Rian Kinney has been working with WordPress users and agencies since 2017 helping them with contracts, privacy and other legal guidance. She recently became CEO of Mindsize.me and is now deeper into the agency world, and yes, WooCommerce.
A Chat with Rian
In episode 65, Mendel and I chat with Rian about:
- How Rian does the Woo
- The unique path she took to WooCommerce.
- How Rian balances her law firm, eCommerce Legal, and her position as CEO of Mindsize and time management.
- What steps she has taken to find reputable attorneys she can refer, as well as tips on how agencies should approach lawyers.
- How she has served the legal needs for shop owners vs. agencies and developers.
- Where eCommLegal fits into everything and what is going on with it now.
- How Rian approaches those who have been going to a legal template factory vs paying for a lawyer.
- What new adventures she is finding at Mindsize.
- Rian’s secret sauce when it comes to time management.
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Yes, this is the transcript. But not in the traditional sense, transcribed word for word. We do not speak as we write. Often the flow of transcribed content is hard to follow. So I have taken it a few steps further by seriously editing, at times, the conversation and even using my editorial freedom to clarify some points. So enjoy.
Mendel: Hey, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Do the Woo podcast. I'm here with Bob. Hey, Bob, how's it going?
Bob: Good, Mendel. How are you doing you? I love the ladies and gentlemen intro, I never call them that, but I'm glad somebody does.
Mendel: Okay. What about this? Hey, nerds. No, that's bad.
Bob: I think you should stick with what you're good at.
Mendel: What's up Woo peeps?
Anyway, we are here for the Do the Woo podcast. Before we get started, I just want to give a shout out to our sponsors, WooCommerce.com, they're our community sponsor. Of course, you all know and love WooCommerce, Recapture.io, an abandoned cart and email marketing solution. You can visit them at recapture.io. And Sezzle, buy now pay later option that empowers shoppers to purchase today and pay later with no interest. They have an easy to install and set up plugin for Woo. So, check out Sezzle.com.
With all of that said, Bob, I have the distinct pleasure of introducing our guest, and I'm pretty excited to hang out with Rian Kinney today. Now, I'm going to tell you a little bit about Rian. Rian is a tech and privacy attorney. She owns Kinney Firm and eCommLegal, and we're going to find out about that in a second. She's spoken nationally, she's spoken internationally, and she talks about stuff that either you find boring or you find super interesting, like contracts and issues facing the open source industry.
In fact, in April, Rian was selected as the new CEO of Mindsize, an e-commerce agency that's well known to the WooCommerce community. Welcome Rian.
Rian: Thank you so much. I am delighted to be here on WooCommerce Day. Happy WooCommerce Day to everybody.
Mendel: Oh my gosh, it is WooCommerce Day.
Rian: I thought it was by design. Thank you.
How Rian Does the Woo
Mendel: Holy wow, that's amazing. Well, I have a super important question for you. Normally, Bob loves to ask this question, but I'm going to steal it today. Can you tell us how you Do the Woo?
Rian: Like fast and furious, one quarter at a time instead of quarter mile.
Yeah, acting as CEO, I'm more on the business side of things and really handling a lot of the operations around legal and the running of the agency. So, it's quarter by quarter, and I've completed my first quarter with exponential growth and change. I'm looking forward to continuing to keep up that pace.
Bob: Because your journey to WooCommerce is strange and it's not really in the sense that you were infatuated with WooCommerce, at least I don't think you were, you fell into it by way of working with contracts, working with website owners, but also moving into Mindsize. So, tell us that little bit of a journey, however scattered it may be.
A Twisting Path to WooCommerce
Rian: Certainly. So, I really got into WordPress back in 2017 and saw a niche and a need within WordPress for an attorney that understood tech privacy contracts and was able to answer questions, and provide information and empower entrepreneurs to protect themselves and their businesses. Through that process and getting to work with some of the top names and companies that are respected within WordPress, I started to learn more and more about WooCommerce.
My journey is not only meandering in nature from how I'm coming at it as far as not from a technical perspective, but also because I came to WooCommerce as both an adopter user and also leading any commerce agency that deals very heavily and primarily with WooCommerce.
So, eCommLegal is something that's been a labor of love for an inordinate period of time. I'm just beating myself up here, but I deserve it. It's something that we're using WooCommerce to build out. I'm getting to learn more and more about the capabilities and pros and cons, and have discussions that end users face and our agency clients face when they're looking to utilize WooCommerce.
Rian: Then, of course, working so closely with Patrick Garman and the team, I get to hear about and oversee issues that arise or that we see come up from the agency perspective.
Mendel: Okay, you've got a lot going on. I'm just going to throw it out there. You have a lot of things happening.
Balancing Her Law Firm, eCommLegal and Mindsize
Mendel: I want to talk about balance in a second, but before we get there, I want to talk about the difference in the responsibilities between the different projects that you're working on. Because there are a few things here, right? There's the Kinney Firm, eCommLegal, then Mindsize and being a CEO.
Mendel: Theoretically, there's other stuff going on in your life. You eat like the rest of us do. So, what is going on with each of these things? How do they compliment each other? How do they contrast?
Rian: Great question, and welcome into the world that is Rian. No. So, Kinney Firm, I primarily wound down in that I'm not actively taking on new clients. I'm actually trying to reach out to, through my position with the American Bar Association, other attorneys that are in the tech space that actually know what they're doing. Those I would trust with my friends and clients within WordPress, because as many times as I get asked, how do you hire an attorney, or what questions do you ask them while at a WordCamp, it's equally as disheartening to be an attorney, and to ask questions of people that are supposed to be tech attorneys and find out that they have no idea what they're talking about, that they don't understand open source, the underlying licensing, and things like that. So, I'm really taking the time to try to vet people so I can properly refer them.
Mendel: A minute here, let's go deeper on that.
Rian: Sure. Yeah. There's, there's a lot to unpack. Yes.
How She Finds Other Attorney’s For Referrals
Mendel: So, what do you look for? How do you quiz people? What do you consider when you're trying to find a reputable person to move a client, or a friend, or a business partner over to?
Rian: I asked them what work they've done in the past. If you're looking to find an attorney, the best rule of thumb is to remember that they have to earn your business the same way you would have to earn theirs if they needed a website. You have every right to ask them what other tech agencies they've represented. The same way we within tech throw around acronyms, throw in a ULA, or whatever you're going to them for, for the end user licensing agreement, or something. That would be standard because attorneys, it's that business rationale or mindset of, do you want to be good at a lot of things or do you want to be really good at one thing?
At Mindsize, we niche down. We want to be the authority and the best at WooCommerce. With attorneys, you don't want an attorney that is a generalist when we are working within a tech community or open source, which is a highly specialized industry. Just the privacy component of tech law is so nuanced and requires so much constant study. That's the questions. You can research it and come up with questions before you speak with anyone, but just general questions. Ask them, do they try to misrepresent?
If you ask them if they dealt with WooCommerce and, "Oh, yeah, yeah, really? Well, what did you think at ... ?" You guys know the questions to stump them. The thing is too, much like with what agency you ultimately decide to work with, there is a rapport or a relationship that you should have with an attorney. Do you trust them? Are they going to tell you the truth? Do you guys work well together? If it's not a good fit, there's other people out there. Find the person that you feel wants your business, values you, and is going to respond to you in a timely manner where you're a priority.
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And now, back to our conversation.
Tending to the Legal Needs of Shop Owners vs. Developers and Agencies
Bob: Prior to this, you were working with a variety of clients from shop owners, to developers, to whatever. Now, you're at Mindsize where your focus is a bit more on the shop owner side of things, because that is typically the client base. From that legal standpoint, what do you think is the biggest difference between dealing with developers who are building WooCommerce shops versus owners who are running a shop?
What do you feel is that critical piece that they need in the privacy or anything to do with what you provide the shop owner versus how do you talk to the developer about this. How do you educate them and how do they keep themselves covered? So, you're playing two different ends here.
Rian: Great question. So, the largest thing that developers need is training and education in this. Mindsize happens to be brilliant in hiring the best privacy attorney on the planet. No, I'm kidding, but they have me in-house to provide that training. It's something that I'm working with Termageddon to build out a course that agencies can use if they don't have somebody to teach in-house. But the General Data Protection Regulation that was implemented in 2018 and the European Economic Area requires privacy by design.
It requires that developers, architect, privacy, and things are by default protecting an individual's privacy or the end user's privacy. So, that's the level that the developers need to be aware of privacy and have that training. Number one, as an agency owner we need to protect our employee's information, not be storing that. Handling that in compliance with various privacy laws, restrict physical access, and that thing. But as a developer, the training and the conversations that you have within your team and within your agency to educate and to find better ways to architect are what they need.
During the first quarter I implemented what we jokingly call Smee, as in Captain Hooks first mate, but the subject matter expert endeavor. Just having people mapping out what our areas of experience and expertise are within our team and making sure no one person is responsible for knowing everything about WooCommerce. That's impossible and it's silly, but all of us as a team can represent all facets. So, within our team we have somebody, that's me, responsible for keeping on top of the privacy and sharing that information with the rest of the team.
Where we have other people that are on top of different version releases, or plugins, or platforms, if there's something that's upcoming that they give a rundown on what we need to be aware of as a team.
eCommLegal and What’s Going on With It
Mendel: Yeah. So, I want to call out this idea of everybody having the responsibility. It's a super important point that I think you bring up and it applies to everything. Legal compliance. It applies to making sure that people aren't stealing from you in a physical retail location. It applies to making responsible choices for expenses and things like that. I think it's a super interesting thing to call out. So, I want to go back to the comparing and contrasting of the different things that you're working on. Specifically, I'm interested in eCommLegal and what you're doing with that.
Rian: Sure. So, eCommLegal legal was born of speaking nationally and internationally at the different open source events and working with clients. Especially within WordPress where there is a real need for some legal contracts that are industry specific, that take into account all of that knowledge that I had just previously said not all attorneys have, or may claim to have, but aren't really sure. I dealt with that in the music industry when I did entertainment law, and people would say, "Oh, yeah, I can do that." The music industry is unlike every other, the same way tech is.
So, with eCommLegal, I was drafting a lot of NDAs and independent contractor agreements. It just became obvious that there are certain agreements that every agency, freelancer, hosting company, specific roles need in order to do their business efficiently. I don't have the time energy or interest in trying to draft all of those for everybody in WordPress. But I do have a genuine interest in them having what they need and not being taken advantage of, or talking to someone who's going to charge them a $10,000 upfront retainer before they'll even get them on the phone.
So, packaging them in a way that they know that they're covered and have instructions on how to use, and when to use, and how to adapt to their purpose is what the goal and the mission is. We had a soft launch of the agency package and I had hoped to have my next package out by July. But with stepping up to CEO of Mindsize in April, you asked how they work in concert, not always perfectly.
Mendel: Sometimes they don't know, right?
Rian: Sometimes they don't, but they do. there's people that are clients of Mindsize that need eCommLegal and vice versa, but it is prioritization. Right now, Mindsize is my number one priority. There's no question about that. I'm happy to put eCommLegal on pause for now, but my goal is to have it done and completely finished and built out before the end of the year. So, that's the expectation.
Paying for a Lawyer vs. Using Rocket Lawyer or Cheap Templates
Mendel: Well, following up on eCommLegal. So, you mentioned that everybody needs contracts. Everybody needs privacy policies. Everybody needs these different items. I don't know if this would be a surprise to you, but I don't think everybody thinks they should pay for those things, or that they do need those things. So, I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the need or the reason to pay a lawyer, if it's not you, or come to eCommLegal. What the difference is between talking with somebody like you, or eCommLegal, or one of your colleagues and going to rocket lawyer and downloading some template for a dollar?
Mendel: What's the reason that a small agency, or a small business, or even a web developer that wants to make sure that their customer is getting the right thing, what would you tell them? What's the importance?
In the event that data is accessed, certain protocols have to go into place. Again, as business owners, there's only so many hats we can wear, and trying to be an expert in the legal industry, or an area where people have to go to a continuing education for an additional three to four years of their life, probably isn't one that you really want to take on. I've done the research and I have no interest in selling contracts for the sake of selling them. I looked at all of the things out there and competitors in the market to see if they could.
It was never provided or drafted by an attorney in the first place, nor do they even make any attempts to say that it was. You don't know what you're getting. For the people that cut and paste from other websites, I'm not going to chastise you because I don't feel I need to. I think you already can hear the disappointment in my voice. No, I'm kidding. But if you're going to do that, if you're going to cut and paste, can you at least please find somebody within the industry that you're in and within the state that you're in? Just do the bare minimum of cutting and pasting.
So, in looking at the large, Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, and contract providers that do a really great job, they really revolutionized the legal industry and their ability to get information to people. 10 to 20 years ago, if you wanted a nondisclosure agreement drafted, you had to pay $1,500 or a $2,000 retainer because you didn't have access to the language. There's no way you could come up with it yourself, but it's a pretty straightforward agreement in a lot of cases that doesn't require a lot of work and shouldn't be $1,500. But with the packages and putting them on together, they are industry specific.
I can take the knowledge that I've acquired through working with all of the people that I've worked with over the past three years, and the different issues that they faced, all of the research and everything, and put it together in a way where they can pay a fraction of what I've charged other people, and even the reduced fees and not charging upfront retainer to get these things done. So, that was my rationale of wanting to get the information out there at an affordable price that is actually specific to our industry, and the issues that we face from both what I've dealt with in advising clients, and what I've seen as actually running my own online business and heading up an agency now.
I just huge hugged her for keeping up with that so we don't have to, and it's actually something that other attorneys, law firms, are actually using now to offer that as an additional stream of revenue. Because they can outsource that and not have to keep on top of that. Termageddon can take care of that for them.
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Now let’s head on back to the show.
What She is Doing as CEO at Mindsize and the New Adventures For Her
Bob: Moving to Mindsize. So you're able to bring all this wealth of knowledge over that you have. What are the new adventures you are having at Mindsize besides just a lot more Woo than you ever imagined, and a lot more eCommerce all the way around?
Rian: Yeah. A lot more of the employment law aspect of things,. We hire from all over the US, and certain amounts of labor law or federal, but every state has its own way of doing things and onboarding, offboarding like different aspects of that. All of it, everything that we're doing has been revamped and revised. Before I actually stepped up, we revised the websites. I was overseeing the case studies and that. Now, we've done an entire rebranding, new logo, just every aspect of who we are, what we're doing, core values, and really drilling down where we're going.
One of the things, Patrick announced on April 17th that we were going to digital services. To me, that is offering eCommerce based maintenance and support, and talking with Kim Lipari over at Valet and Brad Morrison over at GoWP, as far as what's in the space now and what's missing, and what they would like to see and how that works. So, we're building that out and we're actually building out our first product, a plugin called WPScanner.
So, you asked, Mendel, earlier how everything comes together. This is where it happened. I joined a company where they said, "What products would you like to see?" I'm like, "Funny, you should ask. I've got some ideas." So, WPScanner is looking to be able to produce the performance and optimization that all of us are interested in as eCommerce and store owners. That would be a valuable tool for other agencies, but also the functionality and implications for being able to automate and scan some of those privacy related issues, to be able to create the reports and the diagnostics to better help agencies keep on top of their requirements. So, that's more on the beginning stages of that, but it's an exciting process to be a part of.
Back to Managing Time. How Does Rian Do It”
Mendel: So, tell me about time management. There's a lot there. What are some of your hacks, or what do you do? Are you heavily invested in head space and stuff like that to come down from the day? How do you handle all these things during the day and all of the competing priorities? People, I'm sure, are looking for your advice on legal things within Mindsize, but then you're also shouldering the responsibilities of being a CEO, at the same time, working on finding new people or new colleagues to help with Kinney law firm.
Then, also working on keeping eCommLegal going, answering questions, and also speaking. Maybe not as much anymore, but eventually. right. So. there's a lot of commitment there. Sow do you manage your time and how do you work around all of these things to stay successful and happy?
Rian: Mendel, I don't even know how to answer that question. I'm at a loss. No, it's the old adage, if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. I like helping people ultimately. Bob and Mendel, we've spent time together at WordCamps. I am ordinarily at my house and in Florida, I don't really go out much. That's why when I go to WordCamps I'm so energetic and so excited to see everyone. I love working with innovators. I love working with creators. So, I'll have a conversation with someone and I see how they fit in with someone else, and I make that introduction.
I know I'm not doing a great job answering your actual question, but it does make me happy to put these pieces together. It's problem solving, and ultimately, that's what I really enjoy and what I'm really good at. When you take the competitive aspect of a personality, I see this as winning. Every person I connect, every piece I put together, this is how I win when we all win. Whether it's my Mindsize team, whether it's the community by referring different people that we know and trust. So, with personal time management, one of the best things I did at Mindsize was realizing my limitations as far as I only have so many hours in the day, and I'm only one person.
If I'm taking on CEO, operations, legal, HR, and sales, I might need someone to help me. So, I hired Jay Mena over at Mint Virtual to assist with the branding. He has been like a project manager, driving those things and keeping me accountable and on task for those aspects, and that's been very helpful. As far as relaxing and mental sanity, I definitely need to do a better job. I'm only three months into this and I am well aware of my growing limitations. So, I always unwind and connect or disconnect from everything when I'm in nature. I don't even need to be doing anything physical like swimming, which I enjoy, or going for a walk, or running.
If I'm stressed out or I'm not happy, if I just go sit outside, it changes my whole mood. So, yeah, I've been doing more of that, and it's really good for me. First of all, I think a lot of us have the Apple watch, which reminds you to stand up when you get too sedentary, which is helpful, but really just making that time to commit to being happy. It's like when on an airplane you put your oxygen mask on. You can't help anybody else if you're not okay. So, making that commitment to make sure that I'm okay and doing what makes me happy, and making time for it.
That being said, in areas that I can improve. They've shut down and dealing with different aspects of the pandemic, gyms, and they're just starting to open them up if you work out with a face mask. But investing in exercise, there's programs that are online that the WordPress community can get together and exercise together, and actually see other humans that they miss, which is really great, and people should look into. Also, I am investing in some home elliptical or something, because with the rain, and the heat, and humidity in South Florida going outside all the time isn't always an option. This is the thing that helps me.
Mendel: Cool. It's funny, as I was asking you that question and you talked about Apple watch, my Apple watch all of a sudden became active, and halfway through your response it said, "I have no idea what you're talking about." So, I can only imagine that Siri is indeed confused as to how to manage her time.
Rian: That's why I got the Apple watch. I think that's my actual answer, Mendel, like, "Time management, how do you do it?" I'm like, "I bought an Apple watch," and I'm like, "remind me to get dressed, remind me to brush my teeth." No, I'm kidding. I love their reminders 10 minutes ahead of a meeting or a phone call just I'm not late. That's a pet peeve of mine, always being on time and always being prepared. So, it definitely helps me just having that reminder.
Bob: With that said, I guess I'm the only one that doesn't have an Apple watch, instead, I have a Fitbit, but nevertheless, it was great having you, Rian, on the podcast. I know you were on my other podcast, and it's great to have you on this one, catch up on what you're doing. I know that we're just touching the tip of the iceberg with what you'll be doing at Mindsize. Looking forward to hearing more. I believe you have some stuff going on over there, or you a have a little announcement, or something you'd like to share with our listeners about Mindsize and some needs you might have over there.
Rian: Yes. Part of the exponential growth that we're experiencing with the increase in eCommerce traffic and online shopping, we have WordPress developer positions open, and we're actively interviewing. Since I've taken the helm back in April, we have added 401(k) and matching up to 4% in addition to health and benefits starting from day one. So, the 401(k) starts after 90 days and is vesting. So, great options, benefits.
Again, we have a team and collaborative mentality as far as you don't have to know everything. You just have to communicate and be open to help and receive help from others, and we will architect the best solution together. So, if you or anybody you know are interested or looking, please let them know that we would love to talk to them over at Mindsize.
Bob: Cool, Mendel, what's up doc?
Mendel: Hit me up at, if you will, on Twitter, if you have a question about Woo or something like that, I'm here for you.
Bob: Cool. Well, I've been giving hints to what's going on in September with the redo of Do the Woo, and I always try to think of that next hint.
So, how about I say this, think of all these people, all these developers, and all these builders out there that want to be exposed to the more deeper WooCommerce community. Then, think of that community and how they can connect with those people, and how they can share their insights and perspectives. Again, talk amongst yourselves. That's it. That's the next hint as it will continue on through August.
So first, I'm going to give a quick shoutout to my sponsors before we sign off and find out where we can connect with Rian.
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Rian, where can people connect with you?
Rian: @RianKinney, that's R-I-A-N K-I-N-N-E-Y on Twitter, or at Mindsize.me.
Bob: Excellent, and of course, you can always subscribe to the podcast. Some stuff happening with Friends of Do the Woo here soon, stuff happening with the Woo news soon. You can sign up for that stuff, but there's more to come. With that said, I think we are good to go. I really appreciate having you on, Rian. I know we'll have you back.
Rian: Thank you so much, and again, happy WooCommerce Day.
Bob: All right, everybody, till next week, Do the Woo.
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