The clash of moving vans and a lesson in trademarking

When two businesses in two states realised they shared one very similar name, both turned to innovation to survive.

When Tim Bishop and James Bowden started their business Man With A Van back in 2001, they had never heard of Michael Cummins or his similarly-named company, Man And His Van.

Until they decided to set up shop in Sydney.

"When we got our first website up, we heard from 'Man And His Van', up in Sydney," says Man With A Van co-founder Mr Bishop. 

Mr Cummins was an established Sydney mover who owned the business and held the trademark for 'Man With a Van' as well as 'Man and his Van'.

James Bowden and Tim Bishop of Man With A Van.
James Bowden with Tim Bishop have their business Man With A Van based in Victoria. (Supplied)

"He complained about it," says Mr Bishop. 

"What that meant was, we still got our trademark, but it was limited to Victoria."

So they decided to re-route their expansion plans and focus on Melbourne. 

"It helped us not to think about expanding out, which I think is a benefit for us because we've really grown and got a really good business model here that we've focused so much on, instead of spreading ourselves too thin," he says.

They attribute success to their adaptability and management of casual staff who are mostly university students, while keeping customer service at the core of the business. 

Man with a Van
Staff at the business are valued so much, they even have trucks named after them. (Supplied)

For Mr Cummins, customer service is key to his Man and His Van business too.

He founded it in Sydney 25 years ago, starting small before quickly scaling up.

"Without a shadow of doubt if you've got a good idea and if you're convinced it's going to take off then get it trademarked," he said.

"It's a few thousand dollars and it's well worth it."

Man And His Van founder Michael Cummins.
Michael Cummins owns Man And His Van in Sydney and advises new small business owners to get their ideas trademarked. (Supplied)

After doing furniture removals on weekends to supplement his income, he began earning more money than his weekly income.

"So it was really the obvious decision to move into furniture removals," Mr Cummins says. 

Getting his business trademarked helped insulate him when competitors like Man With a Van tried to expand into his territory. 

Man And His Van is based in Sydney
One of the Sydney-based business's focus is on opening a new site. (Supplied)

Both businesses have expansion plans in two different directions: Mr Cummins on storage and supplies, and opening a new site, and Mr Bishop and Mr Bowden in their ongoing removals and volunteer work.

"We've co-existed for the past 15 years or so and it seems to be working out well as long as they're down there and we're up here," Mr Cummins says. 

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