Dear Norm,
I recently lost my social services job and have decided to clean houses as a business. I have two little children I must transport to and from elementary school each day. I paid for my own college by cleaning houses, and so I know what to do, but I'm having trouble deciding on a name. The names I am interested in are A Well Kept Home and The Well Kept Home. Both names are available. I want people to understand that I specialize in cleaning homes that are lived in, not just looked at. Does that make sense?

Meri West
Jacksonville, Florida

My advice to Meri: The name doesn't matter. Just by asking for my opinion, she has already spent too much time worrying about it. She could call the new business Meri's Cleaning, and it would make no difference. What does make a difference is her ability to get customers, and she is restricting herself by deciding to limit her focus to "homes that are lived in, not just looked at." Her ideal customers probably have a housecleaning service already. It could take considerable time to build a client base among them. Meanwhile, Florida is filled with foreclosed houses that must be cleaned before they can be lived in again. Meri could try to do deals with real estate agents who handle these types of properties. They could give her lots of houses to clean, and then she'd have the first crack at signing up the new owners. That way, she has a much better chance of surviving long enough to build a viable business around long-term customers who want well-kept homes.

Please send all questions to Norm Brodsky is a veteran entrepreneur. His co-author is editor-at-large Bo Burlingham. Their book, The Knack, is now available in paperback under the title Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs.

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