want. You have to be clear on what you’re going to get, value that you’re going to get and when the refund period is going to end. If you’re not happy within that time, you can actually go to the person and ask him to extend that period of time. That period of time which you can refund. You can say “I’m quite happy to continue for another month but, I would like to extend the refund period.” That would be my suggestion if I was on the client side.
From the other side, you want to make sure — If you’re the person who’s dealing with it — you need to make sure that you got clear refund policies. One thing that I find time and time and time again is that speakers from stage don’t make these things clear and so later on because of the miscommunication it really leaves a bitter taste in people’s mouths. You say, “Look, you’ve got 30 days where you can get money back.” Other than that time, there is no refund so you’re committed. The second thing is though, if you’re the person paying the money, you’ve got high leverage to be able to stop it.
Annik: What if you’ve already paid?
Jo: If you’ve already paid then it’s much more difficult.
One of the things that’s really key in the situation, for me, is maintaining good personal relationships. If you go with a very reasoned argument and explain why it’s just not working for you, you should have better rapport.
Annik: I’ve paid like £6,000 in advance and the client says, “I’ve only got £3,000 of value if at all.” How do I get my money back?
Jo: Well then that becomes a breach of contract. If that person has represented one thing and they’re giving another or failing to get anything at all, that is a breach of contract. This is where it gets difficult because who’s going to judge that? That person – if I’m delivering something to you, I’m going to say I’m giving you the value, right? And if you’re delivering it to me, you’ll say you’re giving me the value. As far as we’re concerned, that’s what we’re giving and the person who’s receiving may not be using the tools, they might not be doing the things that they’ve been told to do. So it becomes a very difficult negotiation between people especially when there’s ego involved and you’re effectively criticising people.
One of the things that’s really key in the situation, for me, is maintaining good personal relationships. Going to somebody and pointing a finger and blaming them, it always sets you up on the back foot. If you go to them with a very reasoned argument and explain why it’s just not working for you, you should have better rapport.
Annik: We have terms and conditions. They are never very sexy and that’s why many people don’t give much attention to them. Okay, two more questions.
Question number one. You do speak a lot as well in London and nationally. What’s your number one speaking tip? For anyone out there, what do you think is the one thing that has changed you as a speaker and really kicked everything you’ve done so far to a more professional level?
Jo: Oh, that’s a good one.
Annik: All my questions are good :-).
There’s a little bit where you’ve got to start small and then you grow and grow. Get out of your comfort zone
Jo: I’m thinking about several different things that are coming into my mind. For me, I think, it’s not caring what people think and going out there boldly. That has been a game changer for me
Annik: How do you do that? I always discuss this in our training. A lot of us have these crazy voices like, “I don’t want to care but I do. What do they think of me? My hair’s frizzy. My accent is too strong.”
Jo: I think you stop caring what people think when you realise that the audience is actually there for you. I’m not thinking, “Oh god. People are wanting me to fail.” It’s a matter of fundamental belief. Getting out there and doing it, that’s going to be critical. I have to say, I did some talks at the beginning of the year and now it feels so effortless that you just go and do it. You have to start small and then you grow and grow. Get out of your comfort zone.
Annik: What I really love about you Jo – I’ve known you for so many years. – you just keep growing. You had so many really, really tough moments in your life but, every time I see you, you have this big smile on your face. You never whinge or complain. I wish all lawyers would be like you.
Okay, one more thing. Where can people find out more about you? For me, personally I think: “Oh god. Lawyers are so expensive.”
Jo: That was exactly the problem I found when we setting up the business. My website is navistarlegal.com and what we want to create is affordable legal wisdom for all small businesses. For the one man band, speaking on stage, to the guys who are larger than 10 people or more but there’s still at this stage where legal advisors can be expensive. Why? Because you pay by the hour for somebody to do something for you. My philosophy is “Teach clients how to fish”. Give them as much information as possible especially early doors in early stages so that they’re able to do as much as they can for themselves. For example, you don’t need Ts&Cs straight away. Great if you can get them. Great if you can download them off the internet. Someone’s got a version that you can use. It’s just making sure that you’re progressing. Starting to move forward and educating yourself. We have videos and loads of freebies that I can share with you if you connect.
Annik: Perfect. You seriously created ways to make Ts&Cs more approachable and doable.
See you ON STAGE. Annik x