Should Your Owned Companies Have Similar Names?

As an entrepreneur or business owner, expanding your portfolio by establishing multiple companies can be an exciting venture. However, a question often arises: should the companies you own have similar names? This article delves into the considerations involved in naming your owned companies, exploring the potential benefits and drawbacks to help you make an informed decision.

Benefits of Similar Names

  1. Brand Cohesion: Having similar names for your owned companies can create a sense of brand cohesion and synergy. When customers associate your brand with one company, a similar name across your portfolio can help establish recognition and strengthen brand identity.
  2. Cross-Promotion: Similar names can facilitate cross-promotion between your companies. With complementary products or services, leveraging the familiarity of one brand to introduce customers to another can boost overall awareness and customer loyalty.
  3. Operational Efficiency: A shared naming structure or theme can streamline operational processes. It allows for efficient resource allocation, knowledge transfer, and expertise utilization across your companies, optimizing overall productivity and reducing duplication of efforts.

Drawbacks of Similar Names

  1. Brand Confusion: Having similar names for your companies increases the risk of brand confusion among customers. If the names are too alike, customers might have difficulty distinguishing between your businesses, potentially leading to a loss of clarity, trust, and loyalty.
  2. Limited Market Reach: Similar names might limit your market reach if your companies operate in distinct industries or target different customer segments. The shared name could create the perception that all your businesses offer the same products or services, which may not align with the unique value propositions of each entity.
  3. Autonomy and Individuality: Unique names for each owned company allow them to develop individual identities and carve out their niche in the market. If all your businesses share similar names, it could hinder their ability to differentiate themselves and establish independent brand positioning.

Strategies for Naming Your Owned Companies

  1. Brand Architecture: Consider adopting a brand architecture strategy that aligns with your business goals. It could involve choosing a master brand name for your portfolio and then incorporating distinct descriptors or sub-brands for each company. This approach maintains a sense of connection while allowing for individuality.
  2. Visual Differentiation: Focus on developing unique visual identities, including logos, color schemes, and typography, for each company. Visual differentiation enhances brand recognition and helps customers distinguish between your businesses, even if they have similar names.
  3. Clear Communication: Communicate clearly with your target audience about the relationship between your companies. Make it evident that while they may share similar names, each business operates independently and offers unique products or services. This transparency can reduce confusion and build trust.


Deciding whether your owned companies should have similar names is a strategic choice that requires careful consideration. While there are potential benefits like brand cohesion, cross-promotion, and operational efficiency, it is crucial to balance these with the risks of brand confusion, limited market reach, and the need for individuality. Implementing a brand architecture strategy, focusing on visual differentiation, and maintaining clear communication can help you strike the right balance and successfully manage multiple businesses under your ownership. Remember, a thoughtful approach to naming can contribute to the long-term success and growth of your portfolio companies.

Video Transcript

Is It Bad to Own Companies with Similar Names?

We had a YouTube commenter Nisani, who asked, “Since I am doing three businesses, would it be bad if most of them have similar names?” You might see this a lot. Businesses might have McDonald’s Corporate or McDonald’s Holding Company or Ronald McDonald House or McDonald Holdings Seven LLC, McDonald Holdings Eight LLC, or McDonald’s Minneapolis LLC. In other words, the McDonald’s brand is essentially being utilized in a lot of different company names. Let’s first talk about, can you do that? Sure. It is legal. There is nothing wrong with that.

Can You Run into Problems with That?

Yes, you can. And here is the scenario. It can be confusing for people working in these various companies to remember what is the name of their company and use the proper company name in every interaction.

I will give you a big example here. There is the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. I believe it is the largest indoor mall in the United States, or at least it was at one time. There was a big case called Triple Five V Simon, and it was basically large companies suing each other over ownership and a partnership in ownership and control of the Mall of America. And in that case, there was a letter written by one company regarding the dispute, and it was written on the letterhead of another company. So, in other words, one of the employees of the company used the wrong letterhead because they got confused. There are so many different companies. And the court said in one of its orders, the party had made no distinction between the companies. So the court will not either. It is a paraphrase, but essentially, because the owner of the company wasn’t able to keep track or was not distinguishing between the different companies, the court would not either. In other words, the court would pierce the corporate veil between all these companies and treat them all as the same; treat them all as alter egos of each other.

As a result, instead of a company having limited liability, other companies in the same family of companies had joint and several liabilities. And this was an expensive error because the court reached in and ordered that proceeds be disgorged, millions of dollars be disgorged and taken, for one of the other companies. If you are wondering what disgorged means, I have another YouTube video on that. We will put a link to that down below in the description.

So What is the Takeaway Here?

It is fine if you have companies with similar names. But it is very important that you treat them as separate companies consistently. They all need to have their own bank account and their own financial records. When employees work for different companies, they need to log their time for each company, and each company has to make payroll for those employees. So, for example, if you are working for four of your companies, you need to make sure that you are being paid by all four of those companies. You can’t just have your payroll coming from one company and then do work for four of them because that is not distinguishing between the four different companies, and you run the risk that a court won’t distinguish between them later. Because to the extent you treat them as alter egos of each other or co-mingle their funds or their resources, the court then can say, “I am not going to treat these as separate companies either,” and now you lose all the limited liability. So as bad owned company with similar names, no, if you keep them separate from each other in all other aspects. But the more similar the names are, the more parties and employees and contractors can be confused about which entity they are working for or with.


All right. Well, thank you for joining me here today. If you would like more information on me, you can find it at If you would like to follow us on other platforms, just search for Aaron Hall Attorney on the various other social media platforms, and if you have other questions, I would be happy to see about answering them in future YouTube live videos. Feel free to add them in the comments below. It was great talking with you today. I hope this was helpful, and let’s stay in touch. You can sign up at if you would like to receive those exclusive training videos for people who are trying to avoid common problems in small businesses. Have a great day.