Issue #25: Naming a Firm

Coming up with a name for your firm is really fun and I think it’s worth spending time thinking of one that fits well and you can be excited about. After all, you need a name you can be proud of for many years. Some feel that there are more important things to work on in the early days of creating your firm, but I think a name is vitally important to get right and worth the time spent.

I think of a name as a first impression because that’s what it’s going to be for anyone who discovers you online before meeting you in person. Like any good first impression, you want to efficiently communicate your purpose and values. Consider also how you want to be perceived by your core audience. If you run a firm that’s entirely your own capital to invest directly in local companies, your core audience is business owners. Are business owners in your area weary of private equity? How can your name stand apart from private equity firms? Or maybe you have a search investment fund and your LPs are former searchers and private equity professionals. In that case, names that sound more private equity-y make sense and will resonate stronger with that audience.

A good name is also easy to communicate over the phone and isn’t prone to misspellings and domain name confusion. For instance, if I’m from Willamette Capital (after the Willamette River in Oregon) and I call an owner who isn’t from Oregon or familiar with the word, it’s possible the name will be misspelled and they won’t find our information online. “Willamette Capital” also says nothing about what the firm does or its values, only that it might be headquartered in Oregon.

I like names that have greater meanings or refer to man-made objects. Man-made objects because they acknowledge that business is a distinctly human endeavor. Ever seen bears create a market for honey futures? My personal favorite is “Airframe Capital/Partners.” I’m an aviation geek and the airframe needs to be the strongest, most flexible, and longest lasting piece of an aircraft. Engines and tires get replaced, but the airframe remains through the aircraft’s decades-long life. It has to survive thousands of rough landings, turbulence, constantly changing payload weight, and occasional pilot-errors like tail strikes. It’s also man-made, recognizing that business is human and it takes a team to design, build, and perfect an airframe or business.

Names like Ohana Capital (“Ohana” is “family” in Hawaiian), Chenmark Capital (“Chenmark” is a variation of “question mark” as an ode to staying curious) have special meaning. While they don’t describe exactly what the firm does, they communicate certain core values about the firm. It tells me something about their firm and gives me a clue as to what my interactions with them will be like. They say more than a name like “Blue River Capital” and stand out in my mind.

Coming up with a good name is hard but fun and it’s okay to take your time coming up with one that fits. I like the name brainstorming process so if you’re looking for help, shoot me a note and let’s chat!

Capital Notes

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