In the time since [wp]’s inception, we’ve found that a very common question has come up over the years: how do I protect my brand from others who might try to steal what I’m doing? We’ve seen this run the gamut, from restaurants protecting recipes to service businesses protecting processes. It’s not necessarily a bad question, but what we’ve found is that the answer is typically motivated by fear as opposed to being driven by an acceptance of the need for change. What does that mean? It means that oftentimes people rely on things like a ™ symbol or not wanting to give too much detail on a website in hope that either will protect them from someone taking their hard work, copying it, changing it (just a little), and making it their own.

Here’s the thing (and trust me when I tell you that life gets easier when you accept this fact): if you’re good at what you do, people are absolutely going to steal from you. They’ll take your secret recipe and they’ll take your proprietary process – oftentimes shamelessly. So, you have two options. Option 1: build a moat around your business. Fortify the walls, dig a ditch, and don’t let anyone in or out. Option 2: take the ‘theft’ for what it is (a compliment), embrace that you’re an industry leader, and do what you’ve always done: innovate.

As we see it, there are two key ideas to keep in mind:

1. Brands are about more than the secret sauce

It’s one thing if you invented the iPhone; then OK, I get it, you have some real technology that is worth protecting. But for so many businesses out there, it’s important to remember that the brand is so much bigger than that one stealable element. They can take your recipe or your three-step discovery process, but that’s only a tiny fraction of what your business is all about / why you’ve been successful. Let ’em have it…

2. Protection leads to stagnation

Instead of spending your energy guarding your domain, put that time into evolving. You want my recipe? Take it; I’m already on to the next thing. And in 4 months, you can have that one as well. To be an industry leader, sometimes you have to remind yourself to lead.
Have any thoughts on how you handle this issue within your own business? We’d love to hear from you. Follow us on Twitter.