The Pros and Cons of Accepting Money From Angel Investors

Angel Investors

Last year, we shared a post about the difference between venture capitalists and angel investors and what both parties can do to benefit small businesses in need of funding. For a fledgling startup, it might initially seem as though there are only upsides to getting investors interested in your business — after all, it’s extra money that you could really use! However, there are still a few areas of the process to watch out before saying yes to the investment. Here’s a shortlist of the pros and cons to keep in mind when getting started.

Pro: You’ll have more money

Let’s bring everyone up to speed on what it is an angel investor does first. Angel investors take their existing wealth and invest a chunk of it into your business. In return, they only request a piece of equity in your startup. These investors are all around us — doctors, lawyers, and even existing entrepreneurs can all be considered angel investors. However, unlike venture capitalists, they don’t have millions to financially cushion your company with. A typical angel investment varies at $25,000 to $100,000 per startup.

If an angel investor believes in your business and its offerings, they’re willing to take a leap of faith for you and invest in it. Now, you’ll have more money to put towards your company and various initiatives to help it grow like hiring new employees. This type of money is not a loan, so you’ll never have to worry about repaying it back, but before anyone invests…

Pro: Attracting angel investors means you’ve (probably) got a great idea

Angel investors are naturally drawn to entrepreneurs that are passionate about their companies, but even more so to the ones that understand how it can succeed over time. Before they invest, they will want to see your business plan to make sure you’re on the right track. (After all, once they put some capital into it, this is a track they’ll be on too!) Here’s your chance to draft up a business plan, elevator pitch, and executive summary that views your business and how it fits into the market as critically and objectively as possible.

Con: The business will no longer be 100% yours

For some entrepreneurs, this might not even be much of a con. If you don’t mind having others take charge, stepping back to allow an angel investor to step up and take control isn’t an issue. Other small business owners might not be so on board with having an outside party take over though. As advised by QuickBooks, if you’re not ready to let go try to find an angel investor you know or who understands your business first. Talk to them about the process and ask any questions you may have before investing. This will give you a chance to find out if you’re okay with having someone else run the startup too or if it’s a better idea for you to keep your freedom as a solopreneur.

Con: You might wind up having less money

Remember when I said earlier that all angel investors want in return for investing their capital in your business is a piece of equity? Because your startup is so new to the world, the risk of success and/or failure is higher, leading to investors taking a bigger slice in the pie. These equity percentages can start at 10% or more — and that’s a lot for a new company! Be sure to discuss in advance the expectations that angel investors have with your business and whether or not you’ll be able to meet them at what they’re looking for.


Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

3 Things Small Businesses Should Look For in Partnerships 

business partnerships

When one small business partners up with another business, it’s typically a win-win for customers. Two of their favorite brands are joining forces to bring them more of the products and services that they crave in a natural collaboration. However, it’s just as important that while the partnership provides customers with what they want, both businesses involved are building a strong rapport together and have an understanding about each of their roles. Whether you’ve partnered with another company before or this is your first time doing so, here’s what you need to consider before getting started.

What are your shared interests?

Spotify and Starbucks, Apple and IBM, H&M and fashion houses like Alexander Wang and Balmain. No great brand partnership happens on accident, but rather they serve as strategic building blocks to help take each respective business further.

When determining who your partner should be, look for the shared interests and values. If both companies are similarly aligned, there’s a good chance there will be potential for customer overlap with an audience that knows (and loves) what both of these businesses are offering.

An outline of expectations and obligations

What am I supposed to do in this partnership, anyway? In order to get on the same page, it’s a good idea to have a strong, written agreement in place that outlines the expectations and obligations of the collaboration. Otherwise, instead of both parties working together you could be stuck with one party basically asking for the other’s customer list — and that kills the point of the partnership. If you’re working on creating that agreement now, here are a few must-cover elements to include.

  • Balance. Make sure that duties are balanced between both businesses so that one side isn’t doing all or not enough of the workload. Additionally, the businesses should be just as balanced as their responsibilities. It can be a nightmare if one partner is too pushy or aggressive!
  • Shared reciprocity. The best partnerships leverage the strengths that each side has to offer in order to create smart offerings for customers that are truly valuable. Define the obligations of each party so they know what they’re doing and outline expectations in the event that one side expects too much/little out of the agreement.
  • Offer up a trial run. Before going live, try out a test run so that expectations remain tempered and the trial gives both sides a taste of what the partnership could shape up to be like. If you’re a little nervous to collaborate with a business for the first time or fairly new to the startup world, this might be your best introduction to partnerships.

Practice patience —strong partnerships take time to build

From the start, make sure that everyone is on the same page about one of the least-discussed aspects of a partnership: the fact that it takes time to build up and understand one together. Rather than expect overnight success, treat the partnership like you would any other relationship you’re in. Be open-minded about making adjustments along the way and remember that much like life, a partnership is not a sprint. It’s a marathon and one that you can only continue to work hard and grow in together.


Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

5 VR Marketing Tools for the Early Adopter

VR Marketing

The landscape might be sparse, but VR Marketing tools are on the rise, and they're here to stay.

Samsung Electronics America president Tim Baster revealed that users had consumed “more than 10 million hours of 360-degree video content on Gear VR devices,” research firm KZero found that over 171 million people could be using VR hardware and software by 2018, and a co-op study by YuMe/Nielsen suggests that VR possesses a higher emotional reaction than 2D video. Suffice it to say, VR is no lightweight in the marketing space.

So you know VR can be a powerful marketing tool, and now you probably want to try your own hand at it. But where to start? How to begin? After all, it’s not like they teach this stuff at business school…Lucky for you, I’ve taken the liberty of creating a list of 5 apps and platforms to help you get into the VR marketing game today.


ImmersVR was founded by some of the same people who helped build the “Largest app distribution platform on Facebook, iOS and Android’s “App Distribution Platform on Facebook and then again on iOS and Android,” is a 360 video distribution platform. Since 360 video isn’t purely virtual reality (hyperlink), it’s able to be distributed to a mobile audience, not just to those who a VR kit. This allows to advertisers to reach a larger audience while still providing a newer and more interactive technology.

Strata inStudioVR

Strata has been producing 3D modeling software for over 20 years and just recently decided to throw its hat into the VR marketing ring.

Intended for product designers, packagers, and retailers — inStudio VR allows 3D designers to import their designs straight from their desktop CAD applications like Strata 3D CX, Maya, Autodesk to a virtual reality environment. From the app, users can stage, view, and alter their models using motion controls in different settings like a kitchen, living room, or retail store.

The app is free and comes preloaded with a retail module which includes a retail store setting with shelving populated with grocery items. Users can place their designs on the shelves and see how they look next to other products.


Retinad is an analytics tool for your 360 video. Just like a website heat map can tell you where your visitors are spending most of their time, Retinad can tell you which parts of your 360 video that users enjoy most. This tool also measures the performance of your content on various platforms, the hardware being used to view your content, and measures overall engagement.


VadR allows you to monetize you and/or your clients’ VR apps. This native ad platform lets you place ads in any type of VR environment without forcing the user to leave the application. Much how Facebook, Pinterest and other social media platforms have allowed for sponsored posts that appear as part of your feed, this app promises to make ads a seamless part of the user experience.


Vire makes product placement within virtual environment seamless. It benefits both advertisers and app creators — as developers get paid anytime a user interacts with branded objects, and well — advertisers get to brand objects and monitor engagement.

These branded objects can also be used as offers. For example, let’s say someone grabs a branded coffee cup and looks at it — from there, they can claim an offer on real-life coffee.

4 Tips for Establishing Your Brand in a Big City

small business bookkeeping

Last month, we shared advice for how a startup can establish roots for their business — while still leaving their mark — in a small town. Now we’re flipping the setting to taking your company to a big city for the first time. While cities offer plenty of benefits to startups like a thriving customer base and workforce, they’re also loaded with competing businesses with the same products or services, many of which have been there longer and have loyal clients. It’s a big pond with even bigger fish inside of it — so, what can your brand do to stand out from the crowd? The answer lies in amplifying all of the advantages that your business has to offer as well as utilizing the resources that a urbane area has to offer.

1) Make excellent customer service your No. 1 priority

Before you begin planning ahead with a big advertising budget and elaborate social media strategy, remember that one of the simplest ways to stand out is with great customer service. When customers routinely have a good experience at your establishment, they spread the word to their friends who, in turn, visit and share the news to their networks. Word of mouth can go a long way, but only if you dedicate yourself, and your team, to maintaining excellent customer service each and every day.

2) Dabble in traditional and digital marketing

With so many people in the city, how do you find your true target market? The best way to target and reach your audience may require just as much digital marketing as it does traditional. Here are a handful of strategies to take on a test run.

  •  Creating and maintaining a website. That means making sure the site is easy to navigate across all devices from smartphones to desktops, optimized for SEO, includes an updated contact information page, and is updated on a regular basis to reflect seasonal offerings and promotions.
  • Depending on the city you’re in, you might want to opt for a billboard or a placard in a subway or on a bus to advertise your business. Billboards tend to work better in cities where commuters get to work via freeways while the latter is best for areas with plenty of public transit commuters.
  •  Take out a radio ad spot — or even advertise during a podcast that you know your customer base enjoys.
  • Establish an active social media presence where you can share relevant content with your audience about news and updates from your business as well as address any issues and highlight praise from customers.  

3) Do some in-person networking

From coworking spaces to startup incubators, cities offer a wealth of resources to entrepreneurs at all stages in business. Take the time to see what events and networking nights are in your area next so you meet and greet with potential partners and customers and share more information about who you are and what you offer.

4) Personalize your approach

When a customer has a positive experience with an establishment, it’s usually personalized just for them. Whether it’s taking the time to remember their order preferences at a restaurant or greeting them by name at a hotel, these extra touches go a long way to endearing customers to businesses. Skip the one size fits all approach in your marketing to your customer base in favor of building a deeper connection to your audience. Address e-newsletters to the name of the subscriber; take mailers to college campuses if you market to a twentysomething demographic, and follow your fans on social media.

Above all when marketing your business in the city, celebrate being different. It might feel easier to blend in with the competition, but be proud to be unique and always keep thinking of how you can wow customers by going above and beyond.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

Small Town, Big Business: How to Market Your Startup Locally

how to market locally

You just brought the business of your dreams to life, but you’re just not interested in opening up shop in a sprawling city. You’d rather trade in the pricey rent and taxes for somewhere more affordable and less densely populated, like a small town. There, your dream of running a startup where everyone knows your name and where your business can be a local fixture can finally come true!

However, let’s be practical about the reality of your arrival to a new neighborhood. Customers may be hesitant to visit simply because they don’t know anything about what you have to offer. A lack of foot traffic means you might go through a few months of middling sales — but that can all change with the right marketing approach. Make and leave your mark with these tips that’ll encourage the community to warm up to you and your business.

1. Put a plan of action together

What can you offer that will make a big impression on locals and encourage them to visit, make a sale, and spread positive word of mouth? Strategize your goals and objectives for your target audience and its market and tailor them specifically for a smaller area. In between planning for ways that your business can get involved with the community and establish a presence, focus on what makes your business special and highlight what sets it apart instead of blending into the crowd.

2. Create a unique, consistent logo

Consider your storefront for a moment. What makes it memorable? While the primary goal for a brick and mortar business is to draw customers inside, they might be hesitant to make the first move when they don’t know anything about you. One of the best ways to advertise what you do and leave behind an impression that sticks? Create and trademark an original business logo.

If you need some design advice, our personal tips include keeping the design and color palette simple and consistent to brand your company and easily convey its message. The logo should be able to translate across all mediums including on your website, packaging, and marketing materials and using the same colors helps establish trade dress to further distinguish your product and company. From snagging the attention of window shoppers to giving your shop some built-in recognition, your logo brands your business more than you might think it does!

3. Advertise in the local newspaper

In the era of blogs and Facebook advertising, placing an ad in the newspaper may seem antiquated and unnecessary. Before you judge too much though, take into consideration that local papers have loyal readers. In small towns especially, these readers are looking for news on what’s happening with their local government and community announcements about new store openings and upcoming event celebrations. Take out and customize an ad to give your startup some early buzz and great local press!

4. Meet and greet with the locals

Ultimately, the most effective marketing tip is the one where you get up and go outside to meet and greet with members of the community. Here are just a few ways you can make your welcome to the neighborhood a warm one:

  • Host an open house for your new business. Offer freebies and raffle giveaways, bring in a food truck and some live music, and encourage everyone in the community to bring their friends along for the event.
  • Head to a networking night to mingle with other professionals or local events where potential customers may be. If you’re not sure what events are coming up, inquire with your local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Take your business cards with you wherever you go and strike up a conversation with passerbys. Even if you’re waiting in line at a coffee shop, you can still introduce yourself with a friendly, enthusiastic attitude that’ll encourage everyone to visit you and get to know more about you — and your business — one-on-one.


Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.


5 Questions to Ask to Determine If You’re Ready for an Intern

More often than not, we see this type of post written in reverse with interns trying to figure out if they’re ready to take on an internship. It’s just as important for a small business, typically more lean on staff and resources, to know whether or not they’ll be able to bring on a new hire and create a meaningful experience for them. Before you hit “publish” on posting an internship job opening, take the time to ask yourself the following questions to determine if an intern is exactly what your business needs.

Do you have enough (substantial) work for them to do?

Spoiler alert: going on endless coffee runs and fixing the printer doesn’t count as substantial work. When prepping an internship job posting, consider the needs of each specific department.  Where do they need extra assistance? How can an intern benefit them? Then, consider the age range of your interns in regards to their responsibilities. You wouldn’t want to assign a freshman in college the kind of workload that someone in a senior role would have!

When creating a balanced list of duties for an internship, be mindful that it reflects these three areas:

  •  Assign significant work that gives interns hands-on experience within their field
  •  Tailor the workload specifically for their age group.   
  • Create enough responsibilities that can be accomplished within the internship time frame.

Will you be available to train and mentor them?

How often are you physically around in the office? If you know you’re not there frequently enough for one-on-one meetings or that you plan on taking time off during the internship period, take this into consideration before moving forward. You may want to wait to hire when you are much more present. However, if you don’t want to wait, talk it over with your team and figure out if anyone has enough availability to train and mentor the intern in your place.

Will they be available to come in?

Every internship is different — some interns commute to an office and some work remotely. Determine what style fits the needs of your business best and make sure that the hire can meet your needs. If you prefer to have them come into the office, make sure that they have reliable transportation and can accommodate parking. If you’d rather have interns that work remotely, plan for how that will work out on both sides and if you can schedule in some time to meet up once a week to check in.

Can you offer them pay?

I’m a firm advocate in paying interns and, if there is no money available, providing school credit as an alternative. Consider whether or not your business has the budget to pay its interns on an hourly basis or provide a stipend by the end of the semester. If you truly cannot offer any financial compensation, offer school credit and as many incentives as possible like a free gym membership or parking pass.

Are there any projects you want to get started?

Earlier, I mentioned that establishing substantial work is critical for an intern to succeed during their internship. If there’s a project that you or your team have been trying to set aside the time to get started, this project may just be the perfect assignment to pass off to an intern. Utilizing their skill sets, you’ll be able to give them guidance to work on the project and see it through to completion, empowering them to leave behind a significant mark on your business. 

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

5 Small Business Podcasts For Growth That We Can’t Stop Listening To

Let me set the scene for you.

My business partner and I stood with beer-in-hand, kicking new ideas (and a little PandaDoc stress ball we got at a conference) back-and-forth across the room trying to come up with a better way to build a network of solid promotional partners.

This was about 60-days ago as I write this, and man were we stressed.

“We’re having tons of success with the few channel partners we can get in front of, but it’s so hard to turn our initial conversations into actual promotion.”

We needed a better way to get a foot in the door and create some momentum.

About an hour in with no progress, and my business partner looks up and says matter-of-factly, “well, I guess we’re just going to have to start a podcast.”

After a quick chuckle (there was beer involved), we decided that actually wasn’t such a bad idea.

Fast-forward two months and it could be the best decision we’ve ever made. We’re 10 episodes in with at least 5 new promotional partners in the fitness and wellness industries that we never would’ve locked up without starting the process by dropping a simple line like, “hey, we should really get you guys on the podcast, our audience would love it!”

Since then I’ve gained a whole new respect for this medium, and wanted to share the top 5 business podcasts on growth that you should be listening to in your car, while you’re eating, or while you exercise (2 with a little health and fitness bend - hey, that is my focus).

1 Simple Thing with Dave Kirby

iTunes | Stitcher

Dave Kirby may not be some Silicon Valley legend or a career CEO, but he does an incredible job with this podcast, highlighting potential pitfalls, blending in personal anecdotes, and contextualizing exactly what you need to be thinking about as a small business owner in an amazingly relatable way.

I also like the length - 15-20 minute episodes - and the fact that Dave does a great job hitting a specific topic with each guest making it extremely easy to reflect on what was said after listening.

Basically, it’s the perfect podcast for all of you small business owners out there.

Marketing School with Neil Patel and Eric Sui

iTunes | Stitcher

Unlike Dave from 1 Simple Thing, Neil Patel is about as famous as a marketer can be, and Eric Sui is no slouch either. So for a marketing podcast, these are some serious heavy hitters. However, much like Dave’s show, Neil and Eric focus on one, super-specific marketing solution in each episode in a way that makes it feel like you’re actually learning a lot given the hyper-speed 6-10 minute episode length.

It all makes this podcast perfect for anyone who needs to learn more tactics to improve their marketing results … so probably everyone.

The GaryVee Audio Experience with Gary Vaynerchuk

iTunes | Stitcher

Gary Vaynerchuk is loud, intense as hell, and probably takes some getting used to for slow-talking southerners like myself. With that said, he ain’t wrong. The dude is a go-getter through-and-through and when you listen to one of his rants, you’ll find you have a tendency to become a go-getter too.

This podcast is ideal for any business owner who could use a quick, honest kick in the butt to get in gear on that next campaign to grow their business.

Evolution of Medicine Podcast with James Maskell

iTunes | Stitcher

This podcast with James Maskell and Gabe Hoffman, the creators of the Functional Forum is an incredible business growth show masquerading as a niche medical podcast. I’m not saying it isn’t niche - don’t bother if you aren’t into new innovations in medicine, wellness or fitness - but James comes from a practice management background and the backdrop of every episode is how these innovations can help you run a more profitable practice or business.

Spending 30 minutes to an hour with James, Gabe and their guests is the perfect prescription for any wellness business or medical practice owner, looking for new ways to unlock more revenue.

Scale Well Podcast with Phil Beene and Mac Gambill

iTunes | Stitcher

Remember the story I opened with? It’s time to bring it full-circle.

That after-hours idea session on a cold December night turned into the Scale Well Podcast where my business partner at Nudge Coach, Mac Gambill, and I chat with entrepreneurs and thought leaders about how simple technology tools and platforms are enabling more scalable business models.

The list of people we’ve been able to book in our first 10 episodes has honestly been nuts, including a great chat with Zach Olsen, the CEO of Bookly which you can watch in video form here.

This podcast is perfect for any fitness or wellness entrepreneurs and business owners out there, but the episode with Zach is a great listen for any small business owner.

Hope you enjoy these 5 podcasts as much as I have!


Phil Beene is Co-founder and President of Nudge Coach, a software company that gives gyms and wellness businesses a whole new way to support and engage members through a custom-branded mobile app. He also co-hosts the Scale Well Podcast with Nudge Coach Co-founder and CEO Mac Gambill. You can learn more about Nudge Coach at


8 Cheesy Stock Photos to Uninspire! (Business Edition)

cheesy stock photography

What you are about to see is the worst of the worst. Stock photos so cheesy, they could turn fondues into fon-don'ts. We hope you'll use this page as an un-inspiration board, something to deter you from using terrible photos on your site. 

But "Hey isn't taste subjective?" No dear reader, not this time. 

1. 'The Greedy corporate Statue-Man Overlooking the Harbor' Cheesy Stock Photo

cheesy stock photos

Not sure what's going on here, but it's creepy, real creepy. Just a thought, but it's probably not a good idea to attach things that make your readership feel awkward about your brand. 

2. 'The Inferiority Complex' Cheesy Stock Photo

cliche stock photos

Really, not only are you the bossyou've got to carry around a giant card that reminds us of that fact? No thank you Michael Scott, no thank you.

3. 'The Unknown Arrow Trending Upwards Surrounded by Misspelled Buzzwords' Cheesy Stock Photo

funny stock photos

First off, it's probably a good idea to use spellcheck if you're going to use a photo to be seen by potential clients. Second of all, throwing as many buzzwords and arrows pointing to 1'o'clock just seems like a recipe for brand image disaster. 

4. 'The Anonymous Clipart Businessmen' Cheesy Stock Photo 

corny stock photos

Is this a group of employees? Super top secret spies? Not sure, but for one thing--you can't see their faces, and this makes it really hard to identify with. Not to mention, these photos look just like something straight out of Clip Art

5. 'The Write on the Lens Like Nobody Cares' Cheesy Stock Photo

business stock photos

This was cool, for a while. But it's bee so overused, it might be better to avoid this one and add something fresh to the mix. 

6. 'The Overly Anxious Business Woman Sitting at a Desk With a Photoshopped Background' Cheesy Stock Photo

bad stock photos tumblr

This woman is clearly super happy. Why? Because supposedly she just made a purchase on your site. But the fan blown hair with a finger pointing to the sky and fake backdrop shout "this is not a real buyer!" 

You want client's to identify with the people you use in photos, not feel like they're being sold something from a Hollywood exec. 

7. 'The Space Commander Headset' Cheesy Stock Photo

call center

Is this a scene from a poorly funded Minority Report rip-off, or a tacky stock photo? We're not sure, but whatever it is, it's probably not the image you want to represent your business.

8. 'The Throw Two Random Objects from JC Penney on a Whiteboard' Cheesy Stock Photo

awkward stock photos

This is supposed to be a business photo, but it looks like someone just threw their corporate noose down next to a wallet that's clearly never been used by anybody. There are so many better options when it comes to photos like these, there's no excuse to use one like this.



3 Surefire Ways to Hurt (If Not Kill) Your Business Credit Score

business credit score

The importance of good business credit is impossible to overestimate. “Good business credit eliminated my need to dip into personal funds to run my business, and enabled me to hire new employees and buy better equipment,” says Nav CEO Levi King, a serial entrepreneur who started his entrepreneurial endeavors with a sign manufacturing business in Idaho—initially with no credit. Speaking from experience, he believes a good business credit score is essential to operating a successful small business. “It invigorated cash flow and opened the door to increased financing on improved terms. It brought order to chaos, as a surge in liquidity meant that I could react quickly to new opportunities without upsetting operations.”

Building a good credit score can a long, painstaking process (if you haven’t started it yet, check this out). Once you get there, you want to stay there, and avoid any mistakes that might compromise or even negate your hard work.

Let’s take a look at three of the top things to watch out for when seeking to build and maintain your business credit score.

1. Debt Usage

Debt usage counts for 15% of your Experian Intelliscore. If you’re utilizing most of your credit, this could be a sign that your business isn’t financially sound. Some lenders and suppliers require evidence of healthy cash flow before they’ll work with you, and consistently maxing out your credit cards can be a sign that you’re doing poorly in this department.

Keep the balance on your business credit cards low as often as you can. Unforeseen cash emergencies are to be expected when running a business, but don’t make a habit of running up a high amount of debt and carrying a balance from month-to-month on your credit cards.

Here’s a good business credit card hack: Try to pay down your card balance before your credit card provider reports your payments to credit reporting agencies (this is usually before the due date). By doing this, the debt usage on your business credit report will appear low—a sign that you’re managing your finances responsibly, and can help keep your business credit scores strong.

2. Derogatories

Derogatory information on your credit reports—like outstanding tax liens or collections accounts, bankruptcies, charged off loans, and late loan payments—count for another 15% of your Experian Intelliscore.

Derogatories can generally stay on your record for up to seven years—10 years, for bankruptcy—and if you pile up enough of them, your access to credit and loans can be severely restricted. Any financing you do receive will likely be given on draconian terms, making it difficult to keep your head above water even when business is good.

Prioritize paying off debts before taking steps to expand your business. Tighten your belt and make do with what you have until you’re in the clear with your debtors, and then move forward. Seven years of derogatory information on your credit report is seven years of bad luck; avoid it at all costs.  

3. Payment Status

Payment status is the most important factor in your business credit report. It counts for 50% of your Experian Intelliscore, and 100% of your D&B Paydex score. Always make your payments on time. If you can, make them early.

It’s not always easy to stay ahead of things, so use money management tools to help you create budgets, manage cash flow, automate your bill payments, and alert you to unusual activity on your credit report.

The first step toward building and maintaining sound credit is to know what your credit report and credit scores actually say, so take advantage of Nav’s free business and personal credit reports to familiarize yourself with where you stand.

It’s important to be proactive when it comes to your credit, according to Levi King. “You can't afford to wait any longer to fatten up that credit file,” he says. “You may not see the need for more financing today, but tomorrow will be here soon enough, and with it a host of setbacks and opportunities you never could have predicted.”

About Nav: Nav is the free, easy way for business owners to access their business and personal credit scores and get matched to the best financing.