If you are thinking about forming a limited company, one of the first steps to take is to choose a good name for your new enterprise. This may sound easy, but there are plenty of things to consider before starting the formation process.
Company Naming Tips
- You can search for available names on the Companies House site, or via one of the hundreds of company formation specialists. The first step is to ensure that your proposed name is available
- Keep your name choice business-like, as your credibility will be undermined if you use an unprofessional name
- Find the right tone for your name, according to the type of business you are in. A software engineer might choose something technical, whereas a retailer might go for something more eye-catching, for example
- Your name cannot be too similar to a currently live company name, according to naming rules laid out by the registrar of companies
- You must also steer clear of using words and expressions deemed to be ‘sensitive’ by Companies House (more below)
- Make sure you search for suitable domain names simultaneously, to provide a matching online identity to your corporate one. It is wise to safeguard your online identity against future competitors who may think they can benefit from owning ‘your’ domain name
- If you are going to conduct business overseas, double-check your proposed name to ensure you don’t cause mass offence abroad!
- For obvious reasons, steer clear of any trademarked names or expressions
- Try to think long-term. Do you want to expand your business into new areas, or offer new services in the future? If so, don’t focus your name choices based solely on what you business offers right now
- You may decide to use brand names for business purposes, or if you run several businesses through a single company, so your choice of company name is likely to be of secondary importance to your brand naming
Sensitive Words and Expressions
Aside from the more obvious rules, such as not choosing a name that could be deemed offensive, there are a number of ‘sensitive’ words and expressions that can only be used if you are qualified in some way, or have had permission from a Government or professional body to use.
Examples include words such as ‘association’, ‘assembly’, ‘chemist’, ‘dentist’, and any words that imply a link with the Government when one does not exist.
For the official guidance to company naming and incorporation, read guide GP1 on the Companies House website.
Changing your company name
If you have second thoughts about your company name somewhere down the line, it is surprisingly easy to change names.
All you need to do is get the agreement of the company’s directors, and then submit Form NM01 together with a small fee to Companies House.
The downside of changing names if that you may have to spend quite some time updating all your contacts and customers with your new identity, as well as your accountant, tax and regulatory authorities.