July 23, 2014

Small Business Advice

A good business name conveys what you do

Jerry Osteryoung | 8/5/2013

A business name is important because it communicates what the business does and how it can help its customers. It represents in words what you do, and it must be vetted very carefully to ensure it says the right thing.

I recently went on a bicycle ride sponsored by Sunshine Cycles. They hold group rides every week, which I enjoy.

During one ride, I struck up a conversation with the guide, Brady Irwin, who is the manager at Sunshine Cycles and part owner of the business next door called The Science of Speed. We talked about his business goals and I asked what The Science of Speed did. He explained it helps runners and cyclists improve their endurance and speed for competition.

To accomplish this, they use neat computer technology that, among other things, is able to optimize the fit of a bike to an individual rider. You would be surprised how much difference a small thing like seat height or handle bar elevation can make in both speed and endurance.

At one point during our conversation, I commented I’d had no idea what the business did until he told me. He seemed surprised. He had been doing this type of work for a while. To him, the vernacular was not foreign, but to me — and I suspect to other potential customers — it was.

Putting on my mentor hat, I asked him what the business does most. He said athletic coaching to increase speed or endurance. I encouraged him to change the name of the shop to something that would convey that more clearly. Since nothing really novel or unusual came to mind at that moment other than “speed and endurance coaching,” I suggested that he consider using focus groups to help ferret out a name that would really speak to potential customers.

Your business name must clearly state what you do. Something like Jones Services could be just about anything, whereas Awards4U leaves little room to wonder.

Aegis Business Technologies is clear and the firm has changed its name several times as its services have evolved. Tallahassee Powder Coating is pretty clear — assuming you know what powder coating is — but Bill’s Sales is of questionable value.

The bottom line is your name must be crafted to reflect what you do, and this can change over time. Though changing your name can be costly, it presents an opportunity to remind current and potential customers of your existence and tell them a little bit more about your business.

Now go out and make sure that the name of your business resonates with your customers.

You can do this!


Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here. Note: Articles older than 30 days require registration (it's quick and free).

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.

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