What are Trade References for a Business?

By Chris Andreou
Last updated
December 28, 2023

What are Trade References?

In the dynamic world of business, understanding and utilizing trade references is crucial for success. This fundamental concept serves as a valuable tool for companies to assess the reliability and creditworthiness of their business partners. Let's dive into the essentials of trade references, exploring their definition, significance for UK businesses, and a comprehensive overview of what they include.

trade references sample letter

In the dynamic world of business, understanding and utilizing trade references is crucial for success. This fundamental concept serves as a valuable tool for companies to assess the reliability and creditworthiness of their business partners. Let's dive into the essentials of trade references, exploring their definition, significance for UK businesses, and a comprehensive overview of what they include.

trade references sample letter

Trade Reference Meaning

A supplier reference (or trade reference) refers to a report detailing the payment history between a business customer and its supplier or vendor. It enables a supplier to check your creditworthiness and find out if you're a reliable customer before they offer you credit.

Trade references, in simple terms, are the professional nods and affirmations that businesses give each other. It's like a thumbs-up from one business to another, signaling reliability and credibility. These supplier references typically involve one business confirming another's creditworthiness and reliability based on their past transactions. In business, a trade reference is a bit like that recommendation. It's when one company tells everyone else, "I've worked with them, and they're great to do business with."

Trade references are a form of business financing that enables business-to-business lenders to check your business's credit before deciding to give you credit. These references should be from someone you've worked with in the past, verifying that you consistently pay your debts in full and on time.

What is Trade Credit?

Trade credit refers to an arrangement in which a business allows another business to purchase goods or services on credit, meaning they can defer the payment for a specified period. Essentially, it's a form of credit extended between businesses within a commercial transaction. The business providing the goods or services (the creditor) trusts the buyer (debtor) to pay the agreed-upon amount within the mutually agreed timeframe. Trade credit is a common practice in various industries and is necessary in facilitating smooth business transactions and relationships.

Advantages of Trade Credit:

Trade credit offers several advantages for businesses engaged in commercial transactions. Here are some key benefits:

Immediate Access to Goods and Services:

When compared to small business loans, it allows businesses to acquire necessary goods or services immediately, even if they don't have the funds to make an immediate payment. This helps in maintaining seamless operations without disrupting the supply chain.

Cash Flow Management:

By deferring payments for a specified period, companies can use available funds for other essential aspects of their operations, such as expansion, marketing, or addressing unexpected expenses.

Flexibility in Payments:

Trade credit agreements often come with flexible payment terms. Businesses can negotiate terms that align with their cash flow cycles, allowing for more convenient and manageable payments.

Building Supplier Relationships:

Regular and responsible use of trade credit helps in building strong relationships with suppliers. Trust is established when payments are made on time, potentially leading to better terms, discounts, or priority status in the future.

Opportunity for Growth:

Businesses can leverage trade credit to seize growth opportunities. With access to goods or services without an immediate financial burden, companies can take on larger projects, fulfill more orders, or expand their product lines.

Credit History Improvement:

Responsibly managing trade credit contributes positively to a business's credit history. Consistent on-time payments build a favorable credit profile, which can be beneficial when seeking additional financing or negotiating terms with other creditors.

Importance of Trade References for Businesses in the UK

Imagine this: you're a budding business looking to partner with another company, and you want to ensure they're as trustworthy as they claim. This is where trade references come into play. They act as the testimonials of the business world, offering insights into a company's performance, payment history, and overall reliability.

For businesses in the UK, especially, where the market thrives on trust and credibility, having positive trade references is a game-changer. It opens doors to new opportunities, builds solid partnerships, and instills confidence among potential clients and collaborators. In short, trade references serve as a badge of honor, showcasing a company's commitment to integrity and excellence.

Who Needs Trade References and Why?

If you're looking to set up a trade credit account with another company, having reliable trade references is crucial. These references vouch for your trustworthiness in business dealings. Without these references, suppliers may be hesitant to provide credit, as they might see it as a risk.

What Trade References Include?

Trade references include important details about a business. This information tells you about a company's reliability and trustworthiness. It's like looking at a snapshot that shows how well a business has performed in the past. It includes:

Payment History: A record of how promptly a business makes payments. This reflects on its financial discipline and reliability.

Performance Evaluation: Insights into the quality of products or services provided by the business. This sheds light on its commitment to excellence.

Communication and Collaboration: How effectively a business communicates and collaborates with its partners. This indicates its professionalism and dedication to mutual success.

Financial Stability: An overview of the company's financial health and stability. This is crucial for businesses seeking long-term partnerships.

Why Trade References Matter

In the dynamic world of business, trade references take center stage, and here's why they matter more than you might think.

Building Trust and Credibility

Trade references are the testimonials that scream, "This business is trustworthy!" They build a solid foundation of trust and credibility. When potential partners or clients see positive trade references, it's like getting a reassuring handshake, assuring them they're in good hands.

Assessing Creditworthiness

Trade references provide a snapshot of a company's financial habits, showcasing how well they handle payments and financial commitments. For businesses eyeing potential partners or collaborators, these references are a financial report card, offering insights into the reliability of their financial moves.

Strengthening Business Relationships

Whether it's with suppliers, customers, or collaborators, strong trade references act as the melody that keeps the business relationship in tune, creating a positive cycle of collaboration and success.

Impact on Financing and Trade Credit

Trade references aren't just testimonials; they're the key to unlocking doors to financing and trade credit. Small business lenders and financial institutions use trade references to gauge the risk and reliability of a business. Moreover, building a robust business credit score with positive trade references can unlock opportunities to secure small loans when necessary.

What if I don't have a Trade Reference?

If you don't have a trade reference, start by building relationships with suppliers or service providers. Be transparent about your business's new or limited history. Consider smaller transactions to establish a positive track record, and communicate your commitment to responsible financial practices.

How to Get a Trade Reference?

Obtaining trade references involves engaging in transactions with businesses that offer the flexibility to buy goods or services and pay later. This commonly occurs through "net terms," like net 30, meaning payment is expected within thirty days from the invoice date. (Net terms can vary, ranging from net 10 to net 120 or more. Typically, longer terms are granted to well-established businesses recognized as reliable customers.)?

For New Businesses:

For new businesses willing to get trade references, it's advisable to identify companies that offer favorable vendor terms and are willing to collaborate with businesses that are either less than two years old or don’t have an established business credit record.

For Established Businesses:

For established businesses, start by reaching out to your current suppliers and vendors to inquire about their credit offerings. Keep a close eye on your business credit reports to track payment history. If your current relationships don't provide credit options, explore opportunities with companies that extend vendor credit.

Common Questions that are Asked in a Trade Reference Request:

When requesting a trade reference, businesses often seek specific information to assess the creditworthiness and reliability of their potential partners. Here are common questions typically asked in a trade reference request:

  • How Long Have You Been Doing Business With the Applicant?
  • What Type of Products or Services Have You Supplied to the Applicant?
  • Can You Confirm the Applicant's Payment History?
  • Have There Been Any Issues or Disputes in Your Business Dealings?
  • How Would You Describe the Applicant's Overall Performance as a Business Partner?
  • Would You Recommend the Applicant as a Reliable Business Partner?
  • What Credit Limits, if Any, Have You Provided to the Applicant?
  • How Responsive and Cooperative Has the Applicant Been in Your Business Dealings?

How to Fill Out a Trade Reference Form?

When it comes to expanding your business horizons, filling out a trade reference form is like laying the groundwork for trust and reliability. Here's your easy-to-follow guide on how to fill out the form:

Provide Accurate Business Details: Start by filling in your business information accurately. This includes your legal business name, address, phone number, contact details and any specific data requested by the form, such as financial details or previous transactions.

Highlight Your Strengths: Use the opportunity to showcase your business strengths. If the form asks about your products or services, highlight their quality and uniqueness. This is your chance to make a positive impression.

Details about Past Transactions: If the form delves into past transactions, be thorough in providing details. Include information about the duration of the relationship, the type of transactions, and any outstanding payments. Transparency is valued in the business world.

Timely Payments and Financial Information: If the form seeks information on payment history or financial stability, be honest and clear. Highlight your commitment to timely payments and provide relevant financial details that showcase your business's stability.

Include Relevant References: Some forms may ask for references from other businesses. Include these references, ensuring you have obtained permission from the parties involved. This adds credibility to your submission.

Trade References Examples

  • Accountant / CPA
  • Freight, trucking, or local delivery service provider
  • Landscaping company
  • Lawyer
  • Advertising
  • Payroll services
  • Marketing service provider
  • Software developer
  • Supplier of parts/materials
  • Uniform supplier
  • Website design/host company
Information Included in Supplier References:
  • Customer identifying information (name of business, address etc)
  • Credit terms (i.e. net 10, net 30)
  • Date account opened
  • Open AR balance (AR = accounts receivable)
  • Past due balance
  • Highest previous balance
  • DBT (days beyond terms) – current and previous
  • Number of late payments
  • Credit limit
  • Number of credit transactions

Trade references or supplier references play a vital role in establishing trust and credibility for businesses. They provide a snapshot of a company's reliability and financial responsibility, influencing credit decisions and business relationships. To handle the complexities of trade references and ensure sound financial management, it is advisable for businesses to consider hiring small business accountants. These professionals can offer valuable insights, help maintain accurate financial records, and provide strategic guidance for effective credit management.

Read more of our Small Business Accounting guides:

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