A name is fundamental to the identity of your business. It is the most outward facing aspect of your business, so naming your business is an exciting step. Before choosing a name, there are a few things you should consider.
1. Be sure nobody else is using that business name.
Regardless of whether your business is a LLC or a corporation, your business’ name needs to be “distinguishable upon the records of the Secretary of State.” Simply put, you need a name that is unique. The Secretary of State will also look for business names that are so similar that they’re likely to create confusion for consumers. In Illinois, you can search the Secretary of State’s website to determine what names have already been claimed.
2. Be sure it complies with your practice act and ethical rules.
While business naming regulations may slightly vary from profession to profession, it is a general rule that healthcare providers cannot choose names that contain superlatives nor can they contain verbiage that guarantees a particular result. For example, names such as Chicago’s Best Physical Therapists, LLC and The Place Where You’ll Get Cured, LLC, are not acceptable.
Additionally, some states (like New York!) have an extensive list of “restricted words” which cannot be used in a business name. Luckily, Illinois’ list of prohibited words is very short and includes the following words: “bank”, “banking”, and “insurance”.
3. Be sure it includes the proper notation for your corporate formation, which tells people about your limited liability status.
Your business’ name must include an indicator of its corporate form, and that indicator must be distinct from the other words in the business name. For example, LLCs must contain the term “Limited Liability Company,” or the abbreviation “L.L.C.” or “LLC.” An LLC cannot contain any of the following: “Corporation”, “Corp”, “Incorporated”, “Inc.”, “Ltd.”, “Co.”, “Limited Partnership”, or “LP.” Similarly, corporations must contain one of these words or their abbreviations: “Corporation”, “Incorporated”, “Company”, or “Limited.”
Remember that not all healthcare providers can form corporations in Illinois. Instead, you may need to establish a professional corporation and annotate your name accordingly.
Aside from the requirement that your business include a notation of your corporate form, it’s just good practice to spread the word about your limited liability status. After all, shielding yourself from personal liability was one of the reasons you created your LLC or corporation. So be sure that prospective and existing clients are on-notice that you’re operating as a limited liability entity.
Choosing a name for your business is important, and the applicable laws and regulations can quickly turn a fun process into frustrating one. It can be costly to fix a business name that does not comply with the standards imposed by the state and your profession: paperwork will need to be amended with the state, marketing materials will need to be reprinted, and websites will need to be updated. We offer cost-effective business start-up services to help providers avoid these headaches. For more established practices, we provide advertising review services, which audit your existing marketing and online presence to be sure that you’re compliant with the regulations imposed by the state and your profession.
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