More and more, entrepreneurs understand the importance of building strong business credit. Good business credit is a valuable asset that can help open up new financing and business opportunities, and save business owners money when they borrow.
Would you like to help your customers or clients enjoy those advantages? You can, if you start reporting payment history to commercial credit reporting agencies. Many small business owners extend payment terms to their clients, or provide goods or services before getting paid. If you’re one of them, you may be able to report those customer payment records so they appear on commercial credit reports. (You can keep an eye on your own business credit for free every month on Nav.)
But why would you want to go to that effort? Here are four reasons.
Encourage Good Behavior
Let’s face it— when money is tight most of us prioritize bills that will affect our credit over those that don’t. Why should businesses be any different? When you let your customers know you report you are subtly encouraging them to move your invoice to the top of the pile. One commercial credit bureau even provides free stickers you can put on invoices to remind customers that their payments will be part of their credit record.
Help Your Customers Build Business Credit
By reporting those payments to commercial credit agencies you can help your clients build positive business credit references that help them build strong business credit scores. Your customers’ good payment histories will be reflected in their credit scores. (Nav customers can use the free BusinessLookup tool to check your client’s business credit data.) Not all companies report to these agencies, and as business owners learn about the importance of establishing strong business credit, they often seek out and do business with companies that report.
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Make Better Decisions
When you work with a commercial credit reporting agency to report data, you can also enlist its help to improve your data and decisions. The credit reporting agency can help you understand historic data and trends, and develop predictive scoring, explains Gail Beltz, director, Trade Acquisition for Experian Business Information Services.
Help Other Entrepreneurs Avoid Deadbeats
The more data credit reporting agencies collect, the better they can help other businesses’ manage and predict risk. More data = better decisions. Other business owners can check business credit and offer credit to businesses with a track record of paying on time, as well as avoid doing business with companies that are overextended or falling behind on their bills.
It’s worth noting that commercial credit reports don’t include information about the names of creditors that share information. Instead, it is categorized by the type of lender or vendor. For example:
Intrigued? Here are two ways to get started reporting your business partners’ account histories to business credit reporting agencies.
How to Report to Experian
Experian says nearly all — 99.9% — U.S. companies are in its commercial credit database, which contains comprehensive, third-party verified data. Any business that invoices another business may report information about business customer’s payments. In other words, if you bill a business customer and get paid later, you are eligible to report.
If you’d like to become a reporting partner, start the process by contacting Experian by phone at 1-800-478-0650; by email at BISdatareporting@experian.com; or go to Experian’s website.
There is no cost to report, and no minimum number of accounts that must be reported. Experian is very flexible in terms of how information is reported. They will work with you to make sure your data is properly reported.
In addition, Experian has a dedicated commercial relations department that will contact you in the case of disputes to request verification.
How to Report to Dun & Bradstreet
Dun & Bradstreet offers several commercial credit report and score products, but it’s best known for its Paydex score. It has more than 12,000 trade partners around the world contributing more than 1.5 billion updates to trade information each year.
To get started reporting, you can contact your Dun & Bradstreet Relationship Manager, or visit its website.
Generally, you can report to Dun & Bradstreet if you become part of its Trade Exchange Program. There is no cost to report. You must have at least 300 active credit customers, or be a member of its DNBi or PPP service. You may be able to connect your Quickbooks account to make reporting easier.
As a bonus, you’ll get stickers you can put on your invoices that note you report to Dun & Bradstreet. They may give your customers the “nudge” they need to pay on time.
Can’t Report? Try This
Some business owners want to report their clients or customers that aren’t paying their bills. If your business is unable to report customer information as described above, another option is to hire a debt collector. The collection agency may have a relationship with credit reporting agencies that allows it to report those debts.
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