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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 6 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 3 years ago

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