The Legal Basics of Naming an LLC
When considering names for your limited liability company, you should first make yourself aware of the legalities involved. While the guidelines do vary somewhat from state to state, there are also some common rules that apply across the board.
- Name Cannot Match Any Existing Entity Name - Your business name must be unique, and can’t match an entity name already on file with your state of formation.
- Must Include the Phrase “Limited Liability Company” or Initials “LLC” - In order to be a compliant business name, an LLC must include either the “LLC” initials or the words “limited liability company” in the name itself.
- Name Cannot Include Indicators of Other Business Types - In addition to including “LLC” or “limited liability company,” you may not include any words that refer to different types of business entities. For example, an LLC cannot include the word “incorporated” in its business name.
- Don’t Include Any Words That Refer to Specialized Businesses - Your business name must accurately reflect your products and/or services. If you do not operating a bank, medical facility, legal services company, etc. — do not use any words that would indicate otherwise.
Avoiding Common Mistakes
While it’s not terribly difficult to choose a name that’s technically compliant, it can be more challenging to find a business name that really feels right to you.
Here are a few tips and tricks to jumpstart your quest to find a great name for your LLC:
- Brainstorm Multiple Options - One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is settling on a name before properly weighing all of their options. Whether you’re too attached to your first idea or willing to choose something simple and move on, if this first choice is unavailable, you’ll be back at square one. To avoid a last minute scramble or having to settle for something that’s less than best, plan to create a list of at least two or three great options before making a final decision.
- Check for Availability and Trademarks - It’s best to find out early on if your favorite business names are available for use. Most states allow you to check availability for free online, so always take advantage of this resource. Another good tip is to check for trademarks. Just because another company is not using your name, it does not necessarily mean that all or part of it is not subject to trademark and/or copyright protections. There are also several free online tools to find this information.
- Is Your Name Internet-Optimized? - These days, having a company name that translates to a catchy and memorable website URL is almost as critical as the name itself. You should always make sure a compatible domain name is available before making a concrete decision on your LLC’s name. Additionally, check to make sure you can obtain email addresses that fit both your company and domain names.
Marketing and Practicality Concerns
You should also give some thought to how your name will play into any potential advertising strategies.
Generally speaking, a short, concise name is usually a much better option than a longer, more complicated one. Confusing your customers — or picking a name that can be easily jumbled or misspelled — will hinder brand recognition and hurt your advertising efforts.
Beyond that, there are also some matters of practicality to address:
- Pick a Name That References What Your Company Sells - On a more basic level, if you’re starting a plumbing company, for example, you should reference that directly in the name of your business. The vast majority of plumbing companies have the word “plumbing” in their business names. This is also a good opportunity to inject some clever wordplay into your company name as a way of generating additional interest in your products or services. Don’t be afraid to be memorable.
- Incorporate Your Company Values Into Your Name - If there’s a strongly held value that your business was formed upon, you might want to feature it in your LLC name. Of course, it’s best to steer away from potentially divisive values like politics or religion, unless your products and/or services are specifically targeted at those groups. But if, for example, your business is heavily involved in your community or is environmentally friendly, those are great aspects to highlight in your company name.
- Does It Sound Good When Spoken Out Loud? - Your name should roll off the tongue with ease, in a way that makes your company name sound natural. Too many entrepreneurs focus solely on choosing a name that looks good on paper, when it’s just as important that it sounds smooth out loud.
At the end of the day, the most important aspects of naming an LLC are generating a unique and memorable name, while adhering to all requirements imposed by your state. Most of all, you should choose a business name that you’re proud of and will stand the test of time.
Remember, this business will be a big part of your life for many years, so you should make sure you won’t tire of the name or wish you’d chosen a different one a few years down the line.