How to Start an AE Firm

Learning Series

October 10 2016 // 5:00 AM

How Important is the Name of Your A/E Firm?

Written by Jared Perry | @PAEVENjared

Part 10:    How Important is the Name of Your A/E Firm?

As the soon-to-be proud father of twins come this October, I am really pumped for this article!  Take it from someone who has gone through the business naming process a few times: naming a business is much easier than naming a baby (or babies)!

So what’s in a name? Does it matter if it’s weird or made up? Does it need to be unique? I’ll answer all of those questions and more as we go through this article, but first let’s go through a list of the company names I’ve used just as a measure of full disclosure:

1.    Etta Engineering

This was the name of the consulting business I started right after I got my PE license. To be fair, Etta wasn’t around long because I opted to find a business partner and be multi-discipline rather than going at it alone. With Etta Engineering, I used a pragmatic approach to naming my business: it’s a shortened version of my hometown, Marietta, Ohio.

2.    Sixmo Inc.

What? What does that mean? Sixmo? I can’t tell you the mis-pronunciations of this name that I’ve heard. Six-um. Six males. Sixmoale. It’s been interesting. The great thing is: it sticks. After clients hear or see it once, they remember.

3.    FMX Global, LTD

What the heck is FMX? Well, actually FMX was the original DBA for what is now PAEVEN. FMX stood for “Fair Market Exchange.” The global limited part was never meant for public consumption, but I’m trying to tell it all here so you can understand that business names can go through transformations with a small fee to your Secretary of State. You can’t do that with babies. Well I mean you can, but you shouldn’t.

Now, I want to make it clear here that if you don’t like any of my business names, that’s okay. You don’t have to. As a matter of fact, you need to realize that no matter what you pick, 50% of the people you meet with think it’s dumb. We see this every four years when electing presidents. 51% of the country loves a person, 49% of the people don’t. There’s no pleasing the masses so don’t try to. Instead focus on names YOU like and—at the same time—will be beneficial for your business. So let’s get to it!

TIP #1 – Don’t name the business after yourself

No matter how cool your name is, it’s not that cool. I have never and will never name a business after myself. To get the most from their businesses and employees, business owners need to be humble.  I get just as much benefit from prayer to God as I do from my business acumen. I’m not exactly Billy Bible, I’m just saying it’s the humility in prayer that makes a person realize they are not the center of the universe and that not everything revolves around them. I attribute 100% of the successes of my businesses to God. I pray every day for my company and my employees. I think this comes through in our business’s name: Thornton-Perry, Inc. (rather than Sixmo Inc.) would indicate that Mr. Thornton and Mr. Perry must think a lot of themselves. Insert Midwestern twang: “We built this sucker from the ground up!” I chose not do that solely because I don’t believe everything is a direct result of what I’ve done, or what my business partner has done. If it were just us cranking out projects in the company, we’d be far less successful than what we are now. It’s your employees who bust it. Every day. It’s your employees who help you grow. The more you let your employees do the work, the more your company can flourish. I don’t think any differently about anyone who has named a company after themselves, but I do advocate that if you haven’t done so already, at least try to think of another name. 

TIP #2 – Can you own the dot com of your name?

A much smarter guy than me (Paul Graham) wrote a lot about this and I honestly didn’t even know about it until I had a conversation with Ryan Holiday one day about naming my own business—then FMX, now PAEVEN. (Side note: Ryan Holiday is the author of Growth Hacker Marketing and former Director of Marketing for American Apparel. Highly recommend his books. Very insightful.)  Okay, back to it. In his article Change Your Name, Paul Graham talks about the importance of owning the dot com of your business name. The reason is pretty simple: it looks legit. You then look legit and thus, your company looks legit. The presence of “looking” like you’ve been around for a while is almost as valuable as actually being around for a while. Note, this does not mean coming up with some 8 letter acronym for your business just because you can own the dot com. Take the time to find something that you are going to like the look and sound of 20 years from now.

TIP #3 – Confirm you can own the name or the DBA

Before you get carried away with your name, be sure to check out your Secretary of State’s website for business listings. In Ohio it is extremely easy. You can follow the link here and simply type in the business name you would like to use. This will allow you to see if it is available.

I would also recommend that you do a quick Google search on the name you want to use. If there are several businesses out there that have the name you want to use, then your clients will most likely find those companies before they find yours when searching for it on Google.

TIP #4 – Use letters not often seen in your language to make memorable name

Comparatively speaking, how many times do you see the letter “X” or “Z” in words? The answer is several times less than other letters like “E”, “T” or “A”.  Because of this, people tend to remember words with obscure letters that they do not see very often. The same can be said for words that are not easily discerned phonetically. An example would be a company like “PAEVEN.” My guess is that when you first saw the word you immediately wanted to know how to pronounce it rather than what it represented. That action maybe then led to research of the company or watching a company video to hopefully hear it…which is exactly what we’re going for.

TIP #5 – Don’t be scared to change your name

If you have a name that you don’t love or isn’t getting much traction within your network, don’t think you are stuck with it. Large corporations, medium size businesses, and small single-owner operations re-brand every single day. The key word to take away there is “brand.” Your company is a brand and you need to treat it as such. You want your clients and the people they talk to about it to have an appreciation for your brand. The quality, service, and punctuality of your firm are what will help build your brand. The more name recognition you have, the more selective you can be with your projects, and the greater fee you will be able to command.

So what about your company? How will you go about naming it? To me, there a million ways you can go. As long as you are not calling yourself “AAA Engineering” or “Discount Architect,” I think you will be fine. Remember, your name shouldn’t be your sales pitch. You should be your sales pitch. Your employees should be your sales pitch. Your work environment, your portfolio, your client referrals, and everything else that goes into making your firm what “it” is—those should be your sales pitch. 
1.    Unless you have an extremely cool name, try not to name your A/E firm after yourself

2.    Whatever name you may choose – own the dot com of your A/E firm name

3.    Pick something that resonates with your target industry or market without being cheesy

UP NEXT >> Part 11: How important is your logo to your A/E firm?


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