Write manuals that describe all repeatable processes. Once in a while, follow the manual you wrote to a T.
Andrei Mincov is the founder and CEO of Trademark Factory®, the only firm in the world that offers trademarking services with a guaranteed result for a guaranteed budget.
Andrei became a copyright lawyer over 20 years ago when his father, Mark Minkov, a famous Russian composer, caught a radio station stealing his music to make a commercial for Samsung. While still a law school student, Andrei took this case all the way up to one level below the Supreme Court of Russia—and won!
Andrei has since helped thousands of clients ranging from individuals and small startups to multi-billion-dollar corporations like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Dreamworks, to celebrities like J.K. Rowling.
In 2007, Andrei moved to Canada, went through 3 more years of law school, and in 2011 founded an intellectual property law firm.
In 2013, he came up with the idea of Trademark Factory®, a service that would offer predictable, guaranteed trademarking services. This idea grew into a business model that has helped hundreds of business owners and entrepreneurs protect their brands—without spending a dime to find out if their brand is trademarkable and without having to worry about never-ending invoices. Two years later, Andrei voluntarily gave up his lawyer license to focus on the entrepreneurial side of scaling Trademark Factory® up.
Where did the idea for Trademark Factory® come from?
After a very successful career as an intellectual property lawyer in Russia, I moved to Canada 10 years ago to start everything from scratch. This included having to go back to law school for 3 more years. I discovered the world of entrepreneurship when I realized that despite having finished top of my class, I did not get any employment offers from Canadian law firms.
So I started one of my own. And very quickly, I realized that my success in this business would have very little to do with my excellence and my brilliance as a lawyer and everything to do with my abilities as a marketer and a sales guy. Unfortunately, back then, I didn’t have any of those abilities. So dozens of seminars, books, and webinars later, I finally started to figure it out.
As part of my journey, I decided to attend my very first International Trademark Association annual meeting. And just to give you an idea what it’s like, imagine ten thousand trademark lawyers from all over the world in one room. That year, it was actually 10,500 lawyers.
If there is one thing I learned about marketing by that time it’s that I couldn’t just go into a room with 10,500 lawyers without having anything unique about my business. So I came up with a memorable name, Trademark Factory® and a three features that were the opposite of how everyone else was offering trademarking services. I said, we’d run free trademark searches, offer a single all-inclusive flat fee and a 100% money-back guarantee if the trademark would be rejected by the Trademarks Office.
A couple of months later, I realized that what started as a bunch of marketing gimmicks became a viable business model, and so laser focused my business around that. So much so that I actually gave up my Canadian lawyer license in order to scale this trademarking business internationally. Right now, flat-fee trademarking services is the only thing we offer—and our clients love it!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m a night owl. I make a conscious effort to be in bed by 3am, but it’s usually a huge challenge for me. When I wake up, around 9am, the very first thing I do—before I get out of bed—is I write down answers to 7 daily questions:
1) Who’s got my money today (what my #1 revenue-producing activity)?
2) What do I do today to grow Trademark Factory® (what is my #1 activity for long-term growth)?
3) What makes me a better business owner today (what do I read, learn, or do today)?
4) What makes me a better husband today?
5) What makes me a better father today?
6) What make me a better drummer today (I’m a diehard amateur drummer)?
7) What do I do for fun today?
I then structure my day around these priorities.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Some of my best ideas come from me putting myself in the shoes of our customers or our team members. I would replicate the process they’re going through and identify inefficiencies I had no idea about before. This way, we’ve implemented some massive structural changes that make Trademark Factory® a much stronger business today.
In addition to that, each team member must answer two monthly questions: “What if we could…” and “What is your biggest obstacle…” Some amazing ideas came out of these two questions!
What’s one trend that excites you?
Modern software and communication technologies make it possible to assemble amazing virtual teams and reach unmatched productivity.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am very good at seeing algorithms behind processes, so it’s my natural inclination to templatize and automate things. While I’m equally good at automating processes that don’t work, overall, this habit has not only saved me thousands of hours, it allowed me to build an entire business around efficiencies that automation provides.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Funny you should ask that. I just wrote a song about this. So I’m just going to quote from it: “Dreams worth dreaming are dreams worth fighting for.”
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
We should reduce the governments to their proper roles of protecting individual rights through only three things: military to protect against foreign invaders, police to protect against street violence, courts to protect against fraud and to enforce contracts.
This means getting the government out of licensing and regulation business. Yes! That includes letting the market take care of certification of lawyers and doctors.
This also means getting rid of private anti-discrimination laws. It’s not the government’s role to pick and choose interests of one group of people over those of another. And it’s certainly not the government’s role to place interests of any group over those of an individual.
And finally, it means getting rid of antitrust laws because instead of favoring free competition, these laws actually curtail it. It’s not the government’s role to punish success and provide artificial support to the unviable.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Write manuals that describe all repeatable processes.
Once in a while, follow the manual you wrote to a T.
Doing so will identify inefficiencies in both the manual and the processes the manual is attempting to describe.
Fix the processes.
Rewrite the manuals.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
About two years ago, I joined a mastermind group led by my mentor, Dan Lok.
What I realized that a mentor is the person who will tell you today everything that you will be able to figure out by yourself—much later.
In business, timing is everything. It’s not just about whether you can figure it out eventually, it’s about whether you can figure it out before it’s too late to even matter.
Having a business mentor by my side who can nudge me in the right direction was one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my life.
And the most valuable skill I learned in the process is to ask questions instead of trying to figure everything out on my own.
It also taught me that you can’t save your way into prosperity. You don’t get big by playing small.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I was 20 years old, I became a co-founder and CEO of a music publishing business. This was a part of a deal between my father, a famous Russian composer, and a Russian record label. I had no clue what I was doing or how to run a business, but we were making some small progress.
Then, in 1998, Russia went through a massive financial crisis. Assets of many companies were frozen or lost, so they simply stopped paying for intellectual property.
Seeing that no money was flowing in, I made a decision to dissolve the company and revert our catalog back to the authors.
If had hung on to the catalog, it would have been easily generating 6-figure revenues, monthly.
For many years, I looked at this decision as proof that I’m not made to be an entrepreneur or run a business.
That is, until I started my law firm in Canada some 13 years later.
It dawned on me that there was no earthly reason why I should have expected to succeed as entrepreneur without knowing anything about the skills that successful entrepreneurs should possess. I used to think that you are either born with it—or you’re not.
Took me a while to realize that marketing, sales, leadership, negotiation, deal-making are all learnable skills…
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In order for a business to be successful today, it has to transcend “me-too” and “me-better” categories. The only way to succeed in today’s environment is to become a “me-only” business.
There has to be something about which you can legitimately claim that you are the only one in the market. Being able to make such a claim instantly gives you a massive competitive advantage. And the easiest and cheapest way to make such a claim is through trademarks.
No, I’m not talking about cute logos.
I’m talking about naming your processes, products, and services. I’m talking about claiming ownership over your taglines that sell.
Let me give you a few examples.
Ford used to run ads each of which would end with “Only Ford has Ecoboost Fuel Economy.” Interestingly, they never bothered to tell you how Ecoboost was better or even different from other fuel systems. They never even told you if “Eco” stood for economy or ecology. They just said that they were the only ones that have it.
What makes Chevron gas unique? Yes, they’re the only ones that have Techron in their gas. Nobody knows what it is other than it’s a name that they trademarked.
The human mind is wired in a way that whenever someone is trying to sell something to us, when they say that only their product has a certain feature, we automatically assume that it’s got to be good. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be mentioning to us, right?
By owning a name for your processes, products, and services, you get to claim uniqueness—even if there is nothing unique about what you do. Simply saying that you use a proprietary XYZ process to deliver results will make a world of a difference in your marketing.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
With me, it was $50. But before I tell you the story how I spent it, let me provide a bit of background.
I recently realized that our lives are as miserable as what we allow ourselves to tolerate. The things we tolerate—I call them “tolerations”—can literally destroy the quality of our lives.
A toleration is basically something that kind of works, but not really. When something is broken, getting rid of it is a no-brainer. It’s the stuff the sort of works, but not the way it’s supposed to, or not the way you’d like, that typically aggravates us.
Five years ago, I bought something that I had been dreaming about for over 20 years, my first drumkit. Within a week after spending over $7,000 on it, I ripped the mesh head of the kick drum because I installed the beater on my kick pedal with the wrong side facing the drum. With some love and duct tape, the mesh head lasted me for the entire 5 years. And would have lasted me another 5 years, probably. But every time I sat down to drum, guess what I had to look at? The goddamn patched-up hole. A new mesh head costs about fifty bucks. But because the old one was perfectly functional, I kept tolerating it.
Then I finally made the decision to replace it. And guess what?
I’ve been adding expensive cymbals to the kit, I’ve been buying up new toys to make it even better, but the thing that REALLY did it for me was simply replacing the one thing that kind of worked.
Every time I sit down to play my drums now, I’m a happy man!
The lesson here is that it’s much easier to improve the quality of our lives by getting rid of tolerations than by adding new things we think we might love.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
On top of our own proprietary software, we use a ton of third-party cloud-based and desktop software that makes us more productive. I’ll name one that’s relatively obscure but that saves us a lot of time, daily.
It’s Voidtools’ “Everything.”
It searches through the Windows file system and displays what you’re searching for in a matter of milliseconds. With terabytes of files sitting across our drives, how often do you wonder where is that file you’re looking for?
With Everything, I don’t ask myself that question anymore. I just start typing the name—and it magically shows up. It’s one of the first pieces of software that I install whenever I do a fresh installation of Windows on my computers.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Michael Gerber’s “E-Myth” is the best way to see the difference between running a business and being a technician in a poorly managed business.
What is your favorite quote?
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE: “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”
I always add to that, “If you don’t protect your competitive advantage, you don’t have a competitive advantage.”
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.