Peer-To-Peer: VAR Best Practices For Rebranding Your Company
By Jim Roddy, president, Business Solutions magazine
Jason Cowan of Spark Solutions Group — formerly Cowans Restaurant Solutions — talks about the process of changing your business’ name, obstacles you could face, and strong reasons to consider making this change.
Roddy: You’re changing your company’s name from Cowans Restaurant Solutions to Spark Solutions Group. What were the main drivers for the change? What obstacles were you experiencing with the previous name?
Cowan: About four years ago, we changed from Cowan's Retail Systems to Cowans Restaurant Solutions to help our prospects know exactly who we serve. That transition went well — it was pretty similar. As our industry evolves, we have been considering a name change for a while as an obvious way to show prospects, customers, and employees that we are not the same company selling the same products. When we had the opportunity to expand to new markets, we opened in those markets under the new name. After the expansion it made sense to have the entire company operating as Spark Solutions Group.
Roddy: Your new name allows you to be flexible with the technologies you sell. Tell us what you believe about the importance of resellers being total solution providers and selling multiple technologies, not just one part of the solution.
Cowan: We know that with the changing model of reduced hardware margin and all the new entrants to the market to compete with, we have to be flexible with our product lines. We want to be able to add products and services that increase our customer's revenue even if it doesn't integrate directly with POS.
Roddy: What obstacles have you encountered or anticipate encountering with the new name? And how do you overcome the loss of name recognition?
Cowan: The first obstacle is reassuring our longtime customers that we have the same focus: long-term relationships providing great products and supporting the products we have provided to them. The loss of name recognition is a big concern, and we intend to announce and re-announce the name change and provide information in all of our communications for a few months so that the new logo and name are immediately recognizable to our current customers.
Roddy: What message do you plan to share with your customers, and what methods will you use to communicate that? And do you change over the name immediately or operate under both names for a period of time?
Cowan: We have been operating under both names for about nine months. “Spark Solutions Group” is in all of our email signatures and on our voicemail systems, and we use both names when we answer the phones. We will continue to communicate in our newsletter, direct email, statements, invoices, business emails, and other communication about the change and the launch date. We are also launching a new website and new Spark logo with the launch (different from the logo we use in our new markets). The main message is: “We are changing our name with the changing technology. Ask what we can do for you!”
Roddy: What messages did you deliver to your employees regarding the change? To what extent did you involve them in the new name selection process?
Cowan: We have been very open about the fact that new businesses in our market — like Revel, Square, Silver, Lavu, Shopkeep, or any of the other new companies with catchy names you have heard of — can make us sound old and stogy. With the technology that is out now, we cannot sound outdated with just our name. My partner and I worked on the name, but didn't include employee input.
Roddy: Can you talk about some of the logistics resellers need to consider when changing their names?
Cowan: The biggest challenge is coming up with the name and ensuring that you're not infringing on someone else's copyright or trademark. You then go through the process of setting up the new entity (DBA, corporation, etc.).
Another challenge is getting a new URL, email address, and all of the customer facing communications (business cards, letter head, invoices, office signage, etc.) A website redesign has been a big focus for us. We want to look new and fresh to go along with the name. We also created a new logo that we think fits with our message of many services to support our customers business — watch for our new logo at our launch.
Once this is all in place, you then have to work with all of your vendors regarding the name change. Some of them may require new contracts to be signed. You cannot forget about how you’re listed in the phone book, how you’re setup with your local government entities, and, of course, all of your business associations and affiliations.
Roddy: What advice would you have for other solution providers who haven’t considered a name change but have a dated company name?
Cowan: If you are still operating your company as a cash register company, it may be difficult to get others to perceive you as anything other than a provider of the old school cash registers. A name change has to make sense for you as a business owner, and you have to think about what you want your future to be. For resale value of the company when an exit event occurs, it may help to have a name that is not the same as the current owner's name.
Roddy: How urgently do you think they need to act? How much business could this be costing them?
Cowan: Depending on what the business owner’s future plans are, it may be important to move very quickly. There will continue to be consolidation in our market of credit card ISOs, POS dealers, and new disruptive technology. If your business is perceived from a Google search as “traditional POS or cash register,” you may not even get an email or a phone call.