Changing Your Business Name: Guide and Checklist

Illustration by Kit8 via Dribbble

There are many reasons you could be thinking about changing your business name, or even coming up with one to begin with. However, a business name change could be the first step in creating a great brand experience—an essential part of maintaining your consumers.

Before Changing Your Business Name

There’s a lot to think about before you change your name, but don’t worry. We’ll cover all of it here.

  1. The cost: States often charge a fee to process name-change paperwork. The process can range from $20 to $150, depending on the state in which your business is located. Additionally, it’s important to consider the redesign of your website and logo, as well as checking the trademark of your name.
  2. Clients and customers: Your business exists to serve them. Without your clients and customers, the business would likely be nonexistent. You should consider their perception of your name change. Will they stay loyal to you as a business through the change? Will they understand it and accept it? Try putting out a survey or a poll to gain some insight into their perspective.
  3. The availability: This is one of the most important aspects of changing your business name. Once you’ve committed to a business name change (and that your clients and customers are with it), you need to check the availability of the name itself. You will not be able to register the name if it has already been taken by another business. The process of verifying the name changes from state to state, but you will likely be able to check the availability within the Secretary of State’s database.

Steps for Changing Your Business Name

Once you’ve decided you want to change your name, there are some steps you should follow in order to ensure that your business name is secure.

#1. Notify the state in which your business operates

If your business is a proprietor or partnership operating under a fictitious name, contact the local government for the next steps that need to be taken to register for a new name or DBA (“doing business as”).

#2. File the official name change with the IRS

  • If you have a partnership, notify the IRS when you’re filing your tax return on Form 1065. But if you’ve already filed your return for the year, contact the IRS using the address where you mailed the tax return.
  • If you are a single-member LLC, follow the same process as sole proprietors. And for multi-member LLCs, follow the same process as partnerships.
  • For corporations, notify the IRS of your name change when filing the annual tax return on Form 1120. If you’ve already filed your return for the year, write to the IRS using the same address where you filed your return.

#3. Determine if you need a new EIN

An EIN is an employer identification number. It is not always necessary to secure a new EIN; however, you should visit the IRS employer identification number document, especially if you change the structure or ownership of the business during the rebranding process.

#4. Update permits and licenses

After your business name has officially been changed, contact the government agencies (whether they be on a local, state, or federal level) associated with your business’ permits and licenses. Make sure your permits and licenses are updated in accordance with each government agency’s policy.

#5. Make sure employees are aware of the change

Give your employees the rationale behind your name change (and the new name) before announcing it to the public. It’s important to present a united front, especially during a rebranding event that affects the entire business.

#6. Notify clients and customers

When you have informed all the employees of the name change, it’s time to announce it to your customers and clients. Keep it positive, and make sure everyone understands why the name change was in the best interest of the company.

#7. Update company information

It might take a while, but updating your company documents and information is an essential step to avoid confusion. This includes making sure your website matches the brand identity, if it’s been changed. Any physical merchandise or documents with the company name should be updated as well.

How to come up with a business name that’s effective

 icon-angle-right Make it user-friendly and simple

If your name is easy to remember (and to spell), it’ll make it easy for your consumers to think of when they’re trying to decide where to go with their business.

 icon-angle-right Keep your differentiators in mind

Take some time to do an analysis of the competitive landscape of your business. What makes your business unique? Keeping your differences in the forefront of your mind when brainstorming, it will help you create a name that stands out amongst your competitors.

 icon-angle-right Use acronyms and abbreviations

Many extremely well-known, successfully-run businesses use acronyms. It helps keep the name short, sweet, and unique. Here’s a few acronyms for companies and organizations: CVS stands for Consumer Value Stores, GEICO stands for Government Employees Insurance Company, and—here’s an interesting one—Adidas is a combination of the founder’s nickname and last name (commonly mistaken for “All Day I Dream About Soccer”).

 icon-angle-right Communicate your company mission and value

The car company, Tesla, is a great example of this. Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American scientist who invented the alternating current system of electricity (among other things). The company name both pays tribute to Tesla, and conveys their purpose: clean energy and electricity (which was Tesla’s original dream). You could also change the name to go with your logo, and hide your business’ message in your logo.

Here are some guiding questions to help you reflect on your company’s mission and purpose to inform the creation of your name:

  • What do you want your customers to think of when they see your brand?
  • What positive emotions do you want to invoke in them?
  • How would you describe your business to others?
  • What is your company’s ultimate purpose?

Business Name Change Checklist

As you can see, there are many steps to changing your business name. We’ve summarized them here, and provided more information in our infographic. To keep all the steps straight, be sure to check out the business name change checklist.

Changing Business Name - Guide & Checklist

About the Author!

Tristian Brown is a content creator who develops helpful and compelling stories. His passion for digital marketing and creative writing has led him to cover unique topics ranging from business to lifestyle. He calls San Diego, CA home and enjoys travelling and exercising in his spare time.

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