This article first appeared on LinkedIn in March 2015. I was always getting into trouble as a child and breaking the rules. At the time I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t think anyone would notice. I was trying to ‘get away with it’.
One thing I have found fascinating through my experience on TEN’s Shark Tank, is that some people pitching somehow still think they are in the schoolyard, and that cutting corners is OK. But let me tell you this – there’s no ‘getting away with it’ in business, especially not if you’re asking for investment.
If you want to own, run or scale a business you have to do the work. It’s as simple as that. And saying, “I didn’t know” is no excuse. The title of founder, owner or director comes with significant responsibilities.
Some weeks ago we saw Anne pitch her business to us, Simply Moreish Marinades. It became apparent after a discussion on the word ‘moreish’ that Anne was unaware of the difference between registering a business and having that business name trademarked. You too may not have known that there is a difference; my plea is that if you want to start a business, you need to find out about all the regulations and tax obligations, including which legal structure is best for the type of operation you intend to run.
IP Australia is writing about what they see as the faults in each of the pitches on Shark Tank, and offering great advice on what business founders need to do to protect themselves.
And this is the advice from IP Australia, which would have been very helpful to Anne:
Sadly, a simple search of the Trade Mark Register before she started her business may have saved Anne Barclay a lot of hassle. Alternatively, she could have lodged a TM Headstart application for $120 and had Trade Mark examiner do a check on her behalf. If she runs into legal trouble, she may have to take down her website and dump her branded packaging – a costly exercise that could be avoided. This is a useful lesson and practical example for all in business. Simple IP mistakes like these don’t make your business very attractive to investors.
If you’re going to start a business, you simply MUST take care of the detail. If this isn’t your area of expertise that’s fine, just find someone who will help you. Business.gov.au has a great checklist to get you started.
You also need to take into account that the industry you choose to work in may well be regulated. There were a number of food and drink pitches on Shark Tank and the first question we asked every time was, “Do you comply with the regulations? Are product trials required? Is your product approved? Is your product properly labeled?”
Even initial research into food safety will give you an idea of what will be involved in starting a food business – as you may have seen in a more recent episode regarding the “relaxation drink.”
I found the AICD Company Directors Course very useful in learning to understand my responsibilities as an employer and director.
What I have outlined above is not an exhaustive list on what you need to do when starting a business, but it gives you a starting point. One thing I do implore you is that you take the responsibility to find out what’s needed and that you always do the right thing – it could save you not only embarrassment, later but a lot of money.
Who knows what we’ll learn next Sunday at 7.30pm on TEN. And this time you can ask yourself if the person pitching has done the necessary work. Join me live @naomisimson during the program.