How do you name your business?

Yesterday at the Elephant & Castle Pub I was talking with a friend who’s decided to finally take the leap and move into doing business as a free agent. He’s filing all the business applications, getting consulting jobs (he already has 2 long-term gigs lined up), and is going through the motions of becoming his own business entity. All that’s left is a name.

Web businesses aren’t bound by the same requirements of conventional businesses to have a relevant name, but we have different problems. Do we pick a name from a bag of industry buzzwords, and sound like we’re the company from Office Space? Do we create a name that accurately reflects what you do as a business, and sound like a group of pocket-protector-wearing dweebs? Or do you go to an extreme and invent a unique name that means absolutely nothing, and gives the customer no inkling of whether or not you’re a business or a toilet scrubber? That last one feels like the DotCom days all over again, and while it may have worked then, I doubt it would lend much credibility these days.

We do have a lot more leeway when it comes to naming technology businesses though. We can stray a bit towards the “Funky Widget” sounding names from the DotCom era, but too comical and you sound, well, like a joke.

Domain names are also an issue. Once you have a name, you have to check and see if it’s available. I’ve always been too cheap to bid on a squatter-owned domain, and have always preferred to change my business name rather than buy an already registered domain.

When I was discussing this with my friend however, I realized it’s been a while since I tried to pick a business name. My last business I just gave up, and named it after myself. “Michael Nachbaur Consulting” sounds really bland, but when you know your customers on a first-name basis, and you’re a one-man shop, there isn’t much need to get too crafty.

If you’re reading this, what would you use as a business name, and how would you pick one? Do you take words describing things you love and combine them? Or do you pick, for instance, a colour and something from nature? (BlueWave immediately comes to mind). How would you come by your business name?

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