What's in a name?
Posted on 7th May 2020
Picking a company name is one of the first things you consider when starting a business. It’s a fun part of developing your brand – and it makes everything feel like it’s more real, doesn’t it?
While it is indeed exciting to finally figure out what your business is going to be called, there are various mundane aspects of choosing a business name that you will need to take into consideration.
So, what's in a name?
First of all, you should check the availability of your business name. It seems obvious but it’s a step that many forget to take.
There’s no point in opening your cleaning business and naming it Clever Cleaning only to find out that there are three more companies in the UK with variants of that exact name! It can potentially cause a host of problems from SEO issues to stroppy emails from the other Clever Cleaning business owners who don’t want yet another competitor in their midst.
Next, you should ensure that your company name reflects what you actually do.
If you’re completely stuck and you’re a service-based business owner, using your actual name is usually a fool-proof strategy, but if it’s products you sell, you may have more of a challenge on your hands.
You should also consider whether you intend to branch out into other categories in the future, or whether you’re certain you’re going to stick to the thing you are doing right now and nothing else. The safest strategy is to pick a name that will not narrow your growth, but grow with your company – and, of course, avoid anything that will become dated quickly.
Once you’ve thought of a company name that doesn’t exist already and reflects what you do, you should think about the ease of pronunciation and spelling. You’ll likely have to mention your business name on the phone when quoting your email or web address, so make sure it isn’t something totally obscure if you can help it.
And speaking of web addresses, you should check that the domain you want is available. This one is more straightforward because even if the .com or .co.uk version of your desired domain name is taken, you can of course use alternative extensions such as .org, .net or .co – but .com or .co.uk are preferred because of the familiarity associated with them.
Do I have to use “limited” in my company name?
If you’re a sole trader, then you can call your company anything you like, with some exceptions. Your company’s name cannot include the words/phrases ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership’, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’, and they cannot be the same as an existing trademark.
If you are a private limited company and you’re registered with Companies House, then you are required to use the word ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ at the end of your company name. However you stylise the ‘Limited’ at the end of your company’s name is purely an aesthetic decision, and has no impact on the company is run. To be crystal clear, if you register your company as ‘Dave’s Dog Grooming’, it could be stylised as any of the following and they can all be used interchangeably:
Dave’s Dog Grooming Limited
Dave’s Dog Grooming LIMITED
Dave’s Dog Grooming Ltd
Dave’s Dog Grooming Ltd.
Dave’s Dog Grooming LTD
There are some exemptions to the rule, but you have to meet all of the exemptions, which are:
Your company must be private limited by guarantee
The company’s objects (aims) must be the promotion or regulation of commerce, art, science, education, religion, charity or any profession
The company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association must:
State that any profits or other income should be applied to the promotion of the firm’s objects;
Prohibit the payment of dividends, or any return of capital, to members;
Require each member to contribute to the assets of the business if it is wound up during the time that he or she is a member, or within 1 year of ceasing to be a member; and
State that in the event of the business being wound up, all of the firm’s assets will be transferred to another body with similar charitable objects.
Your name also cannot contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression, or imply that you are connected with the government or any local authorities, unless you get express written permission. The full UK government guidelines on naming a company can be found here.
How to come up with a great company name
There are a few straightforward methods for choosing a company name…
Name & profession e.g. Dave’s Dog Grooming
Sector & random object e.g. Job Finding Tree
Sector & animal e.g. CV Writing Rabbit
Portmanteau (which is when two or more words are joined together to coin a new word) e.g. Netflix is actually a combination of 'internet' and 'flicks' as in films. Bet you didn’t know that one!
While we can’t make your company naming decisions for you, we can help you form a limited company. Feel free to give us a call or drop us an email. We’ll be more than happy to help you!
Nicola J Sorrell -
Founder | Xero Champion | IR35 Expert
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