A couple of weeks ago I had an interesting conversation with a group of female entrepreneurs about what we call our businesses. Two of the group used their names, and two (including me) had a separate business name. The conversation was around the power of using your own name, whether to use a separate name was about being less visible and were we in fact just hiding behind a brand name? One of the group had recently changed from a business name to trading under her own name and had received a lot of very positive feedback and increased recognition as a result.
A couple of days later I met with an established woman in business who just the previous day had made a major strategic decision to merge two of her business under one umbrella company. She was very excited about this move, which had taken a lot of planning and thinking about. Her new company is going to trade using her own name because, as she said, “The services may be changing and adapting, but the common theme here is me and my expertise.”
My business name journey
I have worked for myself for around 12 years, in 2 separate phases. Twice I have used my own name, and twice I have moved to using a separate business name. My own journey and decision making process looked like this:
- I started off using my own name, for convenience with banks, HMRC and social media. I traded as Jenny Procter Communications for several years.
- My Twitter handle has been @JennyProcter since 2011 and I had a growing presence there so initially it made sense to use my name in the business.
- I had ambition to grow the business and bring other people into a virtual team, and using my own name didn’t seem to fit.
- The way I spell my surname is unusual – Procter rather than the more commonly Proctor. So there was a huge chance people wouldn’t find me or my business if they were searching online.
- I wanted a nice clear name, but one that meant something to me. When I moved into a house with just such a name, calling my business after the house made sense. Bondfield Marketing was born.
But the conversations I had recently, meant I wanted to explore this issue a bit more. What do other people do, why do they make the choices they do, is there a standard approach to naming businesses, and is finding a separate name difficult? I did a little bit of informal research in a couple of places on social media.
The respondees were all women, with 1 exception. I have no idea if that is relevant, and if anyone has a male viewpoint on this subject I would be fascinated to hear it. My totally unscientific research found a higher number (28 vs 18) used a company name that wasn’t their own name, although many of those had a company name that was relevant to them, either a play on words of their name, the name of a child, a house or in one case the name of a pet. Those that didn’t use their name reported similar experiences to mine with a surname too hard to spell, or they were concerned that the name wouldn’t explain what they did, or they anticipated that the business would grow to a point where one name wouldn’t work any more. Many of those that did use their name said “my business is about me offering my expertise and a great service. My clients buy me, so the business name should reflect that.”
How to make your business name decision
There clearly are no right or wrong answers and whatever you decide now doesn’t have to be forever. But it is fiddly, time consuming and you can incur costs when you change, so it is a decision that is worth some thought. What are the things you might want to consider?
- Can people spell your name? If they can’t, that’s not necessarily an obstacle – it may mean that your name is unique and memorable, in which case it could be a perfect business name.
- Are there others of the same or similar name operating in your industry? That doesn’t mean you have to avoid using your name, but you may need to think about how you are differentiating yourself.
- Are the potential social media handles and web addresses available for the name you choose?
- What are your future company plans? Does your chosen business name still work with those plans?
- How important is it that your clients know the individual they are buying from?
- Do you want to keep your business life and your personal life very separate? In some sectors this may be appropriate for security or confidentiality reasons.
I think there are fashions for business names vs individual name, and we may be going through a fashion which is all about the individual, based on a movement of authenticity and a dislike for large, anonymous organisations. The rise of Instagram is supporting this rise of the power of the individual. But you have choice to do what works for you, your business, your life and your sector.
I’m not about to rebrand my business. Bondfield Marketing is here to stay, and I ensure clients and potential clients know who they are buying by ensuring my personal brand photography is used on all my marketing materials. My business may not carry my name, but I’m certainly not hiding!
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