How to Repair Business Credit
Good business credit is essential for accessing financing at affordable rates to help your company grow. Bad credit, meanwhile, can stand in the way of getting a loan or a credit card, leasing or buying space or equipment or partnering with other businesses.
If your business credit isn’t the best, business credit repair is definitely possible — just know that the process takes time and careful management. You can certainly improve your credit on your own, though working with a financial specialist can help keep you on track.
What is business credit?
Business credit is a record of your company’s debt payments, such as those to suppliers and lenders. Notably, if you organized your business as a sole proprietorship, you may not have a business credit file; instead, your company’s credit would be linked with your personal credit, and it would be important to repair that as well.
The best way to know if your business has poor credit is to obtain a copy of your business credit report. If one isn’t available, it may be because you need to register for what’s known as a DUNS number, a digital identifier that allows people to learn about your business’s credit history. Any business can apply for a DUNS number, even sole proprietorships.
How to repair business credit: 7 steps
You can go about repairing business credit by following these important steps.
Step 1: Get copies of your business credit report
It’s a good idea to obtain a report from all three agencies that track business credit:
- Experian: You can purchase a basic business credit report for $39.95, or an enhanced report for $49.95.
- Equifax: You can purchase a single Equifax business report for $99.95, or a pack of five reports for $399.95.
- Dun & Bradstreet: You can purchase a single Credit Evaluator Plus report for $64.99, or get a report with a bit more information, the Business Information Report Snapshot, for $139.99.
Personal credit reports
Even if you have a business credit file, it’s also a good idea to pull personal credit reports to see if there are any improvements you can make there as well — some lenders will want to see both. Personal credit reports come from three agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can get a report from each agency, free, once a year via AnnualCreditReport.com (currently, all three agencies are offering free weekly reports through April 2021).
Read more about the relationship between personal and business credit in the FAQs section, below.
Step 2: Identify and dispute errors
You may well spot an error on your business credit report. Make sure to inspect the reports carefully, since they’ll all be different. Each credit reporting agency also has its own procedure for reporting such errors:
- Experian: Go to BusinessCreditFacts.com/update to report needed updates to your business credit report. Contact Experian Commercial Relations at [email protected] or 888-211-0728 with any questions.
- Equifax: Log into your Equifax Member Center account and use one of the options listed there to contact Equifax. You’ll need to purchase an Equifax report in order to register for an account. Equifax will provide you with a Research Request Form.
- Dun & Bradstreet: Submit changes to business information through the free DUNS Manager service. If you have questions, call the Credibility Department at 844-241-5174.
Step 3: Negotiate with creditors
If your business is struggling with debt, contact your creditors and see if you can work out some kind of settlement or payment plan. Your creditors don’t want you to go out of business or declare bankruptcy, so they are likely instead to seek a percentage of your debt or have you pay on a drawn-out schedule.
Having a payment plan in place may help improve certain business ratings and scores — Dun & Bradstreet, for example, calculates a Delinquency Predictor Score, an estimate of how well a business pays its debts.
Step 4: Pay down debt
Having some debt is fine, but don’t let it get out of hand. Trim costs so you can pay it down. Consider consolidating your debt, since making a single payment each month can help you plan your strategy to pay your debt.
Paying down your debt helps keep your credit usage rate low, which lenders will look for when vetting your business for a loan. It’s a good idea to keep your credit usage under 30% of your available credit, though this is not a hard-and-fast rule.
Step 5: Ask creditors to report favorable activity
Ask your vendors and suppliers to report your activity with them to the business credit bureaus. Larger businesses and government agencies are more likely to report than smaller outfits.
“It’s similar to buying a personal car,” said Ken Alozie, a mentor for SCORE, a nonprofit that assists small businesses. “If you buy a car from a big Toyota dealership, they’ll report to Equifax or Experian, but small local dealerships won’t necessarily report.”
After you’ve ensured your vendors and suppliers will report, make sure to pay them in full and on time, or even early. Payment trends may be reported on your business credit report.
Step 6: Upload your financial reports to Dun & Bradstreet
To be proactive, upload your company’s financial reports to your business credit file with Dun & Bradstreet through the DUNS Manager service. You may also mail financial statements to D&B:
D&B Statement Update Team
3501 Corporate Parkway
Center Valley, PA 18034
The agency takes this information into account when calculating scores and ratings. Any companies that pull up your financial statement will also be able to see these filings to gain reassurance that lending to you or doing business with you is a safe bet.
Step 7: Seek help to repair business credit
Business owners have many ways to improve their credit on their own. However, some may feel overwhelmed or have specific questions about their circumstances.
In such cases, a small business financial advisor can help you manage your debt and improve your credit. These experts may be able to help you negotiate settlements or advise on the best way to consolidate business debt.
How to vet business credit repair services
Along with turning to financial advisors for help, you can also work with companies that help fix business credit.
There are many options out there, so it’s important to vet them carefully. Look for companies that specialize in business credit repair and not just personal credit repair, will do an initial consultation for free, have an established track record and good references and inform you of your right to repair your credit yourself. Stay away from any that require up-front payment, won’t sign a contract or offer guarantees or promise quick fixes. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a nonprofit organization, also assists small business owners by providing an online financial assessment tool, as well as one-on-one coaching.
“Be wary of companies that promise to fix or build this for you in a week,” says Alozie. “Businesses need to know that it’s a process.”
Tips for maintaining good business credit
Once you’ve repaired your business credit, it’s essential to keep that good score — here are several things you can do.
Sign up for credit monitoring
Sign up for a service that will monitor your credit reports and alert you of any changes. Credit bureaus offer such services for monthly or annual fees. Dun & Bradstreet offers CreditBuilder Plus or CreditBuilding Premium, both of which help you build and monitor your credit for a monthly fee of $149.00 or $199.00, respectively. Experian offers Business Credit Advantage, which includes daily monitoring, for $189.00 per year.
Check your reports regularly
Even if you have professional credit monitoring setup, it’s a good idea to pull up your reports yourself from time to time to make sure that everything’s as it should be. Check if any issues are getting through your monitor’s filters.
Keep total business credit usage under 30%
The amount of available credit you’re currently using is an important number for potential lenders. While keeping your credit usage below 30% of your available credit is a good idea, lenders’ decisions will be based on your entire financial picture, including all your income and expenses, as well as your personal credit rating.
“In my experience, if you’re trying to get new credit for your business, underwriters will look at your existing debt, at least as it relates to revolving debt or credit cards,” says Alozie. “But the real question will be, ‘Can the business cash flow handle more debt service?’”
If your credit is good, the answer is more likely to be “yes.”
FAQs about business credit
Why is good business credit important?
Good business credit will make other businesses more likely to lend you money, enter into a lease or contract or partner with you in a business relationship.
“Suppliers, potential partners and other business interests can check on your business credit to guide their views of your credibility,” said Blake Taylor, managing director of Synergy Business Brokers. “If you have bad business credit, it not only affects you financially, but you can lose out on potential business opportunities within your industry.”
How can I build my business credit?
You can build up business credit by establishing dedicated accounts, such as a business bank account, business credit cards and business loans. To do so, you first need to establish a legal business entity, like a limited liability company or a corporation, with its own federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). Then, register your business with Dun & Bradstreet to get a DUNS number.
Is good business credit more important for certain types of businesses?
Establishing business credit is more important for some types of businesses than others, especially for business-to-business companies and those that transact with suppliers, manufacturers or the government. For instance, a defense contractor would need to establish business credit far more than a self-employed dog walker.
How do business and personal credit differ?
Business credit and personal credit are entirely separate. Your personal credit is your payment history on your personal borrowing, like your mortgage, car loans and credit cards. However, some lenders may require you to pledge personal assets as collateral and therefore would examine your personal bank statements and other financial documents.
It’s a good idea to repair both of these forms of credit, as your personal credit can affect business lending, especially before your business has established its own credit. Keep these two types of accounts separate.
Alozi noted a mistake that entrepreneurs often make: “Running personal expenses through the business, or using personal credit cards for the business.”
“Their FICO [personal credit score] is impacted but they’re not building business credit,” he added.