Understanding and Building Your Business Credit Score

If you’re a small business owner seeking financing, lenders will consider multiple factors before approving a loan. They’ll be interested in your tenure, experience, and industry—among other things. Nearly all of these factors can be boiled down to one crucial question: How likely are you to repay the money you borrow?

While there are no simple answers to this question, your business credit score is a user-friendly number that gives them a quick idea of your reliability. This score accounts for your business debt usage, personal debt usage, business debt coverage, personal debt coverage, business revenue trend, and personal credit.

“Just as the bank reviews your personal credit score and credit history when you apply for a car loan or mortgage, creditors review your business credit score and history when your business applies for a credit product,” explains credit expert Kimberly Rotter. “Your business score tells them how much of a credit risk your business poses based on past financial behavior.”

Given the importance of your score, it’s important to know how to build and sustain it. Inaction is always an option, but this is a situation where you ignore your meal ticket at your peril.

How Do I Find Out Where My Score Stands?

Lenders can access a handful of business credit score sources while considering your application. They include:

While you may be unfamiliar with these credit reporting agencies, that doesn’t mean you should let them manage your credit in the shadows. It’s always wise to take a proactive approach and regularly monitor your score.

There are plenty of ways to check your score with a fee, but here are 5 ways you can get an update at no cost:

Nav: This convenient service lets you check both your personal and business credit history. Nav can access the reports from Experian and Dun & Bradstreet, giving you a rounded view of your finances. As a bonus, Nav provides resources like a goal-setting tool to help you stay on an upward trajectory.

CreditSignal: Although this service only gives you access to your Dun & Bradstreet report, it offers a wide range of perks that make it a great option. One of the best things about it is that you can sign up to get alerts anytime your score experiences changes.

Credit.net: This more upgraded option includes a week-long trial that’ll provide free credit reports, but then you’ll be prompted to pay for the services if you wish to continue. A key advantage of the Credit.net paid packages is that they connect you with an expert who can alert you of issues and provide strategies for boosting your score.

CreditSafe.com: Here’s another try-before-you-buy option. You’ll get free access to your credit report, as well as CreditSafe’s suite of monitoring tools. The website’s dashboard is loaded with resources to educate you on best practices for managing your credit.

Apply for a small business loan: This approach is the most indirect method of checking your business credit score, as it’s merely a final step that many people neglect in the loan application process. If your loan application has been rejected, you’ll receive correspondence directly from the credit bureau that the lender used to verify your credit. You can respond to this letter within 90 days to receive a free business credit report.

What If My Score Isn’t What It Needs to Be?

Entrepreneurship is a volatile pursuit, so it’s common for small business owners to have blemishes on their financial track records. There are also track record issues for new businesses, as they haven’t had an opportunity to amass the data points necessary for a solid score.

In these scenarios, your personal credit score takes an oversized role. As mentioned above, it’s already 1 of the factors included in your business credit score. So whenever a business credit score is inadequate, your personal credit score can be used by lenders as they make their decisions.

The good news is that there are small business financing products that are particularly relevant for borrowers who lack a convincing business credit score. Due to their unique structures, lenders can look at other factors as they make their approval decisions, such as:

Business line of credit: This versatile type of financing provides revolving credit for a variety of business-related expenses.

ACH loan: Instead of focusing on credit scores, lenders base ACH loan decisions largely on the performance of your business.

Merchant cash advance: Your future earnings take center stage with a merchant cash advance, making your financial history less relevant.

Any of these 3 financing options can be helpful in the short term, but you’ll still want to focus on building your business credit score and getting access to a wider array of financing in the future.

While there are many strategies you can use to improve your business credit score, the most important element is awareness. Many entrepreneurs never check their scores, essentially throwing their hands in the air and saying whatever happens will happen.

This strategy is problematic because you’ll never know which aspects of your finances you should focus on improving without the insights available in your credit report. Additionally, up to 20% of credit reports contain errors. Your report may fall into this camp, so be sure to monitor your credit carefully.

If you find errors with any of the major bureaus, you need to take prompt action to get them corrected. You can follow the directions contained at the bottom of all credit reports regarding how to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information. You can also review this resource from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for additional information.

As you take an active role in your business credit, you’ll become a more powerful advocate for your small business. Building credit is a long and dynamic process, but every step forward, no matter how small, yields positive results for your business.

Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on Lendio.com, FitSmallBusiness.com, and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book “Rhino Trouble.” He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.

The Great Debate: Should You Use an Open Office Layout?

The majority of companies in the United States use open office layouts. Whether that design includes communal work tables or low-partition workstations, these offices are a far cry from the partitioned offices of the past.

“Silicon Valley firms were among the first to champion open workspaces, where employees sit shoulder to shoulder at communal desks,” explains an office design analysis in Forbes. “They tore down walls and eliminated private offices as outdated symbols of corporate hierarchy. An open layout seemed to convey a modern, break-all-the-rules attitude. It also provided a stark contrast to the soulless cubicle farms skewered by Dilbert comics and films like Office Space.”

The Benefits of an Open Office

It’s understandable why many businesses have embraced the open office layout. With walls and other partitions removed, it’s easier for your employees to connect. Better collaboration is often the objective, which makes sense from a practical standpoint. When you can look over to a colleague’s desk and immediately see that he’s sitting there, it seems you’d be more likely to stroll over for a conversation.

“It really creates an environment where people can collaborate; they can innovate together,” said Lori Goler, chief people officer at Facebook, which is known for promoting open office concepts. “There’s a lot of spontaneity in the way people bump into each other, just a really fun collaborative creative space.”

In conjunction with the collaboration, many businesses employ an open office in hopes that it will increase socializing and improve employee morale. Traditional workplace designs run the risk of reinforcing hierarchies, with corner offices for the elite, modest offices for the leaders, and cubicles for the working drones. By leveling the playing field, it’s easy to see how an office could become more cohesive.

Additionally, open offices are more cost-effective. They allow you to fit more people into a smaller space, with less furniture required. This savings makes open offices compelling for small businesses operating on tighter budgets.

The Drawbacks of an Open Office

Once you know the desired benefits of an open office, it’s important to review their effectiveness in practice. Many employees actually report issues with such layouts, ranging from obnoxiously loud coworkers to stinky lunches being eaten much too close for comfort.

Researchers from the Harvard Business School conducted what is widely considered the preeminent analysis of open offices. They traced employee movements with electronic badges, recorded office conversations with microphones, and kept tabs on interoffice email usage.

The result? The open offices in the study did not achieve the collaboration hoped for. Instead, face-to-face interactions plummeted by 70%. Conversely, email use went up 50%. It appeared that the extreme openness of the layout led to employee withdrawal. The only way to cope was less personal interaction.

“I don’t know that I had a clear hypothesis about this research question at the start,” explains the study’s coauthor, Associate Professor Ethan Bernstein. “You hear so much said about how much people don’t like open offices, but there’s also so much said about the vibrancy of an environment when you open space and data up, about the collisions and interactions that will happen there. For me, the promise of open offices was at least as compelling as the traps. Would everyone bustle with productive collisions or simply put their big headphones on and become numb to the space?”

It seems that Professor Bernstein’s theories regarding the inherent traps associated with open offices are legitimate. Participants in the studies did tend to put on headphones, hunch toward their computers, and try to block everything else out. Not only was this an effort to eliminate abundant distractions, but workers also felt the need to look busy all the time because they were in full view of their leaders and coworkers.

What Office Layout Should You Use?

While the Harvard Business School research exposed potential problems associated with the open office layout, these findings don’t mean it’s necessarily a bad option for your small business. Every office includes unique individuals who interact in dynamic ways.

If you’re wondering what layout would work best for your office, here are some considerations:

What do your people want?

You may have your ideas about what the office needs, but always make sure  your employees have a voice. After all, the quickest way to hurt morale is to impose major changes without using the type of collaboration your office layout would hope to spur.

How can you improve interaction?

Even if an open layout isn’t the best fit for your business, perhaps you can incorporate some of the positive elements. You can start by improving the socializing in your office by simply scheduling more opportunities for your people to get together.

Are you using sound masking?

If you have an open office concept and noise is an issue, you need to implement some form of sound masking. White noise helps minimize distracting conversations and sounds. The result can be happier, more productive people.

How flexible are things for your employees?

You can also reduce distractions and frustration among your people by offering increased flexibility. At the most basic level, you may let them customize their schedules (such as coming in earlier in the morning to get more unfettered work time). You can also think about letting them work a 4/10 schedule or even work from home once a week.

Whether you think cubicles are essential or can’t wait to make your office as open as an African savanna, it’s important to keep your people top of mind. What will help them feel most connected? What will help them be most productive? What will help them be most happy? Answer these questions first and your own business priorities will ultimately be served.

Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on Lendio.com, FitSmallBusiness.com, and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book “Rhino Trouble.” He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.

How to Promote – and Incorporate – a Healthier Workplace for Your Employees

Gone are the days of beige cubicles, metal desks, and lightly padded chairs – and for good reason.

Studies have shown that the effects of workplace design (including ergonomics, eye strain, and Repetitive Stress Injuries) have a significant impact on not just employee wellness, but their productivity and overall mood. In fact, 93% of workers in the technology sector have said they would stay longer at a company that provides workplace benefits like wellness rooms, fitness benefits, healthier food options nearby or on-site, and ergonomic solutions like standing desks and adjustable seating. 

Whether you’re looking to improve your workspace or spec a build-out for a new office, take the following tips and statistics into account before making an investment in new wellness and ergonomic initiatives.

Design and Environment Makes a Huge Difference

There’s always been a goal of a so-called “corner office” in the business world, but in the era of open-air office concepts, sunlight, access to windows, spacious common areas, balconies, and even plants can have a bigger impact than you might expect. 

Brighter colors, adjustable lighting, and access to fresh air help diversify a work environment, allowing for more sensory stimulation while avoiding boredom and ho-hum spaces that plague so many companies. 

Furthermore, having an HVAC system that produces higher quality air has shown to dramatically improve performance and productivity. Be sure your system has been tested and calibrated to prevent volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and biological contaminants from entering your workspace. 

Ergonomic Options Helps with Overall Health

Standing desks have become increasingly popular in the last decade and the results are clear. In addition to offsetting the dangerous effects of prolonged sitting, the use of standing desks provide increased focus, reduced stress, and higher cognitive function

In addition to installing standing desks at your company, providing wrist support for keyboards and mice (or, alternatively, using touchpads rather than mice) can help reduce RSI and their related side effects. 

Proper posture has always been a major issue for workers, adding to muscle aches, back pain, and foot and leg issues, and while it’s up to the individual to take note of their posture and make adjustments, companies should know that incorporating greater degrees of ergonomic options reduces sick leave

Opportunities for Exercise and Fresh Air Help with Focus

Not every company can afford an exercise or yoga facility, but anyone can implement walking meetings, encourage stretching or mindfulness breaks, and create jogging or walking groups throughout the work day. 

That said, it’s been demonstrated that companies who provide access to discounted gym memberships, on-site exercise facilities, or even dedicated yoga/meditation rooms see exceptional advances in productivity and overall employee happiness. 

Try implementing group activities like lunches in the park, outdoor meetings, and walking groups to help change the pace of the day and provide an opportunity for some fresh air and sunshine. 

Staggered and Flexible Schedules Have Shown Results

Microsoft Japan recently made headlines by publishing the results of a month-long trial of a 4 day work week and, as you might expect, workers were thrilled. But for a company’s bottom line, the results were surprising. Not only did productivity improve by nearly 40% during the trial run, but employees took 25% fewer days off, the office space used 23% less electricity, and printed almost 60% less paper during the month of August 2019. 

While this initiative might not work for every company, the importance of work/life balance throughout the work week has shown dividends for forward-thinking companies. Those with sales teams, of course, probably can’t afford to send everyone home at 5 PM on Thursday, so staggered schedules have been an alternative, allowing some employees to work Tuesday-Friday and others Monday-Thursday to accommodate business priorities. 

No matter how you choose to tackle your company’s wellness programs, know this – talented candidates will always be more attracted to your company if you demonstrate an interest in their health, wellbeing, and overall satisfaction at work. 

John is the VP of Sales at OfficeSpace.com where he leads broker relations and sales. Prior to being VP of Sales, he was the Regional  Director for the company. John has over 25 years of experience working in the commercial real estate industry. Before OfficeSpace.com, John was a commercial real estate broker for the Norman Company in Seattle, WA.

Listings Spotlight: 7 Spaces That Will Give You Serious Office Envy

Thousands of listings get added to OfficeSpace.com daily, and we get the pleasure of seeing cool office space photos from all over the country. So naturally we thought: why not spread the office envy? This week’s round up features industrial columns, exposed brick walls, bright red accent walls and so much more! Whether you’re in the market for a new space or simply looking for some workplace design tips, these offices are bound to spur inspiration.

Continue reading “Listings Spotlight: 7 Spaces That Will Give You Serious Office Envy”

The Most Viable West Coast Cities for Startups

The idea that Silicon Valley is the proverbial bread basket of business innovation and disruption is finally, thankfully, squarely in the rear view mirror.

According to the 2017 Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship, startup growth is exploding nationwide – and well away from the Bay Area. That’s good news for business owners seeking affordable commercial real estate without sacrificing a chance at a potent and experienced talent pool.

However, the west coast continues to dominate the startup scene, with cities like Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and even San Diego (yes, San Diego) coming online and competing with Silicon Valley for the latest and greatest business ideas and innovations. There are plenty of reasons to consider each of the following cities when considering an expansion or setting up shop for your latest business endeavor, but it’s ultimately up to you to make it a reality no matter where you end up.

Continue reading “The Most Viable West Coast Cities for Startups”

John is the VP of Sales at OfficeSpace.com where he leads broker relations and sales. Prior to being VP of Sales, he was the Regional  Director for the company. John has over 25 years of experience working in the commercial real estate industry. Before OfficeSpace.com, John was a commercial real estate broker for the Norman Company in Seattle, WA.

Life in Austin: How Commercial Real Estate Influences this Texas Powerhouse

Despite the ever-advancing wave of globalization in this connected world, no two cities are the same. While many share similar economic and development trends to cater to new and burgeoning industries, their location, culture, and specializations tend to affect the shape of a city’s future more than any other factor – save one.

Continue reading “Life in Austin: How Commercial Real Estate Influences this Texas Powerhouse”

John is the VP of Sales at OfficeSpace.com where he leads broker relations and sales. Prior to being VP of Sales, he was the Regional  Director for the company. John has over 25 years of experience working in the commercial real estate industry. Before OfficeSpace.com, John was a commercial real estate broker for the Norman Company in Seattle, WA.

Effective Strategies for Marketing Your Office in the Collaborative Workspace Genre

The way the workforce, particularly millennials, want to work is pressuring more companies to harbor office space that speaks to a more collaborative setting. The traditional cubicle life is no more and well-designed spaces are stepping in to take its place. Even if your current office space is not collaborative, there are effective strategies that you can implement to market your space to the collaborative workforce.

Understand a Younger Design Aesthetic

Office environments need to combine open floor plans with many gathering spaces and specialty spots, such as sound-proof conference rooms and spaces that employees can move freely between throughout the day. Even if your office has a traditional layout, you can still enforce collaboration by encouraging employees to operate out of some of your current meeting spaces. The greater face-to-face interaction, the more likely you will see an increase in collaboration.

Have a Start-Up Mindset

Maybe your office space isn’t a true collaborative layout, but that does not mean that collaboration isn’t possible. By using a fresh approach to promote a workspace that emphasizes a solutions-first mindset and innovation, you can implement cutting-edge technology that helps build flexibility and can change the spaces you occupy. Technology can help to connect all of your employees together, even if the layout of your office doesn’t allow for that. Tech like Zoom conferencing, Slack and many others can help to keep the office cohesive.

Tear Down the Walls

Opting for low walls and clusters of workstations that are smaller can encourage collaboration and utilize space more efficiently. Small conference rooms and huddle rooms can also help bring employees together for meetings, etc. An open concept floor plan is easy to accomplish when you tear down walls and join employees together. You don’t need to completely alter the look of your interior, but you do need to open the floorplan up to increase the flow of the office space.

Keep Things Flexible

Remote technology can enable employees to work and collaborate remotely. Google Hangouts, Google Docs, Dropbox and Evernote can all help encourage collaboration even in a traditional workspace. These products can also allow for employees to work from home and have greater flexibility. You can try to implement greater flexible technology to help increase collaboration within the workspace.

Amenities that Wow

Attracting a collaborative workforce is easy when you have a lobby and space that both welcomes and impresses. A closed-in office with dark furniture will deter any kind of collaborative group. These groups need amenities such as on-site gyms, on-site cafes and work spaces that are large enough for groups to gather and work together. Even in a non-collaborative office property, you can help encourage collaboration just by being creative with amenities and the overall design of the space.

John is the VP of Sales at OfficeSpace.com where he leads broker relations and sales. Prior to being VP of Sales, he was the Regional  Director for the company. John has over 25 years of experience working in the commercial real estate industry. Before OfficeSpace.com, John was a commercial real estate broker for the Norman Company in Seattle, WA.

Eco-friendly office space: Modern Ways to Make Your Office Greener

Contemporary office culture has come a long way since people first started talking about green solutions. Here are a few things to consider when you’re taking steps toward creating more sustainable office practices.

Don’t Forget Your Tech

In today’s office world, suggestions like “recycle your paper” are swiftly becoming much less relevant than energy saving tips involving technology. Although, of course, it’s still important to recycle waste paper, or choose recycled paper in the first place, in increasingly paperless offices it pays to consider the energy use of your electronics. If every person in your office is using a computer, imagine the impact of a company-wide policy governing their energy usage.

Program all computers to enter sleep mode after ten minutes of inactivity, and shut down your computer completely at the end of each day rather than allowing it to enter sleep mode. And if you’re still using screen savers, skip it—screen savers are a vestige of the early days of computers, when the image of your desktop would eventually be burned into your screen if left on too long. A static image—or better yet, black—requires much less energy to run than a moving screen saver. Or better yet, if you’re walking away for a few minutes, just turn your monitor off completely. It won’t affect your computer’s memory, performance, or state in any way, but saves energy just like turning off a light switch.

Choose Energy-Saving Appliances

There are many upgrades you can make in your appliances that will go a long way toward saving power, many of which are already becoming the new standard. Just as energy efficient light bulbs are the new norm, LCD monitors have been swiftly replacing the CRT monitors of the past, and if you haven’t made the change yet you should as soon as possible—not only are they three times as efficient, but the upgrade is inevitable. It’s also worth it in both the long and short run to invest in efficient hardware—when buying your computer processors and accessories, look at Energy Star 4.0 ratings or high EPEAT marks.

There are many things offices don’t even think about that can be made more efficient with upgrades—for example, using virtualization technology to consolidate your servers, reducing your need for multiple physical servers (which are huge energy suckers).

Consider Green or Alternative Buildings

The amount of resources used for brick-and-mortar buildings and traditional methods of construction are often overlooked. The Construction Materials Recycling Association estimates that the construction and demolition industries account for 250 million tons of waste each year (which doesn’t include roads or bridges), and these C&D materials make up approximately 35 percent of all waste generated annually. Luckily, there are greener modes of construction for office space. LEED-certified buildings are increasingly becoming a popular trend in CRE. Through LEED, developers and owners are provided with measurable solutions for creating more sustainable buildings. There are also alternative options, especially if you’re feeling a bit more creative, such as such as PVC fabric buildings, which require a fraction of the construction materials or transport, allow greater amounts of natural light to enter, and are made of entirely recyclable materials.

Incorporate Telecommuting

Telecommuting is more feasible in the workplace now than ever before. With dozens of ways of instantly communicating through video, audio, and computer screen shares, the necessity of in-person meetings has been largely reduced. If your employees or partners can work from home, they save a bundle in terms of the energy that would otherwise be spent on commuting. If you have meetings with clients or partners that would usually require someone driving for miles, consider having digital meetings whenever possible. You might want to allow employees to work from home a day or two out of the week. You’ll save money on your office resources while also saving some gas. 44 million Americans currently telecommute full-time, and that number is growing daily because it offers so many practical and environmental advantages.

In this constantly evolving modern workplace, the ways we think about going green need to keep evolving as well. What are some other things you implement to make your office greener? Let us know in the comments below!