While many solo business owners opt to operate under their given name, I believe it best for every business to create a brand name. Many therapists, dentists, lawyers and even graphic designers operate under their own name, and while it obviously can work – Charles Schwab and Jenny Craig clearly can attest to this – there is more to be gained from adopting a name than operating eponymously.
Naming your business offers the following advantages:
It will have more Blue Sky Value. If you ever plan to sell your business, it will be worth more if its intangible assets are disconnected with the name of the founder. Even in the case of a recognizable personality like Tony Robbins, the value of his company is wrapped up in his attachment to the enterprise. When someone buys your business they want the services and products associated with it to migrate easily with ownership. Like they do with goodwill, accountants quantify the value of your business beyond the tangible assets – marketing processes, artistic representations like logos and websites, contracts, customer and technological assets like proprietary software. Blue sky refers to the time you will save a future owner of your business creating and stress-testing their own processes and branding. The less those intangible assets are associated with your name, the higher price you can command.
You can more easily expand your business. Maybe for now you plan to operate on your own, but if you possess even an inkling that you may want to hire employees or contractors, give your business a name. You will more easily build a coalition of committed workers if they can unite under the banner of a brand that inspires collective confidence. People are more inspired to work for a business that invites their contribution, a proposition more authentically communicated by a name to which others can feel connected.
Naming your business keeps you distinct from your business. In the beginning we are super-passionate about our business, but there will come a time when you want to be considered as a person who is separate and distinct from your business. This detachment is harder to achieve if it bears your name. It can still be your baby and bear your name, but the same name can start to weigh oppressively on the entrepreneurial soul. In the interest of balance, give your business a name that conveys your values but gives your own name, like your personal life, its own space to breathe and live.
Naming your business makes it easier to build a brand. Most people think of a brand as a logo and a tagline, but it goes way beyond aesthetic considerations. Your brand touches on every possible interaction and function of your business, from the way you answer the phone to whom you hire, what social media platforms (if any) you frequent, and the tone of your website copy. Done well, solid branding conveys an emotion – Nike and Apple make us feel certain feelings – and customers know what to expect from us over time. You can still build a brand for your business and brand yourself (if you choose), but naming a business gives you more power to create a brand that firmly states exactly what you want it to. This doesn’t preclude you from investing in personal branding for yourself – it just gives your business legs to stand on its own while granting you the freedom to build a personal legacy.
Naming your business will help you protect your personal assets, if you organize it appropriately. Think of your business as a teenager with a new credit card – it will take time to build up credit that is not associated with your personal credit, but this will only happen if you organize as an LLC or a corporation. Technically, you can organize as an LLC or a corporation and still use your name, but if you operate as a sole proprietor or a DBA, you will be personally liable if your business is sued or if your company defaults on its debts.