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How to Background Check a Business

From time to time, charities and voluntary organisations may wish to partner with businesses to deliver services or purchase goods. Given that the reputation of a charity is important in maintaining public trust, it can be useful to check out a business before joining forces. This helps to avoid conflicts of interest, poor value for money and dodgy dealings.

Things you'll need

  • Access to the internet

Companies House Check

One of the most thorough ways to perform a background check on a business or company is to look them up on Companies House.

Just as charities need to register with the Charity Commission, businesses register with Companies House.

You can usually find the company's number on their website or stationary. Simply enter the company number or name into the Companies House WebChecker and it will provide you with a list of documents relating to that business, including annual accounts, articles of association, and board appointments. Each document costs around £1 to download.

This is a quick way to check out the solvency of a business, which is important if you're considering partnering on a project or contracting services.


Google Search

Don't underestimate the humble web search when it comes to checking up on people and businesses.

Try googling the names of board members, key members of staff, and the business name:

  1. Do they have a professional LinkedIn profile?
  2. Is the company mentioned on GlassDoor?
  3. Is it mentioned on any other review sites?
  4. Any social media: blog, Twitter, Facebook?
  5. Have they been in the news? (Use Google news search)

It's good to check for the professional profiles of board members to make sure there aren't any conflicts of interest. For instance, the CEO of a company who also sits on the board of an oil company would make a poor business associate for Greenpeace.

It's also worth checking out reviews from previous customers. How satisfied have they been with the service or product they received?


Sit Down

From the above two steps you will hopefully know that the business is solvent, appropriate to your cause, and thought of well by others.

The next step is a sit-down chat. A good business should be willing to send a representative or arrange a meeting so that you can discuss the partnership further.

Go prepared. Make sure that you have thought about any questions you would like to ask before the meeting. Take a checklist with you.

Businesses can't always issue quotes on the spot, so make sure that you give them all of the information they will need to come back with an accurate outline for any project.

What you read about a company online may only be half the story. It is worth having a couple of sit-down meeting to see how you feel about them face-to-face. This should give you some idea of how eager they are to impress you, how much they know about your cause, and how committed they are to working with you.

Further information

Background checks on businesses are a good idea to help you to avoid poor service and questionable characters.

Consider reviewing businesses you've worked with so that others can make an informed decision in the future. 

Remember: good reviews are just as important as bad ones, but harder to get. People often only feel motivated to review a business after they've had a bad experience, which means that some review sites might be one-sided. If you have had a good experience with a business, don't forget to say so.


Page last edited May 24, 2017 History

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