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D.F. Krause
  D.F.'s Column Archive
November 16, 2005
How Your Name Ends Must Follow the Trend

If a company’s name should accomplish anything, it’s to tell us what they do. United Airlines. They fly planes, at least when your flight’s not cancelled. The Law Offices of Sam Bernstein. No fries served here.


Clear enough. And the key to the name is the last name. If your last name is Deli, I’ll take a pound of sliced turkey from you. If your last name is Football Club, then hey! Quit stealing the deli guys’ dates! But at least I know what you do.


But business people – these entrepreneurial dreamers who once decided to challenge the odds and take on the world – can be astoundingly afraid to be unlike everyone else. Especially when it comes to their companies’ last names.


Hospital used to be a stately last name.  It was also helpfully descriptive. It prevented us from rushing to the muffler shop during a heart attack. We found it comforting to know that, in our community, we had four members of the Hospital family.


That was more than a decade ago. Now, we have none. No more hospitals. Not in Grand Rapids, where venerable Metropolitan Hospital recently became the last to change its last name – switching to the sleek “Metro Health.” Why? The new name is “more manageable,” a spokeswoman explains.


Well, that’s understandable. You can only take so much of a name staying out late and drawing on the walls with crayons. If I change my cat’s name from Domino to “Fur Health,” maybe she’ll stop jumping on my head.


Metro’s name change completes the local quadrafecta, in which – over the past decade – all four local hospitals changed their last names from “Hospital” to “Health.” A whole family of Hospitals, off to get new Social Security cards with the new cool name.


The Hospital family isn’t the only one. Members of the Transportation and Trucking families have forsaken their family history and joined the Logistics Solutions family. In fact, this is mere a subset of the exploding Solutions family, which is getting to be like Smiths in the business phone book. Everyone wants to be Solutions. Carpet Cleaning Solutions. Engineering Solutions. I half expect my local police department, which already bolted for the Public Safety family, to change its name again to Crime Solutions. (Wait. Would this create a problem with the people who sell ski masks and candle holders?)


With all these Solutions companies out there, I hope we don’t run out of problems for them to solve. But that’s the risk you take when your area is overly dependent on the Solutions industry.


There are about 30 companies in my area with the last name Networks. None of them have announced their prime time lineups. Even “Communications” is getting out of hand. Do you do advertising or phone systems? “Communication Solutions!”


That clears it up.


This may have started in places like Chicago and Hamtramck, where large populations of Polish immigrants started the trend by becoming Wilkins and Korals, even while others proudly remained Wilczynskis and Koralewskis. Of course, they didn’t have to get new logos and “branding strategies.”


You wonder what happens 10 years from now, when no one is going to the Health places because, well, they’re sick! Time to change last names again, perhaps to “Illness Solutions.” Hopefully the ambulance driver can find it.


Ambulance? That’s Urgent Life Transport to you, buddy!

© 2005 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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