What starts as a small operation in a garage can grow to Fortune 500 status. But what happens when a business outgrows its name?
You can change the name, although it's not an easy process, as Jonathon Husni can attest. Husni is president of Acendex, an IT network and consulting firm in Cleveland which was formerly known as PC Guru.
"When I first started the company in my basement, PC Guru was the right name for it," says Husni. "It was catchy at the time. PCs were kind of a fringe thing, and if you had a PC, just what you needed was a PC guru. The world has grown up around us, though, and the name PC Guru sounds like much less than what we actually do."
When Husni began, hardly anyone had a computer network. Now hardly anyone doesn't.
As the market evolved, so, too, did Husni's business. It moved from offering basic PC services to performing full analysis of a business's technology needs, along with a detailed implementation plan. The PC Guru moniker no longer fit the company's scope of operations.
"The whole idea of changing the name came about three years ago," says Husni. "But we were too busy to tangle with it. When the economy slowed down this year, we decided to capitalize on this slowdown in business to gear up for when it started to pick up."
Part of this process was upgrading the company's name. Husni turned to his employees for help and sponsored a contest to generate suggestions, which employees voted on. While the names from the contest were good, they were also already taken, which sent Husni back to the drawing board.
"It took longer than I thought it would to find a name that everyone liked that could take us into the future," says Husni.
A few suggestions had the word "network" in them, but with technology evolving at such a rapid pace, Husni feared the idea of a network might become obsolete, forcing yet another name change.
As a business in the technology field, its new name had to have an available domain name to match, leading to another problem.
"One thing we discovered is that if you go to one of those name look-up engines and type in a name, even if it comes up available, it only stays available for about 24 hours," says Husni.
What happens is the company realizes there is a demand for that name and registers it, then offers it for resale at a considerable mark-up, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.
After navigating around that obstacle, the name Acendex was chosen. Then Husni began using the subtle approach to educate his customers.
"We're intimately involved with our clients," says Husni. "We see them once a week, so we didn't make a big deal about changing our name. We are the same great people at the same great company. What we were looking to do was to rebrand our service to help us appeal to the kind of customers we want more of as we move forward."
Client feedback has been positive, and Husni says the new name will help with future prospecting.
"When people visited our PC Guru Web site and read our marketing materials, our name carried a connotation that was working against us," says Husni. How to reach: www.acendex.com
Picking a new name
Some of the requirements to consider when picking a new name:
* It should stand out from the competition.
* It should attract the right prospects.
* It shouldn't overpromise in any way.
* It shouldn't be confusing.
* It should be easy to say, read and speak.
* It shouldn't be tied into a specific service.