The creditworthiness of your business is measured by its credit score. This number is issued by Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax, and FICO SBSS, and is an essential reflection of your company’s payment reliability and timeliness.
Why is Your Business Credit Score Important?
Your company’s overall financial health is of key importance to any lenders, creditors, and trade partners with whom you wish to do business. Those partners need to be able to trust in your ability to provide the good or services that you are promising: to pay back any loans you may apply for. Your financial health can also be a determination of the terms that you are able to negotiate with lenders.
Ultimately, your business credit score is the main way third parties can measure your company’s financial health. It’s typically used by lenders, creditors, and trade partners during various business transactions, such as applying for business loans, leasing, winning contracts, doing business with vendors or suppliers, obtaining net terms with trade partners, and even getting better interest and payment rates for instruments such as business contracts and mortgages.
Businesses in possession of strong credit scores have a much better chance of obtaining the capital that they need to grow compared to those with weak credit scores. Many lenders have minimum credit score requirements in place, and businesses that cannot meet that threshold will be unable to secure the loan that they seek. Even if your business has a credit score that exceeds that threshold, the stronger your credit score, the more advantageous the interest rate or repayment terms you are likely to have extended to you.
Business credit scores are also used as a gauge by suppliers and others who will need to rely on you to pay them in a timely manner. Vendors, landlords, and other stakeholders with whom you will have a financial relationship will look to your past performance with others as an indication of how you are likely to treat them. Have a weak credit score? Even if these trade partners agree to do business with you, they are likely to include terms that will protect their own interests and be less advantageous to you.
How to Interpret Business Credit Scores
Unlike personal FICO credit scores which can reach as high as 850, business credit scores generally only go as high as 100, and can fall as low as 0. As is true in so many other types of grading systems, the higher the score, the better the credit rating is considered to be, though different credit rating agencies have different levels at which they bestow the value judgment of being “good.” For Equifax a credit score of 90 or above is considered good while Experian considers 7 or above good. Dun & Broadstreet bestows the term “good” on scores of 80 or above, while FICO SBSS (whose highest scoring ranges well above 100) considers a score of 140 or more a good rating.
The higher a business’s credit score, the better their chance of obtaining loans or positive trade terms with vendors and suppliers. This is because the high score reflects a history of making payments on a timely basis rather than being late or delinquent.
Can You Fix A Bad/Thin Business Credit Score?
Having a low business credit score can be a reflection of several possible factors, including having filed for bankruptcy, having liens against your business, having a poor repayment history filled with delinquent payments or non-payments. In addition to having a bad score, businesses that don’t have a significant history of payments have credit scores that are termed “thin.”
When you’re applying for a loan, having either a bad business credit score or a thin credit score can work against you. Lenders are unlikely to provide advantageous terms to businesses with a poor history of repayment, and even if your business is simply new and doesn’t have much of a record of either timely payments or delinquencies, many lenders will be hard pressed to take a leap of faith on you. Whichever situation you find yourself in, it will be well worth your time to either build a credit history or repair your poor credit. There are ways to do both. Here are several steps you can take that can have a significant impact.
1. Keep your Business and Personal Finances Separate
You are not your business and your business is not you. Therefore, you should keep separate accounts for your company and for your personal use. Doing so will not only help you keep track of transactions and obligations for each, but will also help prevent any mistakes that you make (i.e. delinquent payments) from affecting either your business credit score or your personal credit score.
2. Don’t Fall Behind On Your Bills
When your business makes a purchase or agrees to pay for a service, holding up your end of the bargain and paying in full (and on time) reflects on your business in a number of ways. Early payments will boost your credit score and be welcomed by trade partners, while delinquent payments will negatively impact your business’s credit score and have a negative impact on your reputation in general.
3. Develop A Strong Relationship With Your Vendors
Keep in mind that your vendors and suppliers are the ones who report on-time or early payments to the credit bureaus as well as late payments. The better your business relationship with those partners, the more likely that they will report your positive actions and the less likely that they will report delinquencies.
4. Maintain a Low Credit Utilization Ratio
Building credit as a business is done in much the same way as building personal credit: by establishing a history. One of the fastest ways to build a positive business credit report and score is to obtain a business credit card; however, use it sparingly and stay below 33% of your available credit.
5. Keep Your Eye on Your Numbers
Credit reports change constantly, and it is essential that you keep your eye on it to make sure that it is an accurate reflection of your payment history. If you find a mistake you should act quickly to dispute the error within the framework provided by the bureau that is publishing the mistake.
6. Add More Credit Options
Businesses that have either thin or bad credit can build their reputation by establishing additional lines of credit through a secured business credit card. These vehicles are backed by a deposit, making them easy to get and an excellent way to improve your business’s history (as long as you make your payments promptly).
Positive Credit Scores for Future Success
Having a solid, positive credit score for your business is more than just a report card. It is what can make the difference in your company’s future opportunities for growth. A business’s credit report should be nurtured, and this can be done by remaining organized and dedicated to making on-time or early payments, but for those who have made mistakes, it is not too late to repair and rebuild.