Mapping Out the Steps to Building Better Credit

Traveling isn’t hard right? I mean, you just jump in your automobile of choice and hit the road.  It’s a whole lot easier however, if you map out your trip. The same is true of building better credit.  It isn’t hard, but it is easier if you map out the steps you need to take first .

If you are going on a trip, you map out your route, right? You plan your stops along the way.  You research potential roadblocks, and you estimate the time you will arrive at your destination.  The same things need to happen when working on building better credit. 

You Can Be Successful at Building Better Credit; You Just Have to Know the Steps

Before you can map out your route, you have to know where you are and where you are going.  Sometimes, especially when flying, the best route is from an airport other than the one closest to you.  You have to be sure you start from the right spot. That is the first step in building better credit for your business as well. 

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Building Better Credit: The Starting Point

Of course, the best place to start is from the beginning.  This isn’t always possible however. Sometimes, you have to backtrack.  Take stock of your surroundings and determine where you are, versus where you need to be to get the best start. 

That sounds complicated, but it isn’t really.  Fundability is key. If your business is already fundable, you are set.  If not, then you have a little extra work to do, but you can do it. We’ll show you how.  The first thing to do is take stock and ensure your business is fundable.  

What is Fundability? 

This step is much easier to take if you understand exactly what fundability is. Fundability is, for our purposes, how desirable an entity is for funding.  When we want to talk about building business credit, we mean funding from creditors. Some things that make you appear fundable you can control. Somethings you cannot control.  For example, you can control whether your business has its own separate contact information. However, you cannot control the length of time you have been in business. You have to work with what you can control.

Building Better Credit: Checklist for Fundability

Okay, so the first step in mapping out the steps to building business credit is to check the fundability of your business.  This includes more than you may think. Of course, it is related to the financial standing of your business, like whether or not you can pay back debt.  However, many businesses are turned down for business credit not because they cannot repay the debt, but because of fraud concerns.  

Making sure your business is set up as a separate, fundable entity that is separate from the owner will not only help with this, but it will also ensure that business credit accounts are reported properly. This too is a big part of building business credit.   So, let’s get to it. Here is your business fundability checklist. 

Business Fundability Checklist

This is like tuning up your car before a trip.  You need to work down the list to ensure everything is in working order. The first things to check off the list are related to how your business is set up: 

  • Separate address and phone number from the owner. 
  • EIN
  • Formally incorporated as an LLC, S-corp, or corporation
  • Separate business bank account

If you set your business up in this way when you first opened, you’re good.  If not, you may need to backtrack to get things how they need to be.  

The next steps have to do with the information that is out there on your business both online and offline. 

  • Make certain all licenses, insurance, public records, and anything else related to your business are recorded with the proper information. This includes the business phone number and address as well as the EIN.  Everything needs to be in the business name, and all contact information has to be in the business 411-directory. 
  • Have a professional website.  Lenders may or may not research your business before approving a loan, but if they do, having a poorly put together website or no website at all will not bode well for your chances. 
  • Make sure you have a dedicated business email address that has the same URL as your website.  
  • Get a D-U-N-S number.  If you do not have one, you will not have a credit profile with Dun &Bradstreet. Since they are the largest and most commonly used business credit reporting agency, you need to have a profile with them. That means you must have the number. 

Where Do You Stand? 

At this point you see you are either in good shape, or you have some work to do.  The next step, if you need to get yourself in a position more useful for building business credit, is to do whatever you need to do to take care of those items listed above.  Once you are good there, move on to the rest of the checklist. 

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Building Better Credit: Fundability Checklist Part 2

Evaluate the following and see where you stand. 

Make Sure You are Turning a Profit, or at Least Have a Plan to Do So

Lenders aren’t in the business of giving handouts. Rather, they need to know you can pay back the funds they lend you. Thus, if you are bleeding funds, you are going to have a hard time getting approval.

How do you turn it around? Do some financial triage. Look for ways to cut expenses.  Do you need to close a location, cut some hours, or explore other options? Maybe leaning harder on your clients with unpaid invoices would help.

Have a Plan for Borrowed Funds 

Lenders will want to see that you have a clear strategy for how you intend to use the funds they lend you.  First of all, they want you to demonstrate you will be responsible with their money. In addition, they also want to know how you will use the money they give you to make more money. 

Why is this important to building better credit?  You need accounts reporting to the business CRAs. To do this, you will have to use vendor and retail credit.  They will not ask how you intend to use the funds, but you need to have a clear idea of how you are using the funds to build your business other than for building credit. 

Here’s what I mean.  You will need to get a business credit card that will report to the business CRAs.  You will need to charge things on that card. What you do not want to do is charge things on that card that you do not need or will not benefit your business at all. 

Check Your Growth Strategy

If you do not have a plan for success, you will not appear fundable to lenders.  They’ll want to see that you have a clear strategy for taking your business all the way.  

Building Better Credit: Mapping the Route

Okay, so you’re all tuned up and ready to hit the road.  Now you need to check your route. It can be tempting to take the most direct route, but often that is not the best route.  When building credit, it can seem that simply using your personal credit is the best way. It’s not. You can’t just willy nilly start applying for business credit cards though either.  You’ll get denied, and that won’t do you any good. 

We know the best route, and while it doesn’t appear to be the fastest, it is.  This is because it is really the only route. The others are viciously misleading and will not take you where you want to go. 

Building Better Credit: The Vendor Credit Tier

This route to building business credit travels across what we like to call the credit tiers.  The idea is that you get accounts reporting in tiers, so that they can build on each other. You have to do it in order, because if you apply to a higher credit tier first, you will not have strong enough credit to get approval.  

The first of these tiers is the vendor credit tier. Here is why it is the best way to start building business credit.  This tier is made up of retailers that will extend net 30 terms without even checking your credit. Not only that, but they will report your payments on these invoices to the business credit reporting agencies.  This is how you get positive accounts reporting on your credit report before you actually have a credit score. Find a few to get started with here

As you get more and more of these accounts reporting, you credit will grow stronger and stronger. If you want to work toward building better business credit even faster, consider talking to those you already have a relationship with.  Sometimes vendors you already work with will extend credit without a credit check. You can also ask utilities, telephone companies, and your landlord to report payments you make to them. They don’t have to, but some will if you ask. 

Building Better Credit: The Retail Credit Tier

Once there are 5 to 8 or more vendor trade accounts reporting to at least one of the CRAs, then you can move on down the road to the retail credit tier.  These companies are retailers also, but they do not extend credit so easily as those in the vendor credit tier. They include those retailers that issue credit cards that can only be used at their own stores such as Office Depot, Staples, and Lowes. 

For example, Lowes reports to D&B, Equifax, and Business Experian. They want to see a D-U-N-S and a PAYDEX score of 78 or more.  You cannot get that 78 PAYDEX without accounts first reporting to the CRAs. That’s why you have to hit the vendor credit tier first.

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Building Better Credit: The Fleet Credit Tier

After 8 to 10 accounts are reporting from the retail credit tier, you can follow the route to the fleet credit tier. It includes companies like BP and Conoco that limit the expenses their cards can be used for.  Fleet credit cards can only be used for fuel and vehicle repair and maintenance cost. 

The Final Destination: The Cash Credit Tier

The final destination along the route to building better business credit is the cash credit tier.  These are those credit cards with higher limits, lower rates, and nice rewards that do not limit the place they can be used or the type of expense they can be used to pay.  If you stay on the path, you should reach this destination with no problem. 

Staying on the path means, of course, that you handle your credit responsibly and make your payments on time.  You also need to monitor your progress along the way, and make sure nothing is slowing you down.

Building Better Credit: Monitoring

Know what is happening with your credit. Make sure it is being reported and attend to any mistakes as soon as possible. We can help you monitor business credit at Experian and D&B for only $24/month. Go to www.creditsuite.com/monitoring to find out more. You can also monitor with the CRAs directly, but it will cost considerably more.  

You are looking for a few things when monitoring your business credit.  First, you want to see that each of your accounts are reporting payments.  If they aren’t, contact them to find out why. Next, you want to make sure all of the information is correct.  If you see a mistake, send a letter to the reporting agency in writing, along with copies of backup documentation. 

Lastly, you need to see how many accounts are reporting so that you will know when it is time to start applying for cards in the next credit tier. This will save you a lot of time, because you will not be applying for cards for which you cannot yet get approval. 

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The Path to Building Better Credit is Wide Open if You Know Which Direction to Go

Building better credit is possible if you know the steps.  Once you make sure your business is set up properly to begin building business credit, you have the whole road open to you.  Along the way, as you are working, you can take any other steps necessary to ensure your business is fundable. When the time comes to apply for loans, you will be set because you will have built the best business credit score possible for your business. 

 

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