Work/Life Balance in a Name

Over on the TotalPMA Discussion board, there is a thread asking “What are we really balancing?”

Fair question, and there seem to be a number of “work/life balance” articles, opinions and what not appearing these days. I’d wager it is a natural progression as we all come to grips with unemployment remaining high and life as we knew it in 2008-2009 vanishing in 2010.

In the thread, I pose the option of changing “balance” with “managing competing interests” since the phrase “work/life balance” is becoming another casualty of “overuse.” Kevin Chern expanded on that, asking “how can we make work fall in sync with other aspects of our daily life?” At the time, I was reading The E-Myth, which discusses the different between working “on” your business and working “in” your business, and my observation that it is key to distinguish between your “business” and your “life.” Kevin asked what ways I make that distinction, and at the time (December 2009) I didn’t have an answer.

As I work on building a more professional-looking corporate website for my business, one thing just jumped out at me that has been brought up a few times: my company name, Shadow Froggy Consulting.

If you survey the legal landscape, you’ll notice that the majority of firms are named after, say, the founding members. It is either the first and last name, perhaps a middle initial as well, if they are going solo. Or it is a string of last names. Either way, the name of the firm is the name or names of the founders. Consider it standard law firm naming etiquette.

If you survey the legal consulting landscape, it follows a similar vein. The underlying assumption is that if you are going to have law firms as your clients, then you must follow established conventions, such as naming your firm “Buddy Pal Consulting.”

Please note that I see nothing wrong with that. A name can be a very powerful thing, a very powerful brand like Wal-Mart or Disney. Unlike those names, and the names of many law firms (Jenner & Block, Winston & Strawn, Latham & Watkins come to mind), my name is difficult to spell. If you misspell my first name, you don’t find me. If you just use my last name, you don’t find me. Or, I should say it takes some effort to find me. It’s a rather popular last name, and most people automatically assume I spell my first name G-w-e-n which I do not.

From a practical stand point, breaking with the law firm/legal consulting tradition makes sense. The name, Shadow Froggy, is unique enough people will remember it (and yes I know my name is unique enough that people remember it), and it is also easy to remember how to spell!

Another benefit popped into my head when reading Kevin’s question: it creates a definition between my “business” and my “life.” My name is affiliated with the business instead of being the name of the business. That may sound overly simplistic, and perhaps ridiculous, but when people place so much emphasis on “brand development,” it becomes a very important distinction. The “brand development” of Shadow Froggy can reflect my own “brand development,” as it were. It can embrace my work ethic (as it must, to some extent since, well, it is just me at this point), philosophies, etc. At the end of the day, it remains very much a business entity. It can change hands, it can fold (eek!), it can thrive and prosper as its own entity.

I don’t know if that makes much sense. It is a little harder to articulate than I expected. My point is that the name of my company, being different from my own name, creates a separate compartment. So when I am with my nephews and they call “Auntie” or “Auntie Gwynne,” I think of me instead of my business.

My company name being different from mine also makes me easier to find online, if for no other reason than Shadow Froggy is easier to spell. Wouldn’t you agree?

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