Unlike your personal credit score, there isn’t the same level of data consistency between the three major business-reporting bureaus. In other words, they don’t all look at the same information in the same way, so it’s easy to see why business credit can be so confusing. Dunn & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax are the three biggest business bureaus and here’s what you need to know about them:

Dunn & Bradstreet (D&B)

Of the big three, Dunn & Bradstreet is the only bureau that focuses exclusively on business credit. And they focus primarily on how a business interacts with vendors and other suppliers. Which is why potential suppliers often look at your D&B reports before they offer your business trade credit.

Although you may have heard of the 100-point PAYDEX® score, that’s only one of five business credit reports they produce. D&B looks at business-to-business data submitted by suppliers, public records, industry data, and other historical data to compile their credit and credibility data.

Three of the five scores are predictive-based scores designed to forecast how your business will perform over the next 12 months. They include:

1. Delinquency Predictor Score: This score is designed to predict whether or not a business is likely to pay their bills on time.

2. Financial Stress Score: This score is designed to predict the possibility that a company will experience financial distress.

3. Supplier Evaluation Risk Rating: This rating predicts the likelihood that a business might stop delivering its goods and services.

D&B predictive scores are designed to look into the future based upon past performance, industry data, trade references and other information in your D&B profile. Because they are looking at the public record and even the SIC (Standard Industry Classification) codes, to predict how your business will perform in the future, it’s critical to make sure the information in your profile is accurate. An incorrect SIC code for example, could negatively impact your ability to successfully obtain vendor credit or a small business loan.

The other two D&B scores are what they classify as performance-based scores. These scores represent a business’ past performance over the last 24 months.

1. PAYDEX Score: This is the 100-point score most small business owners think of when they think of D&B. The higher your score the better. This score is based upon how well you’ve paid your bills and kept your financial obligations to vendors and suppliers that report to D&B. Unfortunately, if you are current with suppliers who don’t report to D&B, that information won’t be included when calculating your PADEX score. It’s important enough that you should encourage your current vendors who don’t report your credit history to D&B to do so. You might even want to consider changing vendors to those who do.

2. D&B Rating: This rating is based upon company financial statements and other public information to indicate a company’s net worth and financial health. Because D&B will create this score based upon company size, industry information, and other general factors if there is no other information available, something as simple as submitting an accurate and up-to-date financial statement has the potential to greatly improve this score.

Equifax

Equifax transforms data collected by the Small Business Finance Exchange (SBFE) into a report. The SBFE is made up of the largest small business lenders in the United States and where they report loan data, so the Equifax report is a reflection of how small businesses make credit card and other loan payments. Because this data is a direct reflection of how small businesses interact with large small business lenders, it is one of the bureaus banks use to evaluate your credit worthiness.

Like the other business credit bureaus, they also collect trade credit information and data from the public record to evaluate the credit worthiness of a business. The Equifax database processes millions of records every day and with few exceptions is updated on a monthly basis to ensure accuracy.

Experian

Experian collects credit information from suppliers and lenders. They also look at information available in the public record including legal filings from local, county, and state governments, as well as information from credit card companies, collection agencies, corporate financial information, and other databases.

Experian also collects a lot of bank data. They look at the number of credit transactions, outstanding balances, payment habits, how much of your available credit you use, and the details of any current liens, judgments, or bankruptcies. Time in business and your business’ SIC codes along with the size of your business, is also part of your Experian 100-point business credit score:

0-15:

High Risk

16-30:

Medium Risk

31-80:

Good Credit

80-100:

Excellent Credit

Experian’s business credit report could be considered the most balanced of the big three. They collect both trade data and banking data to create their report. While some small businesses don’t use a lot of trade credit, but rely heavily on the bank, others don’t access capital through the bank, but rely on terms from their vendors to do business. Everyone else does both. Because of that, most lenders will look at your Experian score.

How long does information stay on my business credit report?

Every credit bureau is a little bit different, but here is how long Experian keeps information on your credit report—which is pretty standard:

Trade Data:

36 months

Bankruptcy:

9 years, 9 months

Judgments:

6 years, 9 months

Tax Liens:

6 years, 9 months

UCC Filings

5 years

Collections:

6 years, 9 months

Bank, Gov, Leasing Data:

36 months

Although the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) doesn’t apply to how business credit is reported, just like your personal credit report, mistakes on your business credit report are not uncommon. Nevertheless, all three of the agencies want to report accurate data and have formalized dispute processes in place. It might take a little longer to get a dispute resolved than correcting a mistake on your personal credit report, but it is worth the effort.

Although your personal credit score will always be taken into consideration as a small business owner, a strong business credit profile, in addition to a good personal credit score, will help make securing a business loan a lot easier.

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