Nomen est omen except when it's not
First, let's make one thing clear: If you are first in business and doing well, you may have any name you like. A fruit-named company may sell computers, and heavy industry-named company may sell apple, who cares? So, what's in the name and why some companies go through renaming process?
However, you must be careful if you are entering a completely new field of work. Too many times we can read about companies that changed their core business under the same, or slightly altered name, but in most cases it's not about core change, it's about improving in their field.
So, if you are stepping from, say, auto industry into shoes making, think about a) name change or b) formation of a new company to clearly separate your existing from your new business.
The name is especially important if you want to target a specific market and make it clear what's your niche. For example, and without any connection to possibly existing businesses, think about "Pittsburgh Roof & Door Works". That name is very clear, it's obvious what the company does and what's the geographic target they server.
If you are happy with that scope of work, that's fine, but what if you introduce new products or services? You can't just add them to the name and become "Pittsburgh Roof & Door & Locks & Bikes Works".
You may try another approach, "Pittsburgh Roof & More" but this is equally bad because "More" may be "selling bikes" or "trimming sheep". So, if your business became greater than your name, you need a completely new name.
Some may fall into a different trap and name the company too broad, for example "New York Works". Anything may fall into "works" category so aside from the geographical target, it's not clear what the company does at all. This is a situation when the name has to be changed because it's too general and it seems you are trying to cover every possible industry and service out there.
Then, from time to time, a new naming fashion appears and all new companies are trying to sound the same: After Flickr, everybody and his company wanted to be some strange name with "r" at the end and few letters missing. Thank god, we didn't see Krispy Krmr or NY Timesr, but the situation was scary for a while.
So, if you are not the very first, don't be a copycat and forget that great, cool name because the second, the third and everybody else just looks silly.
That leads us to a situation when your customer can't pronounce or remember your name. That may happen when you are mixing several words and come up with, "Hawgoobikes" for "Hawaii Good Bikes". That may be a perfect name in your mind because you know how you created the name but your customers don't. What's "haw"? What's "goo"? How on earth we can recognize the true meaning behind those words?
So, if you want to name your company in this fashion, ask someone to read it and tell you what does it mean and can that name be remembered. If you, by a strike of an unfortunate event, already have such a name, change it.
You can find names of company's founders in many companies but widely accept practice is that "Smith Smith & Smith" is a law company, not a local bread manufacturer. So, be careful, especially if there are several founders and remember that gentlemen Hewlett and Packard were known mostly as HP.
The Pep Boys: Manny, Moe & Jack is the company existing "from the beginning of time" and is known all over the U.S., and of course they were known simply as "Pep Boys", so that should tell you something.
That said, if you have a whole family and friends in the name, change it. If don't, don't even be tempted to show your gratitude by including them in your company name.
So, there are several reasons to change the company name but remember one thing: If you are great, you may call your company whatever you like. However, if you're just good, trying to build a reputation, then the name is of a great importance. ■