As a business owner you can probably think of a dozen things you wish you knew before starting your own business. Starting a business often has a steep learning curve, and unfortunately, you’ll find yourself making mistakes that are painful or expensive (or both).
One mistake that can set you back in several ways is failing to build or maintain a strong business credit score. The Nav American Dream Gap Survey found that 45 percent of small business owners don’t know they have a business credit score and 82 percent don’t know how to interpret their score.
Why is it important? Failing to build business credit can put you at a disadvantage in a variety of ways.
1. You may miss out on key opportunities.
Nav’s Co-Founder and CEO Levi King is a serial entrepreneur. His first business was a sign manufacturing company. At one point he bid on a job to build signs for a car dealer. He knew his bid was lower and that he’d work harder than the competition, but he didn’t get the job. He badgered his contact at the dealership until they finally told him why. The competitor who won the job had included a copy of the business credit report for Levi’s business with his bid. Levi’s business didn’t have bad credit— it just didn’t have any business credit history. The message was, “Why would you do business with someone this inexperienced?”
Unlike consumer credit reports, anyone can check your business credit reports. That includes prospective business partners, suppliers, vendors or even your competition. Good or bad, they may make judgments about your business based on what your business credit report says.
2. You may not get the best financing.
Businesses often seek financing when they most need it, whether it’s because of an opportunity or crisis. When you need financing fast, a decision will be based on the qualifications of your business at that point in time. You may not have time to make your business profile look more attractive, and as a result the financing you get may be expensive. As the saying goes, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
A number of factors go into the decision to lend your business money but two of the most common factors scrutinized are cash flow and credit. When it comes to credit, some lenders will consider the personal credit of the owner, but others will consider the business credit of the business— or both.
In fact, one of the most attractive types of financing is an SBA-guaranteed loan. If you apply for an SBA loan for $350,000 or less in the popular 7(a) program, your application will be immediately prescreened using a credit score called the SBSS by FICO. That score takes into account both business and personal credit information. Getting a passing minimum score of at least 140 (out of 300) based on your personal credit alone is challenging. It’s a lot easier if you have strong business credit, too.
3. Doing business may be more difficult.
Want to do business with a major retailer? You’ll need to have a D&B Paydex score. Want to get an app in the Apple store? A D-U-N-S number makes it easier. Government contracts, getting a surety bond and getting business insurance are all likely to require a D-U-N-S number and/or a good D&B Paydex score.
These are just a few of the examples that illustrate how not having strong business credit can hurt your business. Most business owners don’t know that until they run into a roadblock and find themselves on a detour.
Remember that American Dream Gap Survey mentioned earlier that found that many small business owners don’t know their business credit scores? It also found that those entrepreneurs who understood their business credit were 41 percent more likely to get approved for a business loan.
Start building business credit before you need it and when that crisis or opportunity comes along, you’ll be ready.