Business Advice

Three things you should think about more than your name

Michel Hogan /

No one cares what your name is.

Well, perhaps your family and close friends might have a thought or two — but out in the world at large, nope.

Some 25 years ago I decided to work for myself, and immediately became fixated on what the name of my business should be. Hours spent pouring over the dictionary. Bottles of wine consumed in search of inspiration. After all, nothing was more important than the name.

But it couldn’t have mattered less.

The business did well. We had clients who liked our work, enjoyed collaborating with my partner and I, and came back when they had more work. And when the time and opportunity came to fly off to the United States, we shed the name without a second thought.

Today I am me. I don’t have a business name. This is something that confounds nearly everyone given I am a brand adviser. The spluttering of ‘but how can you not have a name …’ always makes me smile and acts as a useful segue into the fact that I define a brand as the result of the promises you keep.

But the fixation on names sticks from the day we are born and get one of our very own. A name is how people in the world find and recognise us. So, it’s no mystery why we get so stuck on them. But your name stands for who you are because of who you are, not because of what it is.

Sure, a name can be useful. Some names provide a signal of the organisation’s broader intention and with time and action can represent that identity. They can be a playful tool for how people tell their story. And let’s face it, throwing around words to see what sticks is fun. But I call it bright-shiny-object syndrome: a distraction from the hard stuff people don’t want to deal with.

But let’s keep it in perspective. Your name alone is not the reason people choose you. It will not make or break you. I struggle to come up with even one example of the name as a deal breaker (there might be some, I’ve just never come across one).

So, here are three things you should think about more than the name.

  1. What do you care about.
  2. What do you do.
  3. How do you do it.

What do you care about? Something drove you to your business, so what is most important about it? Connect with that, use it to guide your actions and decisions and people will have a reason to choose you.

What do you do? The products, services and way you solve your customers’ problems is something they will come back for. What are those things? Do they connect with what you care about? Is it something people will pay you for?

How do you do it? Companion to what you do is the block and tackle actions and experience of how you do what you care about. The unheroic everyday work that shows up in a thousand things. If you’re even tempted to spend more than a few minutes thinking about a name, grab hold of a how, and work on it instead.

No one cares what you name is. So spend your time on things they will care about.

See you next week.

NOW READ: How startups can develop consistent branding that makes a lasting impression

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Michel Hogan

Michel Hogan is an independent brand thinker and adviser dedicated to helping you make promises you can keep and keep the promises you make — with a strong, resilient organisation and brand as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com.

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