Small Business Financial Article
Rich Best has spent 28 years in the financial services industry, as an advisor, a managing partner, directors of training and marketing, and now as a consultant to the industry. Rich has written extensively on a broad range of personal finance topics and is published on several top financial sites. Recent books include The American Family Survival Bible and Annuity Facts Revealed: What You MUST Know Before You Invest.

How to Establish and Build Business Credit

How to Establish and Build Business Credit

You spent years building your personal credit. Starting with small limit credit cards, you gradually built your credit history by making on-time payments, getting bigger loans, and, eventually, a mortgage. If you did it right, you have a credit score that allows you to obtain financing for various needs at a reasonable rate of interest. It is not very different when obtaining and building credit for your business, except that it takes some extra steps and a little bit of time. Lenders look at businesses a little differently than they do individuals. Young businesses present a lot of risk to lenders, especially those that do not have much in the way of collateral. Your goal should be to present yourself as an acceptable risk with the potential for a long-term and profitable relationship with a lender.

Follow these steps to get to “yes” with any lender:

Create a Solid Business Plan

The banks are starting to lend to small businesses again, but the ones getting the loans are those that can demonstrate they know what they are doing and have the capacity to repay the loan. To do that, you need a well-conceived business plan that conveys your seriousness and legitimacy. Your plan should include all the essential components, including your vision and mission statement, market analysis, operational plan, management background, and financial projections. You should be able to show a history of cash flow and profits and how your business expects to meet its projections. The internet is full of templates you can use to write your business plan, but this is one project that would be worth outsourcing to an experienced business plan writer.

Separate Your Personal and Business Lives

You need to give your business a financial life of its own. That means separating your personal financial records from your business’s records. Mixing personal and business finances can create problems for you with the IRS. It can also lead to legal issues if your business ever faces a liability claim. If your business and personal finances are comingled, it could put your personal assets at risk.

If you have not already done so, you need to open a business checking account. That will give your business legitimacy, and it will keep the IRS happy. You may want to consider organizing your business as a separate entity, such as a Sub Chapter S-Corp or LLC. That is as much for your protection against liabilities as it is to create a distinct identity.

Steps to Building a Credit History

You probably remember when you were turned down for credit at a young age because you had no credit. Your business faces the same dilemma. While lenders will also consider your personal credit in evaluating your business, they also want to see how your business manages credit. So, you should start where you did as an individual, by getting a credit card. Some credit card companies cater to small businesses with little or no credit. The APR can be fairly high, but your goal should be to make budgeted purchases and pay the card balance in full each month. That is the quickest way to build a good credit history.

If you are unable to obtain a credit card, go to your vendors and suppliers to see if they will extend you a small line of credit or a trade credit account. They can become an excellent credit reference for your business. You can also try retail stores such as Office Max or Home Depot, which are more accommodating of newer businesses. Gas cards are also relatively easy to get in your business’s name. The main goal is to start building a payment history.

How Your Business Credit is Reported

Credit reporting and scoring work a little differently for businesses. Once a business receives its federal tax identification number (FIN), the business credit bureaus begin tracking trade credit and other credit activities. The three business credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and Dunn & Bradstreet – compile a credit profile for your business and will generate a credit report upon request. The business credit report includes background information on your business, financial information, banking and collection history, and history of liens or judgments. They also produce a risk score, which, like a credit score, measures creditworthiness. Unlike credit scoring of your personal credit, which is based on a standard set of factors, each credit bureau uses its own factors for calculating your business’s risk score.

In building your business credit, you cannot let your personal credit slide. When applying for financing, lenders consider both your business and personal credit in evaluating overall credit risk. The key is to keep your credit balances low on both your personal and business credit lines and always make on-time payments.

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