Famed for the Rocky Mountain range and the beautiful glaciers and lakes, Montana offers stunning scenescapes. And with zero sales tax, starting a business in this state is all the more desirable. But how does one start a business in Montana? There are many steps to starting a business, so you may feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin.
In this article, you will find a comprehensive step-by-step guide on starting your business, from choosing the business idea to registering the business and even marketing it successfully.
Step 1: Choose Your Idea
Every business, whether big or small, starts with a business idea. This idea will be the foundation of your business from which you will build your business. The idea does not have to be overly thorough or detailed at this stage, as this is just the planning stage.
To start thinking of an idea, answer these questions:
- What are my passions, skills, interests, and hobbies?
- Will I be able to turn what I love doing into a profitable business?
- Will I be able and willing to work with this business every day?
- Is there a gap in the market for my business?
- Are there any businesses like mine that already exist?
You can also employ the help of your friends and family and see if they would be happy to help you brainstorm a marketable business idea. Or think of a few different options yourself and ask them what they think would be the best idea.
Step 2: Pick a Name
The name of your company is very important because it represents the face of your business. It will be the first thing many people will see and hear. Their opinions of your business will often be based on their first impressions.
You need to keep a few things in mind when deciding on a name for your business.
Firstly, the state of Montana will not allow you to register a business name that has already been registered with the Secretary of State and is currently in use. To check if your desired name is still available, you can quickly search on the Montana Secretary of State website.
Your business name should be easy for people to read and pronounce. It should also be entirely unique, as already mentioned, but still be relevant to the industry your business is based.
Sometimes coming up with a name for the business can be daunting, especially if you are not a particularly creative person. Try out some of these easy methods to come up with a good business name:
- Create a mindmap with words related to your business. Software like Microsoft Word comes with ready-made templates to use.
- Create a word dump. This is where you jot down any words that come into your mind. You don’t need to think too hard about each word.
- Use your friends and family for help. They might come up with a name you like.
- Make use of free name generators online.
Step 3: Write Your Business Plan
Once you have chosen your business idea and the name, your next step is to write up a business plan. Your business plan consists of all your research, planning, ideas, product information, business practices, and any relevant financial details.
Think of the business plan as the blueprint for your business. A good business plan can also be used as a marketing tool to attract potential investors and sponsors to your business.
While there are no rules about what needs to be included in the business plan, you should at least include the following information:
- How your business solves a consumer’s problem.
- How your business differs from those already in the market.
- Who your target market is, and how you plan on turning them into paying customers.
- How you plan on marketing your business.
- What roles you will need to be filled in the business.
- How you will hire new people, and how many.
- Your financial target.
- Your plan on making a profit.
- How much you will need to make to break even.
- Any other financial predictions.
Plenty of free and paid business plan templates are available on the internet if you are unsure how to write out your business plan.
Step 4: Get Funding
Starting a business in Montana will cost money, and if you cannot afford to fund the startup costs yourself, you will need to look for funding elsewhere. You can get funding for your business through a grant, loan, or an investor.
If you live in an area outside the main cities, you may qualify for Montana’s rural business grants. You can learn more by visiting the official website.
If you don’t qualify for the grant, you can instead apply for a loan through the U.S Small Business Administration, or you can browse through the different funding programs available on the Montana Official State Website. Alternatively, you can go the private route and get a loan from your local bank or even your friends and family. Just make sure to get any agreement on paper.
There is also the option to have an investor fund the startup costs for you in exchange for a share in your business. Investors can also come in the form of family and friends.
Step 5: Choose Your Business Structure
Choosing the proper business structure for your business is important. They all have different perks and advantages depending on the size of your company and how you plan on running it. Here are the different business structures you can choose from:
This type of business structure is informal and has no real legal structure. A sole proprietorship has only one owner, and there is no separation between personal and business assets. This business structure is commonly used for low-risk businesses like freelancers and tradespeople.
A partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship except that it is owned by two or more business owners with equal shares in the business. Like the other informal business structure, there is no separation of assets.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company, or LLC, is one of the most commonly used business structures for small to medium-sized businesses. This is because an LLC has the flexibility and ease of a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation.
The fourth business structure available is a C or S corporation. A corporation is an entirely separate legal entity from the owners. A corporation is owned by multiple shareholders and is popular due to the tax benefits that come with this structure.
Step 6: Register Your Business
In Montana, some business structures are legally required to register with the state.
In Montana, a sole proprietorship does not need to be registered with the state. However, if you wish to operate under a different name than your legal personal one, you must file an assumed name with the Montana Business Services Division.
Just like a sole proprietorship, this business structure does not need to be registered with the state. But again, if you wish to operate under an assumed name, you must apply for it.
Limited Liability Company
To register your LLC in Montana, you must complete and submit the Articles of Organization to the Montana Secretary of State. You must create an account and log in before you can file it online. The fee to do this is $35.
C or S Corporation
Registering a corporation is very similar to an LLC. You will need to complete and submit the Articles of Incorporation to the Secretary of State. The fee to register your corporation is $35.
Step 7: Set Up Your Finances & Accounting
Setting up your finances and accounting is crucial in starting a Montana business. To set up your finances, you should open a bank account for the business. You can also get a business credit card and a payment option for your paying customers or clients.
If you have employees, you should get payroll software, as this is an excellent way of ensuring all employees’ salaries are paid on time. This software will also make paying taxes much easier. As finances and accounting can get complicated as your business grows, consider hiring an accountant to take care of this side of the business for you. You can either hire one on your payroll or use a third-party accounting firm to help you.
Step 8: Get Business Insurance
Having insurance for your business is not a requirement in Montana, but it is an important thing to consider, as you never know when disaster may strike. You should at least have a general liability insurance policy. This broad insurance policy will cover the daily running of a business and any injury or damage that happens on the business’s premises. You should also shop around to see if there are any other insurance policies that may be beneficial to have for your business.
Chat with your local insurance broker for professional advice and a quote.
Step 9: Obtain Any Permits or Licenses Needed
The state of Montana does not require businesses to have a general business license, nor do they issue sales tax permits either. However, some counties or cities may have their own requirements, depending on what your business does. So it is best to visit Montana’s official government website to see exactly what you may need.
Step 10: Build a Website
Every business should have its own website, and building a website is relatively easy in this day and age. You can use an online website builder for free or a monthly subscription. These websites have ready-made templates where you add your information.
When building a website, always ensure that your business name is easily visible all the fonts are easy to read and clear. Also, ensure that your contact details are easy to find and that you’ve linked your website with your other social media business accounts.
It is also a good idea to keep your content relevant and up to date. Your website should also be easy to navigate.
If you’re struggling to build a website, you can always hire someone to design one for you.
Step 11: Hire Employees (If Any)
Hiring employees may be necessary if you find that you cannot take care of all the work required to run your business. To hire employees, put out an ad, interview your top candidates, and offer the position to your preferred choice.
When hiring employees, remember that Montana requires all new hires to be reported to the Montana New Hire Reporting Program. This needs to be done within 20 days of the hire date, and there is no fee to do this.
Step 12: Market Your Business
The final step to starting a business is to market it. Luckily, these days, there are so many ways to market a business to suit every budget. When marketing, you should keep in mind that you need to be consistent, as this is the best way to build brand recognition.
Here are some different ways you can market your business:
- Use your business website to promote your business and engage with customers.
- Create content and advertise for free on Facebook.
- Create a Google Business Profile and use Google ads.
- Market your business by attending business expos and markets.
- Advertise through your local newspaper.
- Hold competitions.
- Create a weekly newsletter for the business.
- Attend local networking events.
- Advertise through your local radio and television stations.
Alternatively, you can hire a marketing expert to take care of this side of the business for you. That way, you can focus on other aspects of the business.