Starting a Business Methodology

Figure 1 - What are the time, cost, paid-in minimum capital and number of procedures to get a local limited liability company up and running?

Doing Business records all procedures officially required, or commonly done in practice, for an entrepreneur to start up and formally operate an industrial or commercial business, as well as the time and cost to complete these procedures and the paid-in minimum capital requirement (figure 1). These procedures include obtaining all necessary licenses and permits and completing any required notifications, verifications or inscriptions for the company and employees with relevant authorities. The ranking of economies on the ease of starting a business is determined by sorting their distance to frontier scores for starting a business. These scores are the simple average of the distance to frontier scores for each of the component indicators (figure 2). The distance to frontier measure illustrates the distance of an economy to the “frontier,” which is derived from the most efficient practice or highest score achieved on each indicator.

Figure 2 - Starting a business: getting a local limited liability company up and running

After a study of laws, regulations and publicly available information on business entry, a detailed list of procedures is developed, along with the time and cost to comply with each procedure under normal circumstances and the paid-in minimum capital requirement. Subsequently, local incorporation lawyers, notaries and government officials complete and verify the data.

Information is also collected on the sequence in which procedures are to be completed and whether procedures may be carried out simultaneously. It is assumed that any required information is readily available and that the entrepreneur will pay no bribes. If answers by local experts differ, inquiries continue until the data are reconciled.

To make the data comparable across economies, several assumptions about the business and the procedures are used.

Assumptions about the business

The business:

  • Is a limited liability company (or its legal equivalent). If there is more than one type of limited liability company in the economy, the limited liability form most common among domestic firms is chosen. Information on the most common form is obtained from incorporation lawyers or the statistical office.
  • Operates in the economy’s largest business city. For 11 economies the data are also collected for the second largest business city (see cities list).
  • Is 100% domestically owned and has 5 owners, none of whom is a legal entity.
  • Has start-up capital of 10 times income per capita, paid in cash.
  • Performs general industrial or commercial activities, such as the production or sale to the public of products or services. The business does not perform foreign trade activities and does not handle products subject to a special tax regime, for example, liquor or tobacco. It is not using heavily polluting production processes.
  • Leases the commercial plant or offices and is not a proprietor of real estate.
  • Does not qualify for investment incentives or any special benefits.
  • Has at least 10 and up to 50 employees 1 month after the commencement of operations, all of them domestic nationals.
  • Has a turnover of at least 100 times income per capita.
  • Has a company deed is 10 pages long.


A procedure is defined as any interaction of the company founders with external parties (for example, government agencies, lawyers, auditors or notaries). Interactions between company founders or company officers and employees are not counted as procedures. Procedures that must be completed in the same building but in different offices or at different counters are counted separately. If founders have to visit the same office several times for different sequential procedures, each is counted separately. The founders are assumed to complete all procedures themselves, without middlemen, facilitators, accountants or lawyers, unless the use of such a third party is mandated by law or solicited by the majority of entrepreneurs. If the services of professionals are required, procedures conducted by such professionals on behalf of the company are counted separately. Each electronic procedure is counted separately. If 2 procedures can be completed through the same website but require separate filings, they are counted as 2 separate procedures.

Both pre- and postincorporation procedures that are officially required for an entrepreneur to formally operate a business are recorded (table 1).

Table 1 - What do the starting a business indicators measure?

Procedures required for official correspondence or transactions with public agencies are also included. For example, if a company seal or stamp is required on official documents, such as tax declarations, obtaining the seal or stamp is counted. Similarly, if a company must open a bank account before registering for sales tax or value added tax, this transaction is included as a procedure. Shortcuts are counted only if they fulfill 4 criteria: they are legal, they are available to the general public, they are used by the majority of companies, and avoiding them causes substantial delays.

Only procedures required of all businesses are covered. Industry-specific procedures are excluded. For example, procedures to comply with environmental regulations are included only when they apply to all businesses conducting general commercial or industrial activities. Procedures that the company undergoes to connect to electricity, water, gas and waste disposal services are not included.


Time is recorded in calendar days. The measure captures the median duration that incorporation lawyers indicate is necessary in practice to complete a procedure with minimum follow-up with government agencies and no extra payments. It is assumed that the minimum time required for each procedure is 1 day, except for procedures that can be fully completed online, for which the time required is recorded as half a day. Although procedures may take place simultaneously, they cannot start on the same day (that is, simultaneous procedures start on consecutive days), again with the exception of procedures that can be fully completed online. A procedure is considered completed once the company has received the final incorporation document, such as the company registration certificate or tax number. If a procedure can be accelerated for an additional cost, the fastest procedure is chosen if that option is more beneficial to the economy’s ranking. It is assumed that the entrepreneur does not waste time and commits to completing each remaining procedure without delay. The time that the entrepreneur spends on gathering information is ignored. It is assumed that the entrepreneur is aware of all entry requirements and their sequence from the beginning but has had no prior contact with any of the officials.


Cost is recorded as a percentage of the economy’s income per capita. It includes all official fees and fees for legal or professional services if such services are required by law. Fees for purchasing and legalizing company books are included if these transactions are required by law. Although value added tax registration can be counted as a separate procedure, value added tax is not part of the incorporation cost. The company law, the commercial code, and specific regulations and fee schedules are used as sources for calculating costs. In the absence of fee schedules, a government officer’s estimate is taken as an official source. In the absence of a government officer’s estimate, estimates by incorporation lawyers are used. If several incorporation lawyers provide different estimates, the median reported value is applied. In all cases the cost excludes bribes.

Paid-in minimum capital

The paid-in minimum capital requirement reflects the amount that the entrepreneur needs to deposit in a bank or with a notary before registration and up to 3 months following incorporation and is recorded as a percentage of the economy’s income per capita. The amount is typically specified in the commercial code or the company law. Many economies require minimum capital but allow businesses to pay only a part of it before registration, with the rest to be paid after the first year of operation. In Turkey in June 2014, for example, the minimum capital requirement was 10,000 Turkish liras, of which one-fourth needed to be paid before registration. The paid-in minimum capital recorded for Turkey is therefore 2,500 Turkish liras, or 12.14% of income per capita.

This methodology was developed by Djankov and others (2002) and is adopted here with minor changes.