Last week I was chatting with Tom Taulman II, president of TKO Graphix. A periodical featuring TKO had sent Tom a list of questions including, “What’s the best business advice you ever received?” Tom didn’t hesitate; it was the company’s name. TKO is the initials of the founder’s first names—sort of. That is if you count Tom’s father, Tom Taulman the first…as the Old Man. Yep, that’s the O in TKO. Tom explained the problem with naming the company TKO Enterprises, “When we began the company in 1985 we chose our initials, TKO, as our name. But the mistake we made was calling it TKO Enterprises. I’d make sales calls, and prospects would say ‘Who?” or ask “What do you want?” I was advised to change the name to TKO Graphix and as soon as I did people stopped asking who we were and what we did. They became a lot more receptive.”

Does Your Name Help or Hurt?

In this Real Business post, several ill-advised business names from the United Kingdom are mentioned. For example, Barf Bed & Breakfast, doesn’t sound like the scrambled eggs are a lot of fun does it? Or Poison the Bakery. Yes, I’ll have the crumpets and arsenic please. These are easy examples of poorly chosen names that create a negative emotional response. But sometimes it’s more subtle, for example, TKO Enterprises. When a business uses a name which doesn’t share what it does the public will fill in the blanks—and that may not be a good thing. “TKO Enterprises aren’t they a boxing magazine?” Whether our company was named TKO Graphix, Graphic Enterprises, or Enterprise Graphics all leave little doubt in the consumers mind—it’s a graphics company.

Does Your Name Fit?

In particular does it fit a 2” by 4” screen? This year more time has been spent, more downloads…downloaded, and yes more business has been done on mobile devices than on PC’s. The majority of folks searching for you online are on mobile. If your name is too long, hard to read, or improperly formatted it will hurt your business.

Can Your Name be Found?

What are the keywords for your industry, product, and target audience? Do you think someone looking for a Bed and Breakfast would search using the keyword barf? Interesting, fun, and puny names can seem like a good idea until you search for them. Using a founder’s surname for a business has a long standing tradition, but if the product and service aren’t included the prospect better know the company name.

There are many other considerations, does the name rally employees, does it have another meaning, how does it translate, and can it be confused with another industry or business? All these naming concerns can lead to ineffectiveness of search, disgruntled prospects, and lost business. What’s in a name? Revenue—lost and found. What’s the worst business name you ever saw?