How can you tell if a business is one you want to do business with? Both businesses and consumers want to make sure the companies they choose to do business with are legitimate and won’t rip them off. However, businesses don’t have the same protections consumers have from consumer protection laws. Here are some steps I recommend for researching a company:
1. Check the business’ Secretary of State in which they are located for their filings. You should be able to see how long they have been in business, physical location, company officers and other information depending on which state they are in. Keep an eye out for recent major changes that signify a possible acquisition or other event.
2. There are some other great sources like OCCRP, a fantastic database where you can find businesses and people worldwide through records, news archives, leaks and other sources.
3. Look up businesses and employees on employment websites including LinkedIn, Indeed and Glass Door. You can find current and past employees and other information to get better insights. Knowing how they treat their employees is often a good indicator of how they treat their customers. You might also reach out to past employees for their perspective.
4. Their website might have some useful information, but don’t be afraid to look at what their website used to look like on Archive.org. Netcraft (right-hand side) has a great tool to tell you all about their website’s information and history.
5. Then, of course, there is the Rip off Report, The Better Business Bureau (look for the office that covers the area the business is in) and googling the business name alongside terms such as “scam” or “class action”. Take information from these results with a grain of salt, as a competitor may have complained about them. Speaking of which, another tool called Fake Spot helps you figure out if online products or business reviews are actually fake and although the sites it works on are limited, they include Yelp, which has reviews for hundreds of business types.
6. Finally, I suggest calling the business directly and depending on what business you are doing with them, asking for references.
There are many more resources, tools and tricks to research businesses and people online, please contact your local Wyoming SBDC Network advisor for additional help.
About the Author: Jim Drever is the regional director for the Wyoming SBDC Network in Albany and Carbon counties and helps small business owners with general business topics and issues related to cyber security. Jim holds an MBA from the University of Wyoming and is a certified ethical hacker and cybersecurity expert.
When he’s not in the office: When Jim is not helping clients, in his spare time he also volunteers as a fire fighter and on ski patrol at Snowy Range Ski Area. He enjoys the outdoors, reading, traveling, and pursuing a lifetime of learning.