View Full Version : What's in a Name?

06-14-2010, 06:26 AM
Am in the process of starting a little machine shop. Picked out a name such as "XYZ Technologies" and although I haven't advertised, found out that there is another shop in town with the name "XYZ Engineering" that is also a small machine shop.

It seems like there are three names that float around for machine shops- the afore mentioned and also something like "XYZ Machine and Tool." I was wondering if there is any differentiation in the names?

"Machine and Tool" would obviously be a machine shop. "Engineering" has something to do with design, but it is vague in the sense that it could mean architecture or similar, but also used in machining.

"Technologies" seems to be rather vague, which was why I chose that name- I build all kinds of things. However, I have seen the term used for CNC shops, and did not want to imply that with my naming. It will be a few years before I can even think of CNC, if at all. Chances are if I take in any CNC work, I will contract it out to another shop.

I am thinking of renaming my business before I get too much farther off the ground, because of the other business with the same last name as mine. Just wondered if it is necessary. A plus for keeping the name is that I have done a lot of business in the area working for other shops, so I have a good reputation. Any thoughts on this? Thanks!

06-14-2010, 07:16 AM
Your small business name is more important to you than anyone else. A clever name won't get you any more business. A ridiculous or offensive name may keep new customers away.

"Joe's machine shop" will work fine.

06-14-2010, 08:10 AM
Also, a name like "Precision Machining" will make it damned hard for anyone to find you on the Internet.

Be careful with "Engineering", in North Carolina if you call yourself "XYZ Engineering" the NC Society of Engineers has been known to harass small companies that don't have a licensed PE employed there.


06-14-2010, 08:19 AM
stickwit the name you have now, ill tell you why, i have been there and wrote the book on name changing , i have change my name a few times and everytime i had done this it affected my business ,and not in a good way, it gives people the impression you are not very good in business when you change your name, the only time this was seen as a benifit is when i went from selling and fixing to computers to machining, totaly different ,

when called my self kevin the goto guy , to what iam now which is kevys one stop repairs this caused almost 2 months of hell of hadely any business at all for me,

in the computer stuff i was known as titles such as KCJ computers, kevins tech service and so on , when i was just selling and fixing airguns i ws known as K&S airguns and its just lately more people are remembering me for the airgun.pellet gun stuff , so a name can make or break you for a short to long time,

i intend now on sticking with my new name kevys one stop repairs on my business cards it list most all that i do, so now all the connections are made and its been working rather well..

so if you change your name make it a good one and related somewhat to what you are offereing ...

but try not to copy some one elses name as this can cause a rift with you and another company thats held that name for sometime,

06-14-2010, 09:42 AM
There's a great book on marketing : Position by Trout and Ries....actually, having read a lot of marketing books in my time, its probably the only great book on marketing. Written in the '70's by a couple of advertising execs who have some no bull ideas on why people by and remember companies and brands. It's a paperback, full of interesting anecdotes backing up their views with a lot of content on naming.

Anyway, their view is naming is a fundamental opportunity many squander. Don't get cute and don't use initials - they only mean something to you unless you're of IBM or GE stature (and even then is a mistake vs a real name). Your name should say what it is you do otherwise it won't be remember or associated with the product/service. Pretty simple.

I think Steves advice is also very good....pick and name that will search well.

"technologies" and "engineering" don't say much. initials don't say anything. If its general machining, get your town or neighborhood name in there.

in the end of your post you say your name already has a good reputation. A point in business is to build brand equity - to make your business worth more than the book value of assets. You say that's starting to happen but you want to flush it? Crazy. The positive rep, brand equity, you've built is gold. Keep the name, maybe add the town or whatever. Bob Smith's Tonawanda General Machining. or if you a focus area, include that as well

That won't win any cute awards, but that doesn't matter. You keep the brand equity you've built and add to it words that say what you do so there's an association.

06-14-2010, 11:21 AM
I have a cousin who named his photo business Aardvark so it would appear first in alphabetical listings. My business name has some rhyming syllables that might make it easier to remember.

In memorable names and slogans I saw a truck in Milwaukee for "Hernia Movers - The Potentate of Movin' Freight".

Dr Stan
06-14-2010, 12:23 PM
Naming, or branding as it is now called, is very important.

Billy Bob's BBQ would probably work just fine anywhere. However, Billy Bob's Machine shop would not have a good connotation.

For those of us you once lived in Southern California can you ever forget Cal Worthington and his dog spot? BTW, the "dog' was a pygmy hippo. :D

06-14-2010, 12:31 PM
A-1 TOOL AND MACHINE should put you at the top of any list. :)

06-14-2010, 01:05 PM
Using your last name in the business is not a good idea. Use the city, county or area name if not already used by someone else. Think about how the business name sounds for a while before deciding on using it.

One other thing, if your not going to have a business license or can't have a business license because your in a residential area be very careful about advertising your business or having signs on your property. Don't tell your neighbors and don't have deliveries from businesses, only UPS or FED-EX.

A business name has two effects, may tell who you are and should tell what you do. Think about just how much you want your name to say and keep it simple and to the point.

06-14-2010, 01:43 PM
*gets reminded of quote from duckman*

'Hi, We'r the plumbers from AAAAAAAAAAAAA-1 plumbing'

Weston Bye
06-14-2010, 01:51 PM
In most places, if you do business under an assumed name or alias, you have to register that name locally. Fees are charged, you, become more public in the public record and you also come under more scrutiny for possible sources of tax revenue.

When I was doing business full time I had to do all the above. Now, for hobby work, I do none of the above. I just use my own name for the work that I do for compensation. (mostly writing or consulting) I get a 1099 at the end of the year and do my taxes.

06-14-2010, 03:55 PM
dealing with a company with the name

NFG Machining

06-14-2010, 04:24 PM
Let me kind of clear this up- perhaps I should have used Smith or Jones or Doe instead of XYZ as a name.

I started doing business as "Smith" Technologies. I was unaware that there is already a "Smith" Engineering in town. We are similar in what we do- I figure the other guy is sort of a home shop guy, otherwise I would have known about him.

I have a good reputation around town from working for other companies, so feel I would not have any problem drumming up business, but to date have only one actual customer. I got the work from him before I actually considered starting a business- to change the name would not be a big deal at this point, but I would like to keep my last name in the mix. Just not too sure about getting confused with the other guy. Picked "Technologies" because it is rather vague; just wanted to make sure that it wasn't implying something that I did not want.

I do not intend to put any signs up, or get any deliveries other than Fed-Ex or UPS; the plan at this point is to be a one man shop with my son helping me out from time to time.

06-14-2010, 04:37 PM
Your business name should imply or directly infer the type of work or services that you supply, otherwise you will spend half of your time explaining exactly what service that you do supply and that is not chargeable time!

06-14-2010, 07:18 PM
Just keep it simple and to-the-point.
If you have a small machine shop, then it should be "YOUR" Machine Shop
or, "YOUR" Machining. Maybe even "YOUR" Industries.
Who you are, and what you do.

06-14-2010, 07:56 PM
It is common to have Initials of the owners in the name. My wife and myself would be partners. Thus, I alway thought B&D Machining - We'll Whip Your Project Into Shape would be catchy and memorable. :D :rolleyes: :eek:

Your Old Dog
06-14-2010, 08:31 PM
The name of the community you live in and what you mainly do make up the name of your business.

I could give two hoots if Bob Johnson & Sons & Granddaughters Machining is in the mix of companies I might want to go to from the yellow pages. The name sounding the most professional is who will get first turn at my business.

Maybe if your name is Rockefeller Machining you might get second crack of the more professional/less egotistical sounding name. Really want to cover all bases and make sure everyone knows your a Jack-of-all-trades do the "enterprises" thing to prove with out any hesitation of doubt that you are new to business ! :D

So you go with your last name, and someone across town robs a bank and shoots 5 people then you can spend the rest of the year telling business associates that you aren't related :D

Buffalo Machine and Parts
Strykersville General Machining
Suncity Light Machining
Tri-County Machining
Those are all business names that I would find professional...

06-14-2010, 08:36 PM
This one from OZ (where else) "gets it up" - and gets noticed - and talked about - and remembered.


Liger Zero
06-14-2010, 08:41 PM
First letter of my name. First letter of Wife Unit's name. First Letter of Grandmother's name.

I do molding, and other related services.

So B S L Molding And Services. (not online yet, not in the register...yet.)

Bob Farr
06-14-2010, 08:55 PM
What ever name you choose, give some serious consideration to forming your company as an LLC (limited liability company) or corporation and NOT simply as a DBA/assumed name. Depending on which state you are in, LLC's/Corps are formed via the state and DBA's/assumed names are formed via the county or township.

LLC's and Corp's are known as legal "entities" which have identities (and more importantly, liabilities) that are distinct from those of their owners or shareholders. The purpose of organizing your business as an entity is to separate any liabilities related to your business activities and insulate your personal assets. For instance, in Michigan a DBA/assumed name is not an identity which is separate from your own: a plaintiff could sue you personally for financial damages or injuries caused by a product of your machining activities, or for the debts incurred by your business. However, generally speaking (i.e., unless you abuse the legal formalities of an entity), owners/shareholders are not liable for the damages or debts of their LLC or Corp.

There are tax issues to think of too. For example, Corporations file separate returns from their owners, income is taxed to the Corp and to the owners when they take an income, but there are business write-off related advantages. In contrast, LLC's offer liability protection similar to that of Corps, but tax treatment similar to DBA's: they provide for simplified pass-through taxation (i.e., you report your business income via a schedule attached to your personal tax return) but with fewer or simplified write-off/deduction complications.

A single member LLC is probably the most advantageous case for your one-man-shop situation. However, you should consult with a CPA or local attorney before deciding. The IRS has an excellent web site with lots of information available. Most states have also simplified the process of filing the forms needed for an LLC or Corp. The annual fees are reasonable and most states also have web sites with good tutorials for setting up a company. Don't be intimidated by the process of setting up an LLC or Corp. The process is simple, the related burdens are reasonable, and the advantages can be VERY important.

Good luck,


P.S., I agree with all of the previous advice about including a simple description of what you do in your company name. "Smith's Precision Machine Shop" is good, but "Smith Technologies" isn't very informative. Also, if you are going to advertise your services on your vehicle please put at least a small legible sign and phone number on the back of your truck or van. The sides are fine, but they don't leave much time for other drivers to catch your name and number in traffic. If it's on the tailgate we have more time to commit the name and number to memory or (:eek: ) punch it into a cell phone.

06-14-2010, 09:00 PM
I've seen a lot of names that obviously supposed to confer a sense of humor, but I never like that kind of thing. Joes You Stab em We Slab em might sound funny, but it doesn't sound professional. It's probably only funny to Joe and a few others. That's an easy mistake to make. The only part of that which is good, is the name Joe. You don't want long words, or words that are hard to pronounce, nor do you want many words. Personally, I think putting your own first name in it is a good idea, but at the same time there may not be room for it.

Consider how many times you'll answer the phone and say 'Technical Machine and Tool', (not bad) or 'Daves Custom Tooling and Machinery' (a bit long), or 'Minnesota Machining and Tooling Corporation' (too busy).

Whatever you come up with, if it doesn't have a quick ring to it, keep brainstorming. And keep trying your ideas out on us. Myself, if I don't care for the name, I'd rather not call. If I have to accept somebodys sense of humor, I might think it's less than professional, and I'd rather not call. If the name is short and sweet, rolls off the tongue, and gives a couple clues as to the business, that's good. If it's something that is just vague and doesn't lend itself to being remembered with the nature of the business, then it's probably not good. Try to avoid words or combinations of words that can be easily said another way as a cheap joke, as in 'Fu Keng Machinely.

Bob Farr
06-14-2010, 09:02 PM
This one from OZ (where else) "gets it up" - and gets noticed - and talked about - and remembered. ***

Love it! Here's another favorite (btw, don't do this, listen to Darryl):


Doc Nickel
06-14-2010, 09:41 PM
I have a cousin who named his photo business Aardvark so it would appear first in alphabetical listings.

-That's starting to be counterproductive these days. Even in my very small town, there's a page and a half of "A-1 Enterprises" or "AA Dan" ("Double-A Dan") or "AAA Auto" or "Aardvark Something-or-other" listings.

They all blend together- when you're looking for a company name and there's fifteen "AAA-something's" listed, the A's are useless.

Besides all that, of course, is the fact that 'phone book listings in general are on the way out. With the huge numbers of people with mobiles out there, chances are you're not near a yellow pages when you need one, so you call information, or call a friend to look it up or recommend a company or store.

Or you just use your smartphone to Google it.

Locally, we recently had a sort of "yellow pages war" here, where two additional outside companies tried to start distributing their own books (IE, selling ads in them) and so people started ending up with six or even ten copies of the things. The local pages, then one from the big city up north, from three separate companies, with the usual extras and "free promotional copies" dropped off on your doorstep to go with the ones mailed to your home and business address...

Anyway, people started complaining in public- on the local "sound off" radio call-in show, in the letters to the editor, on the community bulletin boards, in local columnists' columns, and so on. A large number of them said they didn't even use yellow pages anymore (thanks to smartphones and the internet in general) let alone needing ten copies.

The two upstarts caved and left when the local legislature was about to whop them with a bill forcing them to collect unused phone books for recycling.

Personally, I haven't cracked a yellow pages in three or four years.


john hobdeclipe
06-14-2010, 10:04 PM
Just a couple thoughts:

Looking toward the future: Should you ever decide to sell the business (assuming you've built up a clientele and have some actual goodwill and a good reputation) it will sell easier if you've kept your own name out of it. Use a name that's descriptive of what you do, but generic enough to be handed over to a new owner seamlessly.

Whatever name you settle on, insist that whomever answers the phone speaks CLEARLY. If your name is "Downtown Machining" then don't answer the phone with "machine shop" or "Dwntnmshn" or, worst of all, "hello." Answer in such a manner that the caller instantly knows the name of your company.

06-14-2010, 11:08 PM
I appreciate all the advise! There are some good points to ponder there. I think I need to get hold of a good CPA for some help.

Generally what I am trying to sell is the skills of a toolmaker- I have even contemplated using the name "Toolmaker76"; basically that is the year I started in the trade (now over 1/3 of a century ago).

I toyed with the idea of "Shoestring Technologies", because I can usually engineer things well and much cheaper than anyone else (I have zero overhead). My present client talked me out of that, didn't sound very professional and after thinking about it I have to agree.

Thanks again!

06-15-2010, 06:52 AM
JAMS; Just Another Machine Shop. Now not a highly professional sounding name but may get more calls from individuals.
Hometown Machining Put your name in front, by "your name" behind and you can use hometown or substitute your hometown name.
I've helped a few friends come up with names and the most productive times seemed to be with a beer or two under the belt. We'd get silly, crazy, everything and it was the quantity of names that seemed to draw something out. Go crazy and write everything down and something dhould show up that fits just right.

06-15-2010, 11:48 AM
Lots of names to choose from. Having "toolroom" be a part of your name is not a bad idea too. Smith's Toolroom, or some such could work.

Whatever you pick, get it over with. It is a pain to change everything, and over time you will start to build up an investment in the name. For example if you incorporate, get business cards, stationary, customers who know you by name, yellow page ads, and so on.

I'd pick a name you can get the Internet domain for too. Whether you plan to use the domain early on or not, the world is steadily going that way more and more. You may as well prepare for it. That will also make it less likely you pick a name that is already taken.

BTW, picking a name that is taken without knowing it can be painful. They can show up if they've done all the right paperwork and make you change it.