28 Aug August 28, 2030 – Building Business Credit Gerri Detweiler and Lean Out Crista Grasso
There is a high level of errors on business credit reports than
there are on consumer credit reports.
Gerri Detweiler has more than 20 years of experience guiding individuals through the confusing world of credit, and has earned a reputation as a reliable and independent source on personal and small business credit. She serves as Education Director for Nav, the only site to give business owners free access to credit reports from all three major commercial credit bureaus, where she develops educational programs and content for entrepreneurs and works on advocacy issues. For more than five years, Gerri hosted her own talk radio programs and she has been interviewed for more than 4,000 new stories. A driven advocate for credit protections for business owners and consumers, Gerri has testified before Congress on the topic. As a prolific writer, Gerri contributes regular columns to AllBusiness.com, Forbes and Home Business Magazine. She is also the author or co-author of five books, including her newest title, Finance Your Business: Get on the Financing Fast Track, co-authored with best-selling author and corporate attorney Garrett Sutton; and the free ebook Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights.
Crista Grasso – Managing Consultant at Leading Agile and Creator of Lean Out Method
It is critical in business that you are measuring. You have to know what sort of results you are trying to achieve.
Crista Grasso is a results-focused entrepreneurial leader and change agent with proven success leading large-scale enterprise Agile Transformations. She has the ability to quickly cut through the noise and focus on optimizing the core things that will make the biggest impact right now to grow and scale your business. Crista is a certified Scaled Agile Program Consultant (SPC), Kanban Management Professional (KMP), Program Management Professional (PgMP), and Six Sigma Green Belt. She has over 25 years of experience spanning diverse industries including manufacturing, e-commerce, insurance, finance, non-profit, and higher education. Through the Lean Out Method that she created, she specializes in helping businesses identify the most important things they should focus on right now that will drive maximum value for their customers and maximum profits for their business. Crista is also the founder of her own accessory brand, Criscara Jewelry, where she has used the same Lean practices to 10x profits while keeping all production in the USA.
Highlights from Gerri’s Interview
On the personal credit side, you have AnnualCreditReport.com. That’s the federally mandated website where you get your free credit reports. It’s ugly, you might think it’s a phishing website. As long as you go to AnnualCreditReport.com, though, you’re fine. You can actually get those once a week right now for free through the COVID crisis, usually it’s once a year. So that’s the data that will be used to calculate your credit score. So it’s really important to see at some point and to go through it, and then there are over 138 places where you can check and monitor your credit scores for free. So you’re going to find there’s different scores out there, there’s FICO, there’s Vantage, but my basic recommendation is just make sure you’re monitoring your credit score from each of those bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Because if you see something changed dramatically, that’s a sign to go, I better look see what’s going on and see if there might be some identity theft. Then for the business owners, there’s also these business credit bureaus or commercial credit bureaus. Equifax and Experian, both are in that business, and Dun & Bradstreet
is the third one. So you want to check and monitor those as well.
Well, you would think that your business is going to get tracked under your EIN number, the same way you’re tracked under my social security number, but that’s not the case. In the business credit space, the bureaus all have their own identifiers. So anyone who’s ever applied for a government contract or a government grant knows that you have to have something called a DUNS number, and that’s Dun & Bradstreet’s identifier. Equifax and Experian have their own. Equifax and Experian will assign it for you when your business hits their credit databases, you don’t need to worry about it. But for Dun & Bradstreet, you do need to proactively request a DUNS number if your business doesn’t have one. You can check that on the Dun & Bradstreet website, they have a little search function, you could check it at Nav, and you want to see if you already have one. If you don’t, you want to apply for one. It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month or more to get that number assigned, but it is the first step for business credit.
I just mentioned Nav, so to expand on that, probably the easiest analogy is we’re like Credit Karma for small business. So business owners come to us, they set up a free account, they get to see their business credit for free from those three major bureaus. But then, more importantly, we try to help them use their data to help them find financing. So we work with over 110 different financing sources around the country. We don’t sell information to lenders, so you won’t get phone calls from these lenders just because you signed up for a Nav account, but we’ll show you lenders that are interested in funding businesses with profiles like yours. So then, when you’re looking for financing, you can shortcut that search process.
As far as the type of financing, we’re talking all the way from credit cards up to SBA loans; there’s such a wide variety. I did just pull some data from the SBA website a couple of days ago, and I was surprised to see that of the 7(a) Loan Program, which is a very popular SBA Guaranteed Loan made through banks all over the country, 17% of those went to true startups to open a business, and another 19% went to businesses that had only been in business two years or less. So a lot of times we think about SBA loans, and you might have heard from your bank that you need two years in business and you need X number of revenues. But the important thing to remember is that while the SBA has minimum qualifications for SBA loans, each lender can add on their own; as long as they don’t discriminate, they can add on their own. So just because your bank says, we’re only working with businesses that have these qualifications, that doesn’t mean there’s not an SBA lender out there in another part of the state or another part of the country who might be eager to do business with you.
Starting out with local contacts is always a great first step. There are several SBA partners that may be able to help your Small Business Development Center (SBDC), your score office, they often know what’s going on locally, and your SBA office, their Veteran Business Centers, and Women Business Centers. You can find all these, just go to sba.gov/tools, and then on the right-hand side you’ll see a locator and it’ll help you get in touch with your local offices, and they can be a wealth of information about what’s available in your local community.
At Nav, we’ll also absolutely help you understand how to address you know your credit and make sure it’s in good shape. With business credit, some research has shown that there’s a higher level of errors on business credit reports than there are on consumer credit reports. That was published in The Wall Street Journal a few years ago. My theory on this is that the reason there are more mistakes is that business owners aren’t checking them, because ultimately you and I are the only ones who can look at our credit reports and say, that’s not my account. They can try to screen as best as they can, but we’re the ultimate judge of whether that information is accurate or belongs to us. So the very first step is checking them and then making sure that the information is complete.
The number one thing I would say we see at Nav, and we’ve helped over 1.5 million business owners access their business credit at this point. The number one thing we see is that you have businesses sometimes that has been in business for years, and they just don’t have much showing up on their business credit, there’s just not much reporting. Because it’s not like consumer credit where you go out and get a car loan or a mortgage or a credit card, it’s automatically going to be reported. There’s no question, it’s going to show on all three reports. But with business credit, it might show up on one, it might show up on the other, it might only report if it’s negative, it’s not regulated at all. So it’s a much different experience than consumer credit. So if I could say just one piece of advice before you’re going out for financing, check your personal credit and check your business credit, because we know that nine times out of 10, at least one of those two is going to be involved in the decision.
Here are two easy steps to resolve the issue of not having data points on your business credit. One is to get vendor accounts. So if you go to Nav.com/vendors, you’ll see an article. This is just an informational educational article that lists vendors that sell things like printer ink or Keurig cups for your coffeemaker or janitorial supplies, all kinds of stuff that you use normally in business. They’ll give you Net 30 terms, they don’t check personal credit, but they report to the business. So buy things that you need anyway for your business from them, pay on time, and you’ll have a reference on your business credit reports.
Then step number two is to consider a small business credit card because most of those report to at least one of the major business credit reporting agencies. A couple of them will be fine, two of those will get you off on a good start. I find that business cards make very quick progress to building business credit because most other business owners aren’t doing anything, they don’t care and they don’t even know it exists. So if you just do these few steps, you’re going to be ahead of many other small business owners who aren’t doing anything.
Now when getting your business credit card, it depends on the bank, and usually, your credit score has something to do with it. A lot of times for those cards, they do look at the owner’s personal credit score. But I do want to make a suggestion that you consider a credit card instead of a debit card, and here’s why. There is no federal law that covers business debit cards in the case of loss or theft, there is a federal law that covers business credit cards in the case of loss or theft. So your bank, if you have a good relationship, they’re probably going to work with you if something happens. But I have to tell you, I’ve heard some horror stories. I interviewed a business owner where it took her months to get over $30,000 back into her business account after her debit card was compromised and stolen. So I like business credit cards better than business debit cards for that reason, plus rewards, and plus they report to business credit bureaus, while business debit cards do not help you build credit.
So a lot of these online platforms, at least in the small business lending space and some in the consumer space too, what they’re doing is they’re asking you to link your bank account. So they can’t take money out but they can just read what’s in the bank account and see the money coming in and out of the business bank account, consumer scenario via consumer accounts, and then they can give you credit so to speak to that. Because one problem with credit scores is that the credit bureaus don’t know how much money you have in the bank, they don’t know your house is paid for, they don’t know your car is paid for; that’s not information that they collect. So they can only make decisions based on credit accounts reports. So if you aren’t using credit, you won’t have much of a credit score.
So the new approach is looking at what’s in the bank account or other data, that’s what Experian Boost is doing. Experian Boost is looking at your cell phone payments, utility payments, and giving you a boost to your credit score if you’re paying those on time. So don’t be afraid to do that. Obviously, you want to deal with a reputable lender, but it is read-only access. It’s one of the things that we do at Nav with our customers, we ask them to link their bank account just so we have this information so lenders can screen you for offers and reach out to you if they’re interested. But that is definitely a direction I see the industry moving in, and I won’t be surprised if that’s what we do in a few years with everything we apply for.
Actually, the number one thing that shows up on collections on credit reports is medical bills, that’s the largest problem. But they don’t count as much against you with the newer credit scoring models. You have to remember, there are about 40 different versions just of FICO Scores. So with the older versions, they count, doesn’t matter if it’s paid or unpaid, medical or non-medical, it all counts as negative. But with the newer versions, they can either ignore medical or ignore collection accounts that are paid. So newer credit scoring models take that into account.
To find out more online, go to Nav.com. If you put in Nav.com/podcast, on that page, you can download my Build Business Credit Checklist. So if you’re interested in building your business credit, that’s free. You don’t even need to give us an email address, just download it there. You can also sign up for a free Nav account there. Then there’s also a coupon code if you want to check out our premium accounts, put in the word ‘podcast’ and we’ll upgrade you for free for a month.