The business expert talks about challenges of expanding and re-branding a company and why planning is key to business success

Stephen Attree

About your business

Founder name: Stephen Attree
Company name: MLP Law LLP
Company location: Altrincham, Liverpool and MediaCityUK
Staff numbers: 27
Date started: 1989

Tell us what your business does:

MLP Law is one of the leading commercial law firms in the North West. It delivers a range of specialist business and private client services, from corporate law to probate advice, to individuals and businesses across the region.

Where did the idea for your business come from? What motivated you to start it?

The law firm was originally set up as Myers Lister Price Solicitors (MLP Solicitors) in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, in 1989. Co-founders Ronnie Myers, Michael Lister and Gillian Price, who had all previously worked with each other at another law firm, set up the business to provide private and commercial legal services in Greater Manchester.

After Ronnie Myers and Gillian Price retired in 2002, Michael Lister decided to step back from the managing director role to become non-executive chairman in April. Now the company is called MLP Law following a re-brand in October 2014.

What did you do before?

I joined MLP Law in January 2011, after moving from a city centre law firm where I had been a partner since 2004. At MLP Law, I was leading the business service group within the firm before becoming managing director in 2014.

What did you have to overcome (if anything) to start it and get it off the ground?

The process of rebranding to MLP Law presented many obstacles that we had to overcome – creating a new name, logo, marketing literature and even a web domain. This all came during a period of unprecedented change as a new leadership team was put in place, new investment had been secured and ambitious new growth targets had been put in place.

What makes your business stand out from others like it?

We identify what our clients’ successful outcomes would be and work to achieve those results, with an extremely high focus on customer service. Our lawyers deliver straightforward advice with in-depth commercial insight.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Since becoming managing director, I’ve tried to re-energise the business and focus on helping small- and medium-sized businesses and company owners. There have been a number of successes in the last seven months or so, such as retaining existing clients and winning new ones.

Perhaps the first big breakthrough was opening our new office on Penny Lane in Liverpool. This has enabled us to reach clients from all over the North West rather than just Greater Manchester.

Your business tips

You’re prime minister for a day. What would you change for small businesses?

I would reduce corporation tax to help and encourage small businesses to grow, without the worry of a crippling tax bill. I would also reduce the level of regulation and increase access to funding.

What’s your best customer service tip?

Listening to your client/customer is extremely important. After all, you’re delivering a service that they’re paying for so you need to acknowledge what it is that they want, or how you can improve your service to better facilitate their needs. Tell your customer what you will do, why and when, and always do what you’ve promised.

What would you do differently? (What have you learnt?)

The main thing I’ve learnt so far is the importance of taking your time, planning well and reviewing your actions afterwards so that you can identify any mistakes and learn from them.

What one piece of advice would you give to people who want to start their own business?

Planning is one of the most important things that you should do. Produce a three-year business plan and set out what your goals are. What are you aiming to achieve? Write this down and revisit it often so that you can monitor whether you are still working towards your goal. Then execute your plan and go for it!