Wyoming Business Tips for Jan. 22

January 17, 2012

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Amy Lea, Wyoming Procurement Technical Assistance Center

"A few weeks ago, I spoke with someone at the Wyoming Procurement Technical Assistance Center (WPTAC) and was told that the first step in getting started in government contracting was to call Dun and Bradstreet to get a DUNS number for my business.  I called D&B, but the person I spoke with said I have to do this online. Did something change? And what is a DUNS number anyway?" Joe, Casper

A DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number is a unique nine-digit number assigned by Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) for each physical location of a business. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provision or clause requires a business to provide its DUNS number when it submits an offer to the federal government.

FAR also requires contractors to complete their Central Contractor Registration (CCR) before receiving government contract awards above the micro-purchase threshold (generally $3,000, but $2,000 for construction and $2,500 for services). Obtaining a DUNS number is the first step in the CCR registration process. The General Services Administration (GSA) has a contract with Dun & Bradstreet to provide free DUNS numbers to businesses that need them to register in CCR.

In the past, a business owner that needed a DUNS number for government contracting purposes could just call D&B, verify their information and often receive it right over the phone. D&B now requires business owners to request DUNS numbers through the iUpdate process, at http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform (this is the link for government contractors and grant applicants; if you click on any of D&B's other links to obtain a DUNS number you may find yourself inadvertently subscribing to a fee-based service).

Before beginning the iUpdate process, it is important to understand that D&B is in the business of selling credit information and other data about the companies in its database. D&B tracks public company records, such as UCC filings and bankruptcy filings, as well as business credit information that you might not have realized was out there. The firm even applies mathematical models to data about your business to develop a commercial credit score for it.

You may be more familiar with the information in your personal credit report and your commercial credit score is an analogous evaluation of the risk involved in dealing with your company. However, the truth is that most owners of small businesses are required to sign personal guarantees to obtain business credit, and their personal credit scores are likely to be far more important than their commercial credit scores in determining their creditworthiness.

 Just as there may be inaccurate information in your personal credit file disclosure, it also is possible that D&B has inaccurate information on file for your business -- it's not a bad idea to review this information.  The good news is that if you use D&B's new iUpdate process to create an account and obtain your DUNS number, you will be able to review and update the information that D&B has on file for your company, free of charge. You do not need to purchase anything that D&B sells in order to do business with the federal government.

If your business legal structure required a filing with the Secretary of State (such as a corporation or limited liability company), if you have ever applied for a business loan, or if you have a business telephone number, D&B may have already assigned a DUNS number for your business.

You can find out by searching for your company and continuing to the iUpdate portal. Once you verify your identity, create an iUpdate account, answer security questions and identify yourself as a government contractor, you will have access to your business summary and DUNS number. If you search and find that D&B doesn't have your company on file, you will be able to go through a similar process to request a DUNS number.

The Wyoming PTAC team will provide a free pre-conference training session at the GRO-Biz Conference & Idea Expo Wednesday, Feb. 22 in Laramie. We will go over the new process for obtaining a DUNS number and other government contracting basics.

For free and confidential one-on-one assistance with obtaining a DUNS number, using the iUpdate system to manage the information in your D&B report, or to find out more about the GRO-Biz Conference & Idea Expo, contact the Wyoming PTAC team: Jeff Sneddon in Casper, jsneddon@uwyo.edu (307) 234-3203; Natasha Stahla, Cheyenne, nstahla1@uwyo.edu, (307) 637-5029; or Amy Lea, Thermopolis, alea@uwyo.edu, (307) 921-8499.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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