One of the things that should be at the top of your list when starting a new business is choosing a name for that business. This task is something that could make or break your success in the business.
Make your name easy to remember. It should be easy to spell and to pronounce. It should be short, simple and to the point. You should never have to apologize for the name you choose, or have to explain what it means. Your name should be appealing and easy to say. It should sound good when spoken aloud. Your name should include wording that describes what it is you are offering, whether it is a product or a service. Easy Flush Plumbing tells people you provide plumbing services and is a catchy way of saying it. What do you want your name to imply? Your business name is the first thing people will see and they will use the name to decide on whether or not your company is right for them. Are you reliable? Are you honest? Can you provide service quickly and efficiently that is still the highest quality? People want all of these things and more when they are looking for a specific product or service. Reliable Courier Service implies that your company can be relied on to handle all of your customer’s courier needs. If your name implies something bad, it could greatly harm your business. Who wants to do business with a company named Underhanded Bob’s Used Cars? So be very careful of the words you use in your business name.
Names to Avoid
Don’t use a name that limits additions to your product line or services later. Avoid using names with geographical connotations. If you want to expand to a different area, it will make a difference. If you name your business “Spokane Carpet Installers” and then want to expand to nearby Kennewick, it just wouldn’t work. People expect businesses with a city or a place in their names to be in that city or place. It could also limit your business, as people may think it is the only area you service. For example, if you name your business “Reno Home Repairs”, people may think that if they live in a town near Reno, that you won’t provide their service needs.
Have a Fall Back Plan
When choosing your business name you should always choose two or three names that you like. This way, when you check your state for your name availability, you will have something to fall back on if the name you like best is already taken. Use your family and friends as test subjects for your name choices. They can tell you if your choice of name is catchy and has potential to bring in business, or if it is just another boring name to be overlooked in the phonebook or online business search. Your company name should stand out above the others. Customers, clients, vendors, lenders and the community in general will identify your business by the few simple words that make up your name. Make them count.
Meet the State Requirements
Before you file your Articles of Incorporation for a corporation, or Articles of Organization for a Limited Liability Company, You should check with the state in which you are starting your business to see the name you want is available. Most states will not allow you to use a name that is close in spelling or pronunciation to the name of a company already doing business in the state. It is always better to use something original anyway. As Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson said in their book, Rework, “If you are a copycat, you can never keep up. You’re always in the passive position. You never lead; you always follow.” Be a leader!
Most states require your business name to end with a corporate or limited liability company designator. These can include words such as incorporated, corporation, company, Limited Liability Company or their abbreviations, such as Inc., Corp., Co., LLC, L.L.C., etc. An example of this would be the official name for Mrs. Fields Cookies, which is Mrs. Field’s Famous Brands, LLC. Also most states do not allow you to use certain words that pertain to a certain type of business such as a bank or insurance company. You must avoid the use of words such as bank, trust, or insurance unless you have obtained the proper permits to operate in one of these business fields.
Once you have determined that the name you want is available, most states will allow you to reserve that name for a period of time by paying a fee. Not all states have the same time period, but it usually ranges from 60 to 120 days. A few states do not allow you to reserve your name. Name availability and reservation information can be found on the state’s Secretary of State website.
Check for Trademark, Service Mark, or Copyright
You must also check to see that your name choice does not conflict with any trademark, service mark, or copyright. You can do an online check of trademarks and service marks by going to the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) at uspto.gov/ main/trademarks.htm. Names that sound the same, but are spelled differently can still cause a trademark conflict. If Kwality Kare Pet Groomers is the name you want to use, but another company in the state is already operating using the name Quality Care Pet Groomers. Although the name is spelled quite differently, it is still a trademark conflict. Even if the name has not been registered as a trademark, the similar name cannot be used. Trademarks are created by use of the name, not registration. Most are never registered, so you need to be careful. You can check for copyrights at www.copyright.gov/records.
Another thing to consider when choosing your business name is whether or not you intend to apply for a domain name or URL. As you will probably want your domain name or URL to be close to your business name, you will need to check availability for these as well. To do this you can go to www.godaddy.com, www.networksolutions.com, or namechk.com.