Brad Flowers co-founded Bullhorn in 2008. Brad’s degree in Literature serves him well in his strategy, language, and naming work. It only helps a little in his operational work, which is primarily informed by 10 years of on-the-job training. Brad is also an avid bicyclist – for commuting and for competition. He co-founded and currently serves on the board of the non-profit community bike shop, Broke Spoke.
POST WRITTEN BY
Brad Flowers Founding partner at Bullhorn, overseeing all the good work.
Let’s face it: Even if your company has a bad name, the easiest thing to do is nothing. Simply do not rename the company.
In fact, there is a track record of companies with bad names doing very well. Consider Microsoft. They have had success despite a name that could be interpreted to mean small and weak. (Well, “soft” doesn’t exactly mean weak, but it certainly doesn’t say international corporate giant either.)
If you are going through the trouble to start a company or launch a product, you probably aren’t the sort to just pick something out of a hat. And while a bad name can be overcome, a good name is an asset. There are plenty of high-profile and costly renames to suggest their value. Esso to Exxon. Datsun to Nissan and back (in some places). Andersen to Accenture. Philip Morris to Altria. All done for different reasons and to varying degrees of success.
Here are five and a half considerations when questioning whether to rename your company.
Are you limiting business opportunities?
In some industries, it makes sense to name the company after yourself. You are in a high-trust business and your clients trust you, so you make the closest connection you can. That rationale has its limits. As a wealth management company, you can grow by adding new clients or you can grow by hiring managers who have their own books of business.
Boardman Financial wanted to grow by attracting great partners. In order to do that, the company needed a more aspirational name that reflected the whole team and not just one person. The core of the team’s culture is sitting with people and helping them navigate the ups and downs of their life. We used this navigation image to arrive at the name Ballast, meaning the counterbalance that provides stability in a long voyage.
Are you limiting recruitment?
For third-party logistics, recruitment is the name of the game. If you can’t get a steady stream of 21-year-old go-getters, you won’t be competitive. And this crew is competitive. Our client was called Quality Logistics, which was understandably confused with Total Quality Logistics and Quality Logistics Solutions – all different companies.
Most clients have the primary goal of getting more business, but in this case, the only thing they cared about was attracting talent. Their name confusion lumped them in with companies that had reputations of churning through employees; we strategically distanced them from the industry, renaming the company as Longship. The name has roots in Norse mythology and navigation. The end result speaks to teamwork, journeys, and pulling in the same direction. Longship is a driven group of people working toward a clear goal.
Are you limiting your vision?
The landscaping industry isn’t the place you normally find great naming. The companies are usually named after the founder, named very literally, or feature a bad pun. Our client was called Great Lawns, which was a great name for a company owned by a couple of teenagers with a pick-up and a couple of mowers.
But as the owners got older, their vision expanded beyond residential maintenance. They were working for some of the largest companies in their region. They were designing and installing large projects that didn’t have anything to do with lawn care; they were creating spaces where people found peace. The company became a Plot, as many people’s favorite stories include a special outdoor place.
Is your name misleading?
DMD Data Systems was founded 25 years ago. The founder had a business idea (IT solutions for mid- to large-size companies) but hadn’t thought through any names. So the founder did what many people would do and used his initials – which ended up confusing potential customers. Despite featuring “DMD” in its name, the company didn’t do anything in the dental industry. It doesn’t have a single doctor or medicine in dentistry on staff.
The company engaged us to help them transition from something that doesn’t accurately represent their company to a name the positions them for the future of their company. The new name of the company is Volta Technologies, which looks back to the inventor of the battery, Alessandro Volta.
Are you going through a change in leadership/core offering?
When most people think about pain management, they might think about pill mills and desperation. A client named Pain Management Medicine approached us hoping to address this problem. They became doctors to help people and ended up managing addictions. A new generation was taking over the practice and had a vision for a new treatment offering that gets to the root of the problem and helps the patient return to a healthy life. They created a multidisciplinary destination clinic that we named Wellward – a place of hope.
Do you just not like it?
This is the “half” in five and a half because it isn’t really a consideration. Do you just hate the name? Do you just dread saying it, typing it out? Get rid of it. It is your company and you should love the name. It will only get harder and more complicated the longer you put it off. Rip off the Band-Aid.
Whether you are starting a new company, renaming a successful one, or launching a product, you have a lot to consider. Think about these questions. Get your goals straight and then go forth with confidence. That is the main trick in a name. Can it be said confidently? Remember, the name is not the company. The name is just the signifier of the company. It represents the cool stuff you are already doing.
Founding partner at Bullhorn, overseeing all the good work.