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Small Business: Don�t Be a Dunce, Get a D-U-N-S

Maybe you�re contemplating starting a business. Maybe you�re past that step and it�s time to start doing business.

Your idea is great. You�ve got a great product,but are you really ready to start doing business? This is the 21st century and �charge it� is the mantra of the day. And credit is just as important to a business owner as it is to a consumer. That�s why every new business needs to establish a credit file. That�s where a D-U-N-S number comes in.

A Dun and Bradstreet D-U-N-S(r) Number ("D-U-N-S" stands for "Data Universal Numbering System") is a unique nine-digit sequence recognized as the universal standard for identifying and keeping track of more than 100 million businesses worldwide. According to D&B, a D-U-N-S Number:

* enhances the credibility of your business in the marketplace

* enables potential customers, suppliers and lenders to easily identify and learn about your company

Businesses aren�t required to have a D-U-N-S Number but the U.S. government and many major corporations require their suppliers and contractors to have one. Basically, if you ever plan to open credit accounts with major vendors or suppliers, you have to go through this process.

Just like individuals, businesses need to build credit. Establishing a business credit file helps you get better interest rates, increase the likelihood that others will extend credit to you, lower your insurance premiums and, most important, make it easier for business partners to assess the risk of doing business with you.

Not having a business credit file with D&B (or having an incomplete file) can make your company appear to be unsound financially and could cost you valuable business.

There are two ways to start building a credit file:

1. Almost any large company that you have an account with will automatically report on a monthly basis to D&B

2. You can specifically request that D&B contact your smaller non-reporting suppliers and query them on your payment history (D&B charges a small fee for this).

Wait! Aren�t We Putting the Cart Before Horse?

If companies use your D&B credit file in order to grant you credit, how do you do enough business to establish credit without a credit file? That�s the challenge all businesses face.

When you start a new business, you have no credit history, and your D&B file reflects this, so the file is worthless to suppliers trying to evaluate your creditworthiness. But there is no harm in having an "empty" D&B file for a while; even an empty file can help you establish certain kinds of accounts. The best ways to start building your file:

* Launch new supplier relationships paying with cash/check or credit card

* Establish a personal relationship with your primary contacts at your �key" suppliers.

The goal is to build trust in you�and, by extension, your company. These relationships will be reflected in your file and you start building credit.

The bottom line is that it will take time for the file to collect data. This is just another reason to apply for your DUNS number as part of your new business checklist. The sooner you get a D-U-N-S Number, the sooner it has the potential to start helping you.

Melissa Mashtonio writes for Manta, the go-to site for researching company profiles. The site (www.manta.com) offers free research on more than 45 million companies in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the UK. Use Manta.com to find the largest companies in your city.

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