by Jim Martin
A recent Creditera survey found nearly half of small business owners don’t know they have a business credit score—even though that score is critical to obtaining business loans and other financing. 24% of small businesses have considered closing their doors in the last 12 months, often citing financial issues as a reason. An additional 26% didn’t expand their businesses or hire more employees because trying to find funding is too frustrating.
Lack of awareness about your credit score can impact your business’s goals and vision. About 40% of the small and midsized businesses Creditera polled didn’t know their business credit scores, and those envisioned business growth of under 5%. However, nearly 75 percent of the business owners who did understand their business credit scores had loftier goals, envisioning business growth of up to 20%.
Knowledge is power; knowledge of your business credit score, how to improve it, and how to protect it can give you the power to grow your business. So where should you start? First, check your business credit score by contacting business credit reporting agencies D&B, Experian and Equifax. If you see any errors, correct them. Continue to check your report regularly (at least once a year) for accuracy.
Second, don’t mix business and personal credit. Many small business owners charge business expenses on personal credit cards, and vice versa. This is a big mistake. Always use business accounts to cover business expenses—otherwise, your business won’t build its own credit report.
Third, pay your bills and vendors promptly. Just as with personal credit, making timely payments is essential to maintaining a good business credit score. Also ask your suppliers to make sure that they report your payment history to the relevant business credit scoring agencies, since not all companies do this unless you ask.
Use credit wisely. You need some business credit to build a credit score. It’s best to have a few different business credit cards so that if one company suddenly changes terms or lowers your limit, you won’t get caught short. Also consider obtaining a business line of credit, using it and paying it back. It’s best not to use all your available credit—try to keep usage to 30 percent of your total credit available. This reassures lenders that you have plenty of wiggle room, and it leaves you something for emergencies.
Need help getting your business credit score in shape? Your SCORE mentor can help you develop a plan for improving it. Visit www.santacruzcounty.score.org.