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What's In A Name?


Posted on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 in Small Business Today Articles

What’s in a name?                                                                                                                                                          

It is common knowledge around the Friedman household that when Emily was born, if she had been a boy instead of a girl, her name would have been Ted. Katie was also going to be named Ted and so was Jenni. When a boy was born to us in 1994, just a few short weeks after we moved to Ankeny, to no one’s surprise, we named him Ted.

In addition to just liking the name Theodore, we also liked the fact that he shares the name Ted with Joanne’s brother, who lives in Sioux City. For the first few years this name similarity did not cause any confusion. Later, when we would visit Sioux City and Joanne’s brother, people would call Ted’s name and two people would look to see if they should respond. It was at that point that one of the family suggested that we should call one person “Big Ted” and the other “Little Ted”.

This arrangement worked for more than ten years, until “Little Ted” actually grew taller than “Big Ted”. And because “Little Ted” was a teenager who was also bigger than most, if not all, of his classmates, some people were calling him “Big Ted”. This worked OK in Ankeny, but when we got together with Joanne’s family, confusion was once again the order of the day. I once thought that we could call them “Ted K and Ted F”, but that just didn’t roll off the tongue very well. Someone else suggested that we call Joanne’s brother “Uncle Ted” and my son simply “Ted”.

That arrangement worked well for a while too. Until “Little Ted” also became an uncle. Now there were two Uncle Teds in the family, and “Old Ted” and “Young Ted” just didn’t sound right.

As small business owners and managers, our name, our reputation is everything. If your company is relatively new, I am guessing that you spent a lot of time figuring out exactly what to call your company. Your name should reflect something about what you do and something that elicits a desired response from potential customers.

Before it was associated with athletic shoes and apparel, Nike was known as the Greek winged goddess of victory. A 2017 Harris Poll ranked America’s 100 most recognizable companies from worst to best.
At the top of the list was Amazon. Bottom of the list had two banks and Takada, the company who manufactured a very large number of defective air bags. I am guessing that 2 years ago the Takada name was relatively unknown to most everyone outside of the air bag industry. The companies that made the bottom of the list have good people working for them; they understand their businesses and have had success. Too bad they didn’t perform.

Your name, both company name and your personal name have a reputation, and I hope that it is well known for doing the right things the right way. People want to do business with companies who have a good reputation. Protect your name and reputation through constantly having people who do their jobs with pride and understand that their name is inevitably intertwined with their employers.

Right now there is a movement to call Joanne’s brother “Gruncle Ted”, which is short for great uncle. I’m not sure I like it, but will give it time to fully sink in. In the meantime, it is still fun for me to call out to Ted and see which one looks first.

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