All businesses are required to register with the state or states in which they operate through their Secretary of State (a.k.a. Department of State) office. All Secretary of State offices keep records of business registrations that are available to the public, often by Internet search. There are several reasons why you may need to know whether a business has the appropriate registration. As a potential customer of a business, you may want to check that the business is reliable and provides the required annual documentation to maintain active status with the state.
Locate the Secretary of State website for the state in which the company in question practices (see Resources). Many of these websites maintain an online list of business registrations that you can search.
Enter the business name in question in the appropriate search box on the Secretary of State website. If you do not receive an accurate match, break the name down to less commonly used words in order to narrow down and pinpoint search results.
Check the status of the businesses in the search results. An “active” status indicates that the business maintains its annual registration reports. An “inactive” or “dissolved” status indicates that the business has not kept up with registration reports in a timely manner or that the company may, in fact, be out of business entirely.
Access copies of the filed registration documents, which are available, usually for free, through the Secretary of State's website. These documents contain the latest business mailing and location address, the president and other officers for the company, and the distribution of ownership.
Look for the registered agent information. Any correspondence you send to the company in regard to a legal matter needs to be addressed to the company’s registered agent.
A company that conducts business in multiple states, such as a chain, must obtain registration for every state in which it maintains an active company location. If the online search does not provide copies of a company's registration documents, contact the Secretary of States office directly to request a copy, as these documents are a part of public record.
- A company that conducts business in multiple states, such as a chain, must obtain registration for every state in which it maintains an active company location. If the online search does not provide copies of a company's registration documents, contact the Secretary of States office directly to request a copy, as these documents are a part of public record.
Michelle Cramer has been writing/editing freelance since 2007, including the Small Business Buzz Blog and articles for Work.com. Cramer's current writing projects include articles for informational websites and several blogs. She has a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Missouri.