Business Background Checks – The OTHER Background Check

The risk involved with hiring an employee is well understood, making pre-employment background checks a routine practice for most companies. Business background checks however, are far less commonplace; but why? Excluding small daily purchases and transactions with historically reputable companies, the level of trust you (or your company) extend to a corporation you chose to deal with can be extraordinary. Yet conducting background research on companies is rare in comparison with screening individuals.

Business background checks are complex because businesses play by a different set of rules. Realistically, you and I cannot drop our identity and start over when things go bad, our debts become too great, or our reputations become tarnished. Corporations can and often do. Along with completely dissolving a business or filing for bankruptcy, corporations may operate under alternative names known as “DBA’s” (Doing Business As), appear as local companies online, but physically exist overseas, or be registered as foreign corporations while soliciting business within your state. Proper screening requires a broad and extensive expertise. Fewer companies offer business screening for these reasons. As always, watch out for companies online claiming to instantly tell you everything about a company for a small fee along with a subscription to their database. There is no one size fits all method of conducting business background research and thorough results can and will not be instant.

Structure is Key!

The structure of a business background check is best determined by the purpose of the check and the level of risk. Here are just a few common needs for business background checks and sensible corresponding screening packages

Level One: Personal Consumer Protection

A basic business background check doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. A “level one” business background check can be performed in the area of $50. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with a company that you paid money to up front and never received a service, or had to repair a situation caused by bad service, the fee for a basic business background check will feel like the best money you’ve ever spent. As an example, a level one background check best corresponds to the following needs.You’re in the market to…

Hire a contractor.

Utilize a dog walking service.

Retain a babysitter or nanny through a service.

Move grandma into a retirement home.

A “Level One” screening package would generally answer the following questions.

Are they incorporated or registered with the state?

Have they been in business for a significant amount of time to have “expertise”?

Are they a DBA “Doing Business As” another name?

Are there unresolved complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau?

Have their past clients filed lawsuits against them for breach of contract or any other reasons?

Do they utilize criminal background checks on their own employees?

Level Two: Large Personal or Business to Business

Transaction.Maybe it’s property, machinery, equipment, vehicles, or even a timeshare. Whatever the case, you (or your company) will be entrusting this business with a large sum of money. A “Level Two” business background check would include the basic research of a “Level One” screening package and also go a few steps further. For example, we would seek to answer the following questions for our “Level Two” business background check:

Are they Incorporated or registered with the state?

Are they licensed and or Insured?

Have they been in business for a significant amount of time to have “expertise”?

Are they a DBA “Doing Business As” another name?

Possible additional searches on DBA’s discovered

Are there unresolved complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau?

Have their past clients filed lawsuits against them for breach of contract or other reasons?

Who are the principals of the company?

Have the principals of the company filed for bankruptcy multiple times?

Does the owner or principal have litigation against them from prior clients?

Does pending litigation or tax liens, suits, or other judgment put the owner/principal in a financially difficult situation? (You don’t want your money going to pay off other debts instead of paying for materials, labor, etc.)

Level Three: Business to Business Venture

Once your company joins forces with another company for a project, marketing campaign or other venture, their skeletons can potentially become yours. Their reputation can be reflected on you, and sometimes, their legal problems and can become your legal problems. A business to business venture is too significant not to invest in a thorough business background check. Once again, building on key parts of the “Level One” and “Level Two” business background checks, important research would include…

Are they incorporated or registered with the state?

Are they licensed and or Insured, and to what degree?

Have they been in business for a significant amount of time to have “expertise”?

Are they a DBA “Doing Business As” another name? (Possible additional searches on DBA’s discovered)

Are there unresolved complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau?

Have their past clients or business partners filed lawsuits against them for breach of contract or other reasons?

Who are the principals of the company?

Have the principals of the company filed for bankruptcy multiple times?

Does the owner or principal have litigation against them from prior clients?

Does pending litigation or tax liens, suits, or other judgment put the owner/principal in a financially difficult situation? (You don’t want your money going to pay off other debts instead of paying for materials, labor, services etc.)

Are the owners or principals involved with other corporations that would pose a conflict of interest?

Is this company as prosperous as claimed? (It’s not difficult or terribly expensive to make a professional looking website. What’s behind the website is what really matters.)

How long has the website existed?

How much traffic does their site receive?

Who links to them?

How much are they spending to market their website or product online?

What’s the reputation of the business online?

Who’s talking about them and what’s being said?

If no “buzz” is out there, why not?The examples could certainly go on. These basic packages can be modified for use in intellectual property research, business profiling for acquisition, “know your client” regulations in the financial industry and other specific needs. The bottom line is, spending roughly one percent of the “purchase price” or estimated cost of the transaction can save you exponentially over the cost and time of dealing with a irresponsible or deceptive business after the damage has been done. You’ll never regret proceeding with caution!

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