Pop Quiz, Monday with Mellissa Larkin

Whenever you try to do something differently you’re inevitably starting from scratch – that is empowering but also presents many challenges. You have to be incredibly open-minded and flexible in your thinking.

Mellissa Larkin

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
Mellissa Larkin

Mellissa Larkin
Photo credit: Mellissa Larkin

What is your job role?
Founder & Managing Director of Peripheral Blue

Tell us about your company?
I founded Peripheral Blue in 2016 with the aim of disrupting the legal and professional services industries by giving clients access to top-tier responsive legal and advisory services flexibly and affordable. Our mission is to provide significant and small companies with the legal and business advisory services they need to run their business effectively. Ultimately we want to become our clients’ trusted “thought partners.”

What do you love most about your job?
I love what I do. I always wanted to be a lawyer. But I never imagined I’d be an entrepreneur! Now I get to do both, and have the best of both worlds – I get to continue to provide legal and professional advice for clients and their businesses while building my own business. I’m fulfilling my dream of practising a new, emotionally intelligent style of law in Australia.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
I love that what I do makes a meaningful contribution in so many different ways. We are contributing to the disruption in the legal industry and in doing so, we’re changing people’s perceptions of and experience with the legal and professional services industries. The fact that we’re not just providing ad-hoc or reactive advice, but building genuine long-term relationships with all our clients, means that we get to see how our services really help their businesses to thrive and grow over time.

How do your co-workers inspire you?
When I founded Peripheral Blue, I was determined to create a really collaborative supportive culture. Key to that was ensuring that our team was comprised of people whose values aligned with mine and the company’s. I’m delighted to say that we’ve been really successful in establishing and growing that culture. As a result, we celebrate one another’s successes and willingly support each other during the busy and stressful periods. Engaging with and encouraging my team’s personal and professional growth really inspires me, as does their willingness to try and adapt to new ways of doing things.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
We have a very relaxed work environment. While the work itself and the deadlines are demanding, our actual workplace is fairly fluid. We have deliberately set up collaborative spaces both indoors and out in our office to allow for less structured work discussions and also, just catching up with each other socially during the day. We make the time to go out together to celebrate milestone’s – personal and professional in one another’s lives. We also have dinners and drinks to thank the team for their hard work on certain projects. Because it is such a relaxed, collaborative workplace, opportunities for banter and fun present themselves regularly throughout each day – that’s just part of our culture. I love going to work each day!

What are some of the challenges of your job?
Whenever you try to do something differently you’re inevitably starting from scratch – that is empowering but also presents many challenges. You have to be incredibly open-minded and flexible in your thinking. Because of many people’s preconceived notions of the client-advisor relationship, there’s a process of re-education that’s required to help them really understand what it is that you’re offering, how it’s different, and why you decided to do things so differently. You have to be very clear on your mission, values, and services to be able to articulate that succinctly. As a business owner, I’ve had to learn about cash flow, marketing, HR, business plans, and more. While it required commitment and time to up-skill across those areas, it’s actually made me a better lawyer/adviser because as a business owner myself, I can absolutely relate to a lot of the challenges my clients face on a daily basis.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
Communication is the key to just about everything! As I’ve grown the business and the team, I’ve learned the importance of making sure that things are not only communicated but documented. From a relationship perspective (within the company and with the clients) effective communication is vital. From an efficiency perspective, documenting what’s been communicated and keeping track of tasks and workflow is essential. While we advise clients all the time on best practice and streamlining their processes, as a start-up, we’ve had to create our own processes, and after each project, we reflect on how they can be improved. Our processes are constantly evolving so that we can continue to ensure that we’re providing our clients with the most efficient, effective service possible.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?
Seek (and heed!) advice from trusted advisers or mentors. Be prepared to educate yourself, enrolling in skills-based training if needed. Also, while we strive to do things differently and have reimagined the traditional legal model, the one non-negotiable for me has been recruiting exceptional talent. To be a good lawyer or adviser I believe that you need to have excellent technical training, strong commercial acumen, and high emotional intelligence (EQ). Once you’ve got the expertise and experience and can consider starting a business, you need to be clear on your mission, your market (who your target clients or customers are), what really sets your offering apart from others in your industry, and what the right price point is for the service you’re offering.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:


Emotional Intelligence 2.0

Author: Ricky Singh, MBA

Editor of The Startup Growth.

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