Before buying a product or service, it is important to know some information about the company. Many small businesses send email or post flyers advertising inexpensive prices. Take a few minutes to call the company and ask to speak with the owner. The questions you ask will vary depending on the product or service they provide. However there are a few key questions that are always useful in decision making.
When speaking with a business owner, get to know them a bit. “How long have you been in business?” is a question that will help you to do this. Most owners will be pleased to tell you how and when they got started. This information is particularly useful in determining the experience of service providers.
Don’t hesitate to ask a business owner for references. This question is especially useful when hiring service providers, such as a contractor or accountant. “Can you provide me with a few names of recent customers to contact?” is a perfectly acceptable way to ask this question.
If you receive a phone call soliciting your business and you are interested, ask to speak with the owner. “Where are you located?” is a key question in determining whether the company has a storefront or office. It will also let you know if the business is local. When you have the business name and location you can research the company through the Better Business Bureau and other organizations designed to protect consumers.
“Will you provide me with a written quote before I decide to buy?” is a question you should ask upfront. If a business owner is unwilling to put the information agreed upon in writing, consider it a red flag. Small businesses are often able to offer lower priced goods and services. Yet unlike larger companies, a small business has less to lose with dissatisfied customers.. Getting information in writing is the best way to protect yourself.
“May I see a similar product before I decide to purchase from you?” is a good question to ask a small business owner. This is helpful when evaluating customized household goods, art, printing services and other items that you will not be able to return. A business that produces excellent quality will not hesitate to show their products.
Small businesses have fewer employees than big companies. Often times a small business owner personally does the work. It is crucial to know the timeframe it will take to complete the job. “How long will it take?” is the most straightforward way to ask this question. Ask the business owner to put the price and completion date in writing.
Hiring small companies is appealing because often pricing can be negotiated. “Are there any discounts available?” is a question that will determine whether the owner is able to lower pricing. Some companies may offer discounts for cash or if a contract is agreed upon within a set period of time.