Have you ever considered what you would name yourself if the choice were yours and not your parents? If you could pick any name in the world, what would you pick? Would you go with a tried-and-true name (Bill!), or go with something a bit more eccentric (Moonbeam, Phinnaeus, Apple)? Fortunately — or unfortunately, depending on what your name really is — our parents do name us so we can have someone to blame for rest of our lives. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
But there is another way we can exorcise our creative naming demons and still maintain our ability to have issues with our parents. We can name our business! The name we choose is called a DBA (“doing business as”) name. Those of you working for the big wirehouses may have problems here. Many brokerage firms spend an awful lot of money advertising their brand name and may not be content to dilute it with Bill’s Money Shop, LLC. If you happen to affiliate with an independent broker/dealer, however, the world is your oyster. As a former employer of mine once said, “I’ll call you anything you want; I’m just not giving you any more money!”
As a former recruiter for an independent broker/dealer, I have witnessed firsthand the struggle some financial advisors have when given the opportunity to select a DBA name they will use for all eternity. In my experience, the eventual method of choice falls into one of three categories: by name, by landmark or by quirk.
The most common is by name. I believe this is the default mode. When an advisor can’t come up with a catchy, unique name, he or she inevitably falls back to his or her own name, ending up with something like The Miller Financial Group or Miller and Associates. While this sounds official, it can be a problem if you are alone in your business. The last thing you want is the SEC or NASD in your office wanting to know where the hell the rest of your group is. They may not buy the argument that the mailman, garbage man and donut lady down the street are all associates. Another possible issue is the name itself. If your last name is Crook, Con, Thief, or Swindle, you may want to consider a different name.
The second most popular naming convention is to use a local landmark. For example, I can guarantee you that somewhere on the West Coast, Pacific Coast Financial Services has set up shop. On the East Coast, I can also promise a multitude of business names with the word Atlantic in them. I found further proof of this concept during a recent road trip through the scenic state of Iowa. As I was driving around beautiful Lake Okoboji, I noticed an office sign for Okoboji Financial Services. You get the idea.
The third, and most interesting, choice is by quirk. At a conference last week, I met a rep whose DBA name was Sherpa Financial Guide, Inc. This got my mind racing. How did he come up with a name like that? I never did get the chance to ask him. But, in my mind, he either has relatives who live in Tibet or his in-laws are very short and enjoy carrying heavy objects long distances on their backs. Whatever the reason, I know I can never hear the word “Sherpa” again without thinking of this guy’s practice. I’m not sure I would call him for financial guidance, but if I ever decided to move to a mountaintop, he’d be the first person I’d call.
If you are considering a name change for your business, I hope these tips are helpful. Pick any words you like; just keep in mind, Sherpa is already taken.
BILL MILLER, once a mildly amusing comedian, now works as an industry wholesales and is a former recruiter for a leading independent broker-dealer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.