Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why You Need Dun & Bradstreet

Ya know, for all the hype about college degrees out there, one would think they’d provide some kind of real world benefit. In my case, I hold a bachelor of science in Business/e-Business from the University of Phoenix and it’s pretty in its little frame on my wall, but that’s about it. No college is perfect, but most of what I learned from college is how to persevere and complete things, how to work online across big distances and how to reach my goals. Beyond that, the subject material wasn’t very pragmatic, in my opinion.

I wish there was a do-it-all college program out there for entrepreneurs. But then again, I don’t, because the best school for entrepreneurism has been and continues to be the real world. What the small business owner does on a daily basis is so opposite from the ivory tower of academia it’s not even funny. And now that I’m done whining about things, I can move on.

Still, a list of do’s and don’ts would have been nice. I do wish somebody would have told me about Dun & Bradstreet friggin years ago. You can get some info on them from the SBA, which is where my journey started off recently. My business is growing. It’s getting to the point where I have to start thinking differently about how it operates. One of the more important operational building blocks is how my business appears in the eyes of potential clients and creditors. The only way to manage that is to get a DUNS number.

Wikipedia has more: “The Data Universal Numbering System, abbreviated as DUNS® or D-U-N-S®, is a system developed and regulated by Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) that assigns a unique numeric identifier, referred to as a "DUNS number" to a single business entity. It was introduced in 1963 to support D&B's credit reporting practice. It is a common standard worldwide. DUNS users include the European Commission, the United Nations and the United States government. More than 50 global, industry, and trade associations recognize, recommend, or require DUNS. The DUNS database contains over 100 million entries for businesses throughout the world.”

This isn’t about getting credit for my business. It’s mostly about being intentional and proactive about managing what’s there. It would be a pity to lose a client based on false, bad, or missing information from D&B. When I searched my company on their Web site, they popped up an older sole proprietorship that has nothing to do with my current venture, so I knew I needed to take action. I tried changing the info on the Web site, but had difficulty.

That’s the one caveat I have to share with you. The iupdater page on the D&B Web site is a bit clunky and frustrating—at least in my case. I was using Chrome and thought seriously about changing browsers for this task, but eventually I just threw up my hands and called in. The D&B staff were extremely helpful and polite and got me all properly sorted in about fifteen minutes with a few questions as to the details of my biz. I recommend that you look into getting a DUNS number if you’re at all serious about running your own business more seriously.

When I incorporated, I filed with the Idaho Secretary of State and then dutifully popped over to the IRS Web site to get my EIN so I could open a business account at my bank. But as far as business credit was concerned, I wasn’t. Happily, as soon as D&B is finished with my report, I will be able to get the detailed picture (or so they say) on how my little LLC appears to the world at large, inside and outside of my industry. It’s not free, but there’s a cost to doing business. For about thirty bucks a month, I can stay on top of things in regard to this side of my operations.

I’ll have more to report when I get my report, and, naturally, as time goes by. My question to you is this: if you have Lifelock or some other personal credit monitoring service watching out for your personal details, why would you not also be mindful of your business’ credit picture? For me, it’s my livelihood. It’s a no brainer. I’ll let you know soon if it seems like the D&B folks have helped or hindered me.