No-one said building a small business was easy, but there’s certainly merit in learning from others who have trodden the same path. Jacqui Pryor, founder of MMW Trademark Services writes about the 10 lessons she learnt during her first decade operating her trademarks attorney firm.
‘The motivation for starting my small business was to give other SMEs access to affordable trade mark registration and advisory services,’ Jacqui says. ‘I’d worked for other firms as a trade mark consultant and business manager for a while and felt it was time to shift my focus and provide professional services to smaller entities that may not ordinarily have been able to afford them. As such I obtained my Graduate Certificate in Trade Mark Law and Practice and subsequently registered as a trade marks attorney.’
But like so many other small business owners discover, Jacqui found that building a successful operation took blood, sweat, tears and a whole lot more. She shares her 10 key learnings which she says have been the main contributor to establishing a strong reputation and growing her business.
- Focus On What You Know And Do Best
Most small businesses start out in a niche field because that’s where their strengths are and where opportunities lie. However, I have seen instances where small business owners have lost the focus on their skill set, which can result in the detriment of their growth and success.
- Outsource To Experts
Trade mark law is a niche and complex field, which requires specialist, professional expertise. Over time, I recognised the value of outsourcing tasks to experts in areas where I did not have the requisite skills, for example in accounting, bookkeeping, digital marketing and SEO.
- Identify Your Competitors
A thorough knowledge of your competitive landscape will help you focus your efforts in the right areas. For example, in my industry, which is trade mark law, not all trade marks attorney firms are true competitors. In the same vein, not all IP law firms are competitors either. Doing a deep competitor analysis is really a really helpful exercise in ensuring you are targeting the right market.
- Focus On Your Value Proposition
Always go back to what you’re aiming to do as a business. What customer needs are you meeting? Running a small business can be frenetic and I learnt how easy it is to become distracted from your core focus. Once that happens, you risk losing customers because you’re not delivering on your promise and meeting their expectations.
- Actively Seek Feedback And Act On It
Great feedback can be used as customer testimonials (with permission of course) in order to strengthen your reputation and your industry leadership. However, feedback doesn’t always fluff out your tail feathers. Ask for honest feedback. It may not be nice to receive criticism, but always use comments, even if negative, to improve offering and drive real change. Good, bad or ugly – every review is valuable and taking action is crucial.
- Step Back And Critically Examine Your Brand Identity
Businesses change over time. Customer’s needs change. The landscape changes. It’s taken me 10+ years, but I now know why it has been important to step back and evaluate all the elements of my brand proposition including my logo and brand personality. Staying relevant and meeting market expectations is key to success and I’ve learnt you can’t simply ‘set and forget’ your corporate identity.
- Acknowledge The Unknown
It’s not possible to know everything. In the 10+ years I’ve been in business, I have observed the value of acknowledging when people don’t know something and then taking action to upskill.
- A Good Team Is Invaluable
Even if you’re a one-person business, you can still have a great team supporting you. ‘Stronger together’ is a great motto for a small business and the benefits of having good people in your camp – whether internal or external – are significant.
- Get Involved In Your Industry
It’s a good idea to position yourself as an expert in your industry. This may be out of your comfort zone, but there’s real merit in doing so, particularly if you are trying to stand out in crowded marketplace. In my experience, some of the best ways of doing this include networking, getting involved in industry bodies, participating in discussion groups, forums and social media groups and posting high-quality content that confirms your expertise and leadership.
- Spend Money To Make Money
When I started my business over ten years ago, I faced budget constraints that are a reality for just about every start-up. However, as time went on and my balance sheet improved, my experience was that by spending money, I ultimately made more. For example, I engaged the services of third-parties such as an SEO specialist, an accountant and bookkeeper and I’ve seen the return on those investments. Ultimately, this has saved me considerable time and money.
About The Author
Jacqui is a registered trade marks attorney and has owned her own business, Mark My Words Trademark Services since 2011.
After being introduced to the world of trade marks in one of her first jobs post high school, Jacqui discovered she had a deep passion and interest for all things to do with protecting brands and intellectual property. She completed her graduate certificate in Trade Mark Law and Practices as well as a Diploma in Business Management and holds a current registration with the Trans-Tasman IP Attorneys Board.
Her business provides professional, friendly and reliable advice and assistance on all types of complex trade mark registration, infringement and opposition matters in Australia as well as overseas. Jacqui started the business specifically to support SMEs which typically couldn’t afford such a service and over the years, the company has grown in both size and reputation, with a client list that spans businesses of all sizes across a range of industries.
To keep up to date with the latest in the field of trade marks, follow Jacqui and MMW Trademark Services on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jacqui.pryor or https://www.facebook.com/MMWTrademarks.