Your company’s credit reports directly affect your ability to compete and grow. Unlike a personal credit report, anyone can pull your business credit report — they don’t need your permission. “You want to make sure you have good business credit because it’s one of the primary ways businesses decide whether to do business with you,” says Amber Colley, director of sales partnerships for Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. “They are making critical decisions to determine whether to sell to you, lend money to you, and to determine whether you’re a viable partner.”
“We do pull a business credit report, there’s no doubt about it,” agrees David Goldin, president and CEO of AmeriMerchant, a New York City firm that provides merchant cash advances, business loans and inventory purchase programs. “It’s one piece of the puzzle.”
Your business credit record may influence not only a company’s decision about whether to do business with you, but also the terms of any deals they offer. “Interest rates can be determined on the content of your business credit report, insurance premiums can be determined on this data, as well as terms and pricing with your suppliers,” says Colley.
How to check your business credit report
You can confirm that your small business is listed with Experian, Equifax or D&B by searching their websites at no cost. Note that if you operate under a DBA (doing business as) license, you may see search results returned in your legal name or the company name. In either case, if your small business comes up in the results, your company has a credit report with that bureau.
Each company offers an assortment of individual reports and ongoing credit monitoring. For example, you can access a copy of your D&B credit report for free using the Company Update feature (you’ll need to first apply for a free DUNS number — a unique nine-digit identification number for each physical location of your business); D&B’s free Credit Signal product will also show if your credit score has changed (but not the actual score) and track how many times your file is being accessed. At the other end of the cost spectrum, Experian’s $1,500 a year Business Credit Score Pro subscription plan allows you to access your report 30 times a month and includes your business credit score as well as a host of other features (though the company recommends its $129/year Business Credit Advantage package, which gives you unlimited access to your own report).
That will help you pinpoint areas of weakness that may present your company as a higher credit risk. It will also give you the opportunity to identify and challenge any suspicious or fraudulent activity that has had a negative impact on your report, including business identity theft. “We always recommend that they’re constantly monitoring their business credit report,” Ward says, “and certainly, if there are adverse actions, we’ll take care of those immediately.”In keeping with consumer credit practices, Experian will also provide you with a copy of your business report at no charge if your company has been denied credit by a prospective lender.
Unlike consumer credit files, business reports cannot be frozen if the company’s owner finds something amiss, but owners can dispute information by way of a fraud statement, also known as a fraud alert. “It’s important to understand that a fraud alert is not a security freeze,” Ward says. “A fraud alert is a message that displays on the business credit report for lenders to see so that they can take additional cautionary measures and actions on the verification of the business.”
So then… how do I build business credit?
Well, you need to setup proper trade relations with specific vendors that report to the credit agencies. Not only this, but you must acquire a D.U.N.S. number, as well as ensure all your information is correct. You may also build business credit using personal guarantees to expedite the process, but that’s only if you have good personal credit. Fortunately, Fortune DNA offers a business credit program for a low, reasonable price. If interested, visit www.fastcreditconcepts.com. We’ve serviced thousands of clients, and we have one of the largest selections of vendors to choose from.
By Randy B. Hecht, Elaine Pofeldt & Fortune DNA