Small-Business Answer Book

Changing Your Biz Name and Up-to-Date Tech

Q:Should I change the name of my business? I've been pondering this for a while, but I want to make sure it's a good decision.

A: Naming a business can feel like naming a child: You only get one shot, so you'd better get it right the first time. But that's not necessarily true. Some kids grow up and change their names, after all, and a growing business can do the same with some strategic thought. Here are four factors to consider when thinking about a potential name change.

1. Is Your name too complicated? A foreign name, funny spelling or a word length that rivals super-califragilisticexpialidocious can seem cool early on, but your company is doing itself a disservice if people always mispronounce it or they can't remember it. Your message could be getting lost in translation because of your company's name.

2. Is Your name too generic? It may be time to consider a name change if yours is too similar to a competitor's, or it doesn't get across what you offer. Write down the names of your local competitors, and ponder how your name stacks up.

3. Can You afford it? Changing your company name isn't cheap. You'll have to change your marketing materials-ads, logos, company stationery and so on-and make legal changes if the company is incorporated. Think about everything you'd have to change, then estimate the overall cost.

4. Do You still have low brand equity? A name change can work if your company still has low brand equity-that is, the estimated monetary value added to your brand because people know who you are. On the other hand, if your local brand equity has grown greatly, a name change could end up costing more than it's worth.

Q:Computers, mobile phones and other technologies seem to be improving by the minute. How do I stay current with today's ever-changing technology?

A: The first step is to decide which technologies are most important to your company. Take a quick inventory of your needs and the technologies you use most around the office, why you use them and how you use them. This step will focus your research so you're no longer trying to keep up with every piece of technology that hits the market. Some other tips:

Read up. Technology and trade magazines, blogs and newsletters can keep you informed. Many trade magazines offer a technology section targeted to your industry. Sites like www.technorati.com also include product blogs and articles for business owners.

Talk to a techie friend. Most of us know someone who works in the technology field or simply loves technology and is hip to new products. Ask this person to have coffee or lunch with you occasionally to catch up on technology trends.

Ask other entrepreneurs. When you're networking at events, bring up the topic of technology to learn what other entrepreneurs in similar industries are using at their companies.

Another thing to consider is how current you really need to stay. In general, if the technology you have still works for you, you may not need to upgrade just yet.

For more answers to your most pressing business questions, visit our Small-Business Answer Desk

Chris Penttila is a freelance journalist in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, area.

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Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the December 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Small-Business Answer Book .

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