Business Name Registration

How to keep your business name registration up-to-date and why it’s important

It can take months to come up with a business name that encapsulates who you are, what you do and why you do it, while keeping clear of the big business name blunders. Once you have the perfect name, you want to shout it, you want to praise it, and more importantly – you want to register it before anyone else comes up with it.

It happens once, and it happens early. It happens before you even have a chance to speak to them. Anyone looking to engage you or work with you will have developed an idea of what your business is and what you stand for based on your business’ name. In other words, your business name can lose potential sales before you’ve even had a chance to prove your worth.

And that’s the importance that a business name holds. By extension too, that’s the value of ensuring it remains yours and remains up-to-date. It’s also a critical part of any successful exit strategy.

We’ve all heard the stories of the would-be champion who lost out because he neglected the registration process, and the same does happen to businesses. The only thing worse than having your identity taken from you is having it taken legitimately, but don’t worry – we have a few tips to keep you top of the game.

Getting on top of it

Step 1: Search
There is a wonderful tool out there that you can use to check that your business name is indeed registered, and you’re likely already well aware of it: the ABN Lookup Tool. Simply open the site, pop in your business name, and check that your listing comes up.

You can also validate your business name(s) by searching your ABN/ACN using the same tool. In this case, you will find all businesses registered under that ABN on the appropriate results page.

Step 2: Confirm
Be sure to check that if you are still trading under a given name, that the corresponding listing is noted as active, not cancelled.

Step 3: Update (optional)
If you find that you’re no longer trading under a registered business name, or that details of one of your business names are incorrect, you can head to this handy guide to make the appropriate changes.

It is incredibly important to keep these details up to date, and it is your responsibility. If you are thinking about selling your business keep in mind that potential buyers may look up your business details, and if they are out of date (or the register says the business is still under a previous owners name) then you may lose out on a sale. This information is public and therefore is something that your clients, customers and potential buyers can look at, so make sure it accurately represents your current business status.

Business Name Registration
All business name registrations are managed through ASIC, and have been since the 28 May 2012. If you registered a business name before this date and haven’t yet updated it, it will not appear when searched using the ABN Lookup Tool. If this is the case, jump onto the ASIC website and step through the registration process once more. You can also use their Business Name Lookup Tool to see if your business name is registered, check out if your name is unique, or just see who else is operating under the same name.

Please note: Trading names are currently being phased out in mid 2014, so if you are running under a trading name, make sure to register a business name before then.

And that’s it! If your Business Name and ABN are up to date, you are in the clear. If you have a couple of old and unused business names kicking around, now’s a good time to do some spring cleaning.

Keeping on top of it

Here are some simple tools for making sure that your ABN and Business Name(s) remain updated.

1. Google Calendar
One of the most wonderful things to happen to business is the introduction of cloud software. Because of it, we no longer need to carry a diary, a journal, a triplicate invoice book, a (working) pen or any other paper-based paraphernalia to keep our businesses on-the-move. Instead, with a simple little electronic mini-office which some refer to as a ‘mobile phone’, we have the power to organise, implement and schedule from anywhere on the globe.

Google Calendar is one of our favourites – it lets you schedule your day/week/month/year however you see fit. It will send invitations to others for your event so you stay in-the-know with who will be in attendance, and whether or not you need to reschedule to a more suitable time. It lets you clearly define your schedule, while keeping it flexible enough to accommodate those one or two (read: dozens) of time hurdles that arise throughout the day.

We stay on top of those tiny details – like business name registration – by allocating a half-hour once a year, every year, to check that these things are up-to-date and that your business can keep sailing smoothly. As an extra little tip, Google Calendar is also great for setting reminders of when you need to submit your BAS statements, when you need to pay employee super, and the countless other infrequent, yet critical tasks that you could otherwise inadvertently miss.

2. The Trusty Diary
Of course people were keeping on top of responsibilities well before computers came around. Some will argue that keeping a well-organised and well-respected diary is more important than any app or device in your possession.

If you’re one of these people, be sure to pencil in a reminder once a year to check your business name, and you’ll keep yourself in the clear.

3. Handballing
Like a good footy player, you know sometimes a strategic handball can win you the game. Business owners know that their business wouldn’t be able to grow without passing on trust to others, and depending on your situation, it might be better to delegate all of the small, seemingly insignificant (but no less important) tasks to your bookkeeper, accountant, business manager or assistant.

A business name is just the tip of the iceberg – there are many seemingly insignificant parts of your business that you need to keep on top of to keep the whole ship from capsizing – but with tools available for everyone, you no longer have an excuse. If you haven’t already, spend the next 15 minutes adding your handful of annual, quarterly and monthly reminders, and make 2014 the year you got those nagging responsibilities in order.

With your business name and ABN information all up-to-date, and future checks scheduled, you can now get on with actually running your business.