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The Name Game: Naming Your Business

by Terri Lonier

If you're like most small business owners, your company means a lot to you -- in some ways, you consider it your baby. You've planned for it since its conception, nurtured it from birth, given it tender loving care, and have great hope for its future.

It makes sense, then, to name your business with the same care that you would name a child. Keep the following seven guidelines in mind as you consider naming your new company.

1. Make the name meaningful.
Since the name is often the first thing someone knows about your business, consider it an important marketing tool. Avoid vague names by thinking about the key focus of your business. Pat's Carpentry Services is more descriptive than ABC Industries. Some people, especially artists and designers, like to include their first or last names in their business names. This can help personalize your product or service, and it is easier to avoid conflicts with a business name that includes your personal name.

2. Make sure the name is easy to understand and pronounce.
Because you want your business name to be passed along easily by word-of-mouth, make sure it is easy to understand and repeat. Those with unusual names know this can present a challenge but can also provide for a memorable business name, once people have it in their minds. Also, shorter names are usually more memorable and less likely to be sources of confusion.

3. Choose a name that you can live and grow with.
Be forward-thinking in your choice of a business name, so it can expand as you do. The name Anytown VCR Repair can limit a business that wants to expand to include laser disc players, camcorders, or other electronics equipment. Choose a name that is broad enough to give your business growing room and narrow enough to retain the power to communicate its focus. Also, make sure the name will outlast current fads or trends. What will happen to Jan's Radical Clothing Design in 5-10 years? It's likely that radical will either have changed meanings or will sound hopelessly dated.

4. Make it unique.
As a sole proprietor, you'll be required to file legal forms indicating your business intent and the fictitious name you've chosen. Your name must also be unique, since two businesses in the same geographic area cannot legally operate under the same name. It's a good idea to prepare a list of three or four alternate business names when you go to file, in case your first choice is taken.

5. Try it on for size.
In choosing a business name, jot down a list of possibilities and try them out on friends and family. Don't rush the process. Live with each possibility for a while. Remember, you'll probably be using this name for quite some time.

6. Does it work in print?
Remember that your business name must also look good in print, because that's the way most prospects and customers will encounter it first. Write your name out several ways, and also experiment with how it looks in different sizes and type fonts. Is it easy to spell? Also, a name that comes earlier in the alphabet is always a plus since many listings are alphabetical (take it from someone who has battled being a "W" of Working Solo for more than a decade!).

7. Turn to designers for a professional-looking logo.
When it comes time to put your business name in print, turn to professionals to create your logo and letterhead. These days, you can achieve very polished results even if you have a modest budget. This is an area where it really pays to hire a professional. Unless you're a graphic designer, don't take the chance of having a "home-made" look. It will pay off in the professionalism you will be able to achieve right out of the starting gate. In fact, this is such an important topic, that I've created an entire article on logo design. You can check it out here.

Naming a business is not always easy, but it can be fun. Choose a name that will provide a good image and will communicate your business purpose clearly. Also, make sure you like it. After all, you'll be spending a lot of time with this baby. By selecting wisely, you'll make your business name a valuable company asset, and a phrase you'll say with pride for many years to come.

Copyright 1997-2006 Terri Lonier. All rights reserved.
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