One of the biggest hurdles all entrepreneurs face when setting up a business is choosing a business name. This step is critical as a good name helps clients identify your product or services and create a buzz in the marketplace. However, keep in mind – what’s allowable in your business name will depend on the jurisdiction in which you incorporate. In most cases, avoid these ten mistakes when considering a name for your business in Canada:
Name is Too General

How many companies do you know that are ABC Services? When you are naming your firm, make sure the name is not too generic and reflects the purpose of your business. Otherwise, it will cause people to overlook you if you sound like every other company out there. So, be unique. You can come up with a good name using a made-up word or by combining names and words.

Easily Mistaken with Something Else

Make sure the name is distinctive. This means that it distinguishes your unique business from other businesses, and it won’t be confused with any existing company names or trademarks. This is true even if spelling is different (e.g. If another firm is registered as “Dion Consulting Ltd.”, picking a business name “Tion Consulting Ltd.” or “D-On Consulting Ltd.” is a bad idea).

It’s Too Cute /Too Short /Too Hard to Say

Your potential clients should have the capacity to recall your business name. So, try not to pick a name that is too long or difficult to pronounce. Sweet short names, however, can also be a trouble: they may not be registrable in some provinces. For example, in BC, your company name must have three elements – distinctive, descriptive, and legal designation (e.g. Astrum (distinctive) + Consulting (descriptive) + Inc. (legal designation).

Someone Else Owns It

Once you have a name in mind, check its availability in the chosen jurisdiction. You can do this by using Google, government registers and other resources like Corporations Canada’s NUANS database and Canadian Trademarks Database. Use these instruments or rely on professional service providers to do the search for you. This is important as you really do not want to spend a lot of money on marketing before realizing that your chosen name is confusingly similar to or belongs to someone else.

Local Naming Rules? Nah…

This is one of the biggest problems we see floating around small business owners. When considering a name for your business in Canada, check the provincial and federal requirements before picking your company name. Keep this in mind: rules vary by province.

Registration Offers Full Protection

Registering your business name does not automatically provide you with trademark protection, nor does it fully ensure that the company name registered may be used as a trademark in association with the sale of goods and services in Canada. In order to receive the most protection, you may register it as a trademark.

Absence of Domain

In today`s technological world, you have to make sure that the domain name and the proper extension (.com; .info; .ca, etc.) is available for your business name. Don`t use hyphens in your domain name because that will send your traffic and customers to another site. Also, don't misspell common words because that will unintentionally direct your traffic and customers to another site. You should also register the .net and .org extensions for your trademark to reduce the possibility of cybersquatters registering your domain name with those extensions.

Name Associations: Underestimated

When coming up with a business name, some entrepreneurs may fail to thoroughly assess its associations and meanings in other languages. Ask questions such as: How will others perceive the name? What meaning this word has in Latin or Mandarin? Start with those; there are more. Leverage foresight when starting up, because hindsight doesn’t get you anywhere.

Too Long For Twitter

When creating a business name, think about your digital marketing strategy for your business. This includes creating account names across social media
platforms that are identical, so clients can find you on any platform by typing the same name. If your full company name is too long for your website domain or Twitter, you need to adapt it. Ideally, make it less than 15 characters and check the availability on each platform you are going to register with.

Prohibited Elements

Certain words and variations are unacceptable. For example, if your corporation will provide financial services, your name should not imply that
the corporation is a bank or offers the services of a bank, loan company, trust company, insurance company, or stock exchange, unless you have the consent in writing of the appropriate government regulator. Check the local rules and make a wise choice.

Naming a company may be one of the most important strategic decisions a company will make.  So, if you avoid these common mistakes – and invest some time and thoughtful effort – a great business name should be well within your grasp. Good luck!

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