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The Name Game


Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2018 in Small Business Today Articles

It happened again last week.  A person from out of town stopped in the bank with a check from First National Bank in their hand.  All they wanted to do was to exchange that check for cash, as is their right.  The only problem was that the check was not drawn on our First National Bank.  The customer thought all banks named First National Bank were the same.  Unfortunately, not all First National Banks are the same and it took a little while for our staff to explain it to him.

Here is another example of mistaken identity, and it was a crazy week for people mistaking our bank for a different one.  I received a sample pen in the mail from a company that wanted me to order a case of identical pens from them.  The pen was very nice, wrote smoothly in a fine ink, and was inscribed with the following: “First National Bank of Alaska, Ankeny, IA 50023”.   I was amazed, so amazed that I did some checking.

I found that there was a First National Bank Alaska, a large, successful bank with locations from Anchorage to Fairbanks.  But no branches in Ankeny, Iowa.  I also confirmed that First National Bank in Ankeny, Iowa was not affiliated with First National Bank Alaska.  Then I got to thinking how many First National Banks there were around Ankeny, Iowa.  I went to Google and typed in First National Bank.  I found First National Bank of Ames which happens to have a location in Ankeny where I work.

Other First Nationals also showed up.  Banks in Creston, Fairfield, Newton, Waverly and Omaha were on the list.  None of those banks were affiliated with each other, or my First National.  Interestingly Google also showed me First National Banks in Ord, Nebraska; Manchester, Tennessee and Picayune, Mississippi. Definitely not affiliated with my First National.

As I thought about the events of the check cashing and the pen, two themes came to mind.  First, I thought about how important the little details are in business.  I will be the first to admit that I miss the little details sometimes.  But every time that I forgot a detail, I learned to not make that same mistake again.  Some people will tell you that the person or company that makes the fewest mistakes will be the most successful.  Some people will tell you that those who take the biggest risks will be the most successful. My opinion is that both sides are right.  Every day we open for business it is a risk, but by being conscientious about the little details, we make that big risk smaller, and improve our chance at success.

My second thought was about our business names. The good news is that as small business owners and managers our personal names and reputations are intertwined with the name and reputation of our businesses.  Even though our names might be similar to another business or even a competitor, nobody with your name, your reputation handles your business like you do.  Take care of how you handle your personal name, how you handle your business name and your reputation.  Together they can weave a tapestry of success.

Will other people come into my First National Bank thinking it is a different bank?  Probably.  But I see that as an opportunity to show those people exactly what makes my First National Bank special, and a place for them to do their banking business.  Will I ever order pens from the company that imprinted the wrong name on a promotional pen?  Maybe, but I will definitely check the proof carefully if I do, because getting a name correct is important.

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