James D. Stice, PhD, is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of Accounting in the School of Accountancy at BYU. Professor Stice has been at BYU since 1988. He has co-authored three accounting textbooks and published numerous professional and academic articles. In addition, Professor Stice has been involved in executive education for Ernst & Young, Bank of America Corporation, International Business Machines Corporation, RSM McGladrey, and AngloGold Limited and has taught at INSEAD (in both France and Singapore) and CEIBS (in China). He has been recognized for teaching excellence by his department, his college, and the university. Professor Stice currently serves on the board of directors of Nutraceutical International Corporation.
Working capital loans. A working capital loan is a debt borrowing vehicle used by the company to finance its daily operations. Companies use such loans to manage fluctuations in revenues and expenses due to seasonality or other circumstances in their business. Some working capital loans are unsecured, but companies that have little or no credit history will have to pledge collateral for the loan or provide a personal guarantee. Working capital loans tend to be short-term loans of 30 days to 1 year. Such loans typically vary from $5,000 to $100,000 for small businesses.
Banks and credit unions are traditional sources for small business loans, and they’re a good place to start. Especially with small institutions, you’ll be able to meet with a lender who can guide you through the process. Larger banks might take a more hands-off approach. To improve your chances of getting approved, ask about SBA loans, which reduce the bank’s risk and feature interest rate caps. The loan process at banks and credit unions can be slow, so be prepared for a long process and a thorough review from the bank.
When starting out, your product or service has to be at least good if not great. It must be differentiated in some meaningful and important way from the offerings of your competition. Everything else follows from this key principle. Don’t drag your feet on getting your product out to market, since early customer feedback is one of the best ways to help improve your product. Of course, you want a “minimum viable product” (MVP) to begin with, but even that product should be good and differentiated from the competition. Having a “beta” test product works for many startups as they work the bugs out from user reactions. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook has said, “Done is better than perfect.”
A very economical service is Regus, with office locations worldwide; office space is readily available for startup entrepreneurs on a just-in-time basis. Regus offers several membership levels: Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Plus. For example, a Regus Blue membership card is free, while a Regus Gold membership card costs $59 per month (with the first month free). With a Gold card you get shared space, Internet connection, and telephone access at Regus locations worldwide, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Chris Guillebeau is a writer, entrepreneur, and traveler. His latest book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, is now a New York Times bestseller. During a lifetime of self-employment and ventures ranging from online publishing to volunteer work in West Africa, he has visited nearly every country on earth before the age of 35. Host of the World Domination Summit, an international gathering of creative people, Chris is focused on encouraging individual quests while also “giving back.” His main website, ChrisGuillebeau.com, is visited by more than 300,000 people a month.
General purpose business loans. The most widely used SBA loans, SBA 7(a) general loans can greatly help if you’re investing in a franchise. Because SBA loans are guaranteed by the government, they’re easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans. The amount and rates that you can potentially qualify for may make them worth the extra time and documents needed to apply. Outside of the loan itself, the Small Business Administration offers free tools to help you plan for securing the loan and keep up on your new enterprise once you’ve become a franchisee.
The last part is often translated as “often go awry”, and I’m sure you understand the sense: no matter how carefully you plan, things rarely go as expected. We live in a complex, interconnected world, and even if you do everything right, your business could be knocked sideways by a sudden economic meltdown, a real estate crash, a war on the other side of the world that raises prices for your raw materials, the sudden entry of a powerful competitor into your turf, and much more.
You should approach small-business-loan shopping just as you would shopping for a car, says Suzanne Darden, a business consultant at the Alabama Small Business Development Center. Once you determine which type of lender and financing vehicle are right for you, compare two or three similar options based on annual percentage rate (total borrowing cost) and terms. Of the loans you qualify for, choose the one with the lowest APR, as long as you are able to handle the loan’s regular payments.