The Simple Way to Vet a Potential Business Partner

It's amazing that people seem to spend more time reading reviews of a restaurant they're considering going to for lunch than looking into the companies and people they're considering working with.

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By Stephen Key

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

People often message me to ask, "Have you heard of such and such company? What do you think of it?" This line of inquiry confuses me. For one, it's a policy of mine not to badmouth other companies. I know that anything I put in print could come back to haunt me. It's just not worth it. I'm more interested in staying under the radar. I think most business owners feel this way.

But beyond that, my personal opinion about the company -- if I even have one -- doesn't really matter. If you're curious about a company's reputation, the one tool you need is already at your disposal: Google.

Related: 10 Characteristics of Unstoppable Partnerships

It amazes me that people seem to spend more time reading reviews of a restaurant they're considering going to for lunch than looking into the companies and people they're considering working with. One of the first pieces of advice I give my students is to check out their potential partners. It's so easy to do! Google the company's name followed by "complaints." Then try the company's name and "lawsuits."

Make a habit of it. There's absolutely no reason not to.

The Internet has provided consumers with a massive soapbox. As a result, companies have nowhere to hide. Adopt the mindset of a detective. What can you uncover? Please keep in mind that most people feel compelled to write complaints, but rarely testimonials. Read between the lines. What is the person truly dissatisfied with? What does it seem like the issue was?

No company is perfect, because people are imperfect. I'm of the opinion that it's much more important how the company handled its mistake than the mistake itself. Did it admit a mistake was made? Did it rectify the situation? How? Ultimately, is it committed to regaining trust?

Related: 3 Tips for Co-Branding Happily Ever After

Before the advent of the Internet, putting up with poor customer service was something people had to deal with. That's not true today! Take a few minutes to do your research. The information you seek is out there. You will end up saving yourself a lot of heartache if you do.

My plea to you is this: When you receive good service, offer to write a testimonial. Your word is powerful.

Just the other day I called Shawn Budde, the CEO of 2CheckOut. My company has been using 2Checkout's payment services for what seems like forever now. We've never had any issues whatsoever. I wanted to thank Shawn personally for his company's services, and I wanted to do my part by spreading the word. I run an educational program -- my business lives and dies by the testimonials it receives.

In the same vein, if you receive bad service, please share exactly why that was. You will help prevent someone from suffering your same fate.

If we all did these things more readily, companies that think they aren't accountable to their customers would have to change their behavior. They'd be forced to improve or risk going out of business.

Related: 5 Tips to Prevent Getting Screwed by an Overseas Manufacturer

Stephen Key

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Co-Founder of inventRight; Author of One Simple Idea Series

Stephen Key is an inventor, IP strategist, author, speaker and co-founder of inventRight, LLC, a Glenbrook, Nevada-based company that helps inventors design, patent and license their ideas for new products.

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