One of the most important things for business owners and entrepreneurs is to understand the competition. It may be easy to read their websites, services, and reviews, but finding financial information on your rival businesses (or potential business partners, investors, and so on) can be time consuming. There are services to help you find that data, but many charge high rates. Don’t fall for it, because that information can be found for free; in fact, you can find Companies House information and look up free credit reports from sites such as Duedil.com
What does it do?
This type of service lists millions of registered UK businesses, from private unlimited companies to public limited companies, current and defunct. By law, the site is able to collect and share information with the public about these businesses, including their credit histories, legal actions they've been involved in, names of executives and board members, and each company's annual returns – information that can be vital when deciding whether or not to go into business with another company, invest in another company, or critically, how best to compete with another company.
Any business owner or entrepreneur knows how valuable competitive and financial information is when assessing potential risk and reward, and having key financial and historical information about another company can give one the confidence to go into business or partnership with another company, or see an opening in the market that might be seized upon.
Why is this useful?
magazine says the UK has catching up to do in the field of Competitive Intelligence
, or CI. CI is a well-established and recognized field in the US, but one not as established or valued in the UK, though that is changing. One UK management professor blames the ‘old boy’ network for underestimating the huge changes brought about by a globalised world, a world where anyone from anywhere can sell to anyone else. The levelling of the playing field has made CI more important than ever, analysts say, and CI is now on the radar of many UK business executives.
The magazine points out that many are also changing their prejudices towards CI, as they discover that it is not ‘underhanded’, as one analyst described some people’s views on the practice. In fact it can not only be ethical, but the equivalent of ‘doing your homework’ to protect your investors and your personal investment by having a clear idea of where markets are headed and being able to adapt accordingly.
Of course, recession-era cutbacks have put CI on the backburner as resources are transferred away from such proactive work to more immediate needs, often to a company’s risk and detriment. While difficult to estimate, one study has placed the ‘return on investment’ from Competitive Intelligence at around 300 per cent.
Helen Norgard is a small business owner and freelance financial consultant in the UK. Administrative tasks can make small business ownership a chore, so she specializes in finding efficient and innovative solutions which give SMB owners their lives back.