Building credit is nowadays more important than ever to ensure the growth of your company, but it also seems to be harder than ever: according to a report published by the US Small Business Administration, 20% of loan applications for small businesses are declined due to poor credit scores. For businesses seeking financial help, a bad credit score even when they get a loan, implies higher interest rates, higher insurance policies, and less favorable terms with their lenders.
Why is it important to build credit for your business?
A solid credit history will not only allow your company to get the funds it needs to buy goods, acquire inventory or expand its operations, but it will also allow you to access new business opportunities. In this sense, your credit history will be evaluated when you want to negotiate a contract or partner with potential partners.
On the other hand, lenders need to know if you can pay them on time. For this reason, they check your credit history and your credit score on the major credit bureaus websites. These indicators help banks determine if you are trustworthy enough to lend you money and the way they calculate the interest rates.
How can you build credit for your business?
Below you have the 10 best practices that will help you establish or improve your company’s credit profile.
1. Separate your personal expenses from your business expenses
Your first step should be to make sure your business gets the legal status of a Corporation or a Limited Liability Company (known as an LLC). You will not be able to build commercial credit only with your personal credit score.
Also, it’s important that you never use your business bank accounts for your personal expenses. It is not wise to use your business bank accounts to pay your rent, or insurance, to eat out and shop. You need to look at your business as a different entity and learn to identify your expenses. Separating your business and personal expenses is not only best practice but necessary!
It’s true that front-loading your personal expenses onto your business account may be a way to decrease your business taxes. It may also seem easier to manage one combined bank account. But it’s a practice that will come back to bite and hurt your approval probability when applying for a business loan. You may be asking yourself how this is possible. How come combined expenses affect the probability of getting approved for a business loan? Here’s the deal: When the underwriter takes a look at your business bank statements, they will show a very tight business cash flow (the quantity resulting from subtracting your withdrawals from your deposits), because you have been withdrawing cash for your personal use. This shows no room for further business debt. In addition, if your business bank account is linked to your QuickBooks, your business tax returns and business financials will dramatically drop. This will show further signs of tight debt capacity, thus leading to denial when it comes to asking for a loan.
2. Get an Employer Identification Number
The Federal Tax Identification Number (also known as EIN) is something like a social security number for your business. You will need one to open a bank account in your company’s name or sign business contracts. To obtain this number you must register on the IRS website. You must also register on the website of the agency Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation to obtain a DUNS number: with this number your business will be added to a database of millions of companies, thus allowing your company’s credit history to be consulted by your potential customers, banks, and potential business partners.
3. Put your business on the map
You can not build credit effectively until you have established your business. Make sure your business’ name, address, and email are up to date. Get a business phone number and make sure it’s reflected in the directory.
4. Apply for a business credit card
Getting a credit card from a company that reports to the main credit bureaus is an excellent way to build business credit. The ideal situation is to have at least one, but several can be useful. In this sense, it’s a good idea to apply for a secured credit card, perfect for those who don’t have a very extensive credit history but need an initial loan. However, be cautious and avoid exceeding the credit limits. The fact that the funds are there doesn’t mean you need to use them all!
Once you have a business credit card, stop using your personal card for your business expenses. While it may be easier to use your personal credit card than getting a separate one for your business, this will not build your business credit. If you are planning to apply or reapply for a business loan soon, it is best to start building your business credit. Avoid using personal credit cards, personal auto loans and personal loans, in general, to support the business under any and all circumstances.
5. Establish lines of credit with your suppliers
In the business world, a solid line of credit with your main suppliers is worth gold. Many providers offer this type of benefit, which means you can pay for your supplies several days or even weeks after receiving your inventory. By establishing a line of credit with suppliers that report your payments to the credit bureaus, you can create a positive credit history. However, your providers are not required to report your payments to the bureaus; therefore, you should ask them to do it, or you can be proactive and open accounts only with those providers that send the information.
6. Update your data at the credit bureaus
As we mentioned in a previous article, there are several credit agencies that collect information and create business credit scores, such as Experian and Equifax. All of them have a different method to calculate the scores, and each bank and financial institution reports different data to these agencies. As you don’t know which agency your suppliers, creditors or potential clients are going to review, the most sensible thing is to update your data in all of them. Dun & Bradstreet, for example, allows owners to update basic business information, such as years in operation or number of employees, and publish their financial statements on the platform. The more complete your profile is, the better.
7. Check your credit report frequently
25 % of small business owners report significant errors in their credit reports. Reading your credit history carefully can help you detect any problems or inaccuracies. If you find an error, you must file a complaint with the appropriate agency. In any case, remember that if you stop paying your taxes, have been sued or have declared bankruptcy, all this information will go directly to your report, negatively affecting your credit score.
8. Always pay on time
Or better yet, pay ahead of time! When you pay your bills on time, you are showing that your business is reliable and you can effectively manage your debts. If you fall behind your payments, your creditors can send negative reports to the credit bureaus. A history of defaults or delays can affect your chances of accessing loans and damage your credibility with other companies or consumers.
9. Deposit all cash to your business account
Even if you transact in cash, deposit it into the business bank account, please. There is no other way to prove your business growth and the true size of your business. Besides, keeping your cash under a mattress or stored away somewhere is just not safe or smart!
Make it part of your routine to go to your nearest bank branch to deposit all your cash. Do it once a week or however often you need to. Once you start doing this, you will be able to monitor and manage your cash flow much better. Trust me, there is nothing more important than having a clear picture of where your business is standing.
What happens if you don’t deposit your business cash into the business bank account? Then the funds will not be considered at underwriting, which can lead to denial when you ask for a loan, or a lower loan amount than what you truly deserve. A larger or growing business increases your probability of approval. It may also increase your approved loan amount. Makes sense, right?
10. Give yourself an income
Yes, you are the business owner and this is your business, so you should have the power and the freedom to withdraw business money whenever you want to, right? No. You have to play by the rules! Never withdraw cash and checks from your business bank account for personal use. Taking money in the form of cash withdrawals or checks, without making it “official”, will result, as we have seen above, in a tight business cash flow.
It will show that your business has no room for further business debt. Your business bank account should be used for business purposes only, like paying your employees, suppliers, or for inventory. Related Article: 4 Tips on Inventory Management for Small Business
But, if you are tight on your personal income, consider the possibility of giving yourself a salary. Pay yourself a monthly W-2 or 1099 income. You work hard like any of your employees, so you also deserve it!
And yes, you can be an employee in your own business. Your business is a separate entity on its own. Besides, paying yourself W-2 or 1099 income can improve your credit and the chances to get a loan: the loan underwriter can consider your salary as an extra income. Extra income means not only a higher probability for approval but also a higher approved loan amount. It’s a win-win situation. Don’t be afraid to start doing this now. Of course, you need to do a little homework, perhaps with the help of an accountant or someone who can evaluate your business in order to determine how much you should pay yourself. Or you can simply analyze your business yourself to figure this out.
To sum up…
Building a good business credit will allow you to get low-interest loans, credit cards, and better terms with your suppliers. It can even help you get new customers since anyone is able to check your credit score and verify your credibility.
Your business credit score may vary because each credit agency calculates the scores in a different way. But generally speaking, the best practices to build commercial credit are: updating your business information at the credit bureaus, establishing financing lines, borrowing from entities that report to these agencies, and paying on time or before the due date.
If you want more tips on how to build your business and your personal credit, or the difference between those two terms, you can read these articles specially picked for you.
How did you build your company’s credit history? Tell us your strategy in the comments section!