Don Charlton | Crain's Pittsburgh

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Don Charlton

Background:  

Jazz HR, formerly Jazz and The Resumator, is a small business recruiting platform that helps recruiters and managers through the hiring process, from posting jobs online to following best recruiting practices. In 2012, the company assisted both presidential candidates' organizations recruit campaign volunteers.

The Mistake:

Not acquiring intellectual property or [other] rights right away can come back to haunt you.

Sometime in 2015, it became clear to us that our original name Resumator had brand equity, but it also had brand liability. We were very well known as one of the top hosting solutions. But over the course of five years, we had started doing more for small businesses than simply posting jobs online. We had become a sophisticated recruiting tool. The problem was people weren’t grasping that our solution was as sophisticated and effective as some of the older, more established companies. The Resumator was a cute and catchy name, but it came back to haunt us. It sounded like a product sold on TV as a Sunday product infomercial. That was a bad thing.

So we scoured the earth for a few name. We weren’t happy with any of the names coming up. We ruled out the word "hire" or "job." I remember sitting in Santa Barbara at a restaurant when the word "thrive" came to mind. We pitched it to the executive team. I bought the domain and did research. I wrote up a huge document around the strategy. Everyone loved it. It was a single syllable. Inspirational. We were pumped.

What I forgot to do was trademark it. By the time I reached out to my operations people to register the name, it was too late. When I found out someone had registered it, I cried. It was the most frustrating, ironic thing. I had this beautiful name for the company, and I didn’t trademark it.

Recognize intellectual property when you see it, secure it and protect your business assets.

Lesson:

Recognize intellectual property when you see it, secure it and protect your business assets.

It could be a patent or trademark or copyright. All these small things may seem like shuffling paperwork, but they are important when it comes to protecting your business. This proved a huge hurdle for us. We eventually renamed the company Jazz and then changed it to Jazz HR.

That’s another lesson. Don’t name your business after an entire genre of music. Potential clients would have had to search through stacks of jazz CDs before finding us.  

Follow Don Charlton on Twitter at @dontrepreneur and Jazz HR at @Jazzdotco.

Photo courtesy of Don Charlton

Do you have a good story you’d like to share, or know someone we should feature? Email nryan@crain.com.
 
And be sure to sign up for your local newsletter from Crain's Pittsburgh.