Spring means longer days and better weather, which often gives us the energy to tackle projects around the home we’ve been neglecting. Why not channel some of that positive energy into tackling business tasks you’ve been putting off— including working on your business credit? You will need to check your business credit score. This will allow you to know where you stand.
Here are 7 ways to clean up your business credit.
First, Clean Up
When it comes to cleaning up your business credit, you can start by carefully reviewing your business credit reports to make sure all information is accurate and complete. (You can get your free business credit report summaries from business credit agencies Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian through Nav.)
Here’s what to look for:
1. Check your business name and address.
If your business is a legally incorporated entity, or you have filed a fictitious name (DBA) with your state, you’ll want to make sure the full legal business name is listed correctly on your business credit reports.
2. Review your business SIC/NAICS code.
Your business credit report will list one of these codes, which is a government code designed to categorize businesses by type of business. You want yours to be accurate for a couple of reasons. First, business credit scores can compare businesses within the same industry and if your business is not categorized correctly it may not be properly evaluated. Secondly, lenders may finance certain types of businesses and not others; you don’t want yours excluded from financing opportunities due to a mistake.
3. Scrutinize payment history.
Whether your business pays its bills on time is the single most important factor in your business credit scores. But Business credit reports list payment history on individual accounts differently than consumer credit reports.
On personal credit reports you’ll see month-by-month payment history for the most recent 24-months along with a summary for the entire reported account history. With business credit, you’ll see a summary of the entire account payment history listed as the percentage of time the account has been paid on time, or has been late. So it may be confusing to try to figure out when any late payments occurred. But if you believe the payment history listed on your credit report is wrong, you can dispute it and ask the credit reporting agency for a correction or try to contact your creditor for clarification.
4. Check public record information.
If your credit report lists items such as UCC filings, tax liens or even judgments, you want to check to make sure that information is accurate and complete. One thing to look for is whether the current status is reported. For example, if you have paid off a tax lien it should indicate there is no balance. If you’ve satisfied a debt underlying a UCC filing you want to make sure that it is no longer reported as open. If any public record information is wrong, you can dispute it with the credit reporting agency. (Note: there is no time limit that negative information may be reported; instead commercial credit reporting agencies make their own determinations.)
Then, Spruce Up
After you’ve cleaned up, it’s time to spruce up. This is the business credit version of creating curb appeal: you’ll want to make your credit report look attractive to lenders, insurance companies and other companies that review business credit reports and scores. Here are several steps you can take to do that:
5. Add vendor accounts.
If you don’t have many accounts listed on your business credit report— many small businesses don’t— adding a couple of accounts can help build a stronger credit rating. Vendor accounts offer one of the simplest ways to build business credit. When you’re approved with one of these companies you’ll be able to purchase products and pay for them later, often on net-30 terms. (Here are 3 vendor accounts that don’t require personal credit checks or personal guarantees.) Pay them on time to build out your business credit.
6. Get a business credit card.
A small business credit card can help build business credit as well. It also helps to separate business and personal credit and makes it easier to keep track of business expenses.
7. Get credit for your payments.
Most small businesses find that some of the bills they pay don’t appear on their business credit reports. You may be able to get some of them added to your credit history by using a service like eCredable Lift Small Business to verify and report those accounts. You may be able to get up to two year’s worth of payment history reported for certain accounts, such as internet, power and cell phone accounts that you use for your business.
None of these tasks should take more than an hour, tops. Many can be completed faster than that. Invest a little time now cleaning up your business credit and watch it pay off.