If I were a solicitor…

If I were a solicitor…

A week or two ago I tweeted the following, “If you were a solicitor, what would you use Twitter for”. I did this because I was visiting a solicitors that day and wanted to show both the power of crowd sourcing but also what other people’s ideas were. I was pretty overwhelmed by the response to be honest, receiving over 25 replies before I’d even got to my meeting.

So this got me thinking, why not start a new blog series called “If I were a…” The idea is that every month or so I’ll crowd source a blog post on a different industry and credit everyone that takes the time to write back and participate. :)

So any solicitors out there listening, here are a few of the tips from the twitter community for you:

0neLife – Trust, authenticity and finding a voice

lukus1984 – To gain social insight & perspective on particularly tough moral issues, especially surrounding current affairs. The peoples voice!

jaimesteele – Use LinkedIn to build relationships – Complete profile 100%, add applications esp slideshare, add as many connections as possible

in_house_lawyer - I’m a solicitor and use twitter! Here’s why: http://bit.ly/azuFPa

Partridgewilson – No hard sell. Be interesting & informal but professional. Try to engage with followers as you would in any other social setting.

sarknight – To update re changes in legislation and to connect with local businesses in a different way to other firms

Nick_Edin – Networking, giving advice, sharing information, mentoring stars of tomorrow, business development and reputation.

RalliSolicitors – Good Morning. Where would you like us to start? (I was impressed with these guys listening out :))

Joel_Hughes – Help project credibility in target services, build relationships with key prospects

Innovateip – Not a solicitor but a Trade Mark Attorney, use twitter for 50% social/50% business with hints and tips about protecting IP

MattYoungMedia – I think Twitter would give a solicitor the chance to show their human side…

steelcitym – A solicitor should be an “informer”. They have to read daily to keep up to speed. Blog, write & post before others do it first!

So there you have it, a selection of the best tweets I had back from the community and some good solid advice.

So if I were a solicitor what would I do (and I do have the benefit of more than 140 characters of course) :)

  • Create an account under my name – using a full name
  • Create a detailed bio
  • Link back to my firms website or my personal blog if I had one
  • Setup tools allowing me to monitor for terms surrounding my area of law and location
  • Engage with the people those tools find
  • Pay special attention to the ‘Influencers’ in my game – It didn’t take me long to find that one of the most active solicitors in the UK on SM is @brianinkster – I’d watch and learn from people like Brian
  • I’d engage where possible – always looking to build credibility and authority
  • I’d add value by linking to articles of interest that I find about my area of law
  • I’d look for local news and help push that out to my network
  • I’d find my clients and current contacts that use the networks and make sure we are connected and engaging online
  • I’d follow useful resource sites like http://twitter.com/legal_week
  • I’d Retweet articles and sites of interest to my followers

Most importantly I’d try and give value where possible and project my personality in order that when someone needs my services I’ll be in with a shout of that contact or having my name passed on.

If you were a solicitor what would you do? Maybe you are a solicitor and want to let us into your strategy for social media?

7 Things a Startup Company Should Think About

7 Things a Startup Company Should Think About

This morning I was thinking back to when I started my web design business in Exeter and how much both the business and I had changed. Back then, there were three of us, all very wet behind the ears (that’s a really odd saying isn’t it!). We were at University at the time (Exeter) and all studying computer science. We had made a conscious decision to start a business but to be honest not really thought much about how or who we needed to talk to. We were lucky to have my Dad around who acted as a mentor and pointed us in the right direction but it got me thinking about other people not lucky enough to find good, trustworthy advice, so easily. There must be lots and lots of people in the same position as we were, at University or leaving school, thinking about starting up and having great ideas but not knowing where to start. I’m sure there are many great fledgling businesses stifled at this point which is a real shame. In this post I’m going to skirt over a few things we did when we started up – I’m hoping this will be useful to some of you out there in a similar position to me, 10 years ago. In future posts I may well delve deeper into certain areas but if you know of anyone thinking about starting a business from University or School then please send them in the direction of this post. :)

1). Come up with a company name – Might sound obvious but when you make a success of it then this will stick and be quite difficult to change. A lot of people ask me where the name Optix Solutions comes from and to be perfectly honest here is the answer:

  • 4 guys sitting in a university bedroom chatting about setting up in business
  • Probably a few beers had been sunk (we were students after all)
  • One said, ‘Web Design is quite visual’
  • Another said ‘Optical – that’s visual’
  • ‘Optical Solutions’ someone shouted out
  • ‘How about Optix Solutions – that’s a bit more street!’

So there you have it – easy as that! Now as it happens I quite like our name and its worked well for us but given the chance again I probably would have put some more thought into it and considered the future when it started to become a known name in our town – I’d urge anyone going through this process to do the same.

2). Register your domain name – I pondered over which should come first – this point or the next. I decided on domain names because of the difficulty of getting good ones these days. In an ideal world your domain name would:

  • Be Short(ish) – although almost every permutation of 3 and 4 letters have been taken
  • Protect your brand – register .com / .co.uk / .net and any other relevant endings for your type of business
  • Try and avoid hyphens where possible – they are difficult to spell out over a phone and confuse people
  • Not point traffic at competitors or unsavoury sites – If you can’t get all the endings for a domain you want, make sure you check what is on the ending that’s already registered. Users make mistakes and you want to see what site you’ll be sending traffic too – I’ve seen some terrible examples of this happen to people I know

If you’re not sure on domains then take advice and talk to people that know about them. At Optix we regularly advise on domains and register on our clients behalf. Give our office a call on 01392 667766 if you want some friendly help.

3). Register your company name – Once you have the name you should probably do a few things based on where you want to take the business. I’m a firm believer in starting by creating a limited company where you’re protected as the business owner. You probably don’t know if you’re going to make a success of it, so the more protection the better. If you’re on a shoestring, then you might not be able to afford to speak to Solicitors at this stage, but in an ideal world you’d want to check there are no trademarks or other legal issues you could come up against later, when you become well known. A solicitor will be able to run quick checks on names to let you know whether this is likely to be an issue. As a startup I never saw the importance of this but as I’ve become more business savvy and seen examples of people having to change brand and company names that they’ve poured thousands and thousands of pounds into, because they never made these checks, I now understand the need for it. Registering a company name is something you need to do at Companies house – there are plenty of agents out there that will do it all for you for about a hundred quid – We used a company called Jordans who were excellent.

4). Find a good Accountant/Bookkeeper – The number of small business owners that I meet that try and do their own books and accounts is unbelievable! Why would you do that? It’s hard enough running a business as it is without then having to work out a whole new world of numbers that go with it. Oh, and then there’s the small point about getting it wrong as well. You don’t want that to happen or you could end up with all sorts of problems to deal with. There are plenty of fantastic bookkeepers and accountants around who are setup to help start-ups. You won’t need someone in full time, you’ll probably only need that person one or two days every week/month at first, to enter data and help with things like Tax and VAT. For under £20 an hour (bookkeeper) that is money well spent in my opinion and one I truly feel any small business needs to budget for. Accountants are more expensive and I would advise trying to find one you can pay for monthly rather than getting lumbered with a large bill when accounts come round each year – this will help cash flow and save you from a yearly heart attack each time you file your accounts.

5). Find a good Solicitor – Like Accountants, Solicitors are a necessity for some things. You can probably word your own terms and conditions and contracts if you want but you’ll be on thin ice if anything happens and you need representation. When you get into the world of leasing or buying, you’ll have to employ a solicitor to assist you anyway. My advice is get in with a firm early. There are lots of firms out there who will offer you 30mins to an hour free and my advice would be to go and speak to a few and choose someone you like and has a good reputation. We work with a firm call Ashford’s whose head office is in Exeter but they work all around the world. The guys at Ashford’s are fantastic and I can recommend them wholeheartedly – They’ve acted for me on a number of things, all business related.

6). Talk to local business advisors – Some love em, some loathe them, but my experience of organisations like Business Link has been relatively positive. Find a good advisor at this organisation and they will really help you succeed in business and here’s the best thing for you start-ups – its FREE! Yes the magic word! Because of the fact its free they are usually stacked out which is why I always recommend you find yourself  mentor as well and pay them (See this post about mentoring). Give Business Link a call and they will help signpost you if they can’t answer questions themselves.

7). Find a good Bank Manager – Notice how I say Bank Manager and not just Bank? Your relationship with your bank manager will be critical to your success. You never know when you’ll want that overdraft extended or perhaps the limits on your card increased, or even just a better rate on something. Well this will almost certainly come down to your relationship with your bank manager. Go to each bank and spend some time with the commercial managers there and choose on relationship and gut feel (throw in some sense on what they are offering too of course). We love our bank manager at Optix (bet you don’t hear that said very often!) – If you’re in Exeter then I would be delighted to make the introduction to him should you so wish.

It’s funny how things flow back to you when you start writing about the past. Start-up can be a really exciting time – just make sure you’re not too proud to get as much advice as possible and soak it all in. As ever, I wish you the best of luck.