Some business owners mistakenly believe having their family name in the company name will make it impossible for them to sell their business to an outsider. In fact, some of the world’s most valuable companies have their founder’s family name right there in the company name:
- Goldman Sachs
- Wells Fargo
- JPMorgan Chase
- Proctor & Gamble
- Johnson & Johnson
If your name is on the door, your customers will consider you synonymous with the business—unless you give them something else to latch on to.
“Owners with their name on the door have to work hard to carve out a unique identity for the business which is distinct from their personal identity,” says Ted Matthews, author of Brand: It Ain’t the Logo. “Owners need to document their brand foundation of the company and make sure every employee knows what makes up the foundation of the company brand and how that is distinct from the personality of the owner.”
Robert, James and Edward Johnson could have focused the Johnson & Johnson brand on their own personalities; instead, they branded new products like Band-Aid. Their successors went on to further separate the founders from the brand by launching Listerine and Tylenol. By branding their products, the Johnsons and their successors were able to separate their company identity from that of their founders while not abandoning the family name.
Even though their names are on the door, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard worked hard to define their company brand as something more than the aggregate of the two owners’ personalities. They decided to make HP, the company, stand for innovation. Today, HP no longer needs Bill and Dave at the helm for people to see HP as a valuable company.
Even with your name on the door, you can build a valuable, sellable company. Just make sure your brand stands for something other than you.