Whether you need to scope out the competition or get in touch with the owner of a business in your supply chain, government websites are your best option for locating reliable contact information. Depending on the legal structure of the company, the name and address of an owner or registered agent may be published in a secretary of state database. For a business that collects sales tax, a registration with the department of revenue is a public record. In more urban areas, local business licenses also provide an opportunity to research other companies.
Business Registration Searches
A business operating as a Limited Liability Company, partnership or corporation must register with the secretary of state's office in its home state. This filing becomes part of the public record, and most states maintain a registry of basic business details in searchable databases on the secretary of state's website. Information included can range from the name and address of the registered agent for the business to the names and addresses of all officers for the entity. In many instances, filings for larger corporations list the corporate address for all officers included on the registration documents instead of a home address. For example, Louisiana offers searches directly on the www.sos.la.gov website while Colorado maintains a full downloadable dataset for more robust searches at www.sos.state.co.us. Before using a searchable database, review the terms of service provided by your state to ensure your use is in compliance with state law.
Tax Document Filings
A state's department of revenue or commerce generally maintains tax registration documents. In some states, such as Washington, these databases are searchable and provide basic contact information, such as a mailing address and shipping address. The type of entity, such as LLC or Corporation is listed as well as the business name. If your state does not list the name of the owner on this form, knowing the filing type of the business and its business name can assist in future searches through the secretary of state's office or other government entities.
Local Government Applications
Many cities require businesses to register for various licenses, such as occupational or liquor licenses, before opening. An application filed with your local government is a public record and should be available for review. Major cities, such as Seattle and New York City, provide web databases for searches. If your city does not, visit city hall and ask to review the license application for the business in question. Take a written request with you in case the city needs it for record-keeping purposes. When the business is out of your area and an online state database is not available, contact the appropriate agency and request the business registration data or sales tax permit details.
The web also provides numerous opportunities to connect with business owners socially. If the business you are researching maintains a website, look for a "Staff" or "About Us" page to review company profiles. The owner may be listed and available for conversation via email versus snail mail. The owner of the business may also keep a profile on social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Search the sites with a focus on personal profiles that list the business in question as an employer.
Ashley Mott has 12 years of small business management experience and a BSBA in accounting from Columbia. She is a full-time government and public safety reporter for Gannett.