You’ve likely read about what personal credit scores are and the ways these scores can affect different areas of your life. The same standard holds true for your commercial credit scores.

Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) offers one of the most popular business credit ratings, which is called the D&B Rating. It’s used by lenders to measure a company’s financial reliability, much like the personal FICO credit score is used to determine a person’s creditworthiness. The D&B Rating is part of an overall Dun & Bradstreet business credit profile, similar to how personal credit scores are part of credit reports. Let’s dive into what the D&B Rating is, how it’s calculated and how it can impact your business.

What is a D&B Rating and how is it calculated?

The D&B Rating is part of an overall business credit profile created by Dun & Bradstreet. It helps potential lenders and customers quickly assess your company’s size, financial health and credit dependability. To get your Dun & Bradstreet credit profile started, you have to sign up for a DUNS number on its website and submit a current financial statement.

From there, Dun & Bradstreet will create a report that contains a variety of scores and ratings based on business information you provide, along with information from multiple outside sources (public records, details submitted by vendors and other factors). Here is a sample credit report with a sample D&B Rating of 3A4. Businesses that don’t submit a current financial statement will not have an accurate D&B Rating.

The D&B Rating is made up of a letter/number combination. Here is how the two parts are calculated:

  • Financial strength indicator: The first part is the financial strength rating that ranges between 5A to HH. It reflects a company’s size and is based on net worth. A larger company indicates more credit capacity (5A is a large company, HH a small company). For example, a 3A company has U.S. sales between $1 million and $10 million, and a company of HH has U.S. sales of up to $5,000.
  • Composite credit appraisal rate: The second part of the D&B Rating ranges between 1 to 4 (1 being most creditworthy and 4 meaning limited). This is the overall evaluation of a company’s creditworthiness and is based on payment history, age of business, public records and other factors. A lower number is better, but a 2 will be the highest appraisal for businesses that do not provide financial statements to Dun & Bradstreet.

How important is a D&B Rating?

Having a Dun & Bradstreet credit profile would benefit your business because it’s a set of scores and ratings that potential lenders and partners can review to help manage risk before doing business with you.

If you’re dealing with government contracts or applying for loans with the Small Business Administration (SBA), you’re going to need a D&B Rating. Customers and other businesses interested in long-term relationships would rather work with a company that has a strong financial record and good credit rating, and your D&B Rating gives a quick snapshot of that.

If your business is small and you’re working on building good business credit, a Dun & Bradstreet Rating and profile will allow for future growth and opportunity in ways that a cash-only business can’t offer.

With established credit, you’ll be able to do things like:

  • Qualify for small business loans and government grants through the SBA
  • Negotiate for better terms and qualify for small private business loans
  • Apply for Net-30 or Net-60 accounts with vendors and suppliers
  • Apply for business credit cards with better rates
  • Negotiate better business insurance rates and payment terms

Unlike personal credit reports and scores, a D&B Rating is public, meaning anyone can purchase it. To manage risk, potential lenders, insurance agencies, customers, vendors, suppliers and other businesses are likely to check your rating and profile before extending credit or doing business with you.

How can I impact my business’s D&B Rating?

While you can’t change the size of your business overnight to make an impact on the financial strength indicator of your rating, you can manage the composite credit appraisal portion. Here’s how you can impact your D&B Rating:

  • Submit updated financial statements to Dun & Bradstreet: The highest composite credit appraisal score for companies that do not submit financial information is a 2.
  • Pay all bills early or on time: Even a change in the speed of payments to vendors or suppliers can cause a change to your rating.
  • Make sure the lenders, vendors and suppliers you work with report to Dun & Bradstreet: Work with businesses that report activity to Dun & Bradstreet. Not all vendors and lenders report activity automatically, so you may need to ask them to do so.
  • Manage your utilization ratio: An increase or decrease in borrowing can change your score.
  • Manage the legal health of your business: Concerns about lawsuits can affect your rating. Dun & Bradstreet also gathers public information about your company, which can include data from the Better Business Bureau, Small Business Association, Small Business Financial Exchange, etc.
  • Make sure public records are accurate: Make sure your business credit reports are correct, just like you would make sure your personal credit reports are free of errors at least once a year. Errors can impact your D&B Rating negatively.

Conclusion

Your Dun & Bradstreet Rating, as part of your overall business credit profile, helps potential lenders, customers and other businesses quickly evaluate your company’s overall financial strength and credit dependability. A good D&B Rating also gives your business leverage when negotiating better loan rates and terms, and it gives you the ability to borrow more money to grow your business.

Potential customers who are interested in long-term relationships would rather work with a company that has a healthy financial record, so be sure to take steps to make a positive impact on your Dun & Bradstreet profile.