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1 BUILDING YOUR CREDIT: A Case Study Lynne Blankenship owns, I ve Got The Blues, 1 a small designer jeans store in Brooklyn, New York. She s been in business for just over a year now and is looking to expand her space and product offerings. She s meeting with her bank s small business lender to apply for her first loan which she ll need to refurbish her new space as well as purchase additional inventory to fill it, but she s wondering if she ll get the financing that she needs for her expansion plans. When she started her business, Lynne registered with Dun & Bradstreet, a businessfocused credit bureau, and works hard to maintain good relationships with her vendors, asking many of them to write good reviews of her service on Dun & Bradstreet s online site. She also regularly checks her business credit report to make sure all of the information is accurate. Before seeking out a lender for this loan, she logged on to annualcreditreport.com to find out her credit score. It was 600. She s not sure if this is high or low, but she does know that 800 is the highest possible score. But, she s not concerned as she figures it won t factor into the lender s decision since she keeps her business and personal finances separate. Lynne is especially keen on keeping the two separate because she feels her personal credit history is messy, as she s still paying off numerous credit cards with high interest rates. Lynne has a long standing relationship with the bank. She has her personal checking and savings accounts there and a personal credit card issued by her bank. She has set up auto bill payments for most of her expenses so that everything gets paid on time. Expanding her product offerings is something Lynne has never tried before and she hasn t thought through the problems she might face. She does, however, know how much she will be asking for and has a plan for how she ll repay her lender. 1 All names and information in this document are fictional and meant for educational purposes only.

2 Recently, while reviewing her financial statements, she noticed that her Accounts Receivables Turnover had improved over the last year. She credits some of this to her now accepting credit cards and that the credit card company pays her immediately. She s hoping that this will work in her favor when she meets with the lender. Last month, Lynne sought out an additional line of credit for her business, as she usually carries a balance very close to her current business card s limit. She applied to several banks before she was approved. Lynne is meeting with her potential lender for the first time next week and is hoping to secure her first loan. She s aware that the sluggish economy will be a factor in the decision, but hopes she s in a good enough position to get a favorable outcome. QUESTIONS What has Lynne done right to position herself for a favorable response from her lender? What are some of Lynne s watch out s or misconceptions that could jeopardize her loan? What else could she be doing to better position herself?

3 BUILDING YOUR CREDIT: ANSWER KEY Use this guide to facilitate a group discussion. Sample questions are provided, along with some key highlights from the case study. What are some things Lynne is doing that can work in her favor when she meets with a lender? REGISTER WITH A CREDIT BUREAU It was a great idea for Lynne to register with Dun & Bradstreet. It legitimizes her business and she is able to actively solicit qualitative feedback from pleased vendors. Other credit bureaus include Experian Business and Equifax Business. DECREASE ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLES TURNOVER TIME Decreasing Accounts Receivables Turnover time means it takes your business less time to collect money after a sale is made and signals a better cash flow into your business. Lenders look for liquidity, or cash you have on hand, to determine whether you have the ability to pay them back. Accounts Receivables Turnover = YE Accounts Receivable Total Revenue x 365 days Decrease Inventory Turnover Time Inventory Turnover time shows how quickly a business can sell its inventory. Generally, faster is better as this again signals a relatively healthy company one that can buy and sell their inventory quickly. Inventory Turnover = YE Inventory Total Cost of Goods Sold x 365 days If she is interested in seeing what turnover is typical for her industry, she can check out the Risk Management Association s website at:

4 LEVERAGE AUTO BILL PAYMENT Lynne s use of auto bill payment ensures that her bills are always paid on time, thereby helping her maintain a good credit score. SEPARATE PERSONAL AND BUSINESS CREDIT Lynne keeps her personal and business credit separate, so I ve Got The Blues is able to develop its own history. Often, lenders will also require copies of both personal and business tax returns. This allows them to see whether you are using personal funds to finance your business (a possible red flag that your business isn t doing well), or using business funds to finance your personal budget (a possible red flag that you re using your business funds for non-business purposes). Provide Multiple Sources of Revenue to Lender Since Lynne makes use of multiple services from the same bank (checking account, savings account, credit card), the bank could be more inclined to give her a loan. This is because Lynne s got a more in-depth relationship with the bank. In addition, they have direct access to information on her other financial accounts to help them track the payments on her loan. DEVELOP A REPAYMENT STRATEGY Lynne s knowledge of how much she is asking for and how she intends to pay it back will bode well for her. Providing a cash flow projection (that shows, usually by month, your expected expenses and income) can be helpful in getting a loan. CHECK CREDIT REGULARLY She is wise to check her credit score regularly to make sure that everything is reported accurately.

5 What are some things that might cause a lender to be less than eager to give Lynne a loan? STRIVE FOR EXCELLENT CREDIT SCORE Lynne s business credit score of 600 is average and could be improved upon. To do this, she can work to pay down her current debt, consider closing some of her current credit accounts, and avoid applying for new forms of credit for the meantime. CHECK PERSONAL CREDIT She should check and work to improve her personal credit score, since most lenders look at both business and personal credit. The adage you are your business holds true here. Her personal credit troubles could be a red flag. Prove Trustworthiness with Small Loans Before you apply for large loan, start by applying for a smaller one. By proving her ability to repay a small loan quickly, lenders would be more willing to trust her ability to repay a large loan. KEEP CREDIT CARD UTILIZATION RATIO DOWN She should be careful not to max out her current credit lines. Lenders consider an individual s debt-to-income ratio, or the percentage of your monthly income that goes toward paying off debt, when making decisions about extending credit. A high percentage, may indicate a lack of cash to pay off day-to-day expenses, and therefore a lack of cash available to pay back a loan. MINIMIZE NUMBER OF CREDIT INQUIRIES Applying for too many lines of credit in a short period of time could be looked down upon by lenders. It raises the question about whether others are turning you down and signals a possible dependence on credit to pay off day-to-day expenses.

6 PLAN FOR THE WORST In addition to providing the bank with a best case cash flow projection, Lynne should think through the top challenges her business could face and how she intends to handle those issues if they arise. Along these lines, a lender may also require that she has a substantial life insurance plan to show that she has truly thought through every eventuality and that the lender will be repaid no matter what. WHAT NUMBER WOULD BE A GOOD CREDIT SCORE NUMBER? Lynne s score of 600 is considered average. Credit scores range from Below 500 is considered very low (high credit risk) is in the average range Above 700 is considered excellent KEY TAKEAWAY Lenders take many factors into account when deciding whether to extend credit to individuals and their businesses. There is no hard and fast rule as to which are the most important factors. Every business owner needs to ensure all contributing factors from personal credit scores to debt and inventory turnover ratios are in good standing. It is important to present the lender with the best possible picture and offer multiple sources of information to back up your request. ADDITIONAL TOOLS & RESOURCES SCORE: Counselors to America s Small Business: OPENforum: Inc. Magazine: Dun & Brandstreet:

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