What’s in a name?

Here I am, trying to figure out a name for my business. It ain’t easy. At least not for me.

I am a financial advisor with a particular niche.

Almost all my clients have a disability or have a child with a disability. 70% are parents with adult children with a developmental disability. Think autism, downs syndrome, and other significant intellectual disabilities. They can’t rely on mainstream financial advice.

I’m not keen about hanging out a shingle with “Malis Financial,” etched into it. Doesn’t really communicate a warm, welcoming feeling, now does it? Lucky for me, kids didn’t realize what malice meant until later in high school.

I have considered dozens of different names and rejected all of them. So, I am looking for help. Asking for feedback and input.

I’m not a big fan of “Disability Financial” or “Ability Financial”. Names like “Inclusion Financial” don’t sit well with me, even though I am a big believer in inclusion.  Then there are the made-up words. “Diversability Financial”…yep, not a big fan of that either.

Including “disability” words feels like hackneyed pandering. Sure, it would make things obvious. “If you or your child have a disability, call…” But that’s not who I am and it doesn’t reflect why I do what I do.

The language surrounding disability is fraught with issues. Who hasn’t struggled with the language? A person might have a disability, but they aren’t “disabled”. A disability does not make one bereft of all ability. Not even close.

Google “disability language”. The consensus among the top results supports “person first” language. A person isn’t disabled; a person has a disability. He is disabled (wrong). He is a person with a disability (right).

But, no matter how you slice it, the word, “disability,” easily sets your focus on a person’s issues, challenges and deficits. Naming my practice something like Disability Financial would reinforce the focus on deficits. My clients don’t like to be defined by their disability. Why would I want my business to reinforce this?

It’s not just the hot potato language issues.

The truth is my clients don’t come to me because they have a disability. My business exists because the world is harder to navigate when you (or your children) have a disability….not because you have a disability.

My business exists because the world is harder to navigate when you (or your children) have a disability…not because you have a disability.

The world wasn’t built for people with disabilities. Buildings have not been designed to accommodate the spectrum of people in our society. The same can be said for government services, businesses, education systems, and public transportation. Financial services don’t get a pass either. People with disabilities have been an after-thought.

Ironically, government disability assistance programs – programs created to assist people with disabilities – are difficult to understand. The Ontario Disability Support Program (and the other province’s disability income support programs), the Registered Disability Savings Plan, and the Disability Tax Credit were created for people with disabilities and their families, yet they weren’t designed with them in mind.

The parents I count as clients include scientists, engineers, professors, business and finance professionals, symphonic musicians, teachers, and professionals working in the disability sector. Highly intelligent, disciplined people with the smarts to understand ODSP, if given the time. But they simply don’t have the time. My firm doesn’t exist because of a person’s disability; it exists because people with disabilities and their families can’t make sound financial decisions without understanding ODSP and other persistently confusing programs.

I want a name that reflects my firm’s identity. I want it to reflect why my business exists, what it strives to be and the value it offers. It hasn’t been easy coming up with a name.

I came close to a name at the end of a meeting. “Elenore” (name changed to maintain confidentiality), is visually impaired. At the end of the meeting, she stood up and out from under the table came her service dog, Reagan (pronounced Reegan), a beautiful black lab I had not met before.

I have thought a lot about Reagan. She is a service dog, but I don’t think Reagan sees Elenore as “disabled” or even as a person with a disability. There is no judgement. There is no paternalism. She supports Elenore’s independence, without reinforcing her disability. Reagan is there to help Elenore navigate the world that really wasn’t built with her in mind. And while Reagan may navigate, Elenore is leading, asserting her own independence. Elenore determines the destination and the departure time. Reagan navigates. Like Reagan, my aim is to help navigate. Clients determine the destination.

A dog like Reagan as the icon of my company is something I am really considering. But I don’t know if others will read into it the same way as I do.

I have shared the idea with some people. So far, people seem to like it. I had the chance to speak with Andris Pone, the co-author of Brand: It Ain’t The Logo (It’s what people think of you). Pone thought I had the workings of a brand, but we both agreed Reagan Financial had its problems. Even if I spelled it Reegan, some people would pronounce it Reagan, and wonder what my business had to do with Ronald Reagan. That would be a problem.

Pone suggested that I blog about my thoughts and ask for feedback.

So, here I am, blogging, sharing my thoughts about a name, looking for feedback.  I am inviting people (yes, you) to help me name my firm and shape a brand that reflects its raison d’être. What are your thoughts about a service dog representing the mission and values of the firm? Am I on to something? Or am I missing something? If you have a service dog, do you have a story and a name to share? What is it like to have a service dog?

Maybe you have an entirely different idea that has nothing to do with service dogs. I am open to that too.

Please, share your thoughts and ideas.