How Do You Start and Grow a Business?

Sometimes you hear about a failed venture and it makes sense. I mean, was laser nose hair removal really going to catch on? But other times a great business idea fails not because of the concept but because the entrepreneurs didn’t do what you’re doing now—researching how to start, run, and grow a company. 

We can’t provide you with your business idea, but we can show you the steps to take to officially create a company and set up the things that most businesses need to legally operate and expand. We’ll also show you inexpensive ZenBusiness services that can help you along the way.

Business Entity Types to Choose From

The first thing to do is decide what type of business entity your company will be. Examples of business entity types include sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, and corporation.

The main deciding factors will be liability, taxes, and how much administration and recordkeeping will be involved for each. About 90% of ZenBusiness clients choose to form a limited liability company (LLC) because of the liability protection and avoidance of double taxation. Others choose to form a corporation because it allows you to sell shares of stock to attract investors in addition to protecting you from personal liability. You can research the best option for your company and future plans.

Naming a Business

We’ve written about finding the perfect name for your business venture in How to Name Your LLC, but the main thing you should know is that you need to pick a name for your company that is both unique (not in use by anyone else) and conforms to your state’s rules, which can usually be found on your secretary of state’s website. If you have a great name in mind and don’t want someone else to nab it while you’re still setting up, you can usually reserve a name on the secretary of state website for a fee. We can also do this and conduct a name search for you through our Business Name Reservation service.

Appoint a Registered Agent

The government requires your LLC or corporation to have a “registered agent” for service of process. This means you must have a designated person or entity that agrees to physically accept any legal papers on the company’s behalf should it be sued or otherwise needs to be contacted by the state. In most states, the registered agent does not have to be an individual person; it can be any resident of the state where you are forming your business or a business entity authorized to do business in that state so long as the agent has a physical street address within the state.

Many business owners use a registered agent service (such as ZenBusiness’s) so that they won’t have to be available during the state’s business hours, make their home address public record, or suffer the embarrassment of being served papers in front of customers.

Appoint Directors (for Corporations)

Corporations have the most paperwork of all the business entity types, and one of the first things you’ll need to do if you’re forming one is to appoint directors. Before the business opens, the owners (called “shareholders” for corporations) select these directors to make the major financial and policy decisions for the company. The owners can make themselves directors or hire  non-owner(s) to serve that function.

Soon after the director(s) are chosen, you’ll need to have the initial board of directors meeting, at which you’ll tend to matters like appointing corporate officers, adopting bylaws (more on this below), and authorizing the issuing of stock. At this same meeting, or at least before doing business, you’re required to issue stock, thus formally divvying up the ownership of the corporation.

File Articles of Organization or Incorporation

The next step is to formally file with the state to have your business created. For LLCs, this is most often called filing the “Articles of Organization” (for corporations, “Articles of Incorporation”). This is usually done online, by mail, or in person through the secretary of state office. The requirements and information you’ll need to provide vary by state, but typically include things like the names and addresses of the owners, registered agent, and other basic facts about the business.

The state fees you’ll pay for this and the length of time it will take vary quite a bit by state. To find out your LLC state fees, consult our map. In it you’ll also find estimates as to how long the process will take in your state. If the typical three to four weeks is longer than you’d like to wait, ZenBusiness has multiple filing speed options for hastening the process in every state.

One of the primary things ZenBusiness does is business formation, meaning that we can handle the filing process for you with one of our low-cost plans. There are different plans for different needs, but all include additional services to help you run and grow your business.

Make a Business Operating Agreement

Even if it’s not required in your state, writing down the rules for governing your business is extremely important. For LLCs this is called an “operating agreement,” while an operating agreement for a corporation is referred to as “corporate bylaws.” In Why Does My LLC Need an Operating Agreement?, we’ve outlined the many benefits of an LLC having an operating agreement, such as establishing ownership percentages, decision making, management, and what to do if an owner leaves or wants to sell their portion of the company. Corporate bylaws do much the same thing as well as determine the time and location of shareholder meetings, voting requirements, etc.

Because the stakes are so high, many entrepreneurs consult an attorney or business expert to draft these documents. ZenBusiness can create a personalized operating agreement for your LLC or bylaws for your corporation for a low price.

Obtain an EIN

An IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN) is like a social security number for your business. You’ll likely need one for many reasons, not the least of which is opening a business bank account and hiring employees. You can get an EIN through the IRS website or by using a service like ZenBusiness’s EIN service.

Register for Taxes

Like making a dentist appointment, registering to pay your business’s taxes is not fun but ultimately necessary. First decide how you want your business to be classified for tax purposes. For example, an LLC or a corporation can elect to be taxed as an S corporation if the right conditions are met.

From there, most businesses will have to register for federal, state, and local taxes. Here’s where it gets complicated, because what taxes you’ll pay and who you’ll register with to pay them vary wildly by your location and industry. You might need to register for a seller’s permit, unemployment insurance tax, withholding tax, industry-specific taxes, or any number of things.

Fortunately, if you sign up for any of ZenBusiness’s formation plans, you’ll get a free, no-obligation CPA assessment to determine your tax, accounting, and bookkeeping needs for your first year of business.

Secure Licenses and Permits

Just as you’ll need to determine which taxes your company needs to pay, you’ll also have to figure out what licenses and permits the business needs. In addition to professional licenses, health licenses, etc., some locations require a general business license just to do any business at all. Being unlicensed could result in costly fines or having your company temporarily or permanently shut down.

You can try to research which licenses your business needs or hire someone to do a business license report for you. ZenBusiness has partnered with Business Licenses, LLC to help you conduct a federal, state, county, and city search, based on your business activity and location, seeking out any permits, licenses, and tax registrations you’ll need to legally operate. They then gather those applications and send them to you with instructions on how to complete them. You can request a business license report through our site.

Bank Account for Businesses

Regardless of your business entity type, you’ll likely want to open a separate small business bank account for your company. You can begin with a banking resolution, which is a document authorizing LLC owners or the board of directors for a corporation to open a bank account and provide a signature for the business. From there you can open a business bank account and, if you’d rather not deal with the stress of number crunching yourself, get a CPA for accounting and bookkeeping.

ZenBusiness can help you with all of the above. Our banking resolution template clears the way for you to apply for a discounted business bank account with our partner Radius Bank for unlimited transactions, online banking, a debit card, and more. To manage that money, we have accounting and bookkeeping services to help you close the books every month and give you the ongoing support you need.

Cover Your Company

Businesses, like people, need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios, and that’s what insurance is for. While people generally go for health, life, auto, and home insurance, businesses commonly seek general liability and commercial property insurance as well as coverage for things like business interruption, professional liability, and cyber liability (data breaches). Research the types of policies that would best protect your company.

ZenBusiness works with our partners to provide a free quote for a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) that bundles the policies you want together to save you money.

Get Online the Right Way

Nearly all successful 21st century business ventures have an online presence of some kind. If you want yours to have a website, you’ll need to register a domain name. This is the unique name that will represent your company online and can be used for a website, email address, or both. Then you (or a person or service you hire) can create a website that promotes your business and allows more people to find and do business with you.

Again, we can help you with this process through services like domain name registration, domain name privacy (to protect your personal information from spammers and other no-goodniks), business email addresses, and an affordable, easy-to-set-up business webpage.

Keep Your Business Compliant and Current

You’re not done doing paperwork with the state just because they’ve approved your business. Though it varies by state, industry, and business entity, you’ll likely have a file annual reports for your company with the state as well as meet other reporting requirements if you want to stay in good standing. When a major change happens with your business (such as a change of name or ownership), the state requires you to file an amendment with them to reflect those revisions.

ZenBusiness can help you file your annual report, make amendments as needed, and help you prove that you’re doing all this compliance with a Certificate of Good Standing. This certificate is often needed for renewing business licenses, securing financing, and/or selling your company.

Missing compliance deadlines can mean penalties and costly fines. That’s why we offer something called the “Worry Free Guarantee.” This service not only handles your annual report and two amendments every year, but also alerts you to important deadlines to keep you in good graces with the government.

After reading all the above about how to start and run a business, you must be asking, “Isn’t there supposed to be a part in there where I produce and sell my goods and services?” Indeed there is, and that’s the point. You didn’t want to start a business so you could endlessly wrestle red tape. Leave that heavy lifting to ZenBusiness; you do the hustle while our business experts do the muscle. Talk to one of our business experts today to get started.

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