What To Avoid When Choosing A Name For Your Small Business

What To Avoid When Choosing A Name For Your Small Business
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So you’ve decided to start a business and you have a great idea for it. Awesome! Now the hard part is trying to pick a name for it. The name is one of the first things potential customers will interact with and could make or break a business. Here are a few things to avoid when picking a name for your small business.

Image from Flickr

Over at Forbes, owner of Worstofall Design Pia Silva shared some advice on how to pick a name for would-be small business owners. She is quick to stress that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to finding a good business name but there are things to watch out for:

  • Don’t pick a descriptive name.
  • Don’t pick a word/phrase that is ubiquitous in your industry.
  • Don’t pick a name that is too hard to spell or pronounce.
  • Don’t pick a name that is accurate over one that feels right.
  • Don’t pick a name that is similar to a competitor in your industry or globally recognised in any industry.

Silva goes into more detail about these points and the backstory for why she settled on Worstofall Design over at Forbes.



  • Don’t use your initials, or the word “Global” in the title.

    I saw a “Global” business in Shepparton once. I suspect the furthest a customer came from was about 50km away.

  • Don’t pick a name that includes a suburb or region (you can’t move or expand)
    Adding your name to the business will forever tie you to the business, making it hard to sell
    Ensure the domain name is available

    • Bank of New South Wales -> Westpac
      Bank of Bendigo
      Bank of Melbourne
      Bank of NY Mellon

      Works well for a while then they invariably get constrained or taken over. But if they are successful I don’t think it costs too much to change the stationary and rebirth the organisation. The tendency is to just use the initials BOQ, IMB, NAB when they outgrow their region. It works particularly well for a bank, gives it solidity and an anchor.

      Many successful businesses go through a series of name changes and takeovers and rarely get it right off the bat. A regional name might suit a business better in its early days. Most businesses don’t take over the world.

      • Bank of Melbourne > St George > Bank of Melbourne
        Unless you want to appeal to a particular market with a sub-brand

        I don’t think it costs too much to change the stationary and rebirth the organisation.
        Oh boy, you’ve got no idea. Changing the font for OzEmail was a mult-million dollar excercise in print material, letterheads, envelopes, signage, boxes, sponsorship, and websites – and that wa sa company with only a national footprint.

        • Yes I am aware it’s in the millions. Big corporations pay millions just to get advice on their new name and logo, fonts etc. It sounds like a waste but they do it as part of a rebranding and marketing exercise when their business has changed significantly.

          Brand consultants Wolff Olins designed the logo in collaboration with PwC employees and clients. The whole process, from initial research to logo launch, took two years at a cost of a few million dollars.” but PricewaterhouseCoopers had $35.9 billion in global revenues in its latest fiscal year. It’s a rounding error for accounts. 🙂

    • Ensure the domain name is available
      And not similar to other domains or businesses. My sports club gets a HUGE amount of traffic from the UK – simply because of similarities in name.

      And if you ever want to do business outside of your state/country – that the business name and domain are registered there too if possible.
      And then register it in China. Because.

      Oh, and try different autocorrects.
      There’s a major ISP that auto-corrects to inept

  • Poor guy in our neighbourhood sold Ming vases. Name of his shop was Long Wang Trade.
    A week later he found out that that’s why people were snickering past his shop so he tried
    to cover up the Wang with masking tape. However it was a lightbox sign, so in the evening
    it would shine through the tape anyway making the situation worse again.

  • So many comments, and nobody has brought up the classic domain name fails? Like the therapist who registered “therapist.com”? or the website for Pen Island (penisland)?

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