When you’re running a small business, financial reports are part of the game. These can include your profit and loss statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement — they’re all are essential to running a healthy business. But there’s another report that can also be crucial: your business credit report.
Like a personal credit report, a business credit report offers a summary of your business’ financial dealings, including your history of paying bills, debt-to-credit-ratio, defaults or bankruptcies, creditworthiness and more.
Your credit report is key to getting financing for your company, but it can also affect other aspects of your business, such as insurance rates. It’s also one way other companies evaluate whether they want to do business with you.
So even if you don’t need financing at the moment, it’s important to make sure your credit report is as positive as possible. Having good business credit offers your company financial options — and this can be crucial to helping your business not only survive, but thrive.
Business Credit Bureaus
There are three major credit bureaus that issue business credit reports for companies: Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian. Each uses a different methodology for compiling credit profiles on businesses, but they all issue business credit scores for each profile (along with other evaluations and details about a business’ financial history).
While personal credit scores range from 350 to 800, business credit bureaus have a range of score scales.
- Experian’s Credit Ranking Intelliscore ranges from 0 to 100
- Dun & Bradstreet scores include:
- PAYDEX Score (1 to 100): Rates a company’s ability to pay debts
- Commercial Credit Score (101 to 670): Predicts the likelihood that a company will default on its payments over the next 12 months
- Financial Stress Score (1,001 to 1,875): Predicts the likelihood that a business will fail over the next 12 months
- Equifax scores include:
- Business Payment Index (0 to 100): Rates a company’s ability to pay debts
- Business Credit Risk Score (101 – 992): Assesses the risk of severe delinquency on any account over the next 12 months
- Business Failure Score (1,000 to 1,880): Predicts the likelihood that a business will fail within the next 12 months
Unlike personal credit reports, business credit reports are public, which means that anyone can ask for a credit report on your company. This includes lending institutions, possible business partners and even competitors; they can request this from any or all of the credit bureaus.
While Dun & Bradstreet, for example, is generally the go-to for suppliers evaluating a company for a credit line, there is often no predicting which bureau may be issuing credit reports about your business. So it’s important to pay attention to your credit rating at all three agencies.
That means monitoring your own credit reports so you’re aware of the portrait they’re painting of your company’s financial health and responsibility. Keeping an eye on your credit report also allows you to spot any errors and get them corrected right away.
Free Credit Reports
Credit bureaus offer a range of individual reports and services for a range of fees. To get a complete picture of your credit reports, you will probably have to pay something. Unfortunately, unlike people, businesses are not entitled to a free credit report every year. But there are free options that will allow you to access at least some of the information in your business credit report. Here’s how:
1. You’ve Been Denied Credit
In the unhappy case that your business has been turned down for credit, you can get a free report from the credit bureau that the lender used to get the credit report on your business.
Once you’ve been denied, the credit bureau will send you a letter informing you. You’ll be able to get a free credit report if you send that letter back within 90 days along with a request for your business credit report. While this report won’t have the full information of a complete report, it should let you see your credit score and payment history from that credit bureau and offer you a better idea of why you didn’t qualify.
Dun & Bradstreet offers a free service called CreditSignal that you can use to monitor your business credit. You can sign up for free to be alerted whenever your business credit score changes or someone purchases a copy of your business credit report. CreditSignal also offers a lot of educational resources about business credit, including how to improve your score.
This can be helpful once you already have a general idea about what shape your business credit is in. However, to actually get the full details of your Dun & Bradstreet business credit score and report, you’ll have to pick a paid option.
While Credit.net’s business credit-risk evaluation service isn’t free forever, it does offer a seven-day free trial that you can sign up for without a credit card. During the trial, you will get access to Credit.net’s reporting services and receive seven free business credit reports. If you decide to use Credit.net after the free trial ends, you’ll have a choice of business credit monitoring packages as well as access to a dedicated expert.
CreditSafe.com focuses on offering companies comprehensive credit information and monitoring on other companies they may want to do business with. However, you can certainly get the same information about your own business.
CreditSafe offers a free trial that allows you to get access to all the information it would offer paying subscribers, including credit scores and limits, company financials, adverse credit insights and more. You are under no obligation to continue the service once the trial is over, but you will have to talk to a consultant in order to set up the free trial. The length of the trial will depend on your business.
On Your Way to Great Business Credit
If you really want to know the full details of your credit profile, you’ll most likely have to pay a fee at some point. But pulling a free credit report can be a great way to get started on the very important task of building and maintaining good business credit.
How have you received a free business credit report? Let us know at Twitter @Revenued_com.
We're working on some pretty cool new pieces of content, including tools that will give you insight into your business finances.
Want to be the first to know when they launch?