Naming Guidelines for a Limited Liability Company (LLC)

By Jennifer Reuting

You may think that having boundless options gives you a better chance of coming up with a great name for your LLC, but think again. After all, creativity is better served when it’s subject to a few (helpful) restrictions. Before you let the ideas fly, check out a few naming “rules” gathered from industry experts:

  • Be distinct. Naming your brand-new and improved social media site FaceSpace or MyBook won’t give the impression that it is either “new” or “improved.” Quite the opposite, actually.

  • Be memorable. Avoid acronyms like the plague. Unless you have a huge annual marketing budget to waste, don’t attempt to grab anyone’s attention with a few letters. If you’re serious about shortening your name, condense it into an amalgam, like FedEx for Federal Express or Nabisco for National Biscuit Company.

    That said, long names are often more memorable than short names, contrary to what you may hear elsewhere — think TGI Friday’s versus Joe’s. An added plus: You’ll have better luck finding a domain name for a longer name than a shorter one.

  • Be approachable. Make sure that your LLC’s name is easy to pronounce. You don’t want people to avoid saying the name because they’re afraid of mispronouncing it. Try out potential names on a first-grader. If he can’t pronounce it, ditch it and have him help you find an alternative. Hey, you’d be surprised at the good ideas kids can have!

  • Be meaningful. This doesn’t mean to be descriptive; save the description for your taglines and slogans. Make your LLC’s name evocative and allude to the heart and soul of your business. For example, Netflix is a great name for an online video rental site, whereas FilmsOnline.com is literal rather than meaningful.

  • Be vivid. What image and feeling do you want your customers to associate with your brand? Try to paint a picture. For example, the name Stonyfield Farm makes you think of green cow pastures, which gives the impression of wholesomeness.

  • Be bold. With so many names already taken, you can’t be afraid of taking risks. As long as your name is evocative (see “Be meaningful” earlier in this list), don’t worry about being too unusual — just look at Yahoo! and Google.

  • Be eternal. LLCs are now made to exist in perpetuity, so why restrict the life span of your business with its name? Choose a name that will sound good for decades or even centuries to come, or you may face the same conundrum as Twentieth Century Fox.

  • Be expansive. Be careful that your name doesn’t restrain your business to a specific location, product, or service. For instance, Los Angeles Rentals would have to spend a pretty penny on rebranding if it ever expanded to another market. No matter how small your LLC is now, you don’t want your name to hold you back as your business moves forward.

  • Be global. Make sure that your name is internationally friendly. Otherwise, you may be ready to expand abroad one day only to find out that the name you chose has a negative connotation in certain cultures! It’s only funny when it happens to other people (like when Chevrolet learned that Nova translates to “no go” in Spanish).

    Think this rule doesn’t apply to you because you don’t intend to go global anytime soon? Take a walking tour of a major city and you’ll see how many people speak foreign languages. To avoid having entire market segments laugh at you when they pass your booth at a convention or spot your ad in a magazine, get a third-party assessment done to verify that your LLC’s name has universal appeal!

  • Be searchable. In this day and age, there’s a good chance that most of your customers will find you on the Internet, even if your LLC is not a web company. When entering your company name into a search engine, you don’t want a potential customer to be flooded with irrelevant results.

    For example, say you want to name your new cold-weather clothing company Arctic Ice. If you do an Internet search for “Arctic Ice,” you get so many search results referencing global warming and glaciers that you’d never be able to compete!

    Before choosing a name, do a quick Internet search and see what comes up.