Dangers of giving your name to your business

In light of the collapse of retailer Dick Smith, a prominent branding specialist has spoken about the need for business owners to think very carefully about naming their businesses after themselves.

In light of the collapse of retailer Dick Smith, a prominent branding specialist has spoken about the need for business owners to think very carefully about naming their businesses after themselves.

Speaking to My Business, independent branding specialist Sue Currie said that it is a highly personal choice for an individual as to whether they will use their name for their business. However, it is not a decision that should be made without due consideration.

“[For example] consider if you want to make sales calls and answer calls as 'John Smith from John Smith Small Business',” she said.

According to Ms Currie, the industry in which a business operates may go a long way in helping to make the decision.

“Creative names are a trend, particularly in the technology and start-up world where businesses are often built and sold quickly,” she said.

“[Meanwhile] a law firm that specialises in succession planning for old family businesses might have more sway being named after the name of the founder. You might start out as a small one-person business and grow, bringing on a team or partners where a brand rename would be more suitable.”

One major long-term factor, which many business owners may not consider, is what happens when they are no longer in control of the business, such as when it is sold or ceases trading.

Using the example of Dick Smith Electronics, which bears the name of its famous founder despite his exit from the business, Ms Currie said she does not believe the bad press surrounding the business’ collapse has damaged his personal brand – largely because he has been very vocal about making the separation known.

“It is very clear that Dick Smith the person has not had any association with this business in a long time. He has been very open with the media in explaining his thoughts and position,” she said.

“And even though there are other products in the marketplace with the Dick Smith name on them, his personal brand is more strongly recognised: that of adventurer, entrepreneur and philanthropist.”

Ms Currie said that the best way to protect your personal brand from being associated with a business bearing your name that you no longer control is to become known for something else.

“Carve out a new niche. Become known for something else that you may be passionate about – such as adventurer or philanthropist. Or perhaps it might be a new business that you put your energy into. Many personal brands are still proud to say they were the founder of that company.”

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