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What’s a DUNS Number? A Guide for Business Owners

Serious businesswoman with financial paper speaking on mobile phone learning what's a duns number November 6, 2023

Credibility and identity are critical drivers of success in the business landscape. They set your venture apart from competitors and enhance your creditworthiness. The DUNS Number is a tool that embodies these advantages. But many business owners are wondering, “what’s a DUNS Number?”

Initiated by Dun & Bradstreet, the DUNS Number has evolved into a universal benchmark for tracking businesses across the globe. Although it's not a prerequisite for running a business, possessing a DUNS Number offers numerous benefits and can create a pathway for international business growth.

This article will explore why your business should have a DUNS Number, guide you through acquiring one, and examine some opportunities you can capitalize on once you possess it. So, if you're a small business owner looking to authenticate your business identity or an aspiring entrepreneur aiming to improve your business's creditworthiness, this guide is designed for you.


What’s a DUNS Number? 

A DUNS, or Data Universal Numbering System Number, is a unique nine-digit business identifier. It helps to establish a business credit file, which lenders and potential business partners often reference to help predict the reliability and financial stability of the company.

The DUNS Number was introduced by Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) in 1962, marking a significant milestone in the business world. This system was designed to support D&B's credit reporting practice, with the number allowing for a more accurate means of identifying specific businesses.

Dun & Bradstreet stands as the pioneering institution behind the DUNS Number. As a leading business data and analytics provider, Dun & Bradstreet issues DUNS Numbers and updates them daily on about 330 million businesses worldwide. The firm's commitment to accuracy and comprehensive business information has made the DUNS Number an essential tool in the modern business landscape.

The DUNS Number's history and the role of Dun & Bradstreet in maintaining its integrity underpin its value to businesses. Whether seeking to secure financing, enter into supplier contracts, or establish credibility in your industry, a DUNS Number can be pivotal in achieving these objectives.


The Power of a DUNS Number for Your Business 

A DUNS Number is your ticket to credibility, opportunity, and growth in the high-stakes business arena. This unique identifier, recognized worldwide, brings many benefits that are impossible to ignore.

Credibility That Commands Respect 

A DUNS Number isn't just a sequence of digits—it’s a badge of honor in the business world. It provides instant recognition as a legitimate entity, making your business stand out in the eyes of lenders, partners, and potential investors.

A Gateway to Government Contracts

When securing federal government contracts, a DUNS Number is not only advantageous—it's mandatory. The federal government uses the DUNS Number to track and manage its spending. Without it, the doors to this lucrative avenue remain firmly closed. By obtaining a DUNS number, you're unlocking a wealth of opportunities for growth and increased revenue.

Facilitating International Business Transactions

A DUNS Number is akin to a universal business passport in the global marketplace. It helps overseas businesses verify their legitimacy and fosters trust, paving the way for successful international collaborations. With a DUNS Number, the world truly becomes your business oyster.

Building a Strong Credit Profile

Your DUNS Number forms the foundation of your business credit profile. Dun & Bradstreet uses this number to create a credit report that reflects your business's financial health. A robust credit profile can lead to favorable terms with suppliers and lenders, boosting your company's financial stability and growth prospects.


How to Obtain a DUNS Number 

Getting a DUNS Number for your business is a straightforward process that anyone can follow. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for a DUNS Number:

Step 1: Check if your business already has a DUNS Number. Dun & Bradstreet may have assigned one to your organization without your knowledge. You can look up your organization on the D&B website to verify.

Step 2: If you don't already have a DUNS Number, you can register for one. You can do this by filling out a simple online application on the Dun & Bradstreet website or by calling their toll-free number at 1-(866) 705-5711.

Step 3: During registration, you must provide information about your business, including details like the legal name, physical and mailing addresses, the name of the CEO or business owner, the legal structure (e.g., LLC, Partnership, Corporation), year of establishment, and number of employees.

Step 4: After submitting your application, a representative from Dun & Bradstreet may contact you to validate your information. Once your information has been authenticated, the process is complete, and you will receive your DUNS Number.

As for the timeframe, it typically takes up to 30 business days to receive a free DUNS Number via the standard route. However, businesses required to register with the U.S. Federal government for contracts or grants can obtain a DUNS Number within one business day through the D&B government request page.

In terms of cost, obtaining a DUNS Number is generally free for all businesses required to register with the U.S. Federal government for contracts or grants. However, paid services are available for companies wanting to receive their number more quickly or seeking additional assistance.


Myths About DUNS Numbers:

Despite the widespread use and recognition of DUNS Numbers, various misconceptions persist. Here, we'll debunk some common myths and clarify what a DUNS Number does not do for your business.

Myth 1: A DUNS Number Guarantees Business Success

A DUNS Number can open doors to opportunities, such as government contracts and international trade, but it does not guarantee business success. The number is a tool that can enhance credibility and facilitate transactions. Still, the ultimate success of a business depends on factors like the quality of products or services, customer service, marketing efforts, and financial management.

Myth 2: A DUNS Number is Only for Large Corporations

Regardless of size, any business can benefit from having a DUNS Number. While it's true that larger corporations often use the number for credit checks and risk assessment, small companies can also leverage it to build a strong business credit profile, bid for government contracts, and establish credibility with partners and lenders.

Myth 3: A DUNS Number is the Same as an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

While both numbers serve as identifiers, they are not the same thing. An EIN is a federal tax identification number the IRS provides, primarily for tax purposes. On the other hand, a DUNS Number is a unique identifier issued by Dun & Bradstreet, used for business credit reporting and tracking business entities globally.


Next Steps 

Securing a DUNS number is only the first step in leveraging it for your business. The subsequent crucial phase involves building your business credit by incorporating positive trade references into your file. You can accomplish this by transacting with creditors who consistently report payment activities.

Bear in mind, however, that not every supplier does this. As such, if your primary objective is to enhance your company's credit file, it's typically essential to meticulously research and choose creditors known for their reporting practices.

Creating a creditworthy profile can significantly boost your small business's prospects. It can enhance your chances of securing financing, winning contracts, and forging strong ties with suppliers.

Want to learn more about the DUNS number and business credit? Check out this free resource that further explores these areas!

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