The name you choose for your business is a big decision when you start out. Changing your mind once you have already started trading can cause all sorts of issues. Here are some considerations which may help you get it right the first time.

  • Keep it simple! It’s unlikely that IBM would have experienced the amazing success that it has if it had kept its original name ‘Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation’! Your business name should be easy to remember and not have potential customers scratching their heads trying to figure out how it is spelt, when they try to google you. Online marketplace business, Crew, faced this exact problem with their previous name ‘Ooomf’.
  • For smaller businesses starting out, it is important that you name does not create confusion when potential customers are trying to figure out what exactly your business does. Had Google continued with their original name ‘BackRub’ this could well have been a real issue.
  • Check that your name of choice is not too similar to other existing business names, or even business that have previously traded and have had a negative public image. You can use the Companies House Webcheck service to look for similar names (or perhaps take a look at BBC Watchdog’s Rogue’s Gallery!).
  • Before you commit, check that the domain name you need for your business is available. Bear in mind it may have already been purchased by another business and that business may not be one you wish to be associated with (we refer you to our previous ‘BackRub’ example). You should also check that your company name has not been already registered as a trade mark by someone-else.

If you are trading through a Limited Company and decide to re-brand you have two options available. The first of which is to change the company name with Companies House, which is relatively simple and easy to do. You will however need to get the name changed on all business stationery, websites and business bank accounts. You will also need to inform HMRC for Corporation Tax purposes and if applicable PAYE and VAT also.

The second option is to create a trading name, which can be completely different to your Limited Company registered name. This can create confusion with your bank accounts, particularly if you still accept cheque payments from customers, so make sure that your bank has a record of your trading name. Choosing a trading name follows the same rules as selecting any other business name, in that it should not be too similar to another business name currently in use and it should not use sensitive words (such as Association, Group, Federation, etc) or words and phrases that may cause offence.

It is worth bearing in mind that if you adopt a trading name, there will be nothing to stop another business registering that name with Companies House at a later date which could cause some confusion. An option to avoid this would be to register your trading name as a limited company and keep that company dormant, simply to protect the name.

If in doubt, get in touch with us and we will talk you through all of the considerations to bear in mind. We can also offer a full Incorporation service and provide accounting and taxation services for both your trading and dormant companies.