Naming your professional firm
Setting up your new firm involves plenty of tough decisions. One of the more important decisions is choosing a marketable identity. That particular decision may affect revenue potential, marketing strategy, expansion and the ability to eventually transfer your firm to a buyer.
Before you start to create a name, be sure to investigate any compliance requirements affecting your profession. The Business Corporations Act allows certain professionals to incorporate professional corporations provided it complies with the Business Names Act and the guidelines set out by the regulatory body that governs the profession. (For example, The College of Family Physicians of Canada or The Canadian Pharmacists Association.) Every regulator has its own rules in addition to the Business Names Act guidelines.
Depending on regulatory requirements, you may enjoy two naming paths: use your given name (and partner names, if applicable) or create a brand name. Consider the pros and cons to each scenario.
Using the names of you and your partners is perfectly reasonable. In fact, for professionals, it’s kind of expected because so often the professionals themselves are the company brand. The firm name is relevant, memorable and personable.
• Smith, Jones, Winston LLP.
• Dr. Cynthia Henderson, Medicine Professional Corporation.
• Hewitt, Perkins & Branson, Chartered Accountants.
But what happens when you want to add new partners or principals?
Years ago my marketing consulting firm was hired by a law firm to create a new identity. At issue was the firm’s long-winded name, the result of a long line of partners who each insisted their name be added to the firm.
Our challenge as marketers was to respect the considerable history of the firm yet produce a fresh, marketable image. We ended up creating an identity using the surnames of the two founding partners – since both of them were deceased, there was no objection by any living partner, and the firm felt the two names comprised a nice umbrella identity for any future partners.
Again, before you pursue a name, familiarize yourself with any regulatory guidelines set forth by your profession’s governing body.
It’s pretty common these days to see names that make no mention of the principals involved. For these organizations, it may be more about marketing the firm rather than the people. Examples include:
• Children’s Dental Care Office
• Walking Soft Family Foot Clinic
• Ambassador Total Wealth Management
Advantages to a brand name (where permitted by regulators) include:
• Scalability. You can add offices and locations under the name.
• Personnel. You can add an unlimited number of principals without needing to change the name.
• Transferable. An outside buyer may place a higher value on the business because its identity is separate from the owners.
• Marketable. Surnames can be difficult to spell, difficult to pronounce, and difficult to remember. Brand names may resonate more with customers.
Be sure to spend the time necessary to research the best possible name. It’s expensive to change a name later. Go for a name that can grow with your firm, that’s understood by the marketplace, and will accommodate your future plans to expand, sell or transfer the organization.
What’s in a name? Got any tips to create the best name for a professional firm?
By Roger Pierce