Class of 2019: How to choose a name for your new practice
When the Class of 2019 met in Bristol last month one surprising challenge almost all the start-up practices faced was deciding on a name.
When you start your own practice the decision that is arguably more stressful than where to find your first client is what you call your practice. You could always get more clients, but it will be a bigger task to rebrand your firm later down the road.
Perhaps the reason our Class of 2019 start-ups agonised over their firms' names is because it’s one of the first, if not the first, decisions they made. As Class of 2019 CIMA practitioner Debbie Hancock pointed out, “Until you've got that name you can't get your insurance and you can't assign that to a professional body and you can't do anything.”
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However you go about picking a name, one thing is for sure: it's not going to be easy. You might think up a clever pun which may catch passing by traffic and raise the odd chuckle but its overwrought nature may provide terrible Google ranking results. So how do you pick a name that will get those new clients through your freshly-ribbon cut doors?
The Google rush
Almost all the Class of 2019 shared a story familiar to any start-up: they'd come up with the perfect name only to rush to Google and discover there are already five accounting firms with that name. But our Class of 2019 new starters learned that when naming a firm persistence pays off in the end.
Like others in the group, Andy Sullivan from Complete Accountancy searched for ages for a name only to discover time after time that the name had gone.
Then, in one of the many mind-mapping sessions dedicated to picking a name, Sullivan and his wife came up with Complete. A quick Google search found that no one else locally using that name, and a Companies House had one result for a company dissolved two months prior. So without hesitation, he took it.
Make others choose
But if inspiration doesn’t strike, you can always ask somebody else to name your firm. Matthew Goude would often ruminate on a name while driving or sitting on a train. Yet over that four-to-five month period, he couldn’t settle on one.
He ended up using a website called Fiverr, which is essentially freelancers offering consultancy services, to generate names. Goude then passed the 20-deep list around friends and family to get a consensus, and ZincBooks was the one that kept coming up.
Although it’s necessary not to dwell too long on a name if you want to get going quickly, it does still require some consideration. Choose in haste, and later down the line, you’re stuck with a name you can’t stand.
On second thoughts
It’s a lesson Debbie Hancock grapples with when she gets second thoughts. At first Hancock’s decision to name her firm Southbourne Accountancy and Business Services was an easy one. You guessed it. She lives in Southbourne and she provides accountancy and business services. But getting to that Ronseal-like inspiration didn't come immediately.
Suggestions from friends and family weren’t that helpful. She remembered: “They’d suggest ‘Debbie’ and I said there are loads of Debbies”.
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When another CIMA accountant in the local area had tagged “accountancy and business services” on to the end of their name Hancock thought it nicely represented the advisory element that she was bringing to her prospective clients’ table.
But on reflection, she has started thinking the name is too long. “You see all these cool people with their short accounting names,” she said.
But she’s assured by the fact that “you can always change later and rebrand”. It's a lesson fellow Class of 2019 cohort Andy Sullivan has on the cards. He plans to gradually remove accountancy off the end of his firm’s name as he refines the brand of Complete.
You’ve already got a name
If you’re still struggling to come up with a name, don’t forget that you already have one. Your own.
When Ria Jaine Lincoln left Deloitte she started making a name for herself as an accountant to the beauty industry. She appeared at speaking events and penned articles in beauty magazines and before she knew it, she’d already built brand recognition around her own name. So she had to go with it.
Practicing under your own name has its downsides. Looking to the future, Lincoln wonders whether her name may hinder the practice if she came to sell the business. Would she need to rebrand if she wanted to grow?
It’s a challenge Class of 2009 alumnus Della Hudson has lived through. Hudson was an early adopter of using social media to grow her practice, but this meant those picked up through this medium would naturally connect Hudson Accountants with Della.
Fairly early on then, Hudson tweaked this. “It was branded around me but it was more than just me,” said Hudson.
She advised Lincoln: “What we used to do with our social media, e-newsletters, and whenever anyone came in the office, we'd talk about the others in the team. Every so often they'd pass exams, so you'd put out a smiley photo of people.”
So by the point she came to sell her practice there was value to the brand beyond just Hudson. And that is the overarching message from all their stories: no matter what you call your practice (within reason, of course) the practice's name will start as just that – a name. It is only through the value that you provide that the name takes on a life beyond you.
How difficult was it for you choosing a name? How did you choose your firm’s name?