Business relationships are great, when they work. But how do you know that this business is a good company to deal with? If you are looking for a vendor, like a cleaning service, or a supplier of massage equipment, you may find that the company is stealing from you, or that they don’t deliver on their promises. If you want to affiliate with someone, like another massage therapist or a chiropractor, you may find that this person has had his or her license taken away, or that the business has been sued for fraud. Testimonials are good, but you don’t know if the person giving the testimonial has a connection (personal or business) with this company, or if the person has received some consideration in return for providing the testimonial.

Let’s say you have a vendor you want to do business with, but you want to see if they will provide good service to you. Or you have been approached by someone who wants to affiliate with you, or provide you with coaching services. Before you formally agree to partner with someone or buy their products or services, it’s a good idea to check them out. Here are some ways to do this:

Dun and Bradstreet. Dun and Bradstreet is a business information services company. Businesses use D&B to obtain information on companies, including their credit worthiness and credit limits, bankruptcies, legal filings, judgments against the company as a result of lawsuits, and payments placed for collection. This information is based on public records. Businesses can sign up with D&B to receive a business credit profile. A basic D&B report is $49.99 and it’s a good place to start in your search for information, if you’re serious about a long-term relationship with a company.

Better Business Bureau. If a business is a member of the Better Business Bureau in their area, you can go online to see a BBB Reliability Report on this company. Start with the Better Business Bureau “Welcome” page. The BBB has local organizations in the US and Canada, so choose the country, then select the city and state or province where the business is located and enter the name of the business. The Reliability Report gives an overall rating and details on complaints against the company.

If the business you are looking for information about is not in the BBB directory, this just means the business has not paid to be “accredited” by the BBB. Accredited businesses must have been in business a minimum amount of time and meet certain customer service standards; the business must pay an annual fee to be accredited by the BBB. (You will see the BBB accreditation seal on many company websites; they can’t use that seal unless they are currently accredited by the BBB.) Note that this accreditation does not mean the BBB evaluates endorses the company’s products or services.

Chiropractor Search. CIN-BAD is a search service of the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB). For $26, and if the doctor gives permission, you can query the CIN-BAD database to find out the status of someone’s license. Obtain a written release from the doctor before you run the query.

Internet Search. In addition to the two major business research services, you may also want to search on Google or Google News to see if the company has been in the news. You might find out something new about the company that has not yet been picked up by D&B or the BBB regarding a lawsuit or legal action against the company.

Remember, what you find or don’t find about a business or health care provider should not be the only factor you use in weighing whether to do business with them. The information may be out-of-date, or more recent information (court decisions, for example), may not be included. Use the information as part of your decision process, along with your own experience with this business.

Jean Murray, MBA, PhD, is a business professor at Palmer College of Chiropractic and principal of Planning for Practice Success (P4PS). She can be contacted at 866-940-7526 or through her Web site,