Why’d You Call It That?

by Brad Harmon on September 8, 2010 in Leadership

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What’s the one thing (besides the gender) that nearly everyone asks a new parent about their child?  What’s his/her name?  The answer is likely to lead to another question or explanation of how this name was chosen for the child.  Were they named after a relative?  Why did you choose that name?

As we finish out the first day from our 20 Entrepreneurial Lessons from Creation series, it’s interesting to note that God closes it by naming the light and darkness (Gen 1:5).  What is this obsession we seem to have as humans that causes us to want to name, or label, everything?  Perhaps, it was set in motion by God since He seems to have started it?  Why does it matter in my business?

A Rose by Any Other Name

Does it really matter what I name my business, my processes, my organization’s positions?  Isn’t Shakespeare right about a rose smelling just as sweet regardless of what we call it?  Probably so, but how we react to the rose may be dramatically altered simply by changing its name.

Be honest.  How many times have you formed a snap judgment about someone or something simply from a name or label?  You can even be carrying on a conversation with someone and have your opinion of them instantly change because of a name.  Republican.  Democrat.  Homosexual.  Atheist.  Christian.  Muslim.  See what I mean?  Instant attraction or repulsion.

It’s like we’re hard-wired to respond to labels and names.  Is this a result of memes that have been passed down throughout mankind and reinforced by our environment?  I don’t know.  I do know that if you pin a bad enough label on a rose, it won’t matter how it smells because nobody will stop to sniff it.

How’d You Pick Your Company’s Name?

Some entrepreneurs will tell you not to become emotionally involved in your businesses.  It’s sound advice to some degree, but I’ve never learned how to shake thinking of (or at least treating) my business as a child – my baby.  Are you the same way?  It’s hard not to become attached to something you spend so much time, money, and effort building from the ground up.

It surprises me that, given this great investment, so many entrepreneurs spend so little effort deciding on what to name their business.  I used to work for an entrepreneur that was very proud of his company’s name, but the salespeople complained that they had to spend the first five minutes of every call trying to explain our name to their prospect.  Yes, the name was cool and creative; however, it confused everyone outside the company.

On the other extreme are entrepreneurs that name their business after themselves.  Unless you are the service, it may be a better idea to leave your name out of the business name.  I’ve been guilty of this one myself; however, as a Certified Public Accountant, I was required to use my name in the business name.  Calling your business, Bob’s plumbing, may not confuse anyone but it won’t make them eager to call you either.

What Do You Call Your Employees?

Employees are called by many different labels – associates, representatives, team members, etc.  What do you call yours?  It does make a difference how they are seen by your customers and how they feel about the role they play in your company.  How much thought have you put into them?

Call an employee an ambassador and they’re likely to go out of their way to help your customers, but call an employee a clerk and they’ll just stock the shelf.  Of course, you have to treat them like an ambassador too.  The funny thing is that they become what you call them in your eyes too.

Be careful with nicknames too.  How many adults are still scarred, or worse shaped, by the nicknames they received growing up?  You never know what something you might think is forming a bond with your employees is actually opening up these wounds or stifling their ambitions to grow in your company.

What Do You Call Your Customers?

Just like with your employees, what we call our customers (both to their face and behind their backs) shapes how we see and treat them.  Are they patrons, guests, customers, or clients?  Think it doesn’t matter?  Chik-Fil-A founder, Truett Cathy, says that even the way you respond to a customer’s “thank you” matters.

Why’d You Call It That?

Whether it’s your business name, your employees, or your customers – it’s important what you call them.  It shapes the way you see them, treat them, and the way they see you and themselves.

Have you ever had a title or nickname that you wish had been given better thought?  Do you agree that names and labels change the way we see and treat people?  How do you approach naming your business, people, or customers?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue Miley September 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm

This is really interesting to me. I have seen some company’s thrive regardless of their name and some names that just don’t fit. I have recently bought some furniture pieces from Pottery Barn. Suddenly I said the name and actually heard it. Pottery Barn does not describe this upscale, eclectic, furniture and home decor specialist. But it works for them.

I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a name and I still have people who think Crossroads has a negative connotation and that I should change it.

But, I guess I am like you in that my business is my baby, and I need to connect to it. Even my blog design is a little artsy for a business blog, but I spend a lot of time their and it reflects what I like.

I don’t think I am doing it right, but I am trusting that God will still bring the people He wants me to help to my business.

Interesting and thought provoking post!


Brad Harmon September 9, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I don’t know the history of Pottery Barn, or why they chose their name. I wonder if they simply outgrew it. Many companies start out with a small vision, but end up producing things they never thought they would when they began. You’re correct though. Many companies thrive despite their name. Usually, these companies spend a great deal of money and effort to brand their unusual name.

Personally, I like your blog’s name. It serves a dual message to me. First, it’s where faith and business intersect. Second, it highlights the many decisions, struggles, crossroads that Christian business owners face everyday as they operate their business. I relocated and renamed this blog last month primarily because the previous name and URL of the blog did not really fit the vision for the site.

Thanks for the great comment.
Brad Harmon recently posted..Lessons from the Carpool Lane


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