How to Name Your New Limited Liability Company
Starting a new business as a limited liability company? Obviously, you'll need to come up with a good name.
Unfortunately, the process is trickier than you might realize in today's business environment. You've got legal, marketing and even internet-related issues to ponder.
Fortunately, a handful of tips can make the process less stressful and more likely to produce in the end a good name.
Tip #1: Google Your New Name
Here's a first tip. You should Google your new limited liability company name, putting the entire name into quotation marks, to see if somewhere someone already uses the name you've selected.
If you're thinking about opening a new drycleaning outlet and want to use the name "Riverside Drycleaning", for example, Google on both "Riverside Drycleaning" and the full legal name you're likely to use such as "Riverside Drycleaning LLC."
You want a name that isn't already being used... obviously.
Tip #2: Verify Your New Name Is Different Enough
All states require new limited liability company names to be enough different from the names used by existing limited liability companies registered in the state so that no confusion results.
You probably can't name your business "Advantage Property Management LLC" if someone else has named their business "Advantage Properties Management LLC," for example.
To check out the names of existing limited liability companies in your state, visit your state's secretary of state web site and find the web site's directory of existing corporations and limited liability companies. Then, search that directory for names similar to your desired name. Make sure no existing name is deceptively close to what you want to use.
Tip #3: Identify Your LLC Status Correctly
Within your limited liability company name, you'll need to include words, phrases or acronyms that identify your entity as a limited liability company. For example, you might append the acronym "LLC" to the end of your business name.
Different states have different rules about which words, phrases or acronyms you should use. But typically, you can use the phrases or acronyms, "Limited Liability Company," "Ltd. Liability Co.," "LLC," or "L.L.C."
One factor you should consider, however, is whether there's a chance you'll operate in another state. If that's a possibility, you want to make sure your LLC name works both in your home state and in the other states in which you're likely to do business.
Note: The acronym "LLC" works in all fifty states.
Tip #4: Consider Your Future Web Site Name
Even if you're not currently planning on setting up a web site for your new business, you may want to do so in the future. Web sites can often become powerful marketing tools for small businesses (because so many potential customers and clients now use the web as a replacement for the yellow pages directory).
This means you should consider your web site name as you think about your business name. You may want a business name that works (at least reasonably well) as a domain name.
You need to be careful about making a domain name too long or hard to spell. That said, domain names that resemble the phrases that potential customers might Google or Yahoo can be very useful.
If you're opening an landscaping business in a town named Arlington, for example, a web site name like ArlingtonLandscaping dot com will help your search engine marketing--which means you may want to name your business Arlington Landscaping LLC.
Tip #5: Consider Your Email Domain Name
And a related point about Internet domain names: What makes for a good domain name for search engine marketing purposes sometimes doesn't make as much sense for email addresses. For email addresses (which you'll be giving out all the time verbally) you want something that people can easily, correctly interpret, and not unintentionally misspell.
In the early days of the Internet, I decided to use my full name (middle initial and all) for a domain name I now use both for my CPA firm and for my email addresses. Unfortunately, my parents picked as my first name one that has several possible spellings: Stephen. And my middle initial can easily be missed or misread as a number: L, as in "el." Predictably, I have had endless troubles with the domain name and web site address stephenlnelson.com. Ugh.
About the author:
Seattle tax accountant Stephen L. Nelson is the author of numerous do-it-yourself ebooks about limited liability company formation. He also maintains a rich FAQ about LLCs at his LLCs Explained website.