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Starting a Business

Picking & Registering A Business Name

The name you select for your business will lay the foundation for a successful enterprise that sticks in people’s minds and becomes a fixture in your industry. On the other hand, choosing the wrong name for your business can make you a target for ridicule or will plunge you into virtual obscurity. Some people look for names that give a clue to the products or services the business offers, while others prefer something more clever, abstract, and creative.


Steps To Picking The Right Name

  • Look to the experts. Did you know there are firms dedicated to business name creation? The cost of doing business with these ingenious think-tanks ranges from as little as $50 up to $80,000, depending on how much time, research and ancillary branding services are needed.
  • Brainstorm. Craft a name that is meaningful to your niche and something that emphasizes an aspect of your mission statement. You want something that you find appealing, but also something that will attract the type of customers you desire.
  • Consider a coined name. Companies like “Compaq” and “Acura” went through coined name firm NameLab to devise a powerful and meaningful morpheme. Creating a new word to describe your company isn’t always prudent if you’re a no-frills company, but it can be very distinctive and noticeable.
  • Vet your new name. What if someone already has your dream name? It’s a good idea to have four or five possible selections in mind at this stage of the game. Contact a trademark search firm or a trademark attorney to make sure you’re not infringing on any existing companies.
  • Make the final call. Some entrepreneurs then test a few different names with focus groups or consumer research firms to see which selection resonates with their target market. Other entrepreneurs just read the names aloud, meditate and make their final decision by going with their gut instincts.


Pitfalls To Avoid

  • Don’t get too many brains on board. It may seem like a great idea to ask everyone you know for suggestions, but you risk damaging relationships when you don’t choose a loved one’s “completely brilliant” recommendation. It’s best to keep a close circle of confidants who are either business name specialists or major shareholders.
  • Don’t create a Siamese twin of a word in the name of “creativity.” There is nothing pleasing about amalgamated words like “QualiCare,” “AmeriServe,” or “TranquiSpa.” These made-up constructions don’t fare well in focus group studies.
  • Avoid using words that are overly common. “General Motors” was the first of its ilk, so the name really stood out with consumers. But what if there were a “General Autos,” “General Wheels,” and a “General Car Company?” Suddenly, the name is not so memorable.
  • Don’t pigeonhole your business with a geographic-based name. If you call yourself “Atlanta Plumbing” because that’s where you’re from, you may have trouble explaining that you service other areas in Georgia as well. You may start as “Oregon Paper Company,” but what if you experience tremendous growth and want to spread your business outside the state?
  • Avoid clichés. Names like “Summit,” “Peak,” “Pinnacle,” or “America’s Best…” are tired and overdone.
  • Don’t choose a name that is too complex to say or spell. Maybe you always hoped your last name could be worked into the name of a business one day. However, if your last name is “Bergdignon,” then it may be difficult for your brand to catch on.  


How To Register Your New Name

According to the Small Business Administration, there are 5 steps to register your new business name:

  1. Determine the legal structure of your business.
  2. Register your “Doing Business As” name.
  3. Obtain your federal tax ID, which is called an “employer identification number,” from the IRS.
  4. Register with your state revenue agency to get a state sales tax permit or state vendor’s license.
  5. Get your industry-specific licenses or permits required to operate locally.


Where To Get Help

In most states, you will register your business name in your Articles of Incorporation when you file to become a Corporation, LLC or Limited Partnership. Your local Small Business Administration may be able to help you answer any additional questions you may have.



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Related Articles:
Entrepreneur: How To Name Your Business
Small Business Administration: 5 Steps To Registering Your Business Name

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