So you are looking for a new strategic business partner, perhaps even a professional services firm. How do you go about really and truly checking out prospects before making a final decision to hire them?
I am continually amazed at how certain companies continue to garner work in spite of a questionable reputation. There is absolutely no way such organizations would get hired had those signing them done their homework. In the spirit of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware), we offer, then, a few suggestions:
(1) Use Google: Google the name of the organization you are considering working with and see what comes up in terms of news and news coverage. Also be sure to look beyond the first page for older information. It’s hard to hide from Google.
(2) Talk to former clients: And we’re talking beyond those listed on a reference sheet. Ask about the relationship including the circumstances of the parting (and how that parting went). It’s worth asking.
(3) Talk to former employees: If possible, seek out individuals who used to work with the organization. You would be surprised what useful information you can cull from those willing to provide a few nuggets of perspective. You can learn a lot even when reading between the lines.
(4) Talk to the media: Call a newsroom and/or place an inquiry with a reporter or editor. Though they may not be willing to field a direct question about a particular entity you can always ask them what entities in a particular field they feel have the best reputation. If the company you are considering is rarely or never mentioned, that should tell you something.
(5) Check out their website and social media platforms: Are they using the avenues appropriately and effectively, with honesty, integrity and transparency? Who they are and what they are about, in their words and pictures, is right there for exploration.
Though most of us have long-since graduated from an institution of higher learning, when it comes to corporate sleuthing, the homework should never end.