04 Apr 2014

Did we put the cart before the horse last week?

Uh oh.

We got a couple of questions wondering how to come up with a good name for your business. That’s something you should probably do before you register your business, right?

You want a name for your business people are going to remember. Whether it’s short and sweet or more descriptive, it has to not only represent your business but it has to be a name you love.

You want to stand by your product and service and feel proud of what you do. A business name that excites you will help that.

The Alberta government, however, has some rules you have to follow if you want to incorporate our business.


Toe the incorporation line

When you’re picking a name for your business, it should consist of three elements: distinctive, descriptive and legal.

We’ll use our name, A1 Accounting and Business Solutions Inc., as our example.


The distinctive element allows you to have a unique word or location that sets your corporation apart from everyone else.

For us, that’s “A1″ because we want you to know you’re getting top-notch service and expertise from us.

We also could have used “Calgary” to let you know where we operate.


The descriptive element lets you know what that corporation does or what it is.

We are “Accounting and Business Solutions.” That’s letting you know we provide accounting and other related services, such as bookkeeping, tax preparation and small business startup assistance.


All Alberta corporations are required to have a legal element at the end of their names.

We are “Inc.,” or “incorporated.”

Under the Business Corporations Act, you also use:

✓ Limited ✓ Limitee ✓ Ltee ✓ Ltd. ✓ Corp. ✓ Corporation ✓ Inc. ✓ Incorporated ✓ Incorporee ✓ ULC ✓ Unlimited Liability Corporation ✓ Professional Corporation (Note: This designation can only be used for certain professions, including certified management accounting, certified general accounting, chartered accounting, chiropractic services, dentistry, law, medicine and optometry.)

Now after we tell you all that, you don’t even have to go through the agony of choosing a name if you don’t want one. In Alberta, you can operate a corporation under the business number which will be assigned to you by the Corporate Registry.

But a number just isn’t that memorable … nor would it really work as a good domain name for your website.

Business doppelgangers aren’t cool

It would be a pretty big pain to settle on a name and then find out someone’s already using it to run a business in Calgary.

It’s a good idea to come up with a list of possible names and run each one through a Google search to see if anyone else is out there doing what you want to do under the name you’ve already chosen.

Google is an easy, accessible and, best of all, free first step.

You should, however, make it official and buy a NUANS report. The report lists similar existing corporate names and trademarks, helping you avoid duplication and confusion in naming your business.

Once you’re ready to make your business official by registering, this is a must-do. After all, another corporation has the right to object to the Registrar of Corporations if its owners and shareholders feel you’ve chosen a name too similar to theirs.

If the Registrar agrees, you can be forced to change your business’s name, and you’ll have to start all over again.

And the first time was tough enough, right?