Giving birth to a company name

Choosing a Company Name for Your Enterprise

Wybrand Ganzevoort Entrepreneurship Articles Leave a Comment

We’re expecting

Company nameIt’s happening. You’ve taken the leap and decided to launch your own business. But where do you start? How do you take your budding idea from conception to the birth of a business?
To set the scene, I will make the assumption that you are running on a bootstrap – in other words, you are starting your business on a very low budget.  There’s no rich Auntie who has set up the nursery with classic furniture. Your baby is not coming out in designer clothing. This post is written from one Entrepreneur who started their business on their own to another Entrepreneur just starting out.
Standard advice is to start by engaging with customers, but before you think about doing so it’s useful to get a few things in place first.

Taking the first breath

Ok, so here’s the thing.  The instant you start your business you are in a race.  Your baby needs oxygen and it needs it now. A newborn won’t survive without air and your business won’t survive without cash. Some people have put their trust in you – your wife, your kids and maybe even employees.  It is a myth that an Entrepreneur makes it on their own.  All of these people are involved in your success and you have to recognise that.  So, from the moment that you start the race you have to use the most valuable resource that you have – time.  During the day you need to get out of the building and meet with people, while during the night you need to work on your marketing, your planning and your budgeting.  When do you sleep? You don’t – at least not much.

Introducing…

Often, the very first thing that companies consider doing is registering their business.  This is good, but you might want to hold off on this and first make sure that your business idea has value.
You are, however, going to need a company name.  You may feel, like many entrepreneurs, that you want to stick your own name onto the company.  That’s fine, in some cases, especially if you are a solopreneur, but think twice if, as in my case, 90% of the population struggles to pronounce or spell your name.
Remember that the aim of starting your business is to grow it. Would having your personal name then be a hindrance? As your business grows, is your personal name going to attract loyalty from employees?  In the future you might want to step out of the company, or get partners in; how will it work if your name is linked to the company?  Take Richard Branson as a case in point.  He could have called his company Branson Trading or Branson Inc. but he chose to call his company Virgin.  Which would you say is sexier?
Now in some cases you might want to use your name for the company name – lawyers are a case in point.  Personal names can invoke some feeling of trust in the partners of the company.  This might be good at the start of the company, but starts getting tricky once the company is larger and the partners cannot devote as much attention to the clients as they did previously.

What’s in a name?

If it’s not advisable to use a family name then what should you use?  Many Entrepreneurs consider a name that is linked to the business offering.  You may think that Bryanston Show Repair is the perfect description of your business but what happens if your company grows larger than the geographical region of Bryanston, or if your company decides to branch into handbag repair?
If your company wants to position itself as a service provider specific to a region, then in some cases it might be good to use the name of the geographical area in your name. An example of this is a radio station that only has a licence for a specific geographical area.  You might want to be known as the Radio station for that area, particularly if you are a community radio station.
However, there are many companies that do not want to be linked to a region, and with the use of the internet, might even want to sell internationally.  What then?
Well then you need to build a brand, a brand that will stand out and separate itself from the names of other brands in the industry.  Let’s have a look at a few companies that have done so:

Xerox

What does Xerox mean? Well few of us know.  Named in 1958 the company was named after its new innovation,  Xerography, based on the Greek, meaning ‘dry writing’.  Today few of us know what Xerox means, but we use the name to refer to the process of making copies.  This is the ultimate achievement of a great brand, to make the consumer associate the functionality of the offering with the brand.  Here are a few other examples:  Tipp-Ex, Bubble Wrap, Jacuzzi and Kleenex.

Apple

Name your company after a popular fruit.  Why do that? Well in retrospect we could speculate that Steve Jobs wanted his devices to become as popular as the fruit he named if after, but the real reason is that he wanted to position himself as a technology company that is not complicated and is known for its simplicity.  The name Apple did just that, but it also stood out among other brands that now sounded complicated in comparison.
Here are a few other names that you don’t know the meaning of:  Samsung, Mazda, Oros, Nestle.

The sky really is the limit when it comes to selecting or creating a name. So why not give your baby the identity that it deserves? An identity that is new, creative and is able to grow beyond yourself.

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