Your business name has to describe what your business does. Like the domain name, it should not offend anybody (unless that is your intention) and it should be easy to remember. If your business is geographically based, you can put a community in the name. My computer consulting business name is Cameron Park Computer Services and yes, I am based in Cameron Park, California.
You have a punch list to complete when creating a business legal name:
- Choose between a person’s name and a company name. My business could be “Mark’s Computer Services” and not “Cameron Park Computer Services.” Naming it after myself would stamp it on me forever. Even if I sold the business, folks could call and ask for Mark. Stamping my name on the business would not work to my successors’ benefit, but it could work elsewhere. Folks can buy cookies at their local Mrs. Field’s cookie store knowing that Debbi Fields is the founder but probably will not take their order. This friendly name works well for Mrs. Field’s cookies. It may or may not work well for you. Whatever name you choose, stick with it. Changing a company name and brand can leave your customers lost and asking, “Whatever happened to them?”
- You need to register the name. This helps ensure that you have exclusive permission to use the name and also helps generate revenue for your local government. I am in El Dorado County, California and will discuss what I did here to make my business legitimate. Regulations for your community will differ. My editor lives in Sacramento. She told me she registered her business with the City of Sacramento…not her county. She also purchased a home occupation permit. Check your Secretary of State’s web site to see what you need to do.
- Make sure someone else isn’t already using the name. It’s a good idea to check online at the U.S. Patents & Trademarks Office to make sure the name you’ve chosen isn’t already a federally registered trademark. The same holds true regarding logo design. Here’s an example why this is important. Doctor’s Associates, the company that owns Subway Restaurants, is trying to trademark the word “footlong.[i]” They feel they are marketing “footlong” Subway sandwiches and therefore own the name. A large grocer in Iowa is suing Doctor’s Associates and claiming that “footlong” is a general term and not specific to Subway sandwiches. This litigation may never reach an end, but the point is clear. If you choose a name that is trademarked or that somebody is trying to trademark, you may incur legal bills and other nightmares.
- Get a business license. I have an El Dorado County business license because, according to the document itself, “It is unlawful for any person to transact any kind of business in the unincorporated territory of the County without possessing an unexpired and unrevoked County business license….” Need I say more?
- Get a fictitious business name. I am a proprietorship and therefore have an El Dorado County fictitious business name certificate. According to the document itself, “The fictitious business name statement shall be filed with the clerk of the county in which the registrant has his or her principal place of business in this state.…”
- Start doing business with a separate checking account. After I filed this document with the County, I took it to my bank and opened a business account under the name Cameron Park Computer Services.
- Advertise the business. I also advertised my fictitious business name in a local newspaper because, according to the document itself, “Within 30 days after a fictitious business name statement has been filed, the registrant shall cause it to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the fictitious business name statement was filed.”
Mark Anthony Germanos is the author of two books, Escape the Cubicle: How to leave your corporate or government job for something better and How to Make Computer Systems Work for You. He has faith in a slow but sure Sacramento business revival. Sacramento small business owners are leading the way. His second book, Escape the Cubicle, is for those who want to escape cubicle jobs and become successfully self-employed. Escape the Cubicle answers the questions: "How can I grow my business" and "How do I become my own boss."
Mark is the President of Cameron Park Computer Services. As a business owner and computer networking consultant, he has seen habits that successful Sacramento small business owners embrace. He helps Sacramento small business owners embrace those habits to increase their profits, efficiency and happiness. An advocate of Sacramento business revival, Mark believes everybody should run their lives like a small business, perform SWOT Analyses and use social media campaigns to improve business. He used to say “social media is stupid.” That was until he attended a conference and saw how Sacramento small business owners can use social media campaigns as a valuable tool. Since then, he has earned more than $40,000 in business via social media. His Sacramento small business clients also have five-figure returns. Sacramento small business owners that launch social media campaigns give themselves a comparative advantage over those who lag behind. Mark does not do everything, but his clients do receive great results and participate in the Sacramento business revival when they follow his advice.
Mark moved from Chicago and restarted his business in California with a cell phone and a Honda Civic. An active triathlete, he has a life, a dream wife and a dog. For additional details, visit http://markanthonygermanos.com. Twitter: http://twitter.com/markgermanos. Facebook: http://facebook.com/markanthonygermanos. LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/markgermanos.