NEW: Jane Shelton

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Business value is a slippery beast for the home-based entrepreneur – here are some tips on boosting your value now.

Lock in your IP value now

Jane Shelton

Talking with a number of Adelaide locals last week reminded me that home-based business operators are not only quite entrepreneurial but also willing to tackle challenges that the big end of town simply does not have to face.

I’ve been looking into the creation of value by home-based business entrepreneurs, and thinking about the current market uncertainties. The big question for any small business operator is how to generate superior value through closer customer relationships, business know-how and intellectual property rights.

It’s hard to know the longer term effects of the melt down of the sub-prime markets in the US and the effects of bailing out Northern Rock in Britain, but one thing is for certain – it’s going to be critical to carefully look at the tightening credit squeeze and the effect on longer term viability and market development.

Economic stability is likely to continue for the next couple of months as the Federal Government maintains a steady-as-she-goes course to avoid any nightmares for independent contractors and home business operators between now and the election. This means that things should be relatively calm in the home business environment between now and the end of November (with only a very slight prospect of a further 0.25% increase by the RBA).

Things may be very different after the federal election. If there’s a turnover of control, markets may be spooked until the line up of newly minted ministers plays itself out in the market. If the home team wins a record term, there will be uncertainty until the name of the new treasurer is known (Downer or Turnbull?). Either way the lending market is likely to see the big banks cutting back on liquidity to soak up all the cash that’s splashing around from all of the rush to the finish line.

What does all this mean for the home-based business? We’re going to face tougher lending requirements due to the tightening of the global purse strings.

It will be critical for the home business to capture value in closeness to customers, ensuring total satisfaction and delight with purchases, services and business relationships. The home-based business must plan now to work harder than big business to exceed customers’ expectations. Now’s the time to build a loyal, repeat-business, core customer base.

On top of this, home business operators should aim to become extra savvy in securing intellectual property (IP) rights within the business. These rights can be very attractive to big business seeking to maraud rights to consolidate market positioning – that is, big business will be looking to buy IP rights from home-based business to fit into their market portfolios – for example, purchase of a suite of patents to capture market spaces.

Remember that your business processes and intellectual capital (the know-how about how things are done in the home-based business) can be a storehouse of value. Your home business needs to secure valuable patents, trademarks, business names and trade secrets. Use IP management systems to protect your major IP assets and lock in the value by:

  • Registering your IP & IC – intellectual property and intellectual capital.
  • Keeping and maintaining trade secrets; only tell people part of your idea, leave out the bits that make it work.
  • Putting in place NDAs – non-disclosure agreements.
  • Using confidentiality agreements with suppliers, key staff, potential investors.
  • Building your home-based business brand.
  • Enforcing breaches of your rights so people know you mean business – this is a big part of the process, making sure you police the mis-use of your intellectual property.

Next time we’ll have a look at the other key element of intellectual property – branding for the home-based business.


Dr Jane Shelton not only runs a business from home but is doing business research into people working from home. She is managing director of Marshall Place Associates, Melbourne’s independent think tank, and CEO (honourary) for ‘Life. Be in it.’ International. Shelton has a Doctorate in Business Administration at the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship (AGSE) at Swinburne University of Technology after a Master of Arts in Public Policy at Melbourne University and a Bachelor of Business in banking and finance at Monash University.

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