In the ever-changing business world, it's common for small companies -- and occasionally even large ones -- to fall off the map. That can leave partners, clients and vendors at a loss, literally, as they try to follow up on their negotiations, agreements and orders. If you're having trouble getting a business' location, or even confirming it is still around, tools are available to help you in the search.
Checking Legal Registration
States require registration of active corporations as well as any individual or entity operating commercially under a fictitious name. Most states will put the information online, through the Secretary of State's office or Division of Corporations, and allow the public to conduct a name search. Your mystery company will be listed as active, meaning it has a currently valid registration; or inactive, meaning the business owner has either allowed registration to lapse or the state cancelled it. In either case, there should be a contact phone number as well as the identity of the company's registered agent, who is the individual or business authorized to receive legal papers such as lawsuits and summonses.
Some businesses require licenses issued by the state or county in which they operate. A restaurant, for example, needs a license to sell its food and beverages, and secures this permit from the local health department or another public agency. Contact the office having jurisdiction over licensing at the location of the business and inquire about the license status. A non-renewal or cancellation of the license is a good indication that the business itself has folded.
A thorough search can begin with the company's website. If you know the URL address, enter it in your browser. A notice that the domain is currently available for purchase means the domain is no longer active, and the company has either closed down the site or switched domain names. If the website is still active, check for company news or an "About Us" tab, which might have information on any closings or suspension of business. Call any listed phone numbers, and, if possible, drive to the business location. Check the company's Facebook page, Twitter account and any other social media it has adopted to find out if it is still posting entries or has allowed its page to go inactive. Finally, try a Google search. If the company's name comes up in the results, check the date of the listing, if it's available, and follow a recent one. This is a good way to come across press releases, news items, discussion boards or comments with information on the company's status. You can also visit business directories on sites such as Citysearch, MapQuest, Foursquare and Yelp that track retail stores, restaurants, service providers and other local businesses.
Contact the local Better Business Bureau for information about the company. This organization keeps a register of public complaints against individual companies, as well as a list of firms that have registered with the BBB and are in good standing. Also, contact the local Chamber of Commerce, which also keeps directories of member businesses. If the company you're looking for is a tax-exempt organization, go to the IRS EO Select Check screen to find out the group's current status with the tax authorities. Finally, if you've only dealt with this company through an online platform such as eBay or Amazon, contact those portals to inquire and investigate about the business' status.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.