Starting Your Business

Now that you have created your business plan, you are ready take the first official steps in creating your new business.  

The Montana Business Checklist is the primary source of information for getting your new business up and running. In the Montana Business Checklist you’ll be able to create your business structure, conduct your business registration, learn more about taxes, permits, licenses, and any additional requirements for starting your new business.

8 Steps to Starting your Business

The Montana Governor's Office of Economic Development has created the Montana Business Checklist as a powerful tool that will help guide you through the licensing and permitting process. We have identified the following 8 steps as a guide to use in conjunction with the Montana Business Checklist get your business up and running. Please contact our office if you need assistance.

Step 1: Write your Business Plan

The first step in creating a successful business is creating your business plan. A business plan is an essential roadmap for business success. This living document generally projects 3-5 years ahead and outlines the route a company intends to take to grow revenues.

If you need assistance writing your business plan, please look our our PLAN page for valuable resources including business plan templates and helpful tips on writing a winning business plan. We also have a robust network of PARTNERS made up of economic development professionals that are willing and able to assist you. 

Step 2: Choose Your Business Structure

The first decision you need to make as you launch your business is what kind of organizational structure it should have. Should it be a sole proprietorship? A partnership? A corporation? The answers to these questions should be based on several factors:

  • The degree of control you want to have over the business.
  • The degree of formal organization you need.
  • The need to protect against liability for business actions.
  • The ability to attract investors.
  • Tax considerations for both you and your investors (if any).

While it is not necessary to engage an attorney to file business documents, we strongly recommend that you consult with an attorney, accountant, financial adviser, and/or banker to help you determine which business structure is most suitable for you. Some of the most are common organizational structures are: Assumed Business Name, Sole Proprietorship, General Partnership, Limited Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership, Limited Liability Limited Partnership, Corporation, Limited Liability Company, Series Limited, Liability Company, Trademark, Service Mark.

Once you have determined your organizational structure, you will need to file the appropriate forms with the Secretary of State's office.

Step 3: Register Your Business Name

Naming your business is an important branding exercise, but if you choose to name your business as anything other than your own personal name then you’ll need to register it with the appropriate authorities.


This process is known as registering your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name.


What is a “Doing Business As” Name?

A fictitious name (or assumed name, trade name or DBA name) is a business name that is different from your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.

It’s important to note that when you form a business, the legal name of the business defaults to the name of the person or entity that owns the business, unless you choose to rename it and register it as a DBA name.

For example, consider this scenario: John Smith sets up a painting business. Rather than operate under his own name, John instead chooses to name his business: “John Smith Painting”. This name is considered an assumed name and John will need to register it with the appropriate local government agency.

The legal name of your business is required on all government forms and applications, including your application for employer tax IDs, licenses and permits.

Montana requires a business name to be distinguishable in the records of the secretary of state from the name of another business currently on file. To search for business names, Click Here.

If you do not have a business name or are not ready to register your business name, you may reserve your business name for up to 120 days.

Step 4: Get Your Tax identification Number

The Internal Revenue Service requires federal tax identification numbers for partnerships, corporations and businesses that hire employees. To obtain a federal tax ID number, call the IRS toll-free at 1-800-829-4933. You can also learn more about Employer Identification Number (EIN) and apply online by visiting their website. Your Tax obligation is dependent on your business structure 

Once you have your Tax ID number, it is important to know your obligations to federal, state and local government. The Montana Department of Revenue and the Montana Department of Labor and Industry are good resources to get you started.  

Step 5: Identify Regulations and Laws for your Business

Before you start your business, it’s a good idea to research and identify all of the laws and regulations your business must adhere to.

Regulations are safeguards to protect your business, customers, employees, and industry. They help to level the competitive playing field and make sure that the products, services and practices of business benefit the public.

There are several ways to learn about regulations and ordinances that apply to your business. In many cases, you can research and review the applicable regulations yourself. Information on federal government regulations can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations.  You can also contact Government Agency or local Economic Development Organization.  Industry organizations may also be able to help you identify regulations and laws specific to your business.

In general, there a few laws and regulations that most businesses must consider including: Advertising & Marketing Law, Employment & Labor Law, Finance Law, Intellectual Property Law, Online Business Law, Privacy Law, Environmental Regulations, Regulation of Financial Contracts, Workplace Safety & Health Law, Foreign Workers & Employee Eligibility.

You must also be aware of your responsibilities as an employer. The Montana Department of Revenue - Employer’s Tax GuideMontana Department of Labor & Industry - Employment LawsMontana Department of Labor & Industry - Employer ResourcesMontana Department of Labor & Industry - Montana Unemployment Insurance Employer HandbookMontana Department of Public Health & Human Services - New Hire Booklet are all good resources to help you understand the regulations, laws and responsibilities of an employer operating in Montana.

Step 6: Choose your Location

Choosing a business location is perhaps the most important decision a small business owner or startup will make, so it requires precise planning and research. It involves looking at demographics, assessing your supply chain, scoping the competition, staying on budget, understanding state laws and taxes, and much more.

Here are some tips to help you choose the right business location.

Site Selector

Determine Your Needs

Most businesses choose a location that provides exposure to customers. Additionally, there are less obvious factors and needs to consider, for example:

  • Brand Image 
  • Competition 
  • Local Labor Market
  • Plan for Future Growth 
  • Proximity to Suppliers
  • Safety 
  • Zoning Regulations
  • Is the Area Business Friendly?

Understanding laws and regulations imposed on businesses in a particular location is essential. As you look to grow your business, it can be advantageous to work with a small business specialist or counselor. Check what programs and support your state government and local community offer to small businesses.

The Montana Governor's Office of Economic Development has developed the Montana Site Selector tool to help assist you with your search for your new Montana location.  

Step 7: Secure Financing

When starting a business it is critical to determine if your business will be profitable and what your financial needs will be.  Estimating startup costs, developing a cash flow analysis, and deciding whether or not to borrow money for you business are all important factors to evaluate .

Once you have decided your business is ready to explore financing, Montana has a variety of options. The Department of Commerce Business Resources Division maintains the Montana Finance Information Center website that provides links to Montana Department of Commerce programs as well as other state, federal, and local financing programs.

Step 8: Obtain Business and Professional Licenses and Permits

The State of Montana does not require that all businesses hold a general business license. However, there are certain types of businesses that are required to register and be licensed by the state. SBDC Business License Guide is a tool to help individuals discover which state, federal or local office they need to contact for professional licenses and business certifications.

The Montana Business Checklist is a powerful tool that will help guide you through the state licensing and permitting process. The Checklist will provide a one-stop shop for businesses to quickly and easily organize your business licenses and permits. 


Are you ready to build your Business Checklist?

Once you  have reviewed the available resources, it is now time to build your checklist. The Montana Business Checklist can be used for new or existing businesses. The Checklist is a easy to use and powerful tool that bring together all of the State of Montana's business permits and licenses in one location.  Use the Montana Business Checklist as resource to simplify operating your business in Montana.

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