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How many names does your business need?

You're starting your own business. Deciding on a name is one of the first crucial business decisions you'll make. However, you may have multiple names for your business for different purposes. It's essential to understand how these various types of names are used.

Legal name

This is also known as the registered name. It's the name you register with the state and the one used on your application to get an Employer ID or Tax ID number. The legal name is used by government tax authorities, financial institutions and legal entities.

Trade name

This is the name by which the public, your customers, vendors and others with whom you trade know your company. It's the name you use to advertise your business and that you place on signage, marketing collateral and online. Most business owners have a trade name that's at least slightly different from their legal name.

Fictitious name

This is only needed if the legal (registered) name and trade name are different. It is also known as a "doing business as" (DBA) name. An example of a fictitious name would be Chandler Enterprises, dba Kyle's Mobile Dog Grooming.

It needs to be registered by filing a fictitious name statement with the county or city government so that officials know who the business owner is. That statement must also be published in a local newspaper so that it is public record.

In Florida, fictitious names are registered with the Department of State. However, is a company has already been registered because it's a partnership, limited liability company (LLC) or corporation, an additional DBA registration isn't needed.

Of course, you want to ensure that no one else is already using any of these names, particularly if they're in the same line of business in your area. The same is true for other elements of your branding, including logos and slogans. You also want to protect these things from use by potential competitors. An experienced Florida business attorney can provide valuable advice as you set up your new enterprise.

Source: The Balance Small Business, "Registered Name? Trade Name? Fictitious Name? What is the Difference?," Jean Murray, accessed June 15, 2018

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