Companies accumulate legal backgrounds and credit histories just like private individuals. A lot of people will try a website like CheckPeople whenever browsing for records online. Such services are a great way to obtain information that has been made public, to find out everything you need to know, not only are background checks necessary, but a DBS check is advised.
Dun and Bradstreet created a nine-digit ID number, the proverbial DUNS number, to provide business information. You can also get a BIR (Business Information Report) detailing a company’s legal history and credit.
The first step
Start by finding the official name of the company as well as their contact details. Make sure you determine whether you have an assumed name for the company and whether it has used other names in the past. This will help you find accurate records. All companies have to file their official names with the Office of the Secretary of State where they were registered or incorporated. If it is a big company, you need to look for their business records through the office in their state of registration or incorporation. If it is local and small, you can find the name using the online database of your Secretary of State.
Review all of the paperwork you obtain, including “assumed name” or “DBA” filings, after you locate the company’s business file. These filings will provide a list of any names to be searched for further. It’s also a good idea to write the head office address down and do a search on it.
The FTC and other government sources
The Federal Trade Commission regulates all US companies’ trade practices. The Security and Exchange Commission regulates financial companies. The American Bar Association regulates law firms, as do the bar associations of the respective states. Different state agencies regulate retailers, depending on what they sell or manufacture.
Search for the agency governing the company’s activity, depending on its industry. For example, beauty parlors need a cosmetology license, which would be issued by the professional regulations department in the respective state.
You need to search for property tax and other county court records. If your company and its directors have been or are currently involved in a lawsuit, the public records available from the county court will provide evidence of this. Search for liens in county tax records if the company is the owner of the property it operates on.
A federal records search can yield important findings if the company is or has been implicated in a federal lawsuit.
The Better Business Bureau publicizes company data and gives each company an A to F rating. Among their main services are business education, fraud prevention, business ethics, consumer education, truthful advertising, and business-consumer dispute resolution.
Business reporting services
Experian, Lexis Nexis, Dun and Bradstreet, Equifax, and other business reporting services can issue a business credit report. These reports are not free, but they contain accurate and reliable company information.
Finally, a web search isn’t to be underestimated when it comes to screening companies. Google not only the name of the company but also key staff members and directors’ names. Check if the company has been mentioned on review sites like GlassDoor. Check out its social media. Use Google News to see if the company has been in the news for something beyond a report on its financial performance.
Look at board members’ profiles on social media like LinkedIn. This is important because you want to make sure they’re not involved in any conflicts of interest. For example, someone associated with pollution reports should not be claiming to head an environmentally friendly organization.
A Google search can also yield customer satisfaction reports. You can read reviews from former customers to see if they were happy with the product or service they received and any reasons.
The final step
After doing all this, follow up with an in-person talk with a company representative to further discuss your potential cooperation. Think about what you want to ask them in advance. Take a list of questions with you if necessary. Give the company all the information it will need to offer you a quote.
Face-to-face meetings are important because it’s easy to view information you find online out of context. A meeting will give you an idea of how committed the business is to your prospective partnership, what they know about your cause, and how interested they are in making a good impression on you.