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How to Name Your Business: Five Lessons Learned

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power…There are seven words that will make a person love you. There are ten words that will break a strong man’s will. But a word is nothing but a painting of a fire. A name is the fire itself.” — Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind [emphasis added]

As I launch my solo professional services practice, I’ve struggled with naming it. Branding it. Applying words to it. What do I call my business? How do I describe my value in a compelling way? And this leads to more existential questions like: Who am I? What am I doing here?

I have some experience naming. Filled with entrepreneurial spirit, I’ve thought several times about starting my own company. I even developed names for some of them. (They never launched, but you never know, so I’m keeping the names in a locked vault for now.) And, I helped pick a name for my kid. He seems pretty happy with it so we’ll call that a success.

I’ve also finally decided on a name for my current company: Jen Bunk Ventures. I went with my name because I like it, it’s only two syllables, it’s easy to pronounce, and memorable. And it’s the ultimate expression of me. I added “Ventures” b/c it sounds like “Adventures” and that’s what my career feel likes to me.

But deciding on this name was NOT EASY. I went round and round. So, without further ado, here are some things that I’ve learned about the naming process:

Lesson #1: Your first idea may be taken

It may sound good. It may roll off the tongue nicely. But, is there a web domain available? You may be convinced you have the absolute best name for your new Dart Board Shop. But, sorry target.com is already taken. Don’t get too attached to a name until you do the requisite searches which include:

  • A basic Google search (including searching telephone/business directories where you want to do business)
  • *A domain name search (use www.hover.com)
  • A search of the fictitious name database in the appropriate municipality(ies) (for example, the one for Massachusetts is here).
  • If you plan on trademarking, you’ll also want to search: Federally registered trademarks (www.uspto.gov), your municipality's trademark database, and the Thomas Register (www.thomasnet.com)

(I got these great tips about name searching from Stephen Fishman’s book Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Independent Contractors, Freelancers & Consultants.)

*Although .com’s seem to be the gold standard, Don’t write off other top level domains. For example, .io’s are increasing in popularity. Be open to expanding into new online real estate.

Lesson #2: Let it marinate

If you think of a name that passes the name search test, let it go. Let it sit for a day or two. This was really, really hard for me because I am very goal-driven and when I decide on something, I want to do it, dammit! But, I forced myself to forget about naming my company for a whole 12 hours and as I was waking up one morning, in that hazy area between dream and sleep, I decided I found the right one.

Lesson #3: Share it with one trusted person

Just one. If you like it and someone else WHO YOU TRUST likes it, you’re on the right track. The important part is that you trust this person will tell you if it’s not perfect. If he or she has any sort of negative reaction, it’s worth talking it out. Or simply letting it go and trying again later with a different name. I ran several names by my husband and the exchanges went like this:

Me: (Jumping for joy!) Oh, oh! I got it! [Insert name here.]

Him: (Gimace on his face) I don’t like it. It doesn’t work.

Me: (Feigned pout. Hands up in resignation while I turn on my heels and go on with my day.)

Lesson #4: Vision before name

If you find yourself really stumped, it could be because you don’t have an appropriate vision for your company. You have to be clear where you’re going. What makes you unique? What are you offering to the world that differentiates you from the competition? This requires serious but necessary soul searching. And remember, there is nothing wrong with using your own name as long as it feels right for you.

Lesson #5: When you find it, run with it

And never look back. Don’t second-guess yourself. Get the domain name. Register the business name. Obtain the appropriate legal protections. And share it far and wide. Own it.

Spark the fire of your name and it’s light will captivate.

Hey there tech managers! Is leading your team like herding cats? 🐱 🐱🐱Are you sick of making stuff up, without trusted systems to guide you? Are your days filled with useless, time-sucking meetings? Join my Facebook group with other tech geeks who are coming together to build thriving, high-performing teams who don’t need constant hand-holding. No H.R. B.S. Real stories, from real geeks, who understand the nuances of being a techie. Click here to join: https://jenbunk.com/facebook

Written by

Career Coach for Tech Managers. I help tech managers upgrade their careers, their teams, their paychecks, and their lives.

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