Business versus Personal Credit:
Personal – Personal credit building starts when an individual provides their social security number and applies for their first credit card. At that point a credit profile is started with the personal credit reporting agencies in the region of the country in which they reside. This profile, also commonly known as a “credit report”, is built with every credit inquiry, credit application submitted, change of address and job change. The information contained in the report is usually reported to the credit bureaus by those businesses issuing credit. Eventually, the credit report is viewed as a statement or report of an individual’s ability to pay back a debt, and is the key tool to access and grant credit.
Business – When a business issues another business credit, it is referred to as trade credit (credit from vendors or suppliers). Trade, or business, credit is the single largest source of lending in the world, but it typically not reported to the business credit agencies by most small businesses. The data regarding trade credit transactions must be submitted and then is accumulated by the business credit bureaus to create a business credit report using the business name, address and federal tax identification number (FIN). The credit bureaus use this data to generate a historical report about a company’s business credit transactions and payment history. Typically, the businesses issuing credit rely on the business credit report to determine the credit they are willing to grant and the amount of the credit limit. Additionally, many businesses (suppliers/vendors) will submit credit reference applications to the key suppliers of the business as a method to obtain payment patterns as part of the credit granting process.
The major credit bureaus are:
Dun & Bradstreet
Business Credit USA
Small Business Equifax
The information provided to the business credit bureaus (primarily D&B) is sent in voluntarily, as businesses are not required to report. Therefore, credit bureaus may never receive any information about the business transactions on credit and a business could go for years accumulating business history without being reported to the credit bureaus and establishing a positive business history of sound credit practices.
Establishing Business Credit History:
Business credit scores range on a scale from 0 to 100 with 75 or more considered an excellent rating. Personal credit scores, on the other hand, range from 300 to 850 with a score of 680 or higher considered excellent. With today’s tighter credit scrutiny the higher the credit score, the more likely an individual or business is to obtain credit and at more favorable terms (interest rate and contract length).
While it is important to know that there are many factors http://www.myfico.com that affect a credit score; it’s based on more than just whether you pay your bills on time (still very important). The credit score will be affected by the amount of available credit you have on bank lines of credit and credit cards, the length of time you’ve had a credit profile, the number of inquiries made on your credit profile, paying the bills on time, bankruptcy, as well as other considerations.
The typical American consumer credit report receives two to three credit inquiries per year and usually has 11 credit obligations – typically broken down as 7 credit cards and 4 installment loans. Business owners are not your typical consumer, because they carry both personal and business credit. This typically doubles the number of inquiries made to their personal credit profile and the number of credit obligations they carry at any given time, all of which negatively impact the personal credit score. Additionally, because business inquiries and personal inquiries are not separated on the personal credit report, the personal credit scores are negatively impacted. As mentioned earlier, using the personal credit history to get credit for their business, businesses are not able to build their business history/score, all of which could help attain critical business credit in the future.
A critical mistake many business owners make is using their personal information to apply for business credit, leases and loans. This practice has the resultant impact of potentially lowering their personal credit score, while not building a business credit history and business credit score.
A key to establishing credit for the business and a profile and score is to find companies (UPS, FEDEX, etc.) or your key supplier and vendors that will grant credit for your business without using your personal credit information and then report the payment experiences to the business credit bureaus. By reporting the information to the proper credit bureaus, those companies will help the business establish a business credit profile and score.
The Seven Steps to Success:
1. Company Legal Structure – The business must be a legal entity unto itself in order to establish business credit. Therefore, it is recommended to form a corporation (C Corp) or LLC (discuss with your CPA the advantage/disadvantages of a C Corp versus LLC) as opposed to structuring your business as a sole proprietorship or partnership. Formation of a sole proprietorship or partnership, dictates that personal credit information could be included on the business credit report. Additionally, as a sole proprietor or partner in a partnership, you are personally liable for the debts of the business and all your personal assets are at risk in the event of litigation.
Corporations and LLC’s, on the other hand, provide the business owners liability protection, and can build a business credit profile that’s separate from the personal credit profile. Therefore, apply for credit under your business’s name and find businesses will to grant credit without a personal credit check or guarantee.
2. Register with Business Credit Agencies – The best known business credit bureau is Dun & Bradstreet. Dun & Bradstreet has a process on their web site to establish a D-U-N-S number (a specific 9 digit number related to your business) and instructions how to establish a business credit rating. It is strongly recommended that you contact D&B and follow their process to establish business credit. The following is from the D&B web site:
How do I get started with D&B? With our unsurpassed global data collection system, D&B continually gathers the data that initiates the creation of business credit profiles on new companies. Many kinds of activities can trigger a profile on a new company, such as incorporating your business, applying for a loan, getting a business telephone number, taking out a lease on office space – even just when another company seeks information from D&B about your business. Still, a new business may not have a complete business credit profile. Getting a D-U-N-S Number from D&B – the worldwide standard for business classification systems – is an essential part of helping you establish your business credit profile and will ensure that when a company looks you up in the D&B database they will find you. In some cases, a D&B D-U-N-S Number is so a requirement for doing business some entities, such as the US government.
You should make sure you have a D&B business credit profile if:
You are planning to obtain a business loan
You need to purchase or lease equipment
Your cash flow is tight
You want to ensure you are getting a fair deal from lenders compared to your competition
You want to pay net 30 days instead of COD (Cash On Delivery)
You are paying interest at prime plus 1, or even higher
You plan to do business with entities that require a D-U-N-S Number, e.g. the US Government
These issues and dozens other like them can be addressed by having a strong business credit profile. A good rating provides you with the financial freedom to take the steps you need to grow, and is a straightforward, unbiased method for other companies to assess your level of risk when considering taking you on as a creditor. A poor credit rating is a certain barrier to growth and success, preventing you from getting adequate funding on fair terms.
Communicating directly with D&B will help establish your business credit in less time. If you are a new company, D&B can help you build a complete business credit profile from the ground up; if you have been in operation for a while, you will want to improve and/or protect your business credit profile. Find out more about how to establish, monitor, improve, or protect your business credit.
3. Credit Market Requirements – Businesses must meet all the requirements of the credit market in order to have a higher probability of credit approval, as not being in compliance with the credit market can “send up signal flares” with both credit bureaus and potential grantors of credit.
Some of the “signal flares” include:
not having a business license,
not being registered with the Secretary of State for a certificate of good standing,
operating under your social security number rather than a FIN or EIN,
not having a phone line (land line) that is listed in the phone directory in the exact business legal name,
no web site, or
not having a business email address (not AOL or gmail, but a specific URL for your company).
4. Small Business Credit Lines – Investigate and locate a minimum of five businesses (vendors/suppliers) willing to grant a small business credit without personal guarantees and will report the payment experiences to the business credit bureaus. This will assist your business to establish a credit report and build a financial credit foundation for the company. Find companies willing to grant credit that report to the credit bureaus such as marketingoncredit.com, UPS, FEDEX
5. Business Credit Cards – Obtain three business credit cards (Sam’s Club Discover Business card), that are not linked to you personally and that report the business credit to the reporting agencies. Then be sure to always pay your bills on time!
6. Financial Statements, Business Plans and Loan Packages – These documents are often required by many credit grantors as part of their loan application process. CxO To GO is a national professional services firm that has assisted many business with their financial statement preparation and business plans. Additionally, CxO To Go has packages such as PowerPlan and PowerPlan2 for business plans, PowerPuncher for executive summaries, CFOCast for financial projections and BankSell for bank proposals so lenders and bankers will take action. It is important to note that 61% of all businesses are turned down for a loan due to a poor loan package, however with BankSell the lender loan package gets results and moves the applicant to the top of the list for review and credit committee approval.
7. Debt management – Be a smart money manager and manage the debt levels to ensure they are not too burdensome and can be paid back with current cash flow. Do not incur debt that will over leverage the company and cause missed or late payments.
Keith McAslan is a Partner with CxO To Go a national professional services company headquartered in Denver, Colorado that provides on-demand C-Level expertise and best practices to client companies on a part time, flexible, and affordable basis. Keith is sought after to provide advisory services as the Trusted Advisor to Owners and CEO’s. By utilizing his extensive experience as a successful financial and operational C-level executive, Keith brings a results driven leadership style to complex situations.
McAslan’s expertise includes: financial advisory; management consulting; part time, interim & virt