Naming Your Business
What shall you name your consulting business? Is the name important? How can you make sure that competitors don't steal your name? These are legitimate questions that require an answer before you proceed. The following are recommendations from professional consultants who have successfully named their businesses.
Selecting a Name
Depending on the type of consulting services you offer, your business name can be your own name, a variation of your name, or a unique new name. For example:
Bob Jones, Consultant
Jones Consulting Services
Which business name is better? The answer depends on the image you are trying to project to prospects and clients. Using your own name is practical if your name has defined value. That is, if you have already developed a recognized name in your field, you can make the most of its value.
If your name is not as well known or your business is more formal, consider using your surname — or even a made-up surname — as a component of your business name.
Finally, if you are considering developing a unique brand that isn't tied to your name, pick a name that communicates better to the client. Remember that the name of your business is for the benefit of your prospects and clients, not you.
Protecting Your Name
Businesses with a name of their own are required to file for a fictitious business name permit. Jones Consulting Services is not the owner's name, it's the business name. To conduct business, Bob Jones must file for a fictitious business name (also known as a DBA — doing business as) with the body that governs businesses in the area in which it is located. The filing is required before the business can be set up and the bank will require it before it will open a business account in that name.
Your business name must be recorded if it is anything except your personal name. For example:
Bob Jones, Consultant (DBA not required)
Jones Consulting Services (DBA required)
X-pert Services (DBA required)
Laws regarding fictitious business names vary by state and municipality. Check with local business authorities to determine your requirements.
Branding Your Name
Branding is developing a recognizable image or symbol that represents its owner. Cattle are branded to indicate ownership. Products are branded to make them easier to identify. Coke, Ford, and CNN all are brand names.
If your business has a unique name that you would like to protect, you can file for a registered trademark. You will probably need the services of a trademark attorney to do so. For further information, contact the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a component of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Brands are important because they make selection easier for clients, which builds business. For example, you can look for the McDonald's brand in Peoria or Paris and expect a consistent product. Consumers believe that the brand means fast food of a consistent quality and value. You may or may not choose McDonald's, but, if you do, you know what to expect. That consistent brand image has earned McDonald's trillions of dollars.
No matter how small your new business, you should remember that you are building a brand. You eventually want people to hire or rehire you because they believe your services offer value for the investment. Chapter 12, on marketing your services, will cover branding in greater detail.