Last updated: November 9, 2023

The Pros and Cons of Requiring Multiple Business Licenses vs. One Universal License

Many agencies that invest in business licensing software are weighing whether to take a one-size-fits-all approach or require a multi-fold approach to licenses.
Posted by GovOS Team
Business Owners

Obtaining a business license is no simple task. Depending on the specific business type, and the state and city in which the business owner resides, an individual might be on the hook for acquiring multiple business licenses.

For many municipalities, the objective is to make the business licensing process smooth and seamless for stakeholders while still ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal regulations. Just as there might be multiple licenses a business owner must get, you must decide as a municipality how to handle your business licensing needs and how to streamline the process. Some government agencies have been exploring whether a universal license is sufficient, or if they need to require multiple, specialized licenses.

Let’s delve into the pros and cons of each approach to help equip your agency with the right insights to make an informed decision.

1. Flexibility vs. Uniformity

When considering the question of one universal license versus multiple licenses, the issue of flexibility versus uniformity arises. On one hand, agencies can benefit from the power of specialization by requiring multiple licenses. Different industries have unique challenges and regulatory requirements. A restaurant differs from a tech startup, just as a manufacturing plant contrasts with a retail store.

Multiple licenses allow for industry-specific regulations and guidelines, providing the flexibility needed to address the unique challenges and risks inherent in each sector. This can enhance regulatory compliance and ensure businesses within each sector meet their specific safety, health, and ethical standards.

On the other hand, a one-size-fits-all universal license offers the benefit of uniformity. With a single set of requirements and a standardized process, it can simplify the licensing process for both the municipality and the businesses. It eliminates the need to navigate through a maze of different licenses, reducing the complexity and potential for errors or oversights.

2. Regulation Enforcement vs. Ease of Doing Business

Enforcing regulations and promoting a friendly business environment can sometimes feel like walking a tightrope. Agencies must aim to strike the right balance.

Requiring multiple business licenses can help your agency enforce regulatory compliance. Specialized licenses provide a level of customization not possible on a one-size-fits-all type of license. It also allows agencies to enforce industry-specific regulations, ensuring businesses adhere to the standards and regulations relevant to their specific industry. It allows the agency to maintain tighter control over various business activities, leading to improved public safety and consumer protection.

However, simplifying your approach by adopting a one-size-fits-all license can encourage entrepreneurship and give your community the perception of being more business-friendly. A universal license could make it easier for entrepreneurs to start and run a business. By removing the daunting task of understanding and applying for various specialized licenses, a single license could lower the barriers to entry, thus promoting entrepreneurship and local economic growth.

Ready to speak to someone about your software needs?

3. Operational Efficiency vs. Tailored Oversight

A key consideration in the decision-making process revolves around operational efficiency and maintaining oversight. The use of a universal business license could lead to streamlined operations for your agency. A single license type would simplify application processing, monitoring, and renewals. With fewer variables to track, operational efficiency can be improved, freeing up resources for other strategic tasks.

Multiple licenses, however, offer more granular oversight of different industries. They allow your agency to monitor and regulate each industry based on its unique characteristics and risks. This can lead to more effective regulation and policy implementation.

4. Technological Considerations

With the wave of digital transformation occurring at the government level, the question of a universal license versus multiple licenses also carries significant technological implications.

A universal license can make technology implementation simpler. For instance, adopting business licensing software would be easier with a universal license as there would be fewer variables to consider during setup and customization. This promise of a simpler and easier implementation can help municipalities get the buy-in they need to move forward and start making a tangible impact on the licensing process.

While requiring multiple licenses may also require a more time-intensive implementation process, it can also provide the capabilities to handle complex, diverse licensing requirements. The right business licensing solution offers enhanced capabilities, including better tracking, reporting, and analytics.

Transform Your Business Licensing Process Today

Requiring one universal license and multiple business licenses each comes with distinct pros and cons and the choice between the two depends largely on your municipality’s specific needs, capabilities, and strategic goals.

Considerations around industry diversity, regulatory enforcement, operational efficiency, and technological capacity should inform this decision. Whether you opt for a universal license or multiple licenses, ensure you leverage technology effectively to manage your licensing requirements.

Trusted business licensing software providers can equip your agency with the tools needed to manage either scenario efficiently and effectively. As you consider this crucial decision, remember that the ultimate goal is to balance efficient, user-friendly operations with robust, effective regulation for the betterment of the community.

For more business licensing resources, take a look at our Guide to Business Licensing for Local Governments.

Education & Inspiration

Resources for Local Government Officials