Strategy is defined as “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” In the case of building business credit, the major aim is to provide the business with financial flexibility and affordable access to capital, while shielding the business owner’s personal assets from liability for business debts. These are certainly worthy goals, so it’s worth taking the time and effort necessary to develop a plan of action that will achieve them.
The Value of Planning Ahead
A well-executed strategy requires forethought. Regardless of their current capital situation, a business owner can anticipate that at some stage of their business’s development, access to affordable capital will likely be needed. Even those who have thus far been able to bootstrap their startups, or to finance them by borrowing from friends and family, should assume that expansion, new opportunities, or fluctuations in business will eventually require more funding than their current sources can provide.
Thus, building business credit should be made a top priority from the business’s inception, and throughout its subsequent phases of development.
Where to Start
For new business owners, laying the groundwork for a solid credit rating is the first step. Incorporating or establishing an LLC will allow a business to assume responsibility for debt, as these business structures make the business’s financial affairs legally separate from those of the business owner.
As far as credibility is concerned, the earlier the business is established as a separate legal entity, the better. Other business credit prerequisites, such as getting a dedicated 411-listed business phone number, and acquiring all the necessary licenses and permits, should also be addressed early on.
The Business Credit Fast-Lane
The next step is to make sure the business is listed with the business credit bureaus, so its debt management will be properly recorded. The CreditBuilderTM service from Dun & Bradstreet expedites the process of getting a D&B D-U-N-S® number, and allows business owners to monitor their business credit ratings as often as they would like.
Plus, they can add favorable trade credit payment histories instead of waiting for vendors to get around to it. CreditBuilderTM is an excellent way to speed up the business credit-building process.
The next part of the business credit-building strategy is to open accounts under the business’s name. It’s important to note that new businesses will not have access to traditional business loans, lines of credit, or unsecured credit cards — at least not initially. Instead of pursuing those types of credit products, they should open trade credit accounts with vendors that report to the business credit bureaus, lease business equipment, and pursue secured credit card options.
These forms of business credit are easier to obtain than others, and they will facilitate the building of business credibility as long as they’re managed prudently.
Once the smaller strategic objectives have been achieved, it’s time to expand the business’s credit portfolio. Once a business can take out a business loan or line of credit from a traditional lender, they should do so, regardless of their financial situation at the time. By paying off a business loan or securing a line of credit before those sources of capital are needed, business owners prepare their companies for future capital needs.