As if business owners don’t have enough to worry about, they have to track their credit scores, too. Just as a lousy score can prevent consumers from making major purchases, a poor credit showing can keep a business from being approved for bank loans or office space leases. For new businesses, that number can be extremely challenging, since they lack the purchase history necessary to achieve and maintain a high credit score.
But you don’t have to be in business for decades to improve your rating. Here are eight tips that will help you get your business credit where it needs to be and keep it there.
Pay On Time
This may seem obvious, but many businesses get themselves into trouble by failing to pay bills on time. Try not to put yourself into a position where you can’t afford to pay all of your bills but if there is an instance where you’re short on cash, be sure to work with your creditors to keep them from reporting you. The biggest thing you can do to avoid harming your credit is to set it up for your bills to be paid automatically. Business owners are often stretched in numerous directions. Unless you have a staff member in charge of paying bills for you, it can be easy for you to miss one or two payments in the course of doing business. Those late payments can be all it takes to leave a long-term mark on your credit score. For those bills that can’t be charged automatically, set aside time each week to review your bills and make sure everything is paid.
Choose the Right Vendors
Unfortunately, not every business reports payments to credit bureaus. Big-name businesses that deal with hundreds of thousands of customers are likely to have a system in place for reporting on-time payments to the different credit bureaus. Mom-and-pop operations that are new on the scene or have a small customer base are less likely to have policies for reporting in place. As you’re working hard to build your credit, try to focus on the types of vendors that are likely to report your on-time payments. You can support local, small businesses once your credit rating is in place.
Apply for a D-U-N-S Number
To make sure your business is on the map, apply for a D-U-N-S number from Dun & Bradstreet. This nine-digit identifier is necessary if you have an interest in applying for government contracts, but it also will help you build your credit score. Best of all, your business can get one of these numbers at no charge. To get started, visit the Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S Request Portal.
Open a Line of Credit
If you’re using your personal savings or credit cards to buy the everyday things you need for your business, you’re missing a great opportunity. Retailers like Staples offer lines of credit to small businesses. You can use this line of credit to purchase supplies and furniture, pay it off when the bill comes due, and gradually start to boost your score. Many of these accounts also offer rewards and special discounts not available to regular customers.
Keep Debts Low
When you’re applying for loans, your debt-to-income ratio will be taken into consideration. It’s important as your business is growing that you keep expenditures as low as possible, especially if you know you’ll be applying for office space lease or a small business loan in the future. Avoid hiring more employees than your revenue can handle and work out of your home or a co-working space to keep monthly expenses low for as long as your business can handle it.
Limit New Accounts
While lines of credit and business credit cards can help build your business, too many will hurt your score. Limit yourself to as few of these accounts as possible until your credit score is strong. Having only one or two accounts in place will not only help your credit score, it will keep you from missing a payment because you’re trying to keep up with too many bills.
Avoid Closing Existing Accounts
If you’ve already opened a large number of accounts, don’t close them out, especially if you’re trying to improve your score. Lenders and property management companies are interested in your business’s credit history and by closing your cards, you’re limiting that history. This is especially true of those older cards that are still lingering. That said, if you have an old account that is costing your business in non-usage fees, you may have to weigh the damage to your score against the money you’re paying each month. Experts recommend that consumers keep four to six accounts open at all times in order to maintain a healthy credit score.
Check Your Credit Report
The best way to build and maintain a positive credit score is to be aware of it. Make a point to occasionally check your credit report and dispute any errors on them. Sometimes you’ll be able to remove an item from your credit report simply because the creditor doesn’t respond to your dispute within a set number of days. Experian offers premium business credit reports.
A business’s credit score is as essential as a consumer’s. By working hard to build and maintain a positive score, a business can position itself to gain access to business loans and office space leases without having to pay high interest rates for being high risk.