If you’re looking to form a new corporation, you might be wondering which online incorporation service is the best fit to help you form your business entity.
In this comparison guide, you’ll find detailed information about the five key factors we use to analyze incorporation services. Is ZenBusiness the right choice for your business, or is Harvard Business Services the preferred option? Let’s find out.
Key Comparison Factors
In our review and comparison of each online incorporation service, we performed a “stress test” on each based on 5 key factors:
- Compared pricing and features to determine overall value.
- Researched their track record.
- Assessed the quality of customer service.
- Tested their ordering process and service’s ease of use.
- Reviewed the turnaround times for incorporating online.
As you’ll see in this comparison, both ZenBusiness and Harvard Business Services are great and affordable incorporation services. However, ZenBusiness wins our vote as the better option due to their inclusion of a full year registered agent service and $50 lower prices.
Overall Pricing and Value
ZenBusiness: A unique aspect of ZenBusiness is the fact that they offer their Starter incorporation service plan for just $39. In addition, this package is fully featured, including registered agent service, a risk-free CPA assessment with one of their in-house accountants, and corporate bylaws. We also appreciate their $149 plan, as it adds annual report service, compliance monitoring, a federal tax ID number (EIN), and a banking resolution to the Starter package.
Harvard Business Services: We like their entry-level Green package quite a bit, as it costs $89 (plus state fee), and it includes a year of registered agent service, as well as a compliance alerts system to keep you informed of important filing deadlines. On the other hand, their Basic ($139) and Standard ($239) plans don’t provide enough value to justify their price points. We should mention that Harvard Business Services solely forms businesses in the state of Delaware, and has no availability in other states.
Winner = ZenBusiness
ZenBusiness provides a $39 formation package, which is obviously tough to top. We think Harvard Business Services also provides plenty of value, but they can’t compete with ZenBusiness in this area.
Company Track Record & Experience
ZenBusiness: They opened for business just a few years ago, as ZenBusiness was formed in 2015. Even though they’re such a recent addition to this industry, ZenBusiness has already formed several thousand businesses, and they say that their goal is to form a million more LLCs and corporations in the next five years. Customer reviews are a major strength for them, as they have hundreds of reviews and very little negative feedback.
Harvard Business Services: Harvard Business Services has been around since 1981, and they’ve formed over 170,000 businesses in Delaware over the years. They have thousands of customer reviews available online, and nearly all of them are perfect five-star ratings.
Winner = Harvard Business Services
Harvard Business Services has a much longer track record of experience than ZenBusiness does. Also, while they both have strong customer reviews, Harvard Business Services has a higher volume of positive reviews. This category isn’t a blowout, but we do think Harvard Business Services does enough to pick up the win.
ZenBusiness: With ZenBusiness, customer support is available via phone, email, or their web-based chat feature. We’ve used all three options, and we’re quite pleased with the service we’ve received. They always respond quickly, and their friendly representatives have been able to answer every question we’ve asked them.
Harvard Business Services: We’ve always been impressed by the customer service provided by Harvard Business Services. They offer support via phone, email, chat, or Skype. We’ve used all of these options except for Skype, and they are always quick to reply with helpful information. One unique aspect of their support that we appreciate is that they list the direct extensions of their entire staff on their website.
Winner = Harvard Business Services
This category is a close one, but the tiebreaker in our opinion was Harvard Business Services including their employees’ direct contact info on their website. ZenBusiness doesn’t do anything wrong when it comes to customer support, but they don’t match this level of access.
Ease of Use
ZenBusiness: The business formation process is pretty simple with ZenBusiness. Once you’ve chosen your formation package, all that’s left to do is provide them with some basic information about yourself and your business, and select your add-on features. On the other hand, they do have some upsells and third-party offers sprinkled in throughout their order form that can be annoying.
Harvard Business Services: We were able to work our way through their order form in just under 10 minutes, which impressed us. The process for ordering incorporation service with Harvard Business Services is straightforward, and they avoid third-party partnerships entirely, while also only having one minor upsell attempt.
Winner = Harvard Business Services
Both of these services are easy to use, so the tiebreaker in this category comes down to the fact that Harvard Business Services mostly avoids upsells and third-party partnership offers.
Speed of Formation
ZenBusiness: The vast majority of companies in this industry base their formation times on each state’s ability to process formations, but ZenBusiness has a different approach that we don’t particularly like. They base their turnaround times on how much money you spend on their services, not on actual state requirements. Their Starter package has a 3-4 week turnaround, their Pro package can be completed in 1-2 weeks, and their top-tier Premium plan takes 3-5 days.
Harvard Business Services: As you might expect from a company that only operates in one state, Harvard Business Services has quick processing times for Delaware business formations. Their standard processing has a 3-5 business day turnaround, while their expedited processing (for an additional $150) has same-day processing if filed before 1pm ET, or next-day processing if filed after that.
Winner = Harvard Business Services
Even if you paid for the most expensive ZenBusiness formation package, they still can’t form your Delaware company faster than Harvard Business Services’ standard processing speed. This category isn’t even close.
ZenBusiness got off to a great start in this comparison, as they earned a big win in our pricing and value category. After that, it becomes clear that Harvard Business Services has a number of significant advantages that make them a strong option for Delaware business formations.
Harvard Business Services has more experience, better customer service, and faster formation times, but their overall value isn’t nearly as impressive as ZenBusiness.
If you’re forming a business in Delaware, we think these two companies are equally strong choices, and your decision comes down to a personal preference regarding whether ZenBusiness’ superior value is enough to outweigh several advantages for Harvard Business Services in other categories.
Of course, if you’re starting a business in any state other than Delaware, ZenBusiness can provide quality service.
What Is the Biggest Advantage of Each Service?
The big advantage for ZenBusiness (compared to any formation service, not just Harvard Business Services) is the fact that they will form your business for just $39 if you pay your own state fee.
There are quite a few advantages for Harvard Business Services compared to ZenBusiness, but the most important one is their stellar customer support that provides clients with every employee’s direct contact information.
Which Is the Best Package Available From These Services?
In our experience, the best package is usually the most affordable one that includes registered agent service. Therefore, our preference from these two companies is the Starter plan from ZenBusiness.
For just $39, they provide the complete formation of your business entity, a year of registered agent service, corporate bylaws, and an assessment from one of their in-house CPAs. This package really does include everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Which Company Offers More Help With Ongoing Compliance Requirements?
Harvard Business Services provides a year of registered agent service with all of their LLC and corporation service packages, and it costs just $50 per year after that, the lowest rate in the entire industry.
They also offer assistance with annual reports and franchise tax, although you’ll need to contact them to get a pricing quote. ZenBusiness charges $119 as an annual fee for registered agent service, and they also provide annual report service for the reasonable rate of $75.
Can I Get a Refund if I Need One?
With ZenBusiness, the answer to this question is a resounding “maybe.” Their refund policy is downright obtuse, as they make it difficult to tell if they ever actually provide refunds, or what the conditions might be to acquire one. Check it out in their own words: “Once ZenBusiness has submitted your business for filing with the State under no circumstances can you charge-back or dispute the fees associated with forming your business. If you contact ZenBusiness before your business has been submitted for filing with the State, ZenBusiness may refund the charge, less a $50 cancellation fee, if certain conditions are met.”
Harvard Business Services has a big advantage in this area. They say that they will grant a refund to any customer if you request it within 30 days of your purchase. They charge a minimal 5% convenience fee, but other than that minor detail they have a fantastic refund policy.
Which Is the Better Option if I Need Publication Service?
In some states, you need to publish your company’s formation in a regional newspaper. For example, Arizona and Nebraska require publication for LLCs and corporations, New York requires it for LLCs only, and Pennsylvania and Georgia have this requirement for corporations only.
Because Delaware does not require this service, this question is irrelevant for Harvard Business Services. If you’re forming a business in a state that does require publication, ZenBusiness can handle your requirement for $200.
Am I Required to Use a Formation Service?
No, there is no requirement that dictates the usage of a formation service to create a new business entity. In fact, if you want to give the DIY option a try, we have a detailed instructional guide to help you form your own corporation.
Before you get started, we would like to mention that corporations aren’t simple business structures in general, so we typically only recommend forming your own if you’re 100% comfortable with the incorporation process.