Choosing a name for your business
Like naming your firstborn, coming up with a name for your own business can be pure joy or a long, hard slog. To get it right, you’ll need to combine the spark of creativity with no-nonsense practicality.
The best names let you poetically distill the essence of your company into as little as one word. The worst… well, what you really want to avoid is a name that leaves your voice tinged with regret every time you say it out loud.
Keep it web-friendly
Ideally, you’ll want your company name to match your domain name. Is the .com domain name of your company name available? If so, grab it now. Seriously – stop reading this and go and get it. Failing that, what about the .co.uk domain name? If you can get both, that’s even better. But if neither is available (and if the nature of your business isn’t really suited to a .org domain) you might want to think up a new name that is available or consider an obscure suffix like .info, .net or .biz.
Does it have lasting appeal?
Many people choose a name that reflects their business’s personality. That can work well, as it’s memorable for customers and stands out in web searches. Others go with seemingly made-up, yet catchy words (Google, we’re looking at you). But this can be risky as what sounds bang-on trend now might sound quite dated in 18 months (phones4u.com anyone?).
Keep it simple
Make your name easy to pronounce, easy to spell and easy to remember. Nothing too long, nothing too confusing – make an immediate connection.
Your business name will be coming along with you if you hit the big time. So make sure it can cope as you expand or diversify. DavesWatchesInHull.com might have some local value, but your global appeal will be limited if you get that exclusive Rolex distributor licence you’ve always dreamed of.
Have you tested it?
Run the name by friends and business associates to see what they think. Ask them to be honest – your business might depend on it!
Is it unique – or at least not too similar?
There are a few rules about registering the name for a business. It can’t be the same as a name that already exists. And you can’t get around that just by adding a special character or nailing ‘UK’ on the end. If another business owner claims your name is too similar to theirs, they can raise an objection with Companies House, who might insist you change the name. A nightmare scenario if that large stationery order has just arrived. You can avoid it with Companies House’s name availability checker.
Avoid names others could find offensive or that contain sensitive words or expressions. There isn’t a definitive checklist – common sense is as good a guide as any. And a bit of googling won’t hurt to help make sure it’s not a grave insult in another language.
Also, avoid any suggestion that your business is linked to local authorities or the government (calling a restaurant staff agency Her Majesty’s Silver Service is witty, but it’ll get you into trouble).
Once you’ve chosen your pithily memorable and appropriate new company name, register your company with Companies House
Choosing a business name in a nutshell
Many banana-skins await when choosing a business name. When you’re happy with a name, talk to friends and business partners to make sure they don’t hate it. Check it doesn’t already exist, make sure it’s not offensive to anyone, or too complicated, and that you can turn it into a URL with a .com or a .co.uk suffix. Then register it.