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There are plenty of circumstances where it may become necessary to change the name of your business. Maybe your brand has shifted to offer products and services that don’t necessarily reflect the company’s name anymore. Your name could be a bit generic, allowing it to easily get confused with the names of other competing businesses. Or, it might be time to hit refresh on the company altogether and changing its name is part of that process.
What should you do first if you decide to change the name of your existing business? You’ve come to the right place if you haven’t done this before. Here’s our complete five-step guide to how to change a business name.
The last thing you want is to switch out the name of your small business every year! It’s critical that the next business name you choose better reflects the company and your overall business brand.
There are many common business name mistakes that entrepreneurs make when selecting a moniker for their company. Here are some best practices you should keep in mind when choosing a new name for your business:
As mentioned before, you don’t want the new name of your business to be too generic or easy to confuse with a competing company.
If you struggle to spell the name of your own business, your customer base will probably have the same problem. Keep your name short and simple to spell.
Do not try to reach too far out of the box. You don’t need to rename your business with a name that’s so full of metaphors customers struggle to understand it. When in doubt, look to the core of your business. Think about what you do. Let that guide you toward brainstorming an original name that ties in with your offerings and brand.
When you initially named your business, you likely conducted a trademark search with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to see if that particular name was available. You will need to do the same thing when renaming your business. Conducting a search allows you to see if the name is available to use. You can also see if the name is already registered or in the process of being registered by another business.
If you find that the name isn’t available, you may need to go back to the brainstorming drawing board. However, if it is available, you can move on to the next step.
After you have checked in with the USPTO to make sure your name is available to use, contact your state’s office of the secretary of state. Let them know that your business will be changing its name. They will also be able to let you know whether or not that name is registered in your given state.
If the name is free to use, it’s time to request the proper forms necessary to change the name. All entities with the exception of sole proprietorships must notify their secretary of state about their name change in their articles of incorporation. The proper forms will be provided depending on your entity type. For example, businesses incorporated as LLCs will need to file an article of amendment when changing their business name.
In addition to notifying your secretary of state, the IRS and local revenue agencies will also need to know about your company’s name change. The notification process varies depending on your entity type, so you could check with the IRS’ online guide to determine how your business should notify them.
You might actually need new versions of both. If your business has already filed for a Doing Business As name (DBA), you’ll need to do it again with your local government agency. DBAs identify the business and allow you to open a business bank account, which you may be considering doing under a new business name.
Depending on your entity type, you may or may not need a new employer identification number (EIN). The IRS recommends reviewing Publication 1635 to figure out if you will need to reapply and what is necessary for applying for an EIN once again.