Starting a Business in Canada

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May 13, 2011 - 3 minute read - branding

Some Advice On How To Name A Business

It can be a difficult decision when it comes time to name a company. You may have have an idea that is very personal to you, yet you worry about it being an easy name to market and create a brand around. The first thing that you must consider is that there are two restrictions that will limit your choice of a business name; trade or corporate name registration and internet domain name registration.

If your business is a sole proprietorship or a partnership you must register a business name with your provincial authority. Corporations can be incorporated federally with a local registration in the provinces it does business in or it can be incorporated provincially. As with a trade name, a corporate name must be registered either with the federal government or with your provincial government. The approach to registering a business name or a corporate name varies considerably from province to province.

In this day and age, all businesses should have a website. For this reason, the company or trade name should also be checked to see if a good website address is available. A short address with a .com name is preferable, with .ca a secondary choice. If you can get your business name as a internet domain name, it will be much easier for your customers to find your website. Hover, a Canadian domain registration company, has a domain name search on their website.

Registering a name and getting a good internet domain name are practical considerations but naming a business is more complex than satisfying those two criteria. For example, a business name can be abstract or descriptive. It can be made of common english words or it can be completely made up. A business name is a big part of its brand so it is important to think through a few considerations before making the final choice.

For a small business, the name should reflect the key elements of the business. Because small businesses generally don’t have a large marketing budget, there is an advantage to having someone know what your business does by just hearing the name. However, there is a danger of being too descriptive. Canadian Tire spent a lot of money on ad campaigns in the 1980s to convince consumers that they were “more than just tires”. If your business name contains the city you live in or if it defines what you do very narrowly, you might be hindered when trying to expand to new locations or offering new product lines. Some of the same considerations come into play when putting your own name in the business’s name. If you decide to retire or sell the business, do you really want some one else running a business with your name on it?

It’s important that your business’s name reflect its position in the marketplace. For example, it will be difficult to sell luxury goods at a business with a discount sounding name. It’s worth thinking about what your business name might mean in another language if you have plans to offer goods or services internationally. Also, think about whether the name of your business could be easily turned into a pun or a bawdy joke. You don’t want people with an elementary school sensibility giving your business an unofficial nickname.

Make a list of as many names as you can think of. Eliminate them one by one using the criteria above. Ask the opinions of family, friends and potential customers. While picking a good name is important it isn’t everything. A good product or service coupled effective marketing can overcome a weak name, so don’t make an exhaustive attempt to pick the perfect name. It’s an easy thing to get obsessed with when you should be moving forward with your business plans instead.