What's in a name? Quite a lot, it would appear...

Happy Get A Different Name Day!

There are many stories of businesses, and brands, that have, over the years, got a different name. Some have worked out, most haven't.

I always say that naming a business is a little like naming a child; it's stuck with what you decide on, for life. So on that basis, and because it's one of my favourite talking points, here's an excerpt from my book How To Be Your Own Boss As A Single Mum, that explores the naming of your company.

'I don’t know about you but I find coming up with a company name the hardest part of setting up a business. I agonise for what seems like forever, either with no inspiration at all or inspiration that appears to have come from another planet and bears no resemblance to the company I’m trying to form.

And it’s such an important thing to get right. It’s like a personal name; your company is going to go through its life with this moniker – no changing halfway through once you’ve spent a fortune on marketing and brand recognition activities. I know that there are companies that have changed and adapted their names – confectionery companies seem keen on changing brand names every so often for instance – but it doesn’t always pay off, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless it’s an extreme circumstance.

Your business is going to be judged on its name and people will come to their own conclusions about what it stands for – just on the basis of a few letters. It needs to appeal to the target market, as well as not put any other potential clients off. It needs to be easily spelt and remembered.

 

When I set up my company Operation Enterprise, I chose the name because it signified action (operation) and also mentioned what the company was involved in (enterprise).

After about 6 months, I realised that my clients (colleges) didn’t really know what enterprise was. In fact, no-one seemed to know what enterprise was – and those that did had completely differing opinions from one another. Also, when I mentioned the word in staff training sessions it yielded arguments from some teachers who didn’t think that business should be a part of education.

I fast realised that enterprise was a contentious word, so I was going to stop using it. But it was half of my company name. You can see the dilemma.

This begs the question how should you choose your company name? Should you put words in it that describe what you do or should you make it vague and mysterious? Should you use initials only (quite popular) or just one random word that may have nothing at all to do with your business area but is very evocative?

As long as you can tie in your name with your business, and it’s not offensive then you are pretty free to do what you want.

However, a few things to think about:

·         Using offensive words (even if you don’t think they are) or phrases, or even something that has an offensive connotation, is a bad idea. If you want to set your business up as a limited company you won’t be able to use such words in any case. And how many customers are you going to get if you are controversial with the company name? Not many, I’d bet.

·         Beware of giving your company a name that is similar to someone else’s. There are many instances of corporates taking legal action against little companies for trying to trade off their name. You may not be doing that, and it may be the furthest thing from your mind but the management of the other company may well not agree. You’d do the same in their shoes – particularly if your company is a wholesome organisation, and the other company isn’t. It’s all about defending reputation and brand. Steer clear of being a copycat.

Also bear in mind the potential problems of using the name of a company that is no longer trading. You have no idea why they failed – and could well see your company fail too as a result. You may also be in contempt of The Insolvency Act.  Don’t be tempted.

·         Using your own name may seem like a good idea and, after all, lots of companies do it. Joe Bloggs and Sons. Josephine Bloggs and Daughters. Family firms are a fantastic high street institution, and there are many examples of them. However, be aware that this can potentially cause problems for you if your business fails.  Consider using part of it, rather than all of it – or a combination of initials – to be sure.'

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