Like your personal credit history, your business credit rating is determined by credit reporting agencies and independent companies that assess your credit “score” based on factors such as payment history and debt load.

Here is how your company’s credit rating differs from personal credit rating.

  • Your business score is based primarily on the timeliness of payments.
  • Unlike personal credit, having multiple active accounts can be a positive, provided that they are in good standing. It demonstrates that your business is savvy about managing its finances.
  • Some information in your business profile may be self-reported, which is typically not allowed on personal reports. You do this by establishing a profile with the credit bureau; consult their websites for details.
  • Business creditors are not required to report payments to the bureaus, so if you’re interested in building a good rating, ask vendors if they are willing to report your payment performance.

A Business Credit Report

As is the case with your personal credit, it is advisable to obtain your company’s report from the major reporting agencies (see below). Note that there may be a charge for this; details are available on their websites or by calling them directly.

D&B™ (Dun and Bradstreet) – dnb.com
Information sources: Business owner and vendor information
Scoring system: PAYDEX score based on payment experiences DUNS Rating™ based on financial statements

Experian Business™ – experian.com
Information sources: Vendor information only
Scoring system: Intelliscore™ based on payment experiences

Equifax™ Business – equifax.com

Information sources: Public records, Payment histories, Optional personal data of business principal, Bank and lease data

Scoring system: Small Business Credit Risk Score for Suppliers,
Business Failure Risk Score, Risk Class™

Understanding Your Company’s Credit Report

What should you look for when reviewing your company’s business credit report? You want to check accuracy while gaining insight into how the credit reporting agencies portray your firm to potential lenders. Remember that business credit uses different parameters than personal credit  the surest way to build business credit may be to make your payments on time, keep your information up to date, and keep your debt financing down.

When you review your credit reports, examine your:

Company profile

  • Check details for accuracy: business name and age, address, phone, industry, number of employees and incorporation status. Much of this information is “self-reported,” meaning the onus is on the business owner to ensure that the data is correct and up to date.

Credit rating

  • Note if your rating is strong, average or poor. Reporting companies use different scoring methods, so their ratings might not be the same. For example, the D&B PAYDEX score ranges from 1 to 100, with higher scores indicating better payment performance; Equifax’s Small Business Credit Risk Score operates on a scale of 101-992. If the report does not provide context for the score, consult the providers’ websites for details on how to interpret your numbers.

Payment history

  • Confirm that your payment history is accurate. Paying within the terms set by your suppliers may be the most direct way to drive a positive business credit rating. Look for trends that lenders might flag, like a change from paying in full each month to making minimum payments.
  • Ensure that all supplier relationships are represented. If you’ve been making timely payments to a supplier or lender, it should be reflected in your profile. If it is not, you will need to contact the vendor to report your payment history with them.

Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings

  • This shows the liens and leases you have in place. View this information from a lender’s eye: Is it accurate? Could your company be perceived as over-extended?

Re-printed from “OPEN Roadmap: Practical Insights for Business Growth” with permission of American Express OPEN(SM). For more information, visit www.OPENforum.com..