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HomemibusinessWhat’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Juliet asked the question of Romeo in William Shakespeare’s famous play. Her point then, was that his family name – Montague – did not matter. What mattered to her was him.

That’s all well and good when it comes to love. But when you’re building a brand, your business name tells a very different story.

The process of finding a name for your new or existing practice can be complicated yet it is a vital element of your public face. Before you even begin, it’s best to stop and reflect on who you are and what you want to be known for… your vision… and the impression you want to make in your market.

What are the values that drive what you and your staff do? What is really important to you as an optometrist and how you care for your patients? Is it about your expertise and professionalism, quality products, fashion, affordability, specialist services or niche markets?

The main point is, are you using words and language that will really attract your ideal clients?

Ideally, in planning for your practice, you will have considered all of these, you may have even completed a mission statement.

If not, write down some key descriptive words about your vision, values and passions, and use this to kick-start your thoughts about a new or revised practice name.

Finding the right word(s) can be very hard. Then just when you think you have it, it’s likely that you’ll find someone has been there before you… but persist. The perfect name for your practice is somewhere out there just waiting to be chosen.

You and Your Market

Understanding your market and how your customers think makes sense because a good business name will appeal to the patients you want to attract.

While the most common names for optometry practices are based on location or the optometrist owner – think High Street Eyecare or Brighton Eyes – depending on your customers, it might be wise to think more outside the square.

Should you be totally obvious about your motives – opting for a name like Budget Eyewear or Specsavers? Should you reflect the quality of stock you sell, think Premier Optique? Or should your name reflect what you do, why and for whom, for example, Funky Speks, or Family Eyecare.

You may choose to think further afield, to come up with a name that uses clever references or other languages to convey a sense of intrigue. Bellocchio – a Latin derived name referring to “good eyes” is a fine example. Eye Can C and Icon Eyewear are also great names that play on words.

OPSM is a brand in itself, with the actual meaning of the initials (Optical Prescription Spectacle Makers) no longer of any consequence. But getting to this point takes a fair bit of work and investment to achieve, and it helps to have been around for a while.

The main point is, are you using words and language that will really attract your ideal clients?

Knowing your market is a really important part of being in business. If you don’t know this already get on to it now…

What’s in Your Own Name?

There has been plenty of discussion about the merits (or not) of naming a practice after the optometrist owner, and the potential downside in loss of goodwill and succession planning when the named optometrist is no longer there.

It’s a good point, but in practice it doesn’t seem to be a major issue for a
few good reasons.

Firstly, health care providers are personal. Nobody claims their GP is Smith Street Clinic. It’s Dr. Collins who practises at the Smith St Clinic. Optometrists are pretty much the same. It’s a trust thing.

Secondly, old optometrists tend not to just disappear. In fact, sometimes they can be a bit hard to get rid of – preferring instead to hang around doing the odd session and upsetting the reception staff. However, this can be handy for goodwill transfer.

Thirdly, patients understand that their optometrist won’t be there forever. Often they realise retirement is on the agenda a while before it happens. No surprise there. In most cases the new owner will get at least one chance with the patient, and most will grab the opportunity to mutual benefit.

We know of several large and long established practices branded with the owner’s name that have been bought and very successfully operated by a new owner: Whitehouse Optometrists in Sydney, Leverett & Kindler in Melbourne’s north. Alfred Nott in Melbourne started in 1896 and is still going. And there are more.

Of course taking on another optometrist’s name comes with associated naming rights and issues about managing the handover communications and relations, but it’s never relay been a big problem.

However, just because you can, should you? The well-known and highly respected Perth practitioner Graeme Fist has become something of a Perth icon with the old family practice “Mr Fist the Optometrist”, but would you pick that name today?

What’s In Someone Else’s Name?

Another option is to hitch your practice to an established branded business group, such as ProVision and Eyecare Plus (trademarked names) that provide a licence by virtue of membership to use the group name (with conditions).

As mentioned earlier, branding and practice names can be expensive to create and manage. These groups have this sorted out for you, and can provide a well-managed brand for much lower cost than you possibly could.

The considerations for taking on an existing branded business name in this way are fundamentally the same as making any name change. Will the name provide you with an advantage in your market, and does it reflect what you do and why? Much of this will come down to the ability of the branded organisation to directly market your new name to patients, or to help you do the same. Other important services provided to independent practices by these organisations may help in the decision making process.

There are possible downsides to joining and taking on the name of an established business group (such as leaving the group), but if you think you might need help with building your branding, this could be
the answer. Just be aware that an established name is not necessarily the right name for your business and compromises might be required.

Trade Marks and Business Names

Some of the legal considerations involved in changing your practice name relate to “business names”, “trademarks” and “trading names”.

Business Names

A business name is simply the name of the organisation operating the business and, much like a person’s name, does not have to be unique – you do not have exclusive use rights. That’s why the Government gives you an ACN and ABN.

Trading Names

Your business name can be your trading name (the actual name you use to do business), but it doesn’t have to be – it can be something else.


To give your name some protection, you’ll need to register a trademark with IP Australia. A trademark will give you theoretical rights to exclusive use but only in so far as you are prepared to defend the right.

A great example from real life is the ‘Eyes On’ prefix for practices. This form of name is familiar all over Australia, but is in fact a trademark owned by a privately owned optometry practice in Victoria. The trademark owner has the legal right to ask anyone using ‘Eyes On’ without permission to stop using the name.

Trademarks are complicated legal issues and it’s not always black and white, but you need to be sure that your practice name is not already someone else’s trademark. Using a trademarked name without permission is unwise. Try ‘Coke Optics’, and wait for the inevitable letter.

Branding and Marketing Considerations

The name you choose for your practice needs to possess certain characteristics related to use in marketing and design. Some of these are:

Ease of Use

  1. Must be easy to say and remember
  2. Has to look nice and work graphically
  3. Works as a domain name for websites and social media
  4. Has some appeal for searches and social media SEO.
  5. Must be in touch with what you do and why, to ensure it will support your marketing messages
  6. Can’t be too bland – it needs to
  7. stand out.
  8. Must comply with AHPRA guidelines. Eye Test Masters is probably going to get a complaint.

What’s in a Name Change?

Sometimes it’s necessary to make a change to re-position a practice in the market, to fix a problem or to keep up with its surrounding changes, but the basic rule here is “don’t fiddle with the brand unless you have to”… don’t make changes to an existing name just for the sake of it, or to be clever or different.

If you do have to change your practice name, make sure the new name is better, and make up a detailed plan with a carefully considered public relations campaign. While it will probably take time to introduce and bed down your new name, a well-executed process will make all the difference.

Mark Overton has science and business qualifications and, for over 30 years, has consulted to or worked with major public hospitals, federal government, small and medium private businesses, medical research institutions, professional associations and small businesses. Mark is the CEO of Ideology Consulting and, on occasion, lectures at universities.