5 ways to prevent a poor credit score from tripping up your business

A poor credit score is one of the top reasons why entrepreneurs get turned down for business loans, according to Garnet Jensen, a senior director at TransUnion Africa.

When it comes to getting loans to grow the business, small businesses often find financing hard to come by - an credit scores play a key role.

"Part of the problem is that in South Africa, lenders often rely on the personal credit records of the owners to assess their risk of lending. This is even though business credit reports are often available," says Jensen.

"So, even if your business is strong, having a good personal credit score remains important."

Jensen offers five tips to have a better chance of getting a loan.

Check your credit report – and fix any mistakes

Often, consumers have errors on their credit reports that affect their credit scores.

"You can get a free report every 12 months from a credit bureau. Request your report and check for mistakes, such as payments marked late when you have paid on time or negative information that’s out of date," says Jensen.

"You can also request a business report, which allows you to know the credit status of your business."

Build a record of on-time payments

The biggest influence on your credit score is your account payment history – that is, how you manage your accounts and whether you pay your accounts on time.

"Focus on paying the full instalment of every bill on time, so you're offsetting past negatives with more recent positives," says Jensen.

"It also helps to maintain a healthy mix of credit - store accounts, credit cards, home loan, and service contracts such as cell phone accounts - to establish a good credit history."

Live within your means

Your credit utilisation - that is, how much of your credit limit you use - has a significant effect on your score.

TransUnion suggests that you try to keep your utilisation of your current credit facilities to less than 35% of your limit.

Easy on the credit applications

Try not to shop around too much for unsecured credit at the same time.

"Too many applications in a short space of time have an effect on your credit score, as it sends a signal to potential lenders that there might have been a significant change in your financial circumstances," warns Jensen.

Build records for your personal and business credit profile

Poor admin and record-keeping are major downfalls for many SMEs – and not only when it comes to looking for credit.

If you don't keep sound financial records, it means you're not going to be able to make good business decisions or properly manage your cash flow.