Establishing and Maintaining Business Credit

How to Establish and Maintain Business Credit

Small business owners should understand the importance of business credit, especially as it relates to your eligibility for a business loan. Your business’s credit can influence a wide array of important decisions that could affect your bottom line. Establishing and maintaining good business credit is a key pillar of running a successful small business.

At the highest level, your business credit measures the financial reputation of your business. A good business credit score will help show that your company is reliable and can be trusted to manage money properly. Banks and lenders use it to assess if your company is creditworthy. With a high business credit score, lenders could be more likely to offer favorable rates and terms on small business loans. Lenders will feel more confident that you’ll repay your loan. It could also impact your insurance premiums – your business is viewed as less of a liability with a higher credit score. You may also be able to negotiate longer payment terms with your vendors, which could help with your cash flow. Business credit and personal credit are not the same. Even if you have strong personal credit, you likely won’t want to put a business loan in your name.

Building business credit is a process that takes time. One of the first critical moves is to establish a legal business entity, like an LLC or a sole proprietorship, and get a federal employer identification number (EIN). If you don’t have one already, set up a business bank account to keep your personal finances separate. Your business entity and EIN number will enable you to register with the business credit bureau, Dun & Bradstreet. Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) gathers financial data and public filings to determine your business credit score, which can range from 1-100. The higher your score is, the lower your calculated risk is perceived to be. It’s a good rule of thumb to maintain a score of 80. A quick tip: paying your vendors on time can be crucial to establishing your credit score but paying them early can be even more beneficial to boosting the number. Another important consideration — make sure your vendors and suppliers are reporting your business’s credit history. If vendors do not report your business’ payment history to the credit bureaus, there is no record of your trustworthiness to make payments. For complete information on the D&B scoring method, visit their website.

Once established, you’ll need to maintain your credit score and keep an eye on it. Monitor your credit reports, ideally once a quarter, but once a year at a minimum. Fraud is common these days and errors do occur – both of these mishaps can be detrimental to your business credit score. Responsibly manage your debt by creating a budget and set up payment reminders to ensure you pay your bills on time.

You’ll never know when the need for small business financing may arise, and you want to be in a position to obtain favorable terms on your loan with a high business credit score. Good business credit may allow you to borrow money in a pinch, whereas a low business credit score will make it that much more difficult. Establishing and maintaining business credit should be a top priority for your small business operation. It can take time, but the benefits will be well worth the effort.