Many businesses, both large and small, operate as limited liability companies, or LLCs. If a new competitor or a potential customer opens in your field with that designation, a simple search of state records can provide you with information regarding the owner or registered agent. This information allows you to better research the entity by looking at every individual involved and to develop a new competitive strategy or sales approach.
A limited liability company, or LLC, must register with a stage agency to obtain that designation. Many states maintain a searchable database of LLC information online, which allows consumers and businesses to research an LLC in order to determine if the company is in good standing with the state. The information is located on the website of the state's office of the secretary of state or department of commerce. Look for a tab dedicated to business services, filings or searches to begin the process.
When the state you are searching maintains a full database, you can easily search by the name of the LLC or a member name. If you know that a bakery is opening down the street, search for the name displayed on its signage to search for the owners, but if you only know that John Smith is opening a bakery, you can search using his name.
Many states with a database that allows you to search LLCs also have searchable databases for other businesses registered with the state. These may be separated based on the business type or incorporated into one master database. If you want to view only LLCs, an advanced search option may let you dictate the business type you want to display. However, the ability to generate search results across a range of business structures, such as partnerships or corporations, can provide the information you need more efficiently. In some instances, you may encounter an LLC with members that are other LLCs. You will need to run additional searches on the member LLCs to learn the names of individual owners.
Different states provide the LLC registration information in various formats that dictate the amount of detail you can generate online. Some states, such as Ohio, provide a minimum of information – the LLC name, registered address and status, and publish a regular report of new LLC registrations. Other states include the name of the registered agent, all members and addresses. California allows you to download a PDF copy of the registration and supplemental documents featuring contact information for the LLC's members and its registered agent.
Public Records Requests
If your state does not have an online search option or it does not provide you with the type of information you need, file a public records request with the appropriate state agency. Many provide a "Contact Us" form on the agency website that allows you to submit a request online. When that is not possible, type up a request specifying the document you want. Date the request and deliver it to the appropriate office. A fee may be charged for paper copies, but you should be able to review the document in person free of charge.
Ashley Mott has 12 years of small business management experience and a BSBA in accounting from Columbia. She is a full-time government and public safety reporter for Gannett.