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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

How reliable is Dun & Bradstreet?


For market research, I go to websites like manta.com, where I can get some basic information about my competitors, however small they are.

Here is some data I could get about a competitor after registering (for free) on manta.com:

  Annual Sales (Estimated)
  $1 to 2.5 million
  D&B: $160,000*

  Employees (Estimated)
  5 to 9
  D&B: 2*

Obviously, the data from manta is no more than an uneducated guess. But my question is about Dun & Bradstreet numbers, which I tend to be more confident in since rating companies has been D&B's business for almost 2 centuries. Anybody knows how reliable these numbers are? How were they obtained?

I know the company sometimes have questionable ethics, as experienced by a fellow BOSer:


But should I trust their numbers? Are they solid enough to base a business plan on?

Jason B. Send private email
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
for a company that's not public, I can't imagine their number are very accurate beyond simple ballpark estimates
Jason Send private email
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
For non-public companies it's self reported so it is only as accurate as the company wants it to be.
Marcus McConnell Send private email
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
@Marcus: Thank you for the info.

Basically it is just a phone call then, right? If anybody here was called by D&B, I would be curious to know how the "survey" is done, and how often.

I would think a business owner would understate rather than overstate the numbers so as not to attract new competitors. Other than that, I don't really see any big incentive to lie. It looks solid enough to me, but again I would be curious about their methods...
Jason B. Send private email
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
D&B also act as a sort of better-business-bureau by allowing people to report on things like late payments etc.

I got D&B reports on some companies and they were next to worthless.
Jos Stoned Send private email
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The reports that is, not the companies.
Jos Stoned Send private email
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
D&B reports that I have seen on private companies where I knew the real numbers have not been very accurate. Personal experience only. I assume it extrapolates but that is an assumption.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Yes, when I've spoken to D&B they just ask you what your revenue is and how many employees you have. They'll verify if they can but probably don't in most cases.

At the end of the day D&B makes money by selling access to this info and to credit scores. They spent far longer trying to up sell me on subscriptions than they ever did researching my company.

The most accurate data is for publicly traded companies but you can download that from their latest 10K or other government required reporting forms.
Marcus McConnell Send private email
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I have doubts about D&Bs reliability for private companies, and especially for software companies.

One of the areas they look at is trade credit - how much credit  suppliers extend to a company. Most software companies buy very little, and probably buy no goods for resale, so have no need of credit and appear to do poorly on this measure.

Dominic Haigh Send private email
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Thanks all for your valuable answers.

@Scott : Thank you, this is the kind of information I am looking for. How big is the difference between erroneous D&B numbers and reality? For example, if the errors are less than one order of magnitude, the numbers would still be worth looking at.

Also, did you see any bias toward overstatement or understatement?
Jason B. Send private email
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Yes, less than one order of magnitude. Let's say they say there are 20 employees. That means 4-50.
Scott Send private email
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Oh and bias is towards overstatement in what I've seen.
Scott Send private email
Thursday, May 27, 2010
D&B is used by large companies to see market info on other large companies. It is not worth the expense to you as a small business.
Contractor Send private email
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Just wanted to put my 2 cents, from what I've seen working for a credit report bureau in Canada for the last 7 years.

D&B is mostly used as stated earlier for their credit score by large companie's credit department to accept or deny new clients. The interview is mostly regarding trend of payments for other suppliers. The validation is on the phone an a bit of research (for yearly revenue or employee). Here in Canada (don't know about D&B in US) a credit report usually include bank info, like account balance, NSF cheque, line of credit etc that allow a score to be calculated.

A credit report or credit score is only made for interpretation by credit manager, not as 100 % accurate numbers.

Dominic St-Pierre Send private email
Thursday, May 27, 2010

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