Your Startup’s Name is Not a Vanity Plate

Naming your company is a very personal decision, but I strongly recommend that you check your ego at the door before deciding upon a name. Instead of naming my first company Analytic Strategies, I could have called it The Wimmer Group or Wimmer & Associates. Do you know what that “vanity plate” name would have gained me? Absolutely nothing.

My name meant nothing to my target market. My name is not a recognizable brand, and it has zero brand loyalty or following. Not only did it fail to provide any utility, but it also had the ability to impact me negatively. Here’s how.

Your initial senior employees may feel a little awkward working at YOUR NAME & Associates. They want to feel like a vital member of a corporate team, especially in very small companies. They look around the corporate office and see just a few folks who are making the sausage and start to wonder why your name is the only one the shingle. They feel that they’re working just as hard as you and start to wonder they’re just an“associate” vice a partner.

This is a good time to broach a related, sensitive issue. Every for-profit business is designed to make, well, a profit. There is nothing ground-breaking about that statement. However, where those profits go and who is reaping the rewards of employee efforts are not always obvious. If you work for a publicly traded company, like IBM, then profits flow to invisible, unknown “shareholders.” You know that some of these investors are getting rich based upon the outstanding performance and growth of the company, but that doesn’t bother you. In fact, you may feel pride about contributing to your company’s skyrocketing stock prices!

Now, let’s look at the other end of the spectrum with an example. Let’s assume you’re 13 years old and your friend, Timmy, just told you that he stumbled upon a great deal! He asks you if you’d like to make a quick $20 dollars by mowing Mrs. Hudson’s lawn. You say, “sure!” and immediately grab your lawnmower and start cutting grass.

After you finish, you ask Timmy to “pay up.” While you’re standing in the front lawn, he walks up to Mrs. Hudson’s front door and rings the doorbell. When she opens the door, she sees her freshly mowed lawn and smiles. “WOW, Timmy!  You did such a great job!  Here’s the $40 for mowing the lawn and a $10 tip for doing such a great job! I’m definitely giving Timmy’s Lawn care Service a 5-Star Review!”

Timmy gives you a $20 bill while he pockets the remaining $30 in front of you. He asks, “want to do this again next week?”This is small business ownership in a nutshell!  And how does it make you feel as a vitally important member of somebody else’s small business? Most likely, that “quick $20” lost some of its luster after you realized that Timmy made $30 without getting sweaty.

Logically, the money is worth just as much as it was when you were happy for the opportunity to make the “quick $20,” but it’s not the same. You’re a smart person and know that Timmy did work to arrange “the deal.” However, while you’re sweating in the hot sun, covered in grass, thinking logically is not always easy.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence regarding this issue and can guarantee that you will face it!  As a small business owner who rightfully reaps most of the financial benefits of your company’s success, you have few options to improve this emotional issue.Having your key team members listed as “Associates” or your “Group” just adds more salt to this wound of “disparity.”  Instead, create a company name that ALL employees can be part of without feeling inferior or having their contributions diminished.  Launch Lawn care Superheroes LLC!  Now, everyone is a superhero and not just Timmy.