January 24, 2024
What’s in a (business) name? Choosing a Business Name for your dog trainer business

If you read our previous post about starting your own dog training business, you’ll know that one of the very first steps in starting a dog training business is deciding what to call it. Unlike training itself, where you don’t name a behavior until you either love it or can predict it, a business needs a ‘label’ right from the start.

So, what do you need to think about before deciding on an option?

Legal stuff you need to check.

Not surprisingly, there are legal ins and outs to be considered when you start setting up your new venture. So, before you do anything, check out the links below. They’ll help you understand the legalities of business structures and how that influences what you call your business.

The steps to getting started are:

If it’s all as clear as mud, check out this article that explains the ‘legal stuff’ of business names in plain English. You can also find more information about working as a Sole Proprietor here.

It’s worth noting that your business structure and your name aren’t necessarily dependent on each other. You can be a sole proprietor and still have a business name that you’re working under, and you can set up as an LLC and still use your own name (e.g., Joe Blogs LLC).

All done? Once you understand the legalities, it’s time to think about the marketing implications of your business name. What you call your business can have quite an impact on how easy it is to get your name out there – and make money!

*Note: You likely want to read the rest of this article first, though — just in case there’s something here that makes you change your decision on what to call your business!

Your name vs business name

When it comes to naming your business, you have two choices: use your own given name or choose a business name. There are pros and cons to each, which I’ll explore in a moment, but for now, ask yourself the question:

What is your ultimate goal with the business?

If you know you’ll want to keep it small, be the solo trainer and only work directly with local people, your name choice might be very different than if your goals are to grow a bigger enterprise with multiple trainers and open a facility.

So, let’s take a look at those pros and cons…

Using your own name:

Pros

  1. Marketing can be easier. People want to work with people. And this is even more evident when it comes to providing a personal service such as dog training. You’re working with members of the public, so that human connection can be extremely important.
  2. Word of mouth is easier. Your clients think of YOU (a person), not your business when they recommend a great trainer to their family and friends. It’s not uncommon for clients to work with someone extensively and not be able to remember the business name! Why? Because they don’t use it much. They talk to you, and about you, using your personal name, not the business one.
  3. Unless there are multiple people in your area with the same name, who are all in the same business as you are, your business is going to be unique locally if you use your own name.
  4. If you want to keep your business small and provide a very personal service, which is unique to you, then using your own name makes perfect sense.

Cons

  1. Growing can be difficult. Using your own name can be an issue if you want to expand later on. You run the risk of clients wanting to work with only you – because your business name implies that you are the only trainer.
  2. Selling the business can be tricky. You can run into problems if you want to sell the business in the future and it’s built around you as the brand. Obviously, if you no longer own the business or provide the service, the business brand no longer exists! Which means you can’t sell it as an ongoing venture.
  3. If your name is confusing to spell or hard to pronounce, using it as a business name doesn’t work so well. You’ll lose potential clients if they can’t spell your name to find your website or social media channels – and word of mouth referrals can be tricky if people struggle to wrap their tongue around it.

Using a business name

Pros

  1. Expansion is simple. If you’re aiming to grow your business and take on other trainers, it’s easy to do. You just employ someone, and they join the crew. Clients don’t have the expectation of working with only you as the business name doesn’t have that personal implication.
  2. You can sell it. Once you’ve built the business up, you can sell it in the future. You’re not an integral part of the brand so the business doesn’t self-destruct if you move on.
  3. You aren’t the brand. You can develop a business brand personality that is separate from you. So, even if you’re more on the shy side, you can have a business brand that’s bright and outgoing without it being a contradiction.

Cons

  1. Marketing can be difficult. If you’re the only trainer, people remember your name, not the business name. Have you ever looked at a piece of content, an ad or social post and not had a clue who the person was behind it? And then found out and realized you know them but had no idea of that person’s business name? It happens more frequently than you might think!
  2. You can absolutely change your business name later but it saves headaches if you make the right choice at the start.

Finding a name

If you’ve decided to go with a business name rather than use your own your next task is to find one…

You want to look for something that’s memorable and easy to spell. There’s no point in having a cool name if no-one can remember it or work out how to spell it (Melissa is forever asking clients if it’s K9, Canine, or K-9). You’ll also want to check to see if it has an available domain and available social handles.

Here are some ways you can get started…

Be clever with your own name

Can you do a smart play on words with your surname? For example, Megan Foster has named her business “Fostering Excellence in Agility” or “FX Agility” for short. People are unlikely to forget either her name or the business name!

Get inspired

If you’re short on ideas, check out Lean Domain Search to get started. Put a phrase that reflects your business into the search box and watch it generate a whole heap of available domain names for you.

Once you have a name you like in mind, check to see if the social handles are available. You want everything to feel as if it’s a family – as close to being identical as possible.

A word of caution

Want to use your special dog as inspiration? Maybe their image in your logo? Or their name in your business name? You can absolutely do that. But take a moment to think about how you’ll feel when you finally have to say goodbye to your influential canine partner.  Is that going to make your business name or logo deeply painful for you? Or will you see it as honoring their memory? Only you can answer those questions, but it pays to give it some thought up front.

Look for other businesses with your “Business Name”

After you have an option or two that you’re fairly set on, make sure to look for any other dog trainers who may be using the same name or something fairly similar. It’s no fun to get your business up and running just to receive a “cease and desist” letter in the mail!

If you really want to dot your i’s and cross your t’s you can check for a trademark on the name you like best. If you’re unsure based on the results whether or not you can use the name you’ve chosen, best to chat with a lawyer. And in case it isn’t obvious, declaimer: I am not a lawyer 🙂

Next steps

Once you’ve chosen your business structure and name, and registered with your authorities, you’ll need an EIN number (sometimes called a Federal Tax Identification Number). You can find a more user-friendly explanation of EIN numbers here.

Now you’re all set to open a business bank account, take out insurance, and begin working with all those lovely clients waiting to work with you.

Go get ‘em!

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