Before registering with the state to form a limited liability company, you need to have chosen an available name that represents your company's brand well and is memorable to your customers. However, you can't just choose any name you want since your business name will need to have terms that indicate you're operating an LLC and avoid certain words that may mislead others, have trademarks or are otherwise restricted in your state. Taking a look at some good practices for business naming along with some LLC example names can help you brainstorm ideas that might work for your company.
Understanding Name Requirements
When coming up with LLC company names, you'll want to know a few restrictions and requirements that states often specify for valid business names. While you'll usually see a list of state naming requirements when you go to register your LLC, you can consider these guidelines to get an idea:
- Identification of business entity type: You'll usually find that your state will make you include terminology in your business name that identifies your business type as an LLC. There are usually rules that make it appropriate to include the full words or different abbreviations, but your state may restrict or limit your options. For example, allowed terms may include "LLC", "LC," "limited liability company," "Ltd." or "limited company".
- Avoidance of misleading terms: Along with identifying your status as an LLC, the name needs to avoid terminology that suggests other business entities. For example, you wouldn't use a name like "John and Jane's Partnership, Ltd." since that indicates a partnership business model. At the same time, you want to avoid choosing an LLC name that could mislead customers into thinking you're some other type of business. This means you wouldn't name your landscaping company "Andy's Home Repair, LLC" since that could confuse customers.
- Uniqueness in your state: A state won't let you register any LLC name if another company either located in the state or authorized to do business there has claimed it. This usually also applies if you use a very similar name. For example, if a business named "John's Bakery, LLC" already operates in your area, you probably can't register an LLC named "John Bakery, LLC" since they sound too similar and will confuse others in the area.
- Restricted use of certain words: States usually have a list of restricted words that require showing some documentation to be able to use them. These terms often have to do with insurance, banking, medical professionals and other types of licensed professional areas. Some places like Alaska also ban words that imply a geographical area, like "city" or "village," while Delaware requires paperwork to use words related to educational institutions, like the terms "college" and "university".
Tips for LLC Business Names
Keeping the state requirements and restrictions in mind regarding legal LLC names, consider these factors when choosing an effective name for your company:
- Consider your brand: Your LLC name will present your brand to potential customers, so you want to make sure that it makes sense considering the kind of work you do and that it gives off a positive feel. So, if you run a shop that fixes phones, you'd prefer a name like "Jane's Phone Rescue, LLC" over "Broken Device Fixers, LLC" to be both specific and positive in your company naming.
- Stick with simplicity: While you should use your creativity when naming your LLC, steer away from complex words, strange spellings or very long names. After all, you want the name to be short enough to use comfortably in a domain name and on business cards, and you don't want your customers to have trouble remembering it.
For example, if you operate a graphic design service, a name like "Pete's Amazing Designz Services and More, LLC" risks running too long and may confuse users with the unusual spelling of "Designs". However, "Pete's Amazing Designs, LLC" is memorable, clear and succinct.
- Make the name easily distinguishable: If you find that another company already took your preferred name, you may feel tempted to make some subtle changes to try to register it.
For example, you might think that adding the word "the" to the beginning or swapping out "and" for "&" will get you a pass. However, this risks getting the name rejected or at least confusing potential customers. So, avoid making small changes and instead use a name that clearly sets your company apart from others.
- Be careful with acronyms: When making a short LLC name, you might try using acronyms for your name or brand. However, many customers who don't know you may have no clue what those letters stand for. You'll need to carefully weigh the name length with potential confusion to find a good balance. For example, "JTS, LLC" may be confusing to stand for "John's Technology Services, LLC".
- Beware of trademarked names: Along with being mindful of taken names in your locale, you'll need to check if some term in the name has been trademarked since you won't have permission to use it. For example, if you run a mailing supplies shop, you couldn't use a name like "Caity's FedEx Supply Shop, Ltd." since "FedEx" is a trademarked word.
Checking LLC Name Availability
Once you have an idea of the LLC name you're considering, you have to check with your state to make sure some other business hasn't taken it already. Even if your search shows no other business with the name, you'll want to consider checking for similar names too so you don't cause issues with competitors. In fact, some state governments will ask you to show proof that the name is available when you go to form your LLC.
To get started, go to your state's government website that serves the secretary of state, division of corporations or business records department. You should find an option to do a state database search to check for a business name's availability, and this option may appear on the business registration section of the state website. You'll usually just need to enter the business name to run a search, but your state may allow you to broaden your search to names containing a certain keyword or to narrow down your search to show only active businesses.
Forming Your LLC
After you've checked LLC name availability, follow your state's instructions for legally forming your LLC. Often, this means you'll need to draft your articles of organization and select the person who serves as the company's registered agent. Your state's business registration website usually will have an online application where you can file your articles of organization and pay any filing fee.
You'll also register with any relevant federal, state and local tax authorities and apply for any business licenses or permits that your occupation requires. Your state might also make you contact a local newspaper and have a notice published about your LLC's formation.
Along with completing your state's requirements, you'll also want to complete some extra steps to get set up for business. For example, you'll usually make an operating agreement that will explain your LLC's management structure, distribution of losses and profits and procedures for changing members or even dissolving the company. You can also complete tasks such as getting a bank account for your LLC.
- The Brand Boy: Importance of Good Business Name
- Incfile: Rules for Naming Your LLC — An Entire State Guide
- Wolters Kluwer: 3 Tips for Naming Your Business
- UpCounsel: Sample LLC Names: Everything You Need to Know
- New York State: How Do I Determine If the Name I Want to Use Is Available?
- INBiz: Business Search