I have been circulating the link to the Wall Street Journal article of last week. You can read the WSJ piece here.

It brought back the memory of a call I got several years ago. I was already thinking about how some financial data-sharing technology I had built might give business owners a way to get more control over credit evaluations when my phone rang. When I saw it was that certain business credit bureau I was a little freaked out. The timing seemed unusual but truly it was just a random sales call that I decided to treat seriously all in the name of market research.

Needless to say I took copious notes and here is the script:

Sales: I’m calling to tell you that someone has been looking at your credit file.

LaVonne: Oh? Who?

Sales: I can’t tell you.

LaVonne: Your manager won’t let you or you don’t know?

Sales: [long pause] Well actually I’m calling to tell you about our new service. It lets you monitor your file.

LaVonne: So I can see who’s looking at it?

Sales: You can see that it has been viewed and catch any errors.

LaVonne: I thought you guys were experts at getting accurate data.

Sales: We collect millions of records on millions of companies so sometimes mistakes slip through. But that’s why I wanted to tell you about this new service. It only costs $159 to get your report or $39 per month for online access.

LaVonne: I’d be interested in that $39 one. What do I get for that?

Sales: You can add a couple references and get any mistakes fixed.

LaVonne: Great! So I can edit the report online, sort of like a wiki?

Sales: Well, not exactly. We give you a special toll-free number to call.

LaVonne: Oh. I call someone and they go online while we’re talking to fix the mistake I report.

Sales: No. They take down your information and report it to our data center. Someone in the data center goes in and corrects the mistake.

Folks! We can do better than this. But it seems to me the starting point is still, who is in charge? Whose data are being used in credit decisions? We can open up credit practices, let people capture and share their data, and still promise trust and verification. It just takes a willingness to reframe the problem. Instead of what it takes to help creditors make faster decisions, ask what it takes to help businesses access the economic opportunities they deserve.

Do you have a similar story? If you are a creditor, say you manage a supply chain or you are a small business lender, have you heard similar stories from small businesses with which you work?

–LaVonne Reimer, Founder