In the beginning was a trucking company, and the company was with Walter Riley, and the company was of Walter Riley. And Riley said, "Let it be called Guaranteed Overnight Delivery," and it was good -- no, make that G.O.D. And Riley said, "Holy cow! Look what it spells!" Or words to that effect.
Riley's problem, you see, was that the name was too close to one already registered by another company. The acronym, however, was still available. But could he get away with calling his company G.O.D.? His managers were skeptical. An advertising agency did some market research and concluded that G.O.D. was indeed a bad idea. Nevertheless, Riley thought that he just might need an attention-grabbing name to stand out in the crowded trucking market. So he did what entrepreneurs often do: he ditched the market research and followed his instincts.
That turned out to be a smart move. Five years later, G.O.D. Inc., based in Kearny, N.J., is one of the fastest-growing companies in the country, with 125 trucks, a network of terminals from Boston to Richmond, and $14 million in revenues. Riley gives credit to the name. "When we enter a market, people know our name within weeks. They think we're a major player. Our salesman will say, 'I'm from G.O.D.,' and they'll say, 'Oh, yeah, I've seen your trucks.' Normally it takes years to get that kind of name recognition."
As for public reaction, Riley says the mail (a dozen letters a week) runs three-to-one in favor of the name. Clergypeople seem to find it particularly amusing. One customer, a palm leaf distributor, hires G.O.D. to make church-to-church drop-offs just before Palm Sunday.
Meanwhile, the company continues to play the name for all it's worth. The employee newsletter is called "The Voice of G.O.D.," and the phone number is (800) DIALGOD. Sometimes, says Riley, the company gets calls from religious fanatics who think they've found a hot line to the Almighty. "We've trained our operators to explain as gently as possible that, no, this isn't God. This is a trucking company."