Protecting your brand, ideas, and reputation are your responsibility as a career woman; whether you own the business or you’re part of a larger entity. These three aspects of the business are very different from one another, and protecting each of them entails its own set of standards and processes.
1. Protecting Your Business Brand
To ensure that your brand stands out from the others and has a good name and reputation in the market is a task that needs constant work and effort.
This is a multifaceted issue. Your brand needs to be protected in terms of its reputation, but also in terms of keeping it afloat during times of uncertainty, clients not paying, or disputes.
So, to protect your brand, you need to:
· Know your stuff – educate yourself regarding the legal, ethical, financial and moral requirements and expectations of your business. Empowering yourself and your employees or department is essential to your brand’s success.
· Have a clear goal – know your brand, what you want to achieve, and what you have to do to accomplish your goals. Without this direction and constant focus, your brand can’t survive.
· Be yourself – give your brand personality and celebrate the achievements along the way. This will keep your brand dynamic, vibey and relevant in a market that demands something unique.
· Stay positive – through challenges and hiccups, it’s important to stay optimistic and to be proactive about overcoming these hurdles and achieving what you want to achieve.
· Manage a crisis – address issues quickly and fairly for the best result for both you and the customer. A crisis may range from an angry client to a lawsuit. Whatever the situation, stay calm, be fair, and follow the correct procedures.
· Be prepared to take things further – when clients don’t pay, you may need to take further steps (soft collections, mediation, or even litigation). While not optimal, it’s essential that you’re prepared to do these in order to protect your brand and its long-term survival.
· Hire the right people – great customer service and efficient delivery are crucial to putting your brand above your competitors. Don’t compromise these because of hiring the wrong people or trying to tackle everything on your own.
· Understand your customers’ needs – invest your time and resources into understanding the problems that your customers have and how your product or service best solves these. By doing this, you will always ensure that your business offers their best solution, the brand that they need.
2. Protecting Your Ideas
Some of your business ideas need to be protected to prevent them from being copied. However, it’s important to understand what kind of intellectual property warrants protection and what doesn’t. For example, you could patent a new shoe design, but you cannot patent your idea to sell a sneaker via a phone app.
Here are some ways to protect your ideas, products and processes when conducting and running a business:
· A non-disclosureagreement (NDA) – there’s no doubt that you’ll eventually need to share your ideas with someone. To protect these from being copied, you have the right to ask suppliers, clients or employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which prohibits them from sharing your confidential information with anyone else. Find more information on NDAs here.
· Trademarks and patents – ensure that you understand the difference between these two licenses and how you can or may qualify for each.
· Other policies – implement data policies, security policies, and comprehensive terms and conditions to protect the ideas and information of yourself, your department, your company or your products.
3. Protecting Your Business Reputation
Your reputation involves different aspects of your business, product, service, and customer satisfaction. It includes your personal reputation as a career woman or business owner, as well as that of the company you own or represent. So, even if your product works better than anything else on the market, customers probably won’t choose it if you or your company have a reputation for being dishonest, unfair, rude, or inefficient.
Protect your reputation:
· Apologise early and sincerely when you need to – be humble and realistic; customers definitely pick up on this. This is the way to earn respect and loyalty for your business.
· Support your community – getting involved and helping others helps you to build a great reputation with measurable, visible benefits to those around you.
· Social media identity – for many, the first access they have to you or your brand is via your social media. So, use these platforms to establish yourself as a dependable, superior brand.
· Maintain strong ethics – customers trust ethical companies. So, at every level of your organisation, it’s essential to maintain your high ethical standards and to ensure that your employees do the same.
· Keep your promises – don’t guarantee things you can’t provide. Only commit to what you can achieve and then do whatever you have to do to achieve these things.
· Be professional, but be kind – conduct yourself and your business dealings in the most professional way, while always staying calm, kind, and reasonable.
· Build trust – even when it means compromising your own preferences or gains, always be honest and trustworthy in your dealings with employees, suppliers and customers. By doing this, you earn trust and respect.
What do Customers Really Want?
While your reputation and ideas are particularly important to you, real success comes from knowing what customers demand and then providing this. Your clients want:
So, communicate clearly, make good on your promises, and implement a system of dealing with issues and disputes that is easy, efficient and fair to both you and the client.
Keeping Up With Business Trends
WiBA Continuum is a resource for professional women around the world; committed to sharing important insights and advice, and to creating incredible connections on a global scale. In March 2022, we collaborated with Nicolene Schoeman-Louw and PocketAdvisor to offer the fascinating online masterclass for WiBA members, entitled Protecting Your Brand, ideas and Reputation. To be part of future events like these and to share ideas, challenges, and solutions with other female professionals, become a member by clicking here.
In April, we look forward to the masterclass conducted by Taryn Smuts entitled Women in the Workplace - Is International Women's Day Merely a Branding Exercise? This is a particularly relevant and important subject as professionals around the world face all types of inequality and discrimination.
Taryn a mother, an activist, and the founder of Chapter Network; which runs strategic leadership and development programmes for women. She is the Group Vice President of Sales: Enablement and Transformation at NTT Ltd. Taryn is unafraid to address the realities we face in the workplace today and her talks call us to action to drive real, tangible change.
Highlighting the benefits of discussing this topic, Taryn says, “Join this one-hour masterclass on authenticity, power and building the confidence to call out behaviour that marginalises women. We will start with growth "mind setting", unpack our assumptions and beliefs about power and control, and then explore the role of your identity at work and where your power truly lies. Walk away with a higher degree of comfort to stand in your true power and confront the behaviours that marginalise yourself and others.”
About Nicolene Schoeman-Louw
“In 2007, aged 24, I moved to Cape Town from Bloemfontein. Not long after moving, the opportunity arose to start my own law firm, which I seized with open arms. This was the birth of SchoemanLaw Inc, now, the preferred law firm for entrepreneurs (owning both large and smaller businesses). Our focus is client-centric. We are ethical, tech savvy, innovative and entrepreneurial. I am proud to be the Managing Director of what I personally see as a progressive law firm of the future.
“I am also the innovator behind the SME and start-up legal tech product, Contracts4Biz.
“In addition, I am a director and co-founder of PocketAdvisor (Pty) Ltd, a platform that aims to bridge the gap and create access to trusted legal and business advice.
“I am passionate about business and, as a consequence, I am involved and/or have an interest in several businesses outside of SchoemanLaw and PocketAdvisor. I believe this was a natural progression because the passion, required “grit”, and dedication involved in successful entrepreneurship has been having a dialogue with my soul for as long as I can remember.
“I’m a legal professional and I continue to enjoy the confidence of many successful entrepreneurs (both locally and abroad). As their trusted advisor, I have actively contributed to the successes of many businesses and helped many entrepreneurs build lasting legacies. It is this calling that I am honoured to answer to every day.
“I therefore suppose that my skill set is best described as being a Legal Entrepreneur.”
By Amelia Meyer