What’s in a name? Featured

9:49am EDT July 22, 2002

Jordan Greenwald, chief financial officer of Canton’s GDK & Co., is searching for words to explain why his insurance benefits and estate-planning firm recently changed its name from the multisyllabic Greenwald Deitemeyer and Kase to the short and snappy GDK & Co.

When he’s asked how to spell Greenwald Deitemeyer and Kase, he laughs.

“That’s exactly why we changed the name,” he says. “For the past nine years, whenever somebody asked what company I was from, I would say Greenwald Deitemeyer and Kase and I would get this glazed-over look. Then I would always end up doing what I just did — spelling the entire name out.

“It got to be so problematic that we figured we would just go by GDK & Co. Most of our clients had gotten used to us saying GDK anyway.”

The company — started in 1975 by Stanley Greenwald, Don Deitemeyer and Rich Kase — is just one of many firms that have recently changed their names from encyclopedia-length monikers to acronyms that are easier to remember — and easier to spell.

Two years ago, Saltz Shamis and Goldfarb created an umbrella company called SS&G Financial Services under which the accounting firm (which still goes by Saltz Shamis and Goldfarb) and other divisions exist. The move not only enabled the company to offer investment services, which accounting firms aren’t allowed to do, it gave the company an identity it never had.

“For a long time, I heard, ‘Are you lawyers? Accountants? Architects? What do you do?’” says Kathy Sautters, marketing director for the 30-year-old company. “SS&G Financial Services is much easier to remember, much easier to pronounce, and it says what we do.”

Coming up with the new name was fairly simple, Sautters says. “We said, ‘How ’bout this? How ’bout this? How ’bout this?’” she remembers. “I went ahead and came up with the logo and bam! That was it. And it’s been good for us. We’ve had clients for years who didn’t realize the different services that we offered.”

But changing your name can be risky. “If you have market recognition with your former name, you may lose a lot of goodwill in the marketplace,” says Eugene Moncrief, president of MerriHill Inc., a business consulting firm that recently shortened its name by dropping the word “consulting.” Moncrief concedes that changing your name can be beneficial. But choosing an acronym isn’t always the way to go.

“General Motors means cars,” he says. “General Electric means electricity. But XYZ Co. doesn’t tell you whether you make drugs or shotguns.”

Perhaps that’s why SS&G included ‘financial services’ in its name and GDK & Co. added the tagline “net worth and benefits” to their logo. Still, both Greenwald and Sautters say their companies have experienced a bit of confusion since they made their moves.

“We’re still struggling with it two years later,” Sautters says. “People know us by Saltz Shamis and Goldfarb. It’s even hard for our staff members to know what they should call us.”

Greenwald agrees: “We’ve gotten a bit of, ‘Oh. I didn’t realize it was you,’” he says.

But in the end, he’s certain that the company made the right move. After all, he says, “It’s a lot easier to spell ‘D’ than Deitemeyer.”

How to reach: GDK & Co., (330) 966-5577; SS&G, (330) 668-9696; MerriHill Inc., (330) 836-6626