Back in 1989 I was working for a consumer advocacy group in Washington D.C. when questions about credit reporting agencies started trickling in. Credit reports were much more of a mystery then. In fact, if you wanted to review your report, you may have had to take time off from work to visit a local bureau, paid around fifteen dollars for a copy, then waited for a clerk to bring you your file.
Eventually, of course, most of smaller credit bureaus consolidated into three major reporting agencies serving consumers nationally, a federal law gave consumers the right to see their credit reports once a year, and the Internet brought us an endless supply of credit-related information and services.
Now, between free instant online access to our reports, and television commercials constantly reminding us that we better check our scores or suffer dire consequences, most of us are at least fairly well-informed about our personal credit reports and scores. Ask a random number of people to name the three national credit reporting agencies and I would guess most will come up with at least one or two. (If anyone has seen a survey like that, let me know.)
But ask a small business owner to name three major commercial credit reporting agencies, and my guess is they will draw a blank. They may be familiar with D&B, the granddaddy of business credit. Or perhaps they’ve heard that Experian and Equifax offer commercial credit reports, in addition to personal ones. But I’d wager they haven’t heard of half of the specialty bureaus in this industry: PayNet Online (leasing and other commercial credit), Lumbermen’s (building supply industry), or Seafax (perishable food industry), to name a few.
In that way, the commercial credit world reminds me of the personal credit reporting industry some twenty years ago. There are many players, and business owners often don’t know whether they have a commercial credit report, much less what’s in it.
My goal in this blog is to help demystify the world of business credit reporting. I want to help separate myth from fact, of course, and help you understand how a strong commercial credit report can help your business get the credit you need to grow your business. But even more importantly, I want you to be able to use the information I share to take action and build strong business credit.
Send me your questions and about establishing business credit and understanding commercial credit reports, and I’ll do my best to answer them in upcoming posts. If I don’t have the answers, I’ll do my best to find them. Feel free to share your experiences with business credit reports, and tips as well. I won’t publish any “get rich quick with business credit” type of advice, so you don’t need to send me those. But if your experience can help other entrepreneurs, I’d love to share it.
Gerri Detweiler’s mission is to provide reliable, unbiased answers to your credit questions. She is the co-author of Business Credit Success: Get on the Financing Fast Track and serves as Personal Finance Advisor for Credit.com.