If you’re reading this, you likely just came upon a loan application or other government document requesting your “DUNS number” and found yourself scratching your head. Though seldom talked about, your company’s DUNS number is an important identifier essential for establishing your business as a unique entity and tracking your company’s credit history.
Not sure what exactly DUNS does or how it relates to your business? Read on for an all-in guide to D-U-N-S.
What is DUNS?
Short for Data Universal Number System, DUNS is a program developed and managed by the company Dun & Bradstreet (D&B). It assigns a unique nine digit code, known as a “DUNS number,” as a universal identifier of a business entity.
Think of your DUNS number like a social security number for your business. It’s the identifier that government agencies, as well as some private vendors, will use to track your company’s credit rating and financial history.
Do I Need a DUNS Number For My Business?
If you ever plan to apply for an SBA loan or compete for any type of government grant or contract, you’ll need to obtain a DUNS number for your application. Additionally, many other private vendors, such as insurance companies, may require your DUNS number for their application processes.
But even if you don’t have an immediate need, it’s worthwhile to go ahead and register for your DUNS number sooner than later.
First, registering with DUNS establishes a certain unspoken credibility for your brand. It’s a sign to other businesses and financial institutions that you take your business seriously, are operating above board in every way, and are serious about your company’s financial security. And because DUNS is universally recognized, you’ll have a quick and easy form of identification for your business with vendors and creditors.
Another benefit of registering for a DUNS number early in the life of your business is that you’ll avoid any credit reporting errors that could come from your company being mixed up with other companies that have similar names.
How Do I Obtain a Free DUNS Number?
Luckily, the registration process for DUNS is free and easy to complete. Simply register online through Dun & Bradstreet’s Company Update portal, answer a few simple questions, and you’ll be on your way.
To complete the online registration form, you’ll need some basic information like your company’s legal name and address, your contact information, number of employees, and whether you are a home-based business.
Though the online application itself is quick and painless, it may take up to a month or more to receive your DUNS number by mail or email. If you don’t receive your number from D&B within that time frame, you may need to look up your number through their online database or follow up with their customer service department by phone.
Of course, if you need to obtain your DUNS number more quickly for the purposes of a government or credit application, Dun & Bradstreet offers paid options to expedite the registration process.
Should I Pay For Other Dun & Bradstreet Services?
Don’t be confused, here. Although the DUNS number is widely used and recognized by the U.S. Government, Dun & Bradstreet is a private company. And like any other private company, D&B is in business to make money. As you’re signing up for your free DUNS number, you’ll likely be met by several hard sells for other Dun & Bradstreet products, such as their business credit reports and monitoring services.
If you plan to lease retail space, apply for a small business loan, or engage in some other business activity that requires a strong credit rating, you may find some of Dun & Bradstreet’s products useful for your business and worth your money. However, know that none of these paid services are necessary in order to obtain your DUNS number.
Cross This Off Your To-Do List
In short, registering for your DUNS number is just another little step in the long trek of being a business owner. Sooner or later, you’ll likely find yourself in need of this little nine digit code for some type of paperwork. It only takes about five minutes to apply, but not having it when you need it could lead to unnecessary expenses or weeks of delay.
Avoid the future hassle of not being registered by applying for your DUNS number today. We promise, your future self will thank you!