Tag Archives: Intellectual Property

brand management

Brand Management – What It Means For Your Business

brand managementIf you prefer to listen/watch a video instead of reading then click here to go to my Youtube channel.

Branding is essentially about clarifying who you are, what do you do and what differentiates you. It’s about a lot more than a logo and visual identity.

As mentioned in my post on Branding Strategy last week a brand is a promise that tells customers what they can expect from you.  Having a great product or service is crucial and it goes without saying that you need to give great customer service too.

 

Why Brand?

A brand is necessary but not sufficient.  Marketing works better if you have a strong brand.  The brand transforms the customer’s product experience. It’s the brand that lets the world know what to expect.

Your brand is also a key component to engage and motivate employees. The brand provides a buffer and a cushion. It’s the most valuable intangible asset your business creates as it grows and succeeds.

Branding is an art and a science. Marketing and branding strategy depend on how creatively and originally strategies are conceived and crafted. The hope is to improve the odds for success. It helps to have a consumer mindset and to be able to interpret marketing trends.

 

Why Management of Brands Is Necessary

When you look at brands and how some have fared – such as Yahoo, Myspace or Kodak – based on what is done to them, it’s obvious that management of the brand is going to play a big part in its continuing success.

If we come back in 10 years’ time will the successful brands of today – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix – still be successful? It will depend on how they’re managed and what is done to them.

Brands that innovate and stay relevant don’t die or fade with the passage of time.  They never stand still and are always striving to move forward in the right direction. The brand needs to be managed properly to create meaning and differentiation.

Big businesses have brand managers whose function is essentially to maintain brand equity. That’s how they can reap the benefits of strong branding.

Brand management is built on a marketing foundation and focuses directly on the brand and how that brand can remain favourable to customers. Like most areas of life brand management has been altered by the internet and social media, if for no other reason than the fact that consumers can now talk back at brands. They’re no longer subjects that are at the receiving end of marketing messages crafted by the company. Their response to those messages itself alters the communication in ways that the brand had not intended.

 

The Brand Manager’s Role

A brand manager within a large organisation has responsibility for ensuring sales of a brand. The brand manager has the discretion to do whatever is necessary to secure sales, whether that involves changes to the product itself, its price, the places where the product is sold, how it is promoted, packaged and generally the entire brand proposition.

The brand manager will co-ordinate with various teams across the organisation to implement their strategy and thus promote more sales.  Whether the task involves packaging changes, creative designs, marketing campaigns, IT to enhance the website, legal for regulatory or intellectual property issues such as brand name clearances, the brand manager will draw in the necessary skills to achieve their goals. Their role impacts the bottom line in a measurable and visible way.

The Brand Manager Understands the Brand Landscape

The brand manager makes it their job to understand the role of each department. If, for example, the brand manager decides to alter aspects of the brand, such as its name or visual identity to achieve the desired outcome of increased sales, they are not going to take risks such as of the product infringing on existing trade mark rights. It would be an embarrassing and costly mistake to allow the brand to suffer by ignoring basics of trade mark law.

That’s how the brand is cared for and nurtured to success in large organisations.

When it comes to the small business end of the market, the business owner is the one who needs to fill the role of the brand manager and herein lies the problem. The business owner will invariably lack the understanding of branding and the part that various disciplines need to play to secure success for the brand.

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what is brand

What is a Brand? Essential Reading For Every Business

If you prefer to listen/watch a video instead of reading then click here to go to my Youtube channel.

Brand is one of those terms that is bandied around quite a lot so that there is a lot of confusion among business owners about what really matters to their bottom line.

In my next post I will explain why brand management is so critical to business success, but first, let’s start by defining what we mean by “brand”.

For one thing, you don’t need to be big or a household name to be a “brand”.  We all have a name, a way of dressing, talking, and walking and subjects we are known for or topics we tend to talk about.

We have beliefs and opinions, and a certain personality. In short, we’re all known for something.  People have a certain response to us or think of us in a particular way.  That’s our brand.

 

Personal vs Business Brand

In the same way that anyone alive has an identity so that the world can tell one person apart from another, so your business also has an identity – a brand – that is quite separate from your own personal brand.

A company is a different person in the eyes of the law from its founder.  Even if you haven’t incorporated your business and are a sole trader doing business under a trading name (or even under your own name), your business identity will be separate, albeit it may be an extension of you.

 

Designing Your Brand

How you design your business is critical to your long-term success.

Unfortunately, there is so much confusion in the market about “brand” that people don’t easily recognise what to do. One misconception many people have is that branding is all about getting designs done for their business – creating their brand identity.

While visual design is an extremely important component of a brand, it is just one of them. Before you go to anyone to help you “brand” your business or yourself, you should first thoroughly think through your business model, and how you are going to create a good business and brand that’s reliable and known for delivering on a specific promise.

The visual identity is the final aspect of the brand to put in place. Although designers and marketers will be able to help you to fine tune your thinking during the branding process, there is a lot of work that you need to have done before you put yourself in the hands of a third party to be branded. You will get much more long term benefits from the exercise if you don’t jump in too quickly to get your visual identity work carried out.

Prioritise working on your business to think through what the market opportunity might be in your space and get some temporary designs in place for your brand in the meantime.

 

Differentiation is key

Then think about how to differentiate yourself.

Is there a segment of the market that is underserved that you could initially serve? That doesn’t mean you’re going to limit your business to only serving that market sector. You won’t be stuck with just that one niche. It’s quite common to have several niches.

For example, Slaten Law in its early days some 20 years ago stumbled on the pest control industry when it helped a few clients from that industry.  This was a finite universe, where everyone went to the same conventions and read the same publication, Pest Control Today.  So, the firm’s website was revised to feature crawling termites ….and bugs…” The firm went all in on serving that industry.

The firm’s website today has moved on considerably. During its journey to its current situation, it identified further markets, such as Dram Shops, Automotive, Nursing Homes, and therefore no longer used a Pest Control focused website. But the firm’s experience illustrates how powerful it is to focus on one narrow niche at a time.

Once you decide on your initial niche, give yourself time to test the market to assess how it responds to your offerings

Next, find out about Branding Strategy.

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knowledge economy

The Knowledge Economy – The More You Learn The More You Earn

knowledge economyIf you prefer to listen/watch a video instead of reading then click here to go to my Youtube channel.

The more you learn the more you earn, is a quote I read somewhere recently which struck me because it’s so apt for the new digital economy we are moving towards.

I’ve learnt so much from books over the years, and like to think I’ve become wiser with age, and a large part of that wisdom is down to all the books I read.

Whenever I am facing a new situation I turn to books to guide me along the way. I will buy numerous books on a topic and binge on the topic in question until I’ve made up my mind how to move forward.

 

Coaching

Many entrepreneurs I know talk about their coaches unlocking the path to progress for them, but so far I’ve never really done more than dabble in hiring coaches, even for fitness.  Maybe one of these days I’ll find a coach who I want to go all in with and learn from.

What I have got instead is plenty of online coaching courses from the likes of Bo Eason for public speaking, Roger Love for voice development, Jeff Walker for launching digital courses, and Brendon Burchard for creating online courses and marketing them.  Too many to consume I thought a while back – especially as I’m often on my computer all day long and the last thing I want to do in the evenings is watching more stuff on my computer.

So, my life has been considerably enhanced by the purchase of this USB cable which enables me to connect my laptop to the television and watch online courses on the TV screen.

So, now instead of sitting and watching inane TV programs in the evenings just to unwind and do something different to what I’ve been doing all day, I now sit in front of the TV and watch my online courses.

I can’t tell you how much my life has been enhanced by this single item, and wow what a lot of useful information I’m learning which was just sitting there unused before. I intend to get through every single course and write copious notes on each of them so the learning sticks and is something I can refer back to when necessary. I’m making a note of which video said what when I write the notes so that it will be easy to revisit a topic in future. I’ll know exactly where to find it.

Incidentally, in this new world of online digital assets, we need to develop the skills to get maximum benefits from them. So, for me, this means having some tangible elements by which to ensure I won’t forget the digital assets. Something like a dedicated folder with different sections for different courses into which to add my notes means the learning is there to be dialled into easily when I need to boost my understanding of a particular topic.

For example, among the numerous courses of Brendon’s that I have in my Kajabi area (as I’m one of his Mastermind students), there is a course on how to launch a book or podcast. I’ve made a mental note to review those courses when I turn my attention to launching a new book or a new podcast, but for now, I’m not making time to review them.

 

How To Fit Learning Into Your Life

In terms of ways to access knowledge, as a self-professed bookaholic, I own more books and kindle books than I will ever get a chance to read in my lifetime.  Conscious as I am of this need to get through a lot more content more quickly, I’ve taken to skim reading at least the introduction and conclusion of books I buy and if the content grabs me, I’ll delve into them more.

Recently I’ve worked out an even better way to capture the insights in books despite my lack of time – and that is audiobooks.

My subscription to Audible has enabled me to consume numerous books as I go about my daily activities – such as when I’m walking or cooking.  But recently, my life of book consumption has gone to another level thanks to Blinkist.  A basic subscription is less than £100 a year and gives you access to a wealth of books in summarised form.

The beauty of this is that I can now try out an infinite number of books as I am out and about moving from one place to another or when I’m in the kitchen. Some books I only listen to for a few minutes before deciding they’re too basic or otherwise unsuitable for my needs.

Other books I listen to all the way through and feel satisfied that I’ve learned something new fairly effortlessly. And occasionally, I’ll come across a title that I LOVE so much that I’ll then buy the Kindle or paperback version so I can read the entire book.

Taking action is then essential. Read more on my personal blog about Taking Action

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Knowledge Economy – The New Paradigm

If you prefer to listen/watch a video instead of reading then click here to go to my Youtube channel.

As we transition from an industrial economy to an information, knowledge based one, there is a boom in entrepreneurship. More and more service based ventures are sprouting up. These invariably offer knowledge based consultancy products and services, drawing on the founders’ skillset.

Knowledge is now the equivalent of raw materials used in factories back in the industrial age when those who owned the means of production developed efficient processes to turn raw materials into goods.   In doing so their assembly line goods became cheaper to make and delivered a more reliable quality than goods built by craftsmen in cottage industries.  This drove down the price of goods, and made them more widely available to consumers.

When your business involves the provision of a service, knowledge-based solution, it is important to remember this parallel so you can use your raw materials (knowledge and skills) to create additional value and options for customers.

 

Finding the right solutions

If you really focus on your specialised knowledge and find the solutions your customers need, then you may be able to turn what you know to competitive advantage.

Think about how you can create value for your customers by delivering your knowledge in different forms to the traditional one to one consultancy, as a solution to the problems they face.  Knowledge can be packaged up and turned into digital products, such as an app, book or DVD. It can be the engine for growth of your business.

Getting real clarity on your customers’ problems is the key to producing appropriate solutions that your customers will want to buy.  I  know this from hard experience as I’ve created an intellectual property digital course that has got traction, so I’m working on finding better answers to the question what my customers want, rather than what they need.

I’ve learnt that the focus has to first be on understanding customers’ wants and needs. Then assess whether you could meet those needs in new ways as alternatives to traditional solutions that already exist, especially if you can bring the price down to create additional value like factories did in the industrial economy.

 

Alternatives to one to one consultancy 

In conclusion, looking at your knowledge and skills in a totally new way, and understanding your customers’ wants and needs, is the first step to appreciating the significant value you could add to your customers’ lives due to the variety of ways in which that knowledge may now be deployed.

While knowledge is generally delivered as a one to one consultancy service, you may be able to find a solution that suits your market, so they can access your insights in certain ways, for example, as informational products on a ‘one to many’ model.

Alternatively, knowledge could be embedded in a software system owned by your business. Knowledge fuelled by IT is likely to result in many benefits, including that of reducing the ultimate cost for consumers.

However, beware of jumping onto a tech solution too soon.

While all the biggest companies in the world are tech companies, people need to develop new skills to manage the intellectual capital that drives their service businesses, test the market, speak to clients, and only then develop a tech solution.

So to find out more about how to use the upcoming reforms (which will enable lawyers to provide their services outside a traditional law firm) to your advantage in order to solve legal industry problems in novel ways then you’ll want to attend our upcoming event.

 

Tech startups are all the rage in the legal industry

There is so much hype around AI in the legal industry that it’s made tech and innovation a significant focus in that sector.

Many start up tech companies are sprouting up aimed at solving every conceivable face of need that might exist in legal life ranging from contract lifecycle management to legal service marketplaces, cybersecurity to legal analytics.  Some start ups are simply cutting the costs of accessing legal services by putting people in touch directly with individual lawyers who then work with them to solve their particular needs. The model invariably involves the use of solicitor consultants which is such a successful in the legal industry. It works because it means law firms don’t need to pay salaries to the lawyers providing the skills their clients want to access. The firm simply share the fees they receive with the individual lawyer, whether the lawyer brings the work in or the work is provided by the firm. It’s primarily a vehicle through which to access insurance, and a business through which to provide services directly to the end client. I predict that this model is going to be challenged by the new SRA regulations coming into effect on 25 November 2019.

Large firms see tech as the key to delivering a better service to clients and cutting costs in order to deliver more for less. Many of them are therefore investing in tech startups.

 

What large firms want

Big law firms want to see solutions that automate repeat elements of jobs leaving only the bespoke service to real lawyers. Their ultimate aim is to design the office in a way that will make the lawyer’s role less about drafting and organising processes and more about using their judgement, experience and business advice.

So, with the spotlight on tech as it is, the upcoming regulatory changes – which will enable solicitors to deliver most legal services from ordinary businesses rather than from a regulated law firm, or to provide even reserved legal services as freelancers – may not get the attention and excitement they deserve. Yet they potentially hold the key to a greater transformation of the legal industry than any of the regulatory reforms that have gone before.

After all, to build a successful app or tech start up, you need to understand the market you’re trying to provide your products into. If you tackle tech product creation without first getting real clarity on the customers’ problems and what the customer wants and needs, the innovations you introduce are less likely to hit the mark and succeed. I discussed this in my recent blog Digital Products Why Relying On Customers To Tell You What They Want Won’t Work

The tech should come last, once the problems of the market you’re in are fully understood, and also once you’ve launched a quick test product.

Everyone nowadays wants to become an entrepreneur, so it’s the turn of lawyers to try their hand at entrepreneurship. Never before have they had so much freedom from the regulator than they’re about to get.

 

Intangible Assets

Some of the most valuable assets our businesses generate in today’s economy are intangible. The value in successful businesses lie in the brand, digital content, website, sales system, know-how, any special software written for the business and the like.

It’s important to manage the knowledge assets, not just as you would manage physical assets in a manufacturing context, but even more so because by their very nature, intangibles are easy to lose. Being transient, and non-physical, their legal significance can all too readily be overlooked.

An equivalent process to the factory assembly line should happen within your service business so you avoid re-inventing the wheel, or losing knowledge.

 

Knowledge is the asset that drives your service business

Recognising that knowledge is the asset which enables you to deliver your solutions is the key to building a scalable service business.  Generating value in business today involves managing those knowledge assets which include your relationships, business processes, brand and reputation. Ownership of physical assets is no longer the key to developing a valuable business.

As an intellectual property lawyer who has built a law firm from the ground up, I’m well placed to help law firms, and individual lawyers whether you’re considering setting up as a freelancer, a non regulated business, a law firm, or a legally focused tech start up to understand the impact of the impending regulatory changes, and what’s involved to build a brand in the knowledge economy. So, to set yourself up for success in the 2020’s register your interest to attend our upcoming event.

Deregulation And The Legal Industry – Exciting Upcoming Changes

Although “deregulation” of the legal industry in the UK was initiated by the Legal Services Act 2007 the new laws didn’t come into effect until 2011, and far from the “big bang” that was anticipated it was a damp squid.

There was an air of anticipation around Alternative Business Structures which were the new vehicle introduced to implement Lord Clementi’s recommendations.  Some people believed that the ABS would cause a sea change in the way legal services were provided because for the first time non lawyers could own a stake in law firms.

However, to date the radical transformation of the legal services market that was envisaged from deregulation hasn’t happened – at least at the small business end of the market where access to lawyers is still costly for many.

In my view, the new regulations about to come into effect in November 2019 which relax the rules around how solicitors may practice will have a far bigger impact in opening up access to legal services than anything that’s gone before.

 

New Alternative To ABS

The problems the legal market suffers from are down to the high cost of being in business. Once you remove some of the significant overhead costs by allowing legal services to be provided within ordinary businesses by solicitors, then innovation is bound to follow.

You see the new regulations don’t attempt to regulate the businesses solicitors form to solve the problems they see in the legal market. By removing the need for their businesses to be regulated law firms, and in particular removing the need for them to carry the special type of professional indemnity insurance that adds a significant overhead cost and risk for solicitors, I believe solicitors will be freed to be creative and responsive to the market needs.

It’s an exciting time for lawyers to set up in business and become entrepreneurs.

In my experience, a reason the impact of the ABS has not been felt too profoundly is due to the increased costs that regulation as an ABS entails, and professional indemnity insurance is a significant component of that extra cost of being an ABS.

Removing the requirement for the “gold plated” professional indemnity cover that law firms and ABSs are required to carry, makes it possible for solicitors operating ordinary limited companies to offer their services cost effectively.

These overhead expenses and costs of regulation are ultimately only of theoretical benefit to the majority of consumers of solicitors’ services.

Solicitors themselves will still be regulated and so consumers can have the confidence of using a solicitor albeit without the gold-plated PI cover. It will also be possible for such businesses to have non lawyers involved.

Freelance lawyers will be permitted to offer certain “reserved” legal services too.  So, it will be interesting to see how the insurance market develops for freelancer services.  Essentially, insurance is only a problem in the solicitors’ market because of the way in which the requirements for the insurance have developed.

 

What is The Solicitors’ Professional Indemnity Insurance Problem?

For reasons which have a lengthy background, the solicitors’ profession has developed some archaic professional indemnity insurance rules which make it difficult, especially for smaller law firms, to run and grow their businesses with the confidence that entrepreneurs generally run their businesses.

There are various reasons for this. Insurance premiums are extremely high. For small firms, even those with good claims records, it’s possible to experience a sudden, inexplicable hike in the premium instead of a no claims bonus like insurance companies usually give you.

This has a worrying impact for smaller firms because a higher premium means a higher run off premium if the business wants or needs to close for any reason, such as to merge with another law firm.

It’s incredible that you can’t take it for granted that when it’s time to renew your insurance you will be able to affordably, and reliably access insurance. The market is extremely unpredictable and volatile with premiums fluctuating wildly from year to year, based on whether the insurers have faced claims in the legal industry or not. It’s quite unrelated to whether you as a firm have any claims.

Some years it can be impossible to get cost effective insurance.  The premiums are so high, or the availability of insurance is so precarious that firms have been forced out of the legal sector. These firms could include those with no adverse claims records. I’ve known of firms that were dropped by insurers who had insured them for years, just before renewal, for no apparent reason. Suddenly these firms found themselves without an insurer.

Some of them closed, some managed to get cover days before their insurance expired, some got insurance by reclassifying their work as ‘commercial’ rather than intellectual property because at one time the market for IP had hardened. It is often difficult to get accurate information about what is going on and why.

Other legal sectors such as the Bar and Intellectual Property Regulation board which regulates trade mark and patent attorneys seem to manage the twin requirements of providing their members with affordable and effective insurance and protecting the public without all the drama that law firms face. For example, PAMIA insures trade mark and patent attorney firms for extremely low premiums, while also offering good protection to clients who may suffer losses.

These professionals may retire or close their practices without having to pay the eye watering sums that solicitors have to pay as “run off” cover due to their premiums being so high.

 

Why ABS Was Not The Answer

Smaller law firms could not justify the extra costs of becoming an ABS on top of all the other expenses of being in business as a law firm.  In particular, the burdensome professional indemnity rules, combined with the competitive market is a disincentive to growth and a serious concern for lawyers contemplating exit or retirement.  The more your turnover goes up, the higher your PI insurance premium will be. This is a tax on success effectively.

Professional indemnity insurance cover is supposed to protect both the professional providing the service and their clients in the event of negligence, errors or omissions, breach of professional duty and civil liabilities.

For most professions the insurance aspects work without the sort of problems that the solicitors market experiences. People can secure affordable insurance which gives them confidence and peace of mind in having an insurer available to finance the cost of errors or omissions.  The client has the benefit of having an insurer to look to if problems arise. Solicitors operating ordinary companies will be able to enjoy cost effective insurance cover if they want it. There is no requirement to get cover even.

This isn’t the forum for examining why the solicitors’ arm of the legal profession has evolved to have such undesirable PI insurance rules which go over and above the normal aims of insurance.

Insurers don’t like the so called “gold plated” professional indemnity cover they’re required to provide to solicitors’ firms. Nor do lawyers like it either as it has such a negative impact on their business. Although in theory, the consumer has the ultimate protection, in practice more consumers lose out through having to pay higher legal fees to access legal services that the PI rules cause than the few consumers who might benefit as a result of an extreme situation occurring. The PI rules are the result of people without any real world understanding of business being in charge of deciding what insurance should cover.

Every law firm at some time or another has experienced the unpleasant side effects that PI renewal can entail. Inability to secure affordable insurance cover should not be an issue that businesses face for reasons that are outside their control. Hopefully, the relaxation of the rules allowing solicitors to offer legal services outside a law firm will therefore have a far bigger impact on opening up access to legal services than the ABS or anything before it.

 

The Future

Before these changes solicitors wanting to provide legal services without setting up a law firm could either do it by giving up their practising certificates and telling consumers that they were non practising solicitors, or they could operate as consultants attached to an existing law firm.

Now they will be able to offer their services as solicitors – except for a few “reserved services” such as probate, conveyancing, and litigation – and they will be regulated as solicitors even though their business is not a law firm.

As an intellectual property lawyer I’ve worked with clients include startups looking to position themselves and stand out with distinctive names and branding. Having run a law firm built from the ground up for the past 15 years which has many entrepreneurial clients I am keen to support lawyers wanting to explore the possibilities that the new regulations open up.  If you’re a solicitor, no matter what stage you’ve reached, you’ll want to explore the opportunities and risks of the impending regulations.

So if you want to set yourself up on the right path for 2020 register your interest

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Starting Your Own Business  – Learn From My Story Setting Up A Law Practice

If you prefer to listen/watch a video instead of reading then click here to go to my youtube channel.

When I started my law firm back in 2004 I really didn’t have a clue about how to run a business let alone a law firm. So, I did what I usually do when I want to learn how to do something – I found a book to read. It was and remains the Law Society’s recommended text book Setting up and Managing a Law Practice by Martin Smith.

Had I known then what I know now I would not have followed the central advice in this book – which was to take whatever work you can get. However, at the time I really didn’t know much about marketing, or positioning, and the importance of being niche.

So my first year in business I did as the book suggested and became a general practitioner, taking whatever work came my way. I’m not sure if later editions of the book have updated this advice. I certainly hope so, but if you are a solicitor intending to start your own business, (such as to practice as the new breed of a freelance solicitor which the Solicitors Regulation Authority will be permitting from 25 November 2019,) then I strongly suggest NOT following this advice. I quickly realised that it was a bad idea to be a jack of all trades.  It was just too time consuming as I was having to grapple with subjects like conveyancing, probate, landlord, and tenant, which I hadn’t touched in years. That was the work people needed when I opened the shop!  Many of my clients were friends and family or were searching for a local firm.

I was forever investing time and resources into learning how to do different types of work. Although I had covered the subjects I was practising in my training contract years before, the law had moved on. I have high standards and wanted to do a good job – hence lots to learn. I also didn’t want to be negligent!  Unsurprisingly, this approach of taking whatever work you can get wasn’t very profitable either.

While many businesses, such as digital marketing agencies, operate on this model today, offering a vast range of skills under one roof, I doubt it is viable – you have to specialise. Certainly in the legal industry given the serious implications that result when you don’t take the right actions as a lawyer. It’s essential to avoid being a generalist nowadays. Within a year I changed the business completely.

 

Why I Set Up

The reason I set up my own law practice was due to the lack of flexible work options when I wanted to return to work after more than 10 years away from full-time working.  I had worked part-time, and studied during those 10 years, but only worked sporadically.

Today there may be more flexibility in the work place, but there will be other drivers motivating people to set up on their own nowadays. For one thing, the trend in society is towards self-employment and entrepreneurship. For many people, it’s the ultimate dream to generate their own income, and not be beholden to an employer.

Solicitors and other professionals are similarly choosing to set up on their own. Many people do not want the corporate lifestyle and all that it entails. Currently, solicitors choosing self-employment tend to act as consultants to dispersed law firms like Keystone or Seddons. These firms take care of professional indemnity insurance and regulatory compliance, in return for a cut of the fees.  It’s likely that the new regulations will motivate some of these solicitors to cut out the middle man so to speak and work directly for their clients, so they can keep all the fees they receive.

As such it’s likely there will be a huge take up of self-employment in the legal profession shortly.

In future posts, I will look at the regulations impacting the legal industry to assess how they distinguish between solicitors setting up law firms, or setting up non-regulated businesses that provide legal services, or setting up as freelance lawyers. These forms of practice are all conceptually quite different.

 

First Foray Into Returning To Work

When I first looked to return to work in the mid-90s, the possibilities were much more limited than they are today, both in terms of the working arrangements firms offered lawyers, and also in the ways in which one could choose to deliver legal services.

One reason I took time away from the workplace was that I had no family living nearby, and didn’t find a childcare solution I felt comfortable with when I initially returned to work part time at Reuters after the birth of my first daughter. So I decided to not carry on working.  Reuters was a fantastic employer and I could have had as much flexibility as I wanted had I stayed there. But at the time I just didn’t want to spend any time away from my daughter who was still under the age of one.  I volunteered for redundancy from Reuters and received such an excellent severance package, which included share options, and keeping my company car, that I didn’t actually NEED to work while my daughters were young.

Little did I know how difficult it would be to get back into a similar job to the one I had at Reuters 10 years later when I was ready to return to work full-time.

Law firm employers, when I returned to work the first time around in the mid-90s, didn’t offer the flexibility that I needed. Ideally, I would have liked to work till 3pm, leave to collect the children from school (for reasons I won’t bore you with, the school run was very difficult to outsource), and then, if necessary, I could have carried on working later in the evening at home once my husband was back from work. However, this was not an option. At the time my youngest daughter was still just 3.

So, instead of getting a job, I ended up doing consultancy projects, mainly to keep a hand in as I knew I wanted a career long term. For a while, I even worked in a professional support role at Eversheds, an international law firm. The job was part time, but it was hardly flexible. I didn’t want to be a support lawyer anyway so after a couple of years back in the work place, I gave it all up to just concentrate on raising my two daughters. In giving up work I probably made myself totally unemployable because I no longer even had the distinction of being fresh out of an LLM masters’ degree course later when I began to look in earnest for a job – that was in the early 2000’s.

Setting up my own firm seemed the only way forward by 2004. It offered flexibility to be around for my daughters who were by then 10 and 12. But I was completely clueless about what would be involved in running a law firm.  It was very daunting.

 

Relaunching as Azrights an Intellectual Property Law Firm

After that first year as a general practice, I relaunched as an Intellectual Property niche firm in 2005.

I had had experience of doing commercial and intellectual property law at Reuters before I had children but that was as an inhouse lawyer not in a law firm. I also had a Masters’ degree in Intellectual Property law, and a strong interest in the subject. I just had no belief that business clients existed who would need IP services that I could deliver.

My legal experience in a blue-chip company like Reuters did make me too specialised, and I lacked insight into the market for intellectual property for small businesses to know how to offer intellectual property services to small business. That combined with my lack of confidence in my own ability to attract work from corporate clients, (which is quite typical of what mums who have been away from the workplace for a few years suffer from), had led to my setting up as a general practice law firm rather than a niche intellectual property and commercial law firm, and now I needed to find clients who wanted intellectual property services.

 

Learning to be entrepreneurial

Having my own business has been a massive learning curve. Nobody is born an entrepreneur. Some people are just exposed to entrepreneurship much earlier in their lives so that they learn a lot about entrepreneurship at a younger age.

I’ve had to learn about business gradually by being in business and being interested in business.

My relaunch as an Intellectual Property law firm meant I had to turn down the general practice work that was coming my way while I waited to get Intellectual Property clients. I was winding up the cases I had, so on no account would I have been able to develop the IP practice if I had kept taking on more general practice work.

So here’s the learning: when you decide to focus on a particular niche, you have to be willing to turn down other work. By refusing conveyancing work even though it was there for the taking, I gave myself the time and space to develop the new line of business I wanted.  The rest is history as they say because I built the firm from the ground up to what it is today. The work just comes in, and I have people within the business who deal with different aspects of it, so that I have a lot of time and freedom to do the things I enjoy, such as writing and developing new product lines.

 

Picking Up Business Skills

Reading business books, such as Sahar Hashemi’s ‘Anyone Can Do It’ inspired and taught me a lot about running a business along the way. I have also expanded my business skills by attending courses, such as the Key Person Of Influence program. My motivation for joining the program was purely to learn about business rather than to become influential. It was simply one of the few courses around at the time which offered help to write a book (something I wanted to do) and to learn how to productise services so as to avoid working in a pure time for money business model.

The influence was hardly my objective because I was already doing the elements of the course that the course organisers consider to be necessary to become influential. For example, I was publishing content as a blogger since 2007-2008, and a guest blogger on sites such as Solo IP. I had contributed articles to a number of publications, and taught at law related events and conferences. From a profile point of view, I was thoroughly plugged into legal networks such as on Twitter. The only element of influence that I lacked then and still lack today is partnerships. But that may have more to do with the regulatory climate that restrict solicitors than anything else.

The point I want to stress is that if you’re planning on being self-employed it’s essential to develop your business skills and to allocate time to work ON your business rather than purely IN it. Attendance at courses can provide this opportunity, if the courses are well structured around such objectives.

In the past 6 or 7 years, I have moved almost exclusively in entrepreneur circles, but prior to that I used to organise meetings for sole practitioners and small law firms, and I also arranged a number of tweetups. I now intend to focus on the legal industry again as I’m developing a product offering for them, as I’ll discuss in future blog posts and in my forthcoming book.  Watch this space.

 

Effect on Employability

In the process of developing Azrights, I did become thoroughly employable judging by the approaches I frequently had to join existing firms or to merge my firm with theirs. So, if you’re concerned that starting your own venture will damage your career opportunities, think again. It’s likely that developing entrepreneurial skills will considerably enhance your opportunities.

I never responded positively to merger or similar requests partly because I feared such talks would take up a lot of my time and end nowhere.  However, it was also because I’ve always got plans on the boil, ideas I’m working on.  My plans change over the years, but I always have them.

Over the last few years, I’ve adapted the business to fit my changing needs – which involved moving out of London and using contractors instead of full-time paid employees in many roles. I would hate to give up my independence to join a larger firm.  That would just restrict my freedom, introducing a layer of politics I am not suited to. Also, I suspect many of my ideas would be rejected out of hand by the other partners if I were to be part of a larger firm. Whereas I have complete freedom and control to introduce my ideas at Azrights.

So, I intend that Azrights will remain fully independent for the foreseeable future.

If you’re a lawyer planning on starting or changing your law firm model, then do come along to one of the events I’ll be organising around the launch of my new book. Register your interest here.

digital products

Digital Products – Why Relying on Customers to Tell You What They Want Won’t Work

digital productsIf you prefer to listen/watch a video instead of reading then click here to go to my youtube channel.

What’s the big deal with digital products? Why are so many people creating online products to sell? What are digital products anyway, and how do you create a digital product that sells?

Digital products are intangible assets, meaning they can’t be held, tasted, or touched.  What makes them especially appealing is that digital products can be created once and sold repeatedly to different customers without having to replenish your inventory.

Using digital media intellectual property assets such as downloadable or streamable files, MP3s, PDFs, videos, plug-ins, and templates – it’s possible to make products ranging from music to videos, ebooks to online courses, and more.  Be sure to check that you will own the IP rights as I’ve discussed in previous posts.

 

Low Overhead Costs

Digital products appeal to people because they involve low overhead costs to create and sell. 

You don’t have to hold inventory or incur any shipping costs. Once you have something that sells you benefit from extremely high-profit margins: There’s no recurring cost of goods, so you retain the majority of your sales in profits. You could even automate everything so orders are delivered instantly, letting you be relatively hands-off with fulfilment.

Digital products are ideal for creatives, artists, educators, and freelancers looking for new income streams that require less effort to maintain. The income can supplement the income that has to be earned on a traditional “time for money” consultancy basis. As such it should enable you to cover your regular running costs so you’re not on a roller coaster every month, constantly reliant on new business to cover your overheads.

An added benefit of creating digital products is that you can offer products for free to build your email list, or use them as part of your offerings. You could bestow a bonus or licence your digital products for use under a monthly paid subscription plan.  There are lots of options as to how to incorporate digital products into your business.

Due to their ease of distribution, many entrepreneurs build entire businesses around such intangible goods or launch digital product lines to complement the physical products or services they offer.

 

Some Challenges With Digital Products

Digital products come with specific challenges you’ll need to watch out for, particularly the fact that you’re competing with free content: 

With digital goods, consumers can probably find free alternatives to what you’re selling. You’ll have to think carefully about the niche you target, offer premium value with your products and build your brand in order to compete.

Selling digital products does involve having an online presence and being out there on social media platforms. If you run a business, that would be an appropriate activity in any event.

Digital products are susceptible to piracy and theft so take precautions to reduce these risks by making sure you’re using the right tools to protect your products and that your terms of business incorporate the right provisions.

Making sure your product offering is good is of paramount importance, so how do you go about making a great product?

 

The Journey to Product Creation.

It’s not uncommon for people to have little success initially when they launch their digital products, even if they hire mentors to help them through the process.

Some people gradually get there and achieve success with their online offerings.  Many don’t even achieve sales of £1000 after years of trying.

People tend to invest quite a lot of time and energy into creating their courses, using a trial and error approach, sometimes relying on surveying consumers to find out what they want.

But as Ford famously put it “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse” So, while it’s fair enough to ask people what they want, you are the one who will ultimately need to decide what to create. Take people’s responses into account by all means, but some of them need to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Certainly, during my own journey of creating a digital course on the intellectual property, I have discovered that most people don’t even know what intellectual property is, let alone being able to tell me what they want from a course on the intellectual property!

I was also quite surprised to find that having any sales at all on your first attempt is considered a success!

People are pouring their heart and souls into creating their courses, some spending thousands of pounds on coaching and other support, only to have no sales or only a few sales and they are being congratulated on their “success” because they created something and achieved a handful of sales!

There must be a better way I think.

 

Ideas First Approach

The notion that you need to keep trying till you achieve success with new product creation generally probably lies at the heart of the prevailing attitude to digital product creation – that you need to just keep trying to make incremental improvements until suddenly something clicks into place and works.

The concept was developed by Tom Peters in his book, Thriving on Chaos  Peters said companies should, “test fast, fail fast, adjust fast—pursue new business ideas on a small scale and in a way that generates quick feedback about whether an idea is viable.”

IBM founder Thomas Watson also reportedly said: “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate,”. He supported this thinking and adopted a management style that did not punish failure.

As a result of such “ideas-first” thinking, which is still in widespread use in many organisations, innovation cannot be counted on for predictable growth and is inherently doomed to failure.  Companies using this approach to innovation struggle to achieve success rates greater than 10 to 20 percent.

 

A New Approach to Innovation

According to Anthony W. Ulwick in his book  Jobs to Be Done companies struggle to predictably create winning products because they fail to define their customers’ needs with the rigor, precision, and discipline that is required to discover, prioritize and capitalize on opportunities for growth.

So, extrapolating from his message, to avoid this trial and error approach to digital product creation involves looking at customer needs in a totally new way.

This involves gaining a deep understanding of what a customer is trying to accomplish. What “job” is your customer looking to get done? Understanding what they’re trying to achieve is the key to creating products that are likely to meet their needs.

Having delved into this Jobs to Be Done Theory which was developed by Clayton Christianson, Harvard Business Professor in his book Competing Against Luck I’m committed to using the approach to get to the bottom of what outcome people desire when they look to “protect their IP”. What job are they really trying to get done?

If one can uncover related jobs that they’re trying to accomplish, particularly the emotional and social aspects of them, it’s much more likely you would create a product that customers want to use.

However, it’s worth noting that wants, needs, requirements, benefits, problems, tasks that the customer is trying to accomplish, and jobs which the customer is trying to get done are all terms that people use. These are not conceptually the same. The trick is to understand the nuanced differences between these terms and use Jobs-to-be-Done Theory to work out what your customers want.

I feel that the Jobs to Be Done Theory represents a breakthrough in innovation which I want to fully introduce into my own business, and then help my clients with.

I will discuss it in future pieces. For now, the important message I want to convey is that the current approach of trial and error when creating digital products is wasteful of time and resources. You would do better to focus on understanding what outcomes your customers are trying to achieve before attempting to create any digital products.

digital courses

Digital Courses – What You Need To Know Before You Start Creating Yours

digital coursesIf you prefer to listen/watch a video instead of reading then click here to go to my youtube channel.

I was surprised to hear a while back that only a minority of students who buy online courses actually open and use them let alone finish them. That was from a respected thought leader who sells many online courses.

An article I came across recently seemed to bear this out According to this piece, although “hundreds of courses are now available from dozens of the world’s best universities and professors on the major platforms such as Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Udemy, and have attracted at least 4 million sign-ups to date, more than 90% of these would-be learners don’t finish. Many don’t even start the courses”.  What’s more, those who do finish their course, don’t go on to take another one.

When you bear in mind the flexibility and other advantages that online courses offer this is extremely surprising.

The perks of taking online classes are numerous. As well as the opportunities to pick up new technical or business skills, or update old ones to advance their careers, online courses offer busy students, especially parents seeking to better provide for their families and returning students looking to pick up where they left off, a unique chance to balance school with work and family.

So why is it that those people who do finish their courses, don’t tend to take another one?

 

My Own Personal Experience

Since I created an online solution – Legally Branded Academy 2.0 – is that some people buy but don’t then even login!

With the eLearning industry worldwide set to surpass USD 275 billion in value by 2022, according to research from Orbis, the eLearning trend is undoubtedly an important one to watch.

More and more companies are adding an eLearning component to their product suites, and many individuals are using platforms like Kajabi to create digital products based around their interests and hobbies.

It’s not uncommon for people to have little success initially but by learning how to use the platform, and better understanding their potential customers some of them achieve noteworthy success with their online courses.

Kajabi is the market leader and makes it very easy to set up a course and sell it. As a result, people are investing time and energy in learning how to use the platform so they can create their own courses, modify them and then sell using Kajabi’s inbuilt marketing features.

However, if buyers are not then consuming the courses it is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed.

 

Getting Buyers to Use the Courses

In my view, it’s important to focus not just on getting sales, but also in finding ways to encourage buyers to consume the course they buy from you. After all, if you ultimately want to make an impact on people’s lives, get feedback and improve your course you can’t do it if people are not using the course. Also, it takes word of mouth growth for a course to be more widely adopted, so your buyers need to be encouraged to use your courses.

As already mentioned earlier, there are many advantages to learning via an online course, notably, convenience, and the ability to go at your own pace. However, their huge drawback is that you are on your own and exposed to distractions. There is a seemingly endless array of other priorities competing for your time and attention so that it can be difficult to engage with the online material.  The extreme time pressures that everyone seems to be under these days, means that unless you’re very motivated to learn what the online course is offering to teach you, chances are it will soon get forgotten and will not be used.

Perhaps people buy our courses with the intention of using them later, and then later never comes.  This can easily happen when you consider that often the timing of the purchase is driven more by the special offers or other incentives sellers provide to buyers than by someone’s own availability to learn. As online courses are intangibles, it can all too easily happen that it’s a case of out of sight out of mind. How do we get our buyers to prioritise using our courses?

 

The Inertia factor

What I’m wondering is what difference it will make if I were to find a way to get my buyers to take that first step of actually logging in and watching the welcome video.

You see overcoming customer anxieties is a big deal.  There’s almost always some friction associated with switching from one way of doing things to another.  So we need to consider how to remove any obstacles that stop our buyers from using these courses.

For example, do your buyers realise that technology will not stand in their way (that is certainly the case with platforms like Kajabi) because there is no special software to download or difficult systems to learn in order to access the material.  Maybe a welcome email or call to explain this might encourage them to take the first step?

While we may believe our products are so fabulous that they will erase any concerns people might have about starting something new, the reality is that consumers are often stuck in the habits of the present – the thought of switching to a new solution or habit is almost overwhelming.  Sticking with the devil they know, even if imperfect, is more bearable.

Consider how sometimes people refuse to upgrade their mobile phone because they are comfortable with the one they have?  This is due to the pull of the old. It requires no deliberation and has some intuitive plausibility as a solution already.

 

Fear Of Loss 

People fear loss twice as much as they are motivated by gains. Anxieties come into play both about learning something new, but also, simply due to the anxiety of the unknown.

The new learning must have sufficient importance to cause people to change their behaviour.  They need to recognise that they’re struggling and be reminded that they want a better solution than what they can currently have.

Provided the pull of the new is much greater than the sum of the inertia of the old and the anxieties about the new then people will adopt the new solutions.

Another way of putting it is that it’s difficult to get people to change their old habits. So, no matter how frustrated people are with their current situation or how enticing a new product is, if the forces that pull them to addressing their problems in a particular way, or not addressing them don’t outweigh the hindering forces, they won’t even consider adopting something new.

I’m keen to find out what the users of my course are doing about their Intellectual Property protection though, while they’re not using the course they’ve bought from me. What caused them to buy would also be really useful knowledge to glean.

What Next For Online Courses? 

For now, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of online learning.

The big difference between in-person and online courses lies in how students interact with each other. You can receive your peers’ responses instantaneously in a brick-and-mortar classroom but need to wait for those who live on the other side of the country to type their comments into an online forum.

According to research people learn through a social process. The timeliness of feedback is critical for students to learn. Technology may replicate most resources of the best in-person courses, such as course materials, tests, and lectures, but it is impossible, at least for now, to replicate real-time, in person feedback from peers and teachers.

Perhaps using small group classes such as Zoom meetings where everyone can participate just like in a normal classroom setting might help?

All in all, I doubt we need to be pessimistic about the future of online learning.  We just need to keep trying to do better so we improve the experience. Making changes, even to incorporate some “in class” element might have a huge effect. For example, it may be worth experimenting with giving local course attendees an opportunity to interact and meet others.  Research has shown that interventions that enhance students’ interactions help them to learn better.

Putting people into accountability groups in their local area so they meet regularly with their peers to help each other stay on track and make progress on common tasks could prove valuable.  Connecting with others physically is bound to make the intangible nature of a course less of a problem by reducing the feeling of isolation and disconnectedness.

Let’s hope for a better future in which everyone can become a lifelong learner as technology evolves, and breaks the limits of time and location.

Power of Habits – How Habits Are The Way To Protecting An Organisation’s Intellectual Property

If you prefer to listen/watch a video instead of reading then click here to go to my youtube channel.

I recently read The Power of Habit Why We Do What We Do and How to Change.

Books have a wealth of wisdom and this one is a real gem. Among other things the insights I’ve gleaned from the book are that habits are the key to change.  Once a new action or activity turns into a habit – that is, a choice one makes without thinking about it – the chain reaction from the new actions will follow.

Essentially, if we want to progress in our lives, the key is to re-evaluate our habits to see which ones to replace with new ones.  Some habits are keystone habits so that once you change them a whole series of other changes are likely to be more easily made. For example, if a heavy smoker gives up smoking that might be the catalyst leading to them taking up exercise, eating and drinking more healthily, finding new hobbies and turning their life around.

 

Habits are the key to effecting change

The book is an eye-opener in how to position something you’re selling too. The key often lies in examining people’s habits before promoting the new ones your product entails. Ideally, the new habits will be addictive if the new product is to come into widespread use.

In the last 3 years or so my life has been on hold in many ways as we were selling our house, moving my business from bricks and mortar to a largely virtual one, and deciding where to live.  During that period it was difficult to develop new routines for many of the life changes I wanted to make. Now that I’m finally installed in Hastings I no longer have an excuse to avoid adopting new habits.

The starting point has been to set goals and then plan how I’m going to achieve them. By making some deliberate choices of activity and turning them into new habits it is possible to achieve one’s end goals.

For example, I want to make time for more reading, and learning of new skills. Growing my abilities in various directions is going to be key to achieving some of my goals in fitness, health and wealth too.  One goal involves learning to enjoy public speaking and to be good at it.  So, I am looking for the quickest, surest way to achieve that, and testing a few things like Toastmasters.

 

Choosing new habits

I’ve been experimenting with various activities as part of a new morning routine that I might adopt the longer term.

One routine I’m exploring is getting up early before the rest of the world, and doing high-intensity exercising, followed by some reading and writing, and planning of the day ahead. I will be adding some meditation into the mix too.  The routine is still experimental but I know I love being up early in the day and getting on top of the day before everyone else gets into action.  Currently, I often have breakfast networking events to attend as I’m trying to meet new people in Hastings, or I have to go to London for meetings or to attend events, so that’s getting in the way of developing a daily morning routine.  Ideally, I’d like to fix a morning routine and not deviate from it but in practice, I’ll probably have to settle for a morning routine that I only follow 3-4 times a week.

 

Parallels for organisational health

It occurred to me that there are parallels with organisational health.  You see I know I’m doing myself a lot of good in having a routine for exercise and health. It gives me the energy and enthusiasm to achieve my goals and puts me in the right frame of mind for the day ahead.

It doesn’t matter that I may not understand exactly why a morning routine is so beneficial. All I know is that exercising regularly, drinking water, reading, reflecting, meditation, etc will take care of my health, fitness and stress levels. I don’t need to understand the minutiae of how or why this works. All that’s necessary is to commit to new habits to get my desired outcomes.

The parallel for organisations is that if they instil habits that take care of their culture, or intellectual property then a highly important aspect of their health and wealth will be taken care of.

I’ve created a new system of processes for businesses to follow so they keep in shape and add to their value.  It’s called Legally Branded Academy 2.0.

 

Why “IP” protection?

Most people are familiar with the concept of “IP” as their knowledge and skills.

What is less well appreciated is that businesses in the digital economy tend to be service, knowledge-based organisations. IP fuels their business. Turning knowledge and skills into a new business or project, involves a number of intellectual property considerations. These need to be taken on board and addressed very early on in the life of any project.

Never mind that you may not understand why the right approach to decision making about fundamentals like the name of your product, business or service matters to your long-term viability and success. You may not know what’s involved to create protectable IP. However, provided you accept that IP is important to your business value and viability, then you will want to take it on board and if necessary make it the first consideration in any new project you initiate.

It’s possible to easily do this by instilling new habits into your organisation to ensure its IP is seamlessly protected.

Nowadays since the advent of the internet, more than 70% of corporate value is attributed to intellectual property.

 

Protecting your distinctiveness

In today’s global environment competitive advantage tends to lie in innovations, making it more important than ever before for businesses to manage their know-how and trade secrets appropriately.

They also need to consider their branding carefully, choosing names that enable them to stand out, and build a unique reputation. That’s how you make it difficult for competitors to steal your market share.

IP also gives you more impact and enables you to have a differentiated proposition that stands out in your market.

 

How new habits can protect IP

While the law around IP is complex, when you adopt new habits in the form of processes to protect your IP, you don’t need to know the law to be protected. Instead, by following the processes you can discover the right actions to take to be protected. This gives you peace of mind as you will find out about significant IP issues when you need to know about them. That’s how to ensure IP won’t be overlooked as your business grows and develops. 

Processes manage your IP far more effectively than remembering to consult lawyers or to take the necessary actions that you already know you need to take, but which you’re likely to forget.

IP is poorly understood – even by senior managers in organisations. So, the challenge is to have a way to manage IP even if internally people don’t understand it.

Even organisations that have their own in-house legal advisers have challenges with IP due to the lack of processes in place for them to follow.  Without processes to follow, individual departments can’t get on with their projects independently. It’s simply unrealistic to expect them to ask for help from lawyers at every twist and turn, such as to advise on how to choose a name and do basic checks on it themselves.  This might be why it happens so often that the legal department is not consulted until it is too late. Those are the very situations when the lawyers should be thinking of putting in place processes for other departments to follow.

A new routine involving use of IP processes is the way every business can address its IP protection. Ideally, one person in the organisation will be charged with responsibility for IP. They might arrange occasional IP education companywide and otherwise, their role would be to ensure the IP processes are followed internally.  Provided there is support for them at the highest level it should be possible for the organisation’s IP to be managed very effectively through the enforcement of internal rules.

This is important for organisations to do because so much of the value of a business will be contained within its brand, and other IP.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, to take care of intellectual property entails having routine processes that are followed without fail. It doesn’t matter that you may not understand why following the routine will be good for your business and success. All you need to do is to follow essential processes and let those processes take care of your IP protection.

In the same way, any change you want to effect whether in your business or life comes down to working out what new actions and activities to adopt so that new habits are formed to reach your desired goal.