By Brian Chou, OD, FAAO
Sept. 19, 2018
When starting a new practice, or re-branding an existing one, you want to pick a memorable name that resonates with your patients. Like choosing a baby name, it takes care and thoughtfulness.
Don’t be that parent whose child gets relentlessly teased for a weird name that rhymes with something unfortunate, or is eternally forced to correct their name’s pronunciation or spelling. The practice name is similar.
I recently renamed a practice that I purchased earlier this year. I went through a similar naming exercise in 2011 for a practice that I sold last year. My new practice is ReVision Optometry. Here’s what I have learned over the course of naming two practices.
You may not want to use the name of your legal entity registered with the IRS, such as Brian Chou, O.D., Inc., to conduct business with the public. Your doing-business-as (DBA) name, like ReVision Optometry, becomes the public brand. These are tips to find the ideal DBA name.
Don’t Make Yourself the Brand
Most of us are best to avoid having our own name in the DBA name. There will come a day when you want your patients to see your associate, or you wish to exit clinical practice to pursue a new phase in your life.
When you sell the practice, and are no longer a part of it, it may no longer make sense for the practice to bear your name. A new owner may be hesitant to purchase a practice heavily branded in your name. Relegate your self-importance to the back burner, and make the business special because of your systems and operations, not because of you.
You May Have to Include “Optometry” in Your Name
California, where I practice, requires optometry practices to have “optometry,” or “optometric,” in the doing-business name. Before you start the process of naming your practice, get a list of naming requirements from your state board.
Make It Short & Memorable
There are many reasons to avoid names that are a mouthful.
Some states can enforce you to use your DBA name exactly as it is registered. Imagine if your practice name was “San Diego Keratoconus Contact Lens Optometric Center,” and your receptionist had to answer the phone each time uttering that full name. Not a good way to earn the respect of your staff!
The more important reason to choose an easy-to-remember name is you want your patients to be able to easily find you, and repeat the name of your practice to their friends and family. For that reason, consider a two- or three-word practice name, versus something longer and more complex.
You’ll also want to make sure your name doesn’t duplicate an existing business or infringe on any trademarks, and that you can register your desired domain name (e.g. my practice web site: www.revisionoptometry.com).
Make It Phonetic & Easy to Spell the Right Way
Don’t let your practice suffer the fate of person with a name that could begin with two different letters, like Kathy or Cathy. You don’t want patients to find another practice by accident and think it’s you. There should be only one obvious spelling of your practice name when a person searches for your business.
Avoid Logistical Confusion
If you’re thinking of using the name of a road, or neighborhood, in your practice name, make sure it doesn’t confuse. For example, the first practice I owned had the name “Carmel Mountain” in it because it was on Carmel Mountain Road, but this road stretched over seven miles with about a dozen optometrists on this road. To add to the confusion, there were the nearby communities of Carmel Mountain Ranch and Carmel Valley, and Carmel Mountain Road ran through both, yet the practice wasn’t located in either community. The name confusion led some patients to arrive to their appointment late.
Don’t Pick a Geographically Limiting Name
In addition to logistical confusion, naming a practice after a geographical location could cause grief if you decide to relocate or expand to multiple locations beyond the original street or neighborhood you named the practice after.
A location opened in another neighborhood that bears the name of the location of your original office could be confusing.
Make Sure the Name Doesn’t Give the Wrong Impression
There are names you can choose that may have unintended meanings that you’re not aware of. For example, “Chevrolet Nova” may have seemed like a clever name, but in Spanish “no va” means “doesn’t go,” so maybe not so clever on second thought.
The practice I sold in 2017 was called EyeLux Optometry, a name that had the unintended consequence of connoting luxury and unaffordability in the minds of some patients, even though when I owned it, the desired demographic to serve was middle-income.
This is why it’s helpful to seek outside feedback, to try identifying what feelings and meanings your proposed business name elicits.
See What Others Think of It
Once you’ve whittled your potential names from a long- to short-list, run it by your family, friends and colleagues, and get their input. You might be surprised at the unintended impression the name leaves them with, or a potential point of confusion that hadn’t occurred to you.
Your practice’s success depends on the services, products and patient experience you provide–but first patients must find you. The right name can make or break that first step.
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Brian Chou, OD, FAAO, is the owner of ReVision Optometry in San Diego, Calif. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org