You want to start a Limited Liability Company. You have your vision, your business name, and the motivation to make your dream a reality. But you want some help getting started, so you’ve decided to hire a business formation service.
But that leads to a big decision: which service should you use? There are a lot of options available, but they’re not created equal. Two popular services are ZenBusiness and Harvard Business Services.
In this guide, we’ll give you a side-by-side comparison of these two options. Then you can pick the right service for you.
Rocket Tip: Looking for the best and most affordable LLC formation services? Compare the top 3 options (ZenBusiness vs Incfile vs Northwest) to see how they stack up.
Our philosophy: What makes a formation service “good”?
Ultimately, “best LLC services” boil down to a matter of opinion. Which one is best for you depends on what you want. But that said, there are certain qualities that make one formation service better than another. Whenever we review an LLC formation service, here are some questions we ask:
- Does this service give me a good value for what I’m paying?
- Does this company have a proven record of supplying high-quality service?
- What is the quality of this company’s customer service?
- How easy is it to use this service?
- How quickly will my business be formed?
A good LLC formation service will receive high marks in these categories. We’ll consider the answers to these questions in our in-depth comparison below.
ZenBusiness vs. Harvard Business Services: What’s the difference?
On the surface, ZenBusiness and Harvard Business Services seem to accomplish the same purpose: helping you form your LLC. And while that’s true, the difference between them goes deeper than that. We’ll give you our full analysis in just a moment, but here are a few key differences:
- ZenBusiness has a very competitive entry-level package. With a price tag of just $39 and great features, it’s a good option for entrepreneurs on a tight budget.
- Harvard Business Services is exclusive to the state of Delaware. This is both a drawback and an advantage: if you’re in Delaware, then you’ll get the best possible assistance for your state. But if you’re not in Delaware, then you’ll have to pick a different service.
Both ZenBusiness and Harvard Business Services can help you create an LLC. We honestly like both, but because Harvard Business Services is only available in Delaware, ZenBusiness can serve a much wider audience. To give you a better idea of which is right for you, let’s jump into the specifics.
Pricing and packages
Whenever you make a purchase, you want to know that what you’re buying is truly worth the cost. The same goes for ZenBusiness and Harvard Business Services. We especially like the entry-level packages of both services. Let’s take a look at them:
- Starter: The first package with ZenBusiness costs $39. For that price, you get your LLC formation, their annual registered agent service, and customizable operating agreement — making it an excellent option.
- Pro: The pro package makes a jump to $149. That includes an EIN, their Worry-Free Guarantee (essentially a compliance assistance program), and a faster processing time.
- Premium: We don’t honestly recommend this package because it throws in a lot of third-party offers that you don’t really need. And with a price of $249, it’s a lot of money for what you end up getting.
Harvard Business Services
- Green: Harvard Business Services offers their entry-level package for $89 (plus Delaware’s $90 fee). The main idea of this package is that it’s entirely electronic, so you get online access to your formation documents once they’ve filed them on your behalf. They also throw in a business name availability check, and they give 12 months of registered agent service. After your first year, this service costs just $50—this is the best price in the industry.
- Basic: The next package up has a price point of $139, which adds document templates and hard copies of all your business documents to the Green package.
- Standard: The final package offering from Harvard Business Services rounds out your formation package with a kit and seal that’s customized for your business. The features of Basic and Green are included too, for a price of $239.
At first glance, this is a hard category to call: ZenBusiness beats Harvard Business Services for their package prices, but the registered agent service of Harvard costs half of what ZenBusiness charges. But to put it in perspective, most services charge $100-125 for this service, so ZenBusiness still has a competitive price.
What really divides these services is their upper-level packages. The features included in Harvard Business Services’ upper packages aren’t really (in our opinion) worth the extra price. But ZenBusiness throws in some valuable features, especially in their middle package. ZenBusiness ekes out the win in this category.
How easy it is to use the service
Any business service is supposed to make your life easier, right? That’s why we always consider how easy it is to use a service when we evaluate them. After all, why would you bother paying someone to file your paperwork if it’s harder to hire them than it is to do it yourself?
We tested both services, and they’re both relatively straightforward. Here’s the run-down of the two:
- Choosing a package: Just pick the right package for your business to get started.
- Up-sells: ZenBusiness does present a few extra up-sells throughout the process, which can be annoying. Thankfully, they are easy to navigate.
- Order time: When we tested the order process for ZenBusiness, we took just a few minutes to reach the final step. If you select any of their add-ons of third-party offers, it can take a bit longer.
Harvard Business Services
- Choosing a package: Since there’s no state to choose, all you have to do is select your business type and desired package to get started.
- Up-sells: Harvard Business Services stays away from almost every up-sell; they offer only one throughout the entire process. And we really appreciate that it is not a third-party offer.
- Order time: All told, Harvard Business Services is super simple to use. When we tested out their form, we only spent about ten minutes from start to finish.
If you’re looking for a simple order form, you’ll find it in both ZenBusiness and Harvard Business Services. We almost called this category a tie. But to their credit, Harvard Business Services completely avoids third-party offers, and they have only one up-sell. ZenBusiness has a few more. This win goes to Harvard Business Services.
Buying a product is one thing. But getting support for that product is just as important. After all, if a company doesn’t stand behind its product, why should you? But when a company helps you throughout the entire process—choosing a product, purchasing it, and keeping that product up-to-date—you’ll be happier with your purchase.
The same goes for business formation services. If they help you pick the package that’s right for you, assist you with the paperwork, answer your questions, and make it clear that they want to help you more than make money off you, you’ll keep using them. You might even recommend them to your friends.
In our opinion, both ZenBusiness and Harvard Business Services have good customer service, but we have a strong preference for Harvard Business Services. Here’s a summary of our thoughts on the customer service of both services:
- Types of support: ZenBusiness uses a web-based chat support for their customer support. You can also contact them via email and phone.
- Availability: ZenBusiness usually gives a prompt response if you contact them during their regular business hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST.
- Quality of support: When we tested them, we found the representatives at ZenBusiness to be knowledgeable and prompt.
Harvard Business Services
- Types of support: Harvard Business Services offers support via phone, email, chat, and even Skype.
- Availability: You can contact Harvard Business Services support during regular business hours on most days, with 9 to 5 (ET) availability on Monday through Thursday and then 8 to noon availability on Fridays.
- Quality of support: Since Harvard Business Services is dedicated to Delaware alone, their customer service representatives are experts on all things Delaware business. And they never leave you waiting long on a response, either.
Company track record
Technically, there’s nothing wrong with using a new company to form your business. But working with an established, trusted brand gives you confidence. You can trust a company that has already served thousands of happy customers.
ZenBusiness and Harvard Business Services both have good track records, but ZenBusiness is still pretty young. Here’s how the two stack up:
- Years in business: ZenBusiness was founded in 2015, so it’s celebrating its fourth anniversary this year.
- Businesses formed: ZenBusiness has created thousands of businesses in their short time in business.
- Customer reviews: Customers have lots of good things to say about ZenBusiness, with excellent ratings on both Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau.
Harvard Business Services
- Years in business: Harvard Business Services got started in 1981, so they have several decades on ZenBusiness.
- Businesses formed: Harvard Business Services may be exclusive to one state, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t served a lot of customers. Since their inception, they’ve formed more than 170,000 businesses.
- Customer reviews: Harvard Business Services has thousands of customer reviews, and most of them are positive.
For as young as they are, ZenBusiness has established an impeccable track record. We fully expect that they’ll continue doing so.
But Harvard Business Services has an even more impressive track record. Even though they only serve one state, they’ve created a lot of businesses. Add to that their excellent customer reviews, and we give another win to Harvard Business Services. But ZenBusiness does have an impressive start, so this isn’t a blow-out victory.
Assistance with ongoing compliance
Starting a business takes a lot of time and effort, but so does maintaining it! Each state is a little different; some require annual reports, some require you to renew your license each year, and more. Keeping track of these requirements can be confusing.
That’s why a lot of services help you with ongoing compliance. But just how much help you’ll get depends on what service you choose.
If you purchase the Pro package from ZenBusiness, then you are automatically subscribed to their Worry Free Compliance Guarantee. This program allows ZenBusiness to conduct an annual audit of your business to ensure that you meet your annual requirements. You can also purchase the program separately for $110 per year.
Harvard Business Services
Harvard Business Services offers a few compliance assistance programs, including annual report and franchise tax help. If you’d like these services, you can call for a quote. Their registered agent service is also the cheapest in the industry at a price of $50 per year.
So, which service do we recommend to start an LLC?
ZenBusiness got off to a great start by taking a big win in the pricing category. But Harvard Business Services has several advantages over ZenBusiness in the other categories. Of course, there’s one factor we can’t forget: Harvard Business Services is exclusive to Delaware.
That’s why, in most states and for the budget-conscious entrepreneur, ZenBusiness is the better option.
But if you’re in Delaware, you have a decision to make. Both services are great choices. You’ll have to decide whether you prefer ZenBusiness’s price advantage or the pluses of Harvard Business Services.