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What’s in a name? One CEO found out

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From 1982 to 1987, John Hewitt joined forces with Mel Jackson to provide tax-preparation services in southern Virginia. By 1988, they decided to expand into North Carolina.

They soon learned that they couldn’t keep the name of their firm, Mel Jackson Tax Service, because a tax firm with a similar name already existed in North Carolina. This didn’t sit well with John Hewitt, the company’s owner.

“My nature is to compete and fight for what’s mine,” Hewitt says. “I resisted changing the name at first.”

Fortunately, Hewitt’s colleagues convinced him to rethink the situation. Hewitt acknowledged that a protracted legal battle could prove costly and distracting. After all, his goal was to build the business and find more franchisors.

His advisors told Hewitt that Mel Jackson Tax Service wasn’t a name worth fighting over. They said that it reminded them of “Mel’s Diner” in the hit TV show, Alice. They argued that it sounded “too country” and “not professional enough” for a nationwide tax company.

Hewitt still didn’t like the idea of surrendering the right to a name, Mel Jackson, which many tax preparation clients already knew and liked. But he listened to his associates’ advice and gave in.

That meant the growing company needed a new name. Hewitt enlisted the best ideas of his colleagues, and one of them combined Jackson and Hewitt. This pleased Hewitt, who sought to retain Jackson’s name in some form.

Hewitt, 66, went on to build one of the fastest-growing private companies in America. Today, Jackson Hewitt has more than 6,300 locations.

—Adapted from iCompete, John T. Hewitt, A Book’s Mind.

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