Best Practices

Best Practices


In February, a naming dispute between part of the former Yugoslavia and Greece regarding the use of the name Macedonia, which began post-World War II and reignited after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, was finally settled with the renaming of Macedonia to North Macedonia.

Closer to home, I have noted the ongoing battle over President Donald Trumps intent to build a wall along the United States southern border and how that debate has been marked by different characterizations of what a wall is or is not. People on both sides of the debate have tried at times to reduce the heat of the debate by characterizing it as a barrier or steel slats rather than a wall.

So the answer to the title of this column is, apparently, Quite a lot. Lets consider the various ways in which we name things in the business world and some things to think about in the process.

Perhaps you are facing the prospect of naming a new company through a start-up, merger or a break-up. This is a huge decision that requires major deliberation. If you are a large company, consider employing a consultant for this process. If you do not want to spend money on an expert, consider these aspects:

Choose a name that is simple to spell and pronounce. Make sure that it does not convey something undesirable in major languages.

Try to choose a name that conveys positive and aspirational elements. Determine whether the name could be limiting in some way as your company grows over time.

Select a name that stands apart from the competition. Consider how the name will appeal to your major constituencies: customers, employees, the community and shareholders.

Carry out due diligence with regard to the name you are contemplating, such as searching for other companies with the same or similar names in all potential geographies and ensuring that you have access to the internet domain name, too.

Another naming task you may face in your company is related to the naming of various divisions or parts of the organization. Stay with simple names that accurately convey the scope of the organization in a clear way. Review how other companies in your business area have named their organizations for ideas. Give some thought to how the subdivisions in each organization will fold under the main organization.

For example, if you intend to name a division Technology, consider what subdivisions will exist in the Technology department, such as technical service and technology development, or perhaps lubricants technology, fuels technology and technology services. Make sure the headline name will accommodate various potential options for organizing the work underneath it. Ponder how the new organization name will flange with other existing divisions in the company. It is also important that the organization name be easily understood by customers and by potential job seekers.

It is crucial to give appropriate consideration to the naming of jobs. In my experience, job titles matter a lot to the job holder. A good job title will make the job holder feel valued and will imbue the incumbent with a sense of purpose, as well as giving scope for expanding the job into appropriate new areas. I recall at one point in my career when I was reorganizing the procurement organization. The former job titles in that part of the organization, while sensible, did not convey the scope of the job that I sought.

For example, senior buyer seemed to be transactional rather than strategic. We decided at that time to rename the job category manager, which allowed a wider scope and a more strategic focus, and was well understood in the procurement world. Here are a few key points regarding job titles:

Consult with your human resources organization when you are changing or creating job titles; HR should be helpful with regard to how job seekers and employees will view job titles. Additionally, they should ensure that there is some consistency between the job titles in your organization and those of the rest of the company.

Endeavor to have job titles that convey both the level and role of the job in the organization.

Seek job titles that will be clear within the organization with regard to job level.

Ensure that you dont end up with dilution of job titles; for example, if you have 25 vice presidents in the organization, then this title loses its impact.

A final area to consider is the naming of projects, especially those that will require large amounts of resource over a long period of time. Examine whether the project is something you wish to keep secret from competitors, in which case the name should obviously be something that does not convey the purpose. If the project is not a secret one, you should be looking for a name that will be appealing to those you will be recruiting internally or externally.

Be sure the project name is a positive rather than a negative one. For example, a project aimed at improving customer service on-time performance may benefit from being called Optimum Customer Experience rather than Customer Complaint Reduction. Carefully reflect on how the organizations with which the project will work closest will feel about the project, and how the name can encourage cooperation and harmony. You may want to generate some fun and buy-in by running a contest for the naming of the project.

In any of these naming activities, it is advisable to try out the new names with others, such as through focus groups or surveys. Be sure to collect this feedback from various parts of the organization and key external constituencies to the extent possible. Keep in mind that names evoke emotional as well as intellectual reactions and try to tap into these in a positive way.

Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. Email her at or phone (908) 400-5210.

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