Is changing my personal name (or use another name) good for business?

Since I arrived to the U.S nobody ever pronounces my name correctly. Mijail (pronounce Me-Ha- Eel). But it's annoying to explaining it every time or hear how it's mispronounced around new circles constantly. I use Misha now, it's easy but sometimes they sent me checks as "Misha" too which has no use in the bank. I don't know if I should go all the way with my nickname or just use my actual name and look for a system to explain it. Any thoughts?


I lived in the US for 28 years before returning to Russia. My name is not easy for Americans to pronounce (anything outside of the Anglo-Saxon standard names seems to fit that category). Short version of Stanislov is Stas, so I went with that for them, but I never would change my name. Take pride in the name you were given and the culture you came from.

Your parents gave you that name and you have it for a reason. Just because others don't pronounce it just right is no reason to throw away your culture. Oh and Misha is the short Russian version of Michael, if you americanized it, it would have to be Mike.

Answered 10 years ago

Don't overthink it. If a hard-to-pronounce name is costing you extra business stress then change it.

Have fun with it. Tell people what you want them to call you. :-)


Answered 10 years ago

As an American named "Joseph", I went by José (Spanish version) in elementary school and يوسف / Yusuf (Arabic version) when I lived in Egypt. In the military, I was "Peterson" or "Sir". Some people call me "Joe" even though I never refer to myself that way, but I don't insist on a name. Names aren't for me; they're for other people's convenience.

You can have your cake and eat it too. When you introduce yourself to someone, give them both options -- the authentic Mijail and an easier Americanized version such as Mike. Some Americans will struggle with the pronunciation of Mijail and opt for the simpler, more familiar substitute. Other Americans will enjoy the opportunity to learn and adapt. They can try Mijail.

I see no reason to rigidly insist on a single name. Nor do I see any need to abandon your culture here in the USA. Introduce yourself with a two-fold name, as a choice, depending on the other person's comfort level.

Answered 10 years ago

I work with two people who write their names in the form Mijail "Misha" Lastname, or Mijail (Steve) Lastname. Even the "from" field of their emails reads that way. I like this solution, in that it tells you what to call the person, but makes it clear what the person's legal name is for check-writing (and maybe internet searching) purposes.

Answered 10 years ago

Hi, Mijail (did I say that right?) Your question is specific to business, and so I'm answering in that capacity. Yes, I think you should choose an "American Business" name. In the marketplace, having to explain, spell, and re-pronounce your name is as counterproductive as having to do that for your product or corporate name. "Misha" is okay, but it's a half-measure. Unless you're building a business that is somehow built off of your own personality and identity, then you probably want your own personal name to fade into transparency in your business interactions.

Your last name is probably different or interesting enough to keep you from fading into the ocean of Mike Smiths and Bob Johnsons in the US. I was always proud around the office that I could spell and rattle off the name of my old associate Andrzej Olszewski, but the reality was, in business, he went by "Anj", and took up space on his business card to articulate the pronunciation (an-jay). The fact that he is a naming and branding expert almost made it a positive conversation point for him, but he was usually working within corporate structures where his "exotic" background as a scholar from Poland was a big plus. But if you're an independent business person or founder or salesman, or have any other kind of role where you're introducing yourself and needing other people to be able to talk about you and to you and remember your name, and your personal identity is a critical part of your brand, I think you should go all the way with a name that works just like the name for a product or company - simple, easy to spell, clearly understood on the phone, handy to use in conversation. And so, if you're going to use something besides your name, go all the way to the client and make it useful and handy for *them*, just as you would a product name.

Rather than Misha, I'd consider some other, related names that make sense to American/English ears - especially a name that is also a word in the language: Mike, Max, Matt, Mark (!), Mac, or Miles. Another option might be a common American nickname with a little snap, which few people will assume is your given name - Red, Stretch, Buddy, Junior, Pops, Shorty - or, something derived from your last name that's easy to say, that people will assume is NOT your real first name - US examples would be like Smitty, Jonesy, Bake. If your last name was Razodan, you could be "Raz" Razodan. If your last name was Combunkos, you could be "Com" or "Bunk" Combunkos. But I think your best bet would be in the Mike, Max, Mark category.

As far as the name on the check, you have a few options: 1. Change or add to your name at the bank, it's probably a simple enough matter to get a name added as a parenthetical to your identity there, such as Mijail "Mike" Razodan (or whatever), then a check made either way will usually work, and you could get the name added to your next batch of checks. 2. Always specify on your invoices how the check should be made out - I run my business as an individual, Mark Gunnion, but in some of my promotion, I refer to my business as Mark Gunnion Names. But on my invoices, I always say specifically, at the end, "Make checks payable to Mark Gunnion". 3. If you use Mike or another Anglicized name starting with M for business, you could avoid muddying the communication by saying "Make checks payable to M. Razodan."

If you go with the Anglicized name version, Max, Mark, Mike, choose one where the last sound of the first name is different from the first sound of the last name. Max Tierra, but not Max Saud. Mike Tyson, but not Matt Tyson. Mark Baker, but not Mark Copeland. This will make the name work better in audio situations, in conversation or on the phone. Even my name, with a "k" going into a "g", can be confusing. When I was in the Boy Scouts, for example, after the first time they heard my name said out loud - Mark Gunnion - for years after, they all called me Mark Onion!

Answered 10 years ago

Names are used for people to remember you. This is why Chinese people regularly have a "Western" name because Chinese names rendered in other languages are just random sounds without Chinese characters or tonal markers.

I also suggest adding "make cheques payble to XYZ" to every invoice and reminding your clients to write to the correct entity, so you never have any issue cashing your cheques.

Answered 10 years ago

I would say the following
- If is is hard to pronounce or spell, I would adapt it
- I would NOT go for a totally americanized name like Mike, that is craziness.
- My name is Yosef, but I go with Yossi to make it easier. With my name Yossi Mlynsky - SEO of my name is great!
- I love the name Misha = stick with it.
- You can create a company or LLC for clients to send checks to.

Answered 10 years ago

It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to. Rectify a person each and every time he/she pronounce your name incorrectly. But, politely. As a matter of fact, some of them will remember you for their inability to pronounce it correctly. There can't be any better identity for an individual than his name. It becomes unique with a unique name. You already have hit that point of uniqueness.

The menu isn't the meal. Likewise, at the end of a day it's your work for which people will remember you or your name, not vice-versa. So, just sit back and enjoy your work. And, enjoy it more for you are unique like any other person.

Any which ways, language isn't in accordance with the truth of geographical limitation.

Answered 10 years ago

I changed my name from Lauryn to Lalita. I still love both names and changing my name has had its ups and downs.

I have so much work of mine on the internet under Lauryn. So when people now search for Lalita, I doubt they find much of my older work unless I feature it on my current site.

People mispronounce Lalita all the time and often call me Lolita, which has an entirely different connotation.

People used to ask me why I changed my name and I felt self-conscious. Now, I'm open about it and it doesn't matter. People will call you what you tell them to most days.

Regardless of that, I chose the name I felt most empowered by. For me, I wanted a name I could see myself building from. Lauryn had had her run. Did I feel like I was building from scratch a little bit? Yes. Is it confusing still for some? Yes. Was it worth it? I think so. :)

Answered 7 years ago

The strength of a good brand transcends the limits of logic. A clear example is the case of the Lois Jeans, a Spanish clothing brand. Sáez Merino himself, owner of the brand, has said on more than one occasion that, seeking an international touch, he chose the name of a relative (Luís) and translated it into French. But by mistake the translation program ate the “u” and printed Lois instead of Louis, with the result that the cowboys’ name became “laws” in French, becoming one of the first trademarks of France. We do not know if they would have triumphed in France by calling themselves Louis, but they might indeed have, because there are many others who have triumphed around the world calling themselves by much stranger names. Many brand names are created with a meaning in relation to the characteristics of the product, or its use in the country of origin, but when they become internationalized, they no longer mean anything at all in other countries or in different languages. This is the case with After Sun, Blaupunkt or Close Up. There are other brands that bear the name of their owners, such as Armani, Loewe’s, Yves Saint Laurent to name just a few. Some brands are very similar in name but very distant in terms of the industry in which they move, such as Red Cross in the social arena, Cruz Verde in the area of home products and Cruz Blanca or Cruzcampo in the beverage industry. We have names with “Don” that employ the same thing for many different products. Don Algodón for fashion and cosmetics, Don Bernardo for cheese, Don Julián for cigars, Don Jacobo for wines and Don Simon for various food products. The animals are also very versatile. El Águila for beer, El Burrito Blanco for sheets, El Lobo for nougat, El Pavo for pasta, El Corral for eggs, La Piara for pâtés, La Cigala for rice and La Vaca for cheeses.

The same brand name with just one letter difference applies to both a range of automotive additives (Krafft) and a range of food products (Kraft). Some might even share a name, the one for cosmetics (Vichy) and the other for mineral water. Also, a brand’s avatar in male might sell cookies (Prince) while the same avatar in female sells panties (Princess). And what about the generals? Do you know Lepe’s joke? From General Electric to General Motors and General Optics, the generals certainly stay busy. A brand is not born, in my opinion—it is made. And from there I conclude with the theory of the chameleon. That is, brands adapt (metamorphose) according to the markets in which they move. Each brand also acquires special connotations in the context of the local language or phonetics, which can remove or add meanings, simplify or complicate the pronunciation, affecting the market position it occupies, especially in partnership with the advertising that creates your image.
Once you have understood this it will be a lot easier to name a brand. Now let us compare the personal name and brand name and decide which one will be good for you.
Using A Personal Name: To build a personal brand you need to brand yourself as the ‘expert’ in your field, an authority figure that people can trust and look to for solutions. As technology continues to evolve, personal brands are becoming more and more popular because the truth is people like to do business with people and if your customers can put a face to your business rather than just a logo then you already have the advantage.
Advantages of using a Personal Name
1. Easier to build trust as customers can put a face to the business.
2. Allows you to appear affordable.
3. Makes your business transparent and personal.
4. People prefer to do business with real people.
5. Allows your message to grow and develop as you do.
6. Allows you to build personal credibility.
7. Great way to tell your customers that you are always going to be available for them, unlike with large businesses that often make it hard to get a hold of the person they need.
8. If your personal brand fails then you can still use it in your CV to help you find a job, new opportunities or even make a connection with an investor who is willing to back you up on a new venture.

Disadvantages of using a Personal Name:
1. It is difficult to sell a personally branded business.
2. You are the face of your business and your actions are publicly available. If you are a private person then a personal brand might not be for you.
3. You may seem inexperienced at first.
4. It may create some confusion in future if you begin to hire employees. In saying this, personal brands have successfully hired employees in the past.
5. People will not be able to indicate what you do by looking at your business name, instead, they will associate your name with what you have become known for.
6. Your customers will most likely want to have direct contact with you which means it may become challenging as your business grows.
7. If you receive negative publicity and fail to handle it well, there will be nowhere to hide and it will continue to follow you around.
8. If your name is difficult to spell, it may be hard for people to find you online.
A Personal Name can work well for
1. Experts
2. Couches
3. Freelancers
4. Speakers
5. Artist
Using A Business Name: Business brands take much more effort to create because rather than simply using the name you were born with you need to come up with a meaningful name that is relevant to your business and its products. As your company grows, using a business name will allow you to have much more flexibility in future.
Advantages of using a Business Name:
1. Using a business name usually allows you to charge more as it makes you look like more than a one-man show.
2. A business name can make you look more experienced and well-established.
3. Allows you to separate your personal life from your professional life.
4. Allows room for growth and makes it easy to hire employees in future.
5. Using a business name makes it easier to sell your company down the track.
6. People will be able to tell what you do just by looking at your business name.
7. If you fail and receive negative press, it is easier to try-again by using a different business name.
Disadvantages of using a Business Name:
1. A business name can make the relationship with your customers seem cold and impersonal.
2. Using a business name can make you seem more expensive.
3. Trust is harder to build compared to a personal brand.
4. If your business fails, your corporate CV will still be blank.
5. People can instantly understand and relate with people down to an emotional level, but they cannot do the same with a business name.
Now we come to the answer to your question.
If you are planning to sell your business in future, it is probably better to go with a Business name.
Also, if you are someone who likes privacy and prefers not to have your life all over social media, then it is another indicator that a business name will be more suitable for you. However, if you are a professional and would like to be considered as an expert on a particular topic, it may be better to use your personal name for your branding. Keep in mind that if your real name is too difficult to spell or remember then it may be a good to use an abbreviated version of it or to simply use a nickname that you would like to be known as.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

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