Updated: Feb 4, 2020
So you've got an amazing idea for a business and you are getting ready to make the leap into entrepreneurship in Canada. You need a name, so now what?
Choosing a name for your business can be difficult. There are many factors to consider and it can be overwhelming. But stopping now and considering a few things may make it so you don't have to completely re-brand your company later.
Reconsider using your name in the business name.
It would have been simpler, to just go by something with my name in it, than sitting and trying to come up with names I liked that could work. However, it gets mentioned to me a lot that down the road, when I'm ready to retire, it's much easier to sell a business that you are the name of. It can be pretty hard to expect why Jane Doe Cakes, doesn't have a Jane Doe any longer. I've been told that the selling price is often higher if your personal name isn't attached and you have systems in place where not everything is done by the business owner.
I also find that down the line, if you decide to grow to a point where you hire staff or contractors to help you, it's easier to have someone else deal with the customer service issues, if it isn't as obvious that the customer isn't talking to the owner.
Be specific enough for people to know what you do, but not so specific that you can't grow later.
If you are just starting out, chances are this business is going to go in directions you never expected. I started out as being a virtual assistant working part-time from home because my daughter's food allergies were too much for many to handle. Boy am I glad that I branded as Business Services, and not a name with virtual assistant, because what we do now is so completely different from the work I did when I first started years ago.
"I invest in things for the long term and have a long horizon and the flexibility." ~Jerry Yang, co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo! Inc.
Try finding a name that leaves you places to grow in future if you need to revamp your services or products. It could be hard to get people to understand you do more than what's in your name down the road otherwise.
Make it easy to say and spell.
This is actually advice maybe I should have considered a little bit longer. There are issues sometimes with my staff spelling out our email address over the phone. They often have to repeat themselves a few time to make sure that extra 'e' gets in there.
This can also have an impact is you are sponsoring an event and someone is calling out your company name to a crowd, or if you are doing a little bit of advertising on the radio.
When it comes time for a website or social media, is the name you want already taken?
I was recently introduced to this website, and wish it existed when I was getting ready to make my first website.
namechk.com is worth the time you'll spend playing on it.
Considering trying to have the name start with an 'A' or a number so you are at the top of lists.
This maybe isn't as important as it was when the majority of the population still looked up business phone numbers in the phone book or yellow pages. But I have to say when things are alphabetically, we are often at the top or very near the top of the list. Is this a make it or break it decision? No, we can't all have business names that start with an 'A'. But if you are starting from a blank page, maybe you want to consider start with names higher on the list.
Take the time to do a search and register your name.
Yes, a google search is a great idea to start. But I was thinking something a little bit beyond that. A NUANS name search if you are in Canada will show you other businesses operating under similar names, and trademarks. Wouldn't it be pretty terrible to start your business start to build brand recognition and then get a registered letter from a lawyer telling you that you have to stop using your name? That would be the time to have a good lawyer to help you, by the way.
Also, if you are operating a non-incorporated business in Ontario (sole proprietorship or partnership) under your full legal name you can technically operate that business without registering that business for a Master Business License in the province of Ontario (there are more specifics to this--research it more if you are not going to register your business). However, if you are changing the name slighty, like if I wanted to be Tammy's Business Services, that name would have to be registered. There is a $60 fee if you register the business yourself online, and the process isn't so bad. These two websites will help guide you if you are in Ontario:
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