You’re about to embark on a long and exciting journey, one full of hard work and rewards: starting a new business.
With wide eyes and big dreams, you’re about to enter the world of business ownership.
But beyond the initial thrill of the startup decision, there’s a lot to consider. In fact, if you’ve never done it before, starting a business can seem like an intimidating mountain of work. Out of all your responsibilities and tasks, you might not even know where to start.
But have no fear. The good news is that once you have everything planned out and understand the process, the formation process is smooth sailing. And this is your go-to guide.
Everything you’ve been wondering about, everything you need to do, every question you have – it’s all right here. By the time you’re through these 16 steps, you’ll be a bonafide business owner who’s prepared for sustained success.
Utah Entrepreneur Hack
When you form a business through business formation services (Example: ZenBusiness and LegalZoom), they’ll register your business with the state and help you check off most of the startup-steps in this list. They assist you with everything from building a website to opening a business bank account.
If you’d like to cut through the clutter and compare the best LLC services, see our comparison of the top 7 deals.
1) Write a Business Plan
Jumping into this endeavor without goals, directives, or a sense of direction can lead to a scattered, unproductive business.
A business plan lays the groundwork for your future success. It helps you analyze key elements of your business and forge pathways to achieve your goals. Here are a few things you should consider including in your business plan:
- Executive Summary (a separate document that gives a complete overview of your business’ purpose, plans, goals, competition, opportunities, etc.)
- Company description
- Market Analysis (opportunities, competition, etc.)
- Managerial or organizational structure
- Products and/or services
- Marketing strategies
- Funding goals
- Financial projections
Business plans aren’t just great for internal operations, but they give your business legitimacy in front of potential investors, customers, partners, and more. Need help? Check out this guide from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
2) Decide on a Business Name
You might’ve come up with the perfect name right away. If so, consider yourself lucky.
Sometimes, deciding on a business can be difficult, requiring brainstorming meetings and late-night rap sessions. That’s because your name is your business’ identity and reputation. It should be something that’s unique and memorable but also defines your business purpose.
When you choose a legal business structure (see step 3) keep in mind that each type comes with its own naming restrictions. LLC names, for example, must include “limited company,” “limited liability company,” “L.C.,” or “L.L.C.” You can find a full list of business name requirements on the Division of Corporations & Commercial Code website.
More importantly, you can’t choose a name that’s already being used by another company. Once you have a name in mind, search for it on Utah.gov to determine if it’s available. If so, just reserve it or use it on your formation documents and it’s all yours!
IMPORTANT: To properly brand your business, you’ll want to acquire the domain name so nobody else can use it. Search for and find the perfect one through GoDaddy.
3) Decide on a Legal Structure
There are only a few types of business structures, but each one dictates some important parts of how your business will run.
The most popular types are the sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited liability company (LLC), S corporation, and C corporation. Most small businesses go with the LLC because of its unique blend of flexibility and personal asset protection.
However, you shouldn’t make this decision without reading up on all of your options. We’ve done plenty of research on each business type and developed side-by-side comparisons. Check out our LLC vs. Corporation and LLC vs. Sole Proprietorship comparison guides for a closer look.
4) Choose a Registered Agent
The Division of Corporations & Commercial Code needs a point of contact for your business, someone who will be available at your registered office address during typical business hours – 9am to 5pm.
This person is called a registered agent, and they serve as an intermediary with the state, receiving all of your company’s important legal communications and relaying them on to you. The Utah registered agent ensures that no important state documents, deadlines, or payments fall through the cracks, so you’ll want to choose a person or company you trust.
You can choose either an individual or a business entity as your registered agent in Utah, but they must:
- Be an individual Utah resident or a corporation authorized to do business in the state.
- Have a physical address in Utah.
- Have a mailing address in Utah (no P.O. boxes allowed).
Remember that an individual registered agent is the person responsible for keeping your business in good standing with the state – that’s a big responsibility! So, we often recommend appointing someone who understands the intricacies of business maintenance, like an attorney or manager. That said, you’ve likely noticed that the parameters are fairly broad, so friends and family members are also valid options.
Or, you can choose a registered agent service instead. These companies take care of all your registered agent responsibilities, and some will even handle your business formation and annual renewals as well.
Important: You must continuously maintain a registered agent on file with the Division of Corporations & Commercial Code. If your agent resigns or you appoint a new one, you’ll need to notify them by filing the appropriate documents.
5) Register Your Business
This is the big one, the step that officially creates your business. No matter which business type you choose, you’ll need to register it with the Division of Corporations & Commercial Code.
LLCs: If you’ve elected to form a limited liability company, you will need to file a Certificate of Organization either online or by submitting a paper form. This filing will cost $70 for either filing method, and once it’s approved, it will formally start your LLC.
Corporations: The same filing methods are available for corporations, but you’ll need to file an Articles of Incorporation instead. Like the Certificate of Organization, this filing costs $70 and is available online as well as on paper.
Sole Proprietorship/General Partnership: There are no official forms or fees to register as a sole proprietor or general partnership. Simply start doing business and that’s it! While this is obviously faster and easier, we recommend incorporating your business because of the personal asset protection LLCs and corporations provide.
Foreign Entities: If you started your business in another state but now you want to conduct activities in Utah, you’ll need to file for foreign qualification by submitting a Foreign Registration Statement (LLCs) or an Application for Authority to Conduct Affairs (corporations). Each of these filings costs $70. Foreign qualification takes the place of filing any of the formation documents listed above.
6) Get an EIN
The Employer Identification Number (EIN) is your ticket to doing state and federal taxes. It’s a nine-digit number, much like a Social Security Number, that identifies your business on tax documents.
If you’re forming an LLC, it will be considered a “pass-through” entity, so the business itself won’t pay federal income taxes. Instead, you and the other members will report income and losses on your personal tax returns.
But this doesn’t mean you can go without an EIN. If your LLC pays any type of business taxes – like Sales, Use, or Unemployment Taxes – or hires employees, you’ll need to get one.
Unsure if you need one? The IRS provides a useful “Do I need an EIN?” link on this page, where you can also apply for an EIN. If you go through the online application process, you’ll receive your number immediately.
Otherwise, you can submit a Form SS-4 by fax to (855) 641-6935 or by mail to :
Internal Revenue Service Operation
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
7) Open a Business Bank Account
LLC and corporation owners are required to keep their personal and business finances completely separate, or they risk losing their personal asset protection. To do so, you’ll need a business bank account.
The good news is that opening a business bank account is pretty simple. Just pay a visit to your bank’s local branch and sit down with one of the bankers there. You will need to present your formation documents, an EIN number, and some personal information. Then, you can direct all of your business income and expenses to that account instead of a personal one.
It doesn’t really matter which bank you choose, whether it’s a national giant like Chase or Bank of America or a small, local bank. However, it’s usually easiest to go with the one where you have existing accounts.
8) Handle Any Tax Obligations
Ah, taxes. They’re always part of the picture, especially when you run a business.
Familiarizing yourself with your business’ tax requirements will help you establish a solid financial plan going forward. LLCs don’t need to file a corporate tax return and pay federal income taxes, so you’ll handle these taxes as part of your personal return.
Corporations, on the other hand, will need to file a Corporate Income Tax Return, while sole proprietorships/general partnerships will need to pay self-employment taxes.
Utah doesn’t require a franchise tax or any other fee solely for the privilege of doing business in the state. However, there are a few other taxes your business may owe, depending on its activities:
Sales and Use Taxes: Any business that sells goods in Utah is responsible for paying Sales and Use Taxes. The statewide rate is 4.85%, but depending on your local sales tax and the type of products you sell, your business could end up paying anywhere between 6.1% and 9.05%.
Withholding and Unemployment Taxes: These taxes are required if your business hires any employees. Withholding Taxes go through the State Tax Commission while Unemployment Insurance Taxes are through the Department of Workforce Services.
Visit Utah’s State Tax Commission website for more information on taxes.
9) Find an Accountant
Sometimes it’s easier to hand off your financial responsibilities to a professional. Not only will an accountant ensures that your taxes are filed and paid correctly, but they might also find a few ways to save your business money.
Bookkeeping and tax procedures are time-consuming and require some specialized knowledge. Balance sheets, financial reports, cash flow, audits, and much more – an accountant can ensure that your company operates smoothly and streamlines its expenses.
This can be expensive depending on the complexity of your finances, but the benefits an accountant offers can be well worth it.
10) Create an Operating Agreement
An operating agreement constructs a framework of procedures and standards for your business. This is where you can lay out processes for member conduct, asset allocation, compensation policies, voting procedures, dissolution, and much more.
While operating agreements aren’t technically required in Utah, they are essential to your business’ stability and success. They provide a safety net in legal disputes and legitimacy in front of banks, courts, government agencies, and other businesses.
You can either draft one yourself using an online template, or you can hire an attorney or an incorporation service to take care of it for you.
Once you’ve drafted your agreement, it must be approved by each of your LLC’s members, then filed with the rest of your business documents. You do not need to submit it to the Division of Corporations & Commercial Code.
11) Acquire the Necessary Licenses
After filing your formation documents, your business is legitimate, but it might still need specific licenses before opening its doors in Utah. Here are a few common license/permit types that your business might need:
Professional Licenses: A number of occupations require licensure through state boards before doing business in Utah. Search for your profession on the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing website to find out which licenses you might need (if any).
Health Permits: Businesses in food service, child care, and other human services will likely need to obtain licenses through their county or city government.
Building and Zoning Permits: If your business is building or renovating any structures, it will need building and/or zoning permits through the local government.
Environmental Licenses: Businesses that affect Utah’s land, air, and water quality often require licensure through the Department of Environmental Quality.
Other Local Licenses: Your specific city, county, or municipality might have its own business license requirements. Take a look at your local government’s website to find out.
12) Consider Business Insurance
Even though it’s not pleasant to consider, there’s always a chance that unforeseen events might take a toll on your assets.
While forming an LLC or corporation offers some personal asset protection, additional business insurance can also protect your business assets in cases of lawsuits, damages, etc. You can acquire insurance for your business products, vehicles, specific occupations and much more.
If you hire employees, you’ll also need to get workers’ compensation insurance. SBA.gov has a useful guide for determining which forms of insurance your new business might need.
13) Build a Website
Your company’s digital presence is just as important as its physical one. Like it or not, most potential customers will find your business online, and if you don’t exist online, you’re missing out.
But don’t worry, you don’t need to be an HTML or web design expert to build a website. Sites like WordPress and Squarespace make it easy to construct an elegant and responsive website, no coding necessary. But if you’re not comfortable or confident doing it on your own, you can always hire a professional web designer to take care of it for you.
14) Launch Social Media Accounts
Making your mark on the digital landscape doesn’t start and end with your website. Most successful businesses also have a robust social media presence on multiple platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all great ways to connect organically with potential customers and develop your brand voice.
Just don’t forget to publish consistent social media content, or you’ll have trouble building a base of followers.
15) Understand Ongoing Utah Requirements
After you’ve launched your business, things will likely be moving at 100 miles per hour as you evolve and grow. But in all of the excitement, you can’t forget your state’s ongoing compliance requirements. Every state has its own annual or biennial business requirements.
Every business operating in Utah must file an Annual Renewal by its anniversary date (the date it was initially formed) each year. The fee is $20 for all business structures except nonprofits, which only need to pay $10. You can file Annual Renewals online or by submitting a paper form. If you go the hard copy route and need to make changes to your business information, you must also submit a Registration Information Change Form.
16) Check Out Utah Small Business Resources
You’re not on this journey alone. There are plenty of free resources available to make starting and growing your business a smoother, easier process.
There’s a ton of support available for Utah small businesses, from consulting to networking to loans and grants. But it’s tough to find these resources if you don’t know where to look. Fortunately, SBA.gov can make these connections for you. Check out Utah’s district office webpage and this exhaustive guide on Hawaii’s small business resources, which contains just a wealth of great information.