John Wakeman, Chief Executive Officer of B2B integrator OmPrompt, explains why TLA trumps most City law firms.
Analysts Gartner heralded Cloud Computing as an evolution of technology as important as e-business. It went on to award Technology Law Alliance (TLA) client OmPrompt the title of Cool Vendor, a prize that aims to highlight innovative companies working in key technology areas.
Despite the kudos of the accolade and sexiness of its area of expertise OmPrompt CEO John Wakeman has his feet firmly on the ground. Five years in to operations, he still describes the business as “a fairly small start-up”.
Wakeman has worked for and run a number of multinational technology companies and had the pick of the City’s legal brains.
New businesses have different budgets to multinationals but it is crucial that they get their contracts right. When Wakeman started at OmPrompt he discovered a corporate agreement, which he describes as “not terribly robust”. TLA partner Gavin Wakefield goes a bit further, describing the contracts as a “bit of a mess”.
Nevermind the semantics, Wakeman called on Wakefield to sort it out. TLA redrafted OmPrompt’s standard Terms and Conditions for contracts with its customers.
“The challenge that start-ups have is that they don’t really have the budget for quality legal advice. So they do it themselves or copy competitors or use something from a previous life. But it’s very important that they get it right,” says TLA’s Wakefield.
I try and make sure they get really good value for the work I do,” says Wakefield. “We do a lot of fixed price work or offer discounted retainers or split payment terms to help with cash flow.”
It was just seven years ago that the TLA directors set up their own business and Wakefield says he is keen to help clients such as OmPrompt set up their businesses properly and given the chance to succeed unhindered by substandard contracts. And if that means offering a discount then hopefully that will pay off in the long term.
“It pays to be nice to people,” reckons Wakefield.
TLA has continued to advise the company on commercial legal issues including an important deal with Nestle, which is using Omprompt’s latest Cloud Computing technology to enable it to trade as efficiently with its supply chain tail of small customers as it does with major supermarket groups.
“John wants customer-friendly contracts that sell his business as opposed to 15 pages of legalese that cover theoretical risk,”says Wakefield.
He leaves it unsaid that this is the sort of thing you might get from the average big City law firm.
“What does a big City law firm buy you?” surmises OmPrompt’s Wakeman.
“It should buy you reputation and a certain depth of expertise. Well, TLA have established a reputation very quickly and I’m confident that the depth of expertise is there. We’ve only scratched the surface of what they can deliver for us.”
“What does a big City law firm buy you?” he repeats. “Well, big swanky offices which I don’t want to pay for.”