“Begin With the End in Mind.” as Stephen Covey put it in the 7 habits of highly effective people.
It’s worth taking the time to consider what you ultimately value in life. What really matters to you, and what you hope it all adds up to in the end.
Studies have shown that living a life of purpose leads to better health and overall happiness.
Think about what your purpose in life is and keep doing so regularly till you’re clear.
Working Out My Purpose
One way I’ve looked at the topic is to ask myself, if I were diagnosed with a terminal illness like Steve Jobs was, would I continue working, doing what I’m doing to the end or would I immediately want to stop work?
For me, the answer is that I would continue working to the end, as Steve Jobs did because I’ve gradually created a business that is engaged in solving a meaningful problem in the world, and I have a vision for how to do it.
It wasn’t always so.
If the answer for you indicates that you are probably not living your purpose, then continue to search for it by doing work that takes you closer to it and you too might gradually find your purpose as I’ve now found mine.
I’d been working towards it all these years and step by step I’ve now found it.
Those Who Always Knew Their Purpose Are Rare
There are those lucky ones in life who just know what their life purpose is from a young age, and they know the path to follow to achieve their purpose.
A friend of mine at law school had wanted to be a lawyer since she was 9, and she’s gone on to do great things as a lawyer.
I recently went to see the film On the Basis Of Sex based on the life and early cases of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg and clearly she was one of those lucky ones with a calling for the law. She also chose a husband who was similarly dedicated to the law.
I’m sad that I didn’t always know my life purpose, nor did I know how important it is to search for it till recently.
But at least I’ve gradually arrived at it, albeit relatively late in the day although now that I’ve found it, I feel sure that its effect will be quickly evident in my business.
Background Behind My Career Choice of Law
Choosing law as a profession was more a conscious choice than a calling for me. I wanted a professional qualification. My A level subjects narrowed the options to law or accountancy.
It would have been great to be able to choose architecture. That really appealed to me, but I lacked the Art and Maths A levels needed. The fact is though that I didn’t go back to school to get those subjects because it wasn’t that important to me to qualify as an architect.
So, that’s how I opted for law.
Over the years I often questioned whether the choice of career was the right one. Aspects of the job that didn’t appeal to me were being stuck in an office pouring over contract wording. The jobs I had in private practice involved too much of that, even though on the surface it seemed glamorous when I worked at Eversheds, an international law firm.
My in-house role at Reuters for 5 years was much more suited to my inclinations and interests, as there was more contact with the client, and I was exposed to the commercial side of life.
I had always had a vague idea of setting up my own business but a law firm business was just too daunting given my lack of experience of private practice.
During maternity leave I explored alternative career options, qualifying as a journalist. At one stage I even seriously considered setting up a Persian Ash food business.
However, I invariably gravitated back to law, and it was intellectual property law I chose to study as a Masters’ degree subject during the years I took out of the workplace to bring up my two daughters.
My father’s sudden death and the memory of his advice to set up my own law firm were the catalyst for taking the plunge and setting up what is now Azrights Solicitors.
Intellectual Property and Business Are Intertwined
Through the enquiries, I was receiving I soon discovered that people were making fundamental mistakes around IP. Sometimes there were devastating consequences for some of these businesses leading to insolvency even.
I liked how closely intertwined business and IP are, which hadn’t been apparent when working on the intellectual property needs of a large blue-chip business, like Reuters. At the small business level, I could see just how significant IP is in any business. Yet it struck me how often people were completely unaware of the IP dimension and made decisions which were not in their long-term interests.
Over time I’ve realised that the best way to address the problems small businesses have with intellectual property is to embed legal advice and best practice into processes that businesses of any size can follow whether they’re start-ups or established.
The result is Legally Branded Academy 2.0, a risk management solution which will enable businesses located anywhere in the world to protect their intellectual property seamlessly. It’s launching soon so register your interest to be notified when it’s released.
People simply need to adopt recommended processes, and then induct their team to follow them when implementing new ideas.
My experience indicates that the mistakes businesses make around intellectual property occur in the early stages of projects, before anyone would even consider consulting a lawyer. Yet it’s just too impractical to take legal advice early on during the life of new projects on all the details you need to know.
Most people would want to first test the water, perhaps even wait and see if the project has any legs before asking a lawyer for help to protect what they’ve created. Many will only think about protection if their project is a success.
However, with IP, a lot of “protection” happens in the early stages when you make choices. It’s as much about doing the right due diligences, signing the right documents, at the right time as it is about registering your rights. Hence why the right procedures are the way to protect IP, and I’m launching Legally Branded Academy 2.0 to enable everyone to protect their IP.
Aligning Branding With Intellectual Property
Over the years I have also gradually learned more about branding and its importance to business success.
One problem is that people assume branding is about getting pretty design work done, whereas the visual identity is the last thing to work on not the first. You just need some inexpensive designs initially while you test the market, and focus on designing the actual business itself rather than its visual appearance.
Another problem is that people don’t realise how vital it is to register their rights once they undergo branding. It’s essential to have a budget for both branding and IP protection because the whole point of branding is to stand out, and if you don’t stand out from an IP point of view then you don’t stand out as a business. And if you don’t protect the unique visual identity that’s designed for you, then you risk it becoming generic, undoing all the expensive branding work in the process.
Positioning and Your Niche
But before that, the really important decisions about branding are your positioning in the market and working out your niche. These are the things that make the difference between success or failure for a business.
Businesses tend to change radically in the early years. A few years after starting up, they may look nothing like their initial manifestation. This is because it’s common for new businesses to not know what it is exactly that they do, and who they do it for.
It can take time for start-ups to find their feet. The business needs to see how the market responds to its offerings, so its initial focus might well change.
As a business gradually achieves clarity about the demand for its goods and services, and figures out which services will generate revenue, it can better position itself in the market.
Education and a commitment to working on the business is what branding should involve in the early days. I’ve created a course, More Than Brand, to enable people to do this
Trademarks and IP, Business and Branding
Topics I deal with all the time like trademarks and naming are closely connected with branding so I found myself more and more engaged by the related topics of branding, business and the intellectual property dimension of law.
The combination of these subjects matter enormously to business success and are not necessarily particularly obvious or exciting to businesses so they can miss some important issues when they’re implementing new business ideas.
My purpose is to help businesses to succeed and have greater security by underpinning their business with intellectual property processes to protect their IP.
I want to revolutionise branding by partnering with branding agencies and business advisers to bring intellectual property into the mix. IP is often missed out in branding currently, and treated as something you can leave till later, when you come to protect your IP. However, that is incorrect because branding involves creating new IP and if you don’t consider IP you could end up with an inadequate brand.
Providing a multidisciplinary approach when branding a business is the key to ensuring that businesses undergoing branding increase their chances of success.
So, now I have this clarity about the purpose of the Azrights business, it will help when engaging team members because if their purpose as individuals aligns with that of the Azrights business we’ll have the right dynamic for a longer term relationship.
How to Work Out Your Purpose
So, to go back to purpose. Whether you’re looking for employment or are starting a new venture it’s vital to ask yourself some searching questions. What’s the motivation driving it?
Getting clarity on purpose is essential. As Steve Jobs put it, doing work you love is important. He said
You’ve got to find what you love . . . Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work”…..”the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
This question of fulfilment and purpose is an important one for all of us to think about whether we’re in business or working in careers.
If you’re starting a new venture, then are you aiming to make it big? Do you aspire to be the next Richard Branson or Anita Roddick? Or are you just intending to be self-employed? Certainly, when I founded my law firm, 15 years ago I just wanted to work flexibly around my two daughters so I could be there for them instead of handing over to a nanny to raise them.
Aspirations change over time. Certainly, mine have.
My ambition, and love of entrepreneurship were the catalyst to growing the Azrights business, and now with clarity around my purpose the Azrights business is set to make a far greater impact I hope.
Life is short and at the end of the day you’re going to ask yourself the question, or your children will wonder on your behalf, what was it all about, what were you up to during your short time on earth?
I believe that what we do can touch other people’s lives in ways we’ll never know. So, it’s not necessarily my own visible achievements that will ultimately matter the most. Who knows how others might be impacted or benefit from my existence or ideas?
We all want to dedicate ourselves to a cause greater than ourselves. Doing so contributes to our need for significance and meaning.
Purpose is innate to the human condition. If you’re doing work that gives your life meaning why ever stop?
That’s why the important thing for me is to continue contributing to the world. Far from wanting to retire, I want to continue working for as long as I am healthy and able to work. I hope that will be at a 100 years old.