The following is an article reprinted with permission from the upcoming Summer 2008 edition of The WWR Letter:
Vendor Credentials- High or Low Risk?
By: Sara Donnersbach, Esquire
Verifying a vendor’s credentials, as well as those of its principals, is essential before providing an outsider access to business assets, facilities and workforce. In today’s business environment, failing to screen and monitor a vendor can result in huge consequences. When choosing a vendor, look for the vendor that can not only solve today’s problem, but one that won’t increase or create problems by being a high risk vendor. Choose a vendor that will still be around next year.
Before hiring a company to provide goods and services, verify the prospective vendor’s performance, criminal record and financial standing. Failing to do so, and failing to monitor these things at future intervals, can result in fraud, unsatisfactory work and lost time and money.
When considering long-term needs, look at the stability of the vendor. For example, if the vendor company is a one-man-shop, there is essentially no stability. When considering team-based vendors, be mindful of their financial stability. Many service companies have cash-flow issues that can impact their customers. Ask prospective vendors for proof of their financial stability.
Another aspect of stability is turnover rate. On any given project, the vendor team members should rarely change. Re-teaming or starting with a new resource costs time and money, so turnover is extremely important. When reviewing prospective vendors and monitoring present vendors, ask for updated references and ask questions about turnover.
A final aspect of long-term stability is abandoned projects. Ask the prospective vendor about any projects that have ended badly or that were abandoned. Some will be forthcoming with information; however if told it has not happened, do some research when calling references.
Key things to check for, from business vendors and their principals:
• Businesses: corporate status, financial and credit information, bankruptcy history and judgment record, insurance certificates, W9 tax documentation, licensing, government watch lists and conflicts of interest.
• Principals: Social Security number and identification verification, background check, credit history, professional licensing, government watch lists and conflicts of interest.
There are specific, measurable benefits to screening a prospective vendor and monitoring present vendors. Doing so provides more control and accountability. Vendors are encouraged to abide by set work and ethical standards. The review process provides the truth about a vendor’s and potential business partner’s capabilities, financial health and reputation. While there is an administrative cost, this process, too, can be outsourced.
Sara M. Donnersbach is a Partner in the Specialty Collections department of the Cleveland office. She oversees the Governmental Collections Practice Group, the Healthcare Practice Group and the Utility Service and Damage Claims Practice Group. She can be reached at (216) 685-1039 or firstname.lastname@example.org.