Online lenders: While you may lack collateral, run a new business and need money quickly, you may find that an online lender is your best option. In general, online lenders should be a “last resort.” The average APR for online loans can be as high as 108 percent, making it difficult for small businesses to pay the money off before the debt balloons.
Your business plan is essential to get approved for a loan. If you don’t have one yet, it’s time to create one. You need to show, with specific numbers, how you’ll earn money, how you’ll spend it, and your big-picture strategy. Explain who all of the players are in your business, especially management, marketing, and sales roles – those individuals will bring in new business that helps pay for the loan. It’s okay if you do all of those jobs – just explain why that is and your track record of success in those areas.
Market research is important because it will help you figure out whether or not there is demand for the service you’re offering or the product you’re selling. It will also help you when it comes time to write your business plan, especially if you’re pitching an angel investor or a venture capital firm. They will want to see there’s a market for your idea, otherwise, it won’t scale as rapidly as they need it to in order to make a return on their investment.
Most lenders are interested in how long you've been at a certain job or lived in the same location, and whether you have a record of finishing what you start. If your past record doesn't show a history of stability, then be prepared with good explanations. Not only is the amount of income you earn important but so is your ability to live within that income. Some people earn $100,000 a year and still can't pay their debts, while others budget nicely on $20,000 a year.
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.
5. Social Media: Depending on your type of business, you will want a social media presence. LinkedIn, with more than 380 million members, is regarded as the business site for connecting with other businesspeople and offers excellent posting features for articles and blogs. Facebook is more of a social friends site than a business-focused site, but it’s also an excellent tool for “getting your word out” to your friends and customers. Both Linkedin and Facebook allow you to set up a commercial page for your new business.
- Let's talk a little bit about the future. At some point your business is going to near the final stages of being a small business and start to evolve into a medium, or even a large-sized business. The question is: who is going to lead this business at that point? Before we talked about the org chart and the difference between the founder and the president. Odds are, you have been filling both roles. The founder is the visionary, and the president is the person who makes the business run. But, when it comes time to transition into that medium-sized business, really it's time for you exit one or both of these positions. Why is that? Well, you have learned certain skills that have helped you succeed as a small business owner, but, a different set of skills is required for a large or medium-sized business, and there are people out there who have those skills. They have that expertise, and it's much better to hire someone else, rather than you put this burden on yourself. I've often seen…
StreetShares (see our review) is a P2P lending service that brings together business owners and investors. StreetShares is especially geared toward veteran-owned businesses. Indeed, owning a franchise can be a good transition for veterans transitioning to civilian life. However, even if you’re not a veteran, you can still use this innovative loans marketplace to get an unsecured short-term business loan or line of credit of up to $100,000. You will need to have been in business a year, or in some cases only 6 months, in order to qualify.
Your second option invokes the idea of a “warmup” period for your business. Instead of going straight into full-fledged business mode, you’ll start with just the basics. You might launch a blog and one niche service, reducing your scope, your audience and your profit, in order to get a head-start. If you can start as a self-employed individual, you'll avoid some of the biggest initial costs (and enjoy a simpler tax situation, too). A payment processing company, such as Due, can be a big help when you are struggling to invoice and follow up professionally.
Depending on the size of your loan, your financial statements and accounting records will be reviewed carefully by the lender. So make sure they are complete, correct, and thorough—including balance sheet, income and loss statements, and cash flow statements. The lender will analyze your cash flow, gross margin, debt-to-equity ratio, accounts payable, accounts receivable, EBITDA, and more, so be prepared to answer questions on those topics. Consider having your accountant look over your financial statements to anticipate issues a lender may raise.
Becoming a small business owner has unique challenges and rewards that aren’t right for everyone. You must be driven, disciplined and able to identify a product or service that people need — one that they will pay enough for to allow you to live comfortably. You have to develop marketing skills and be able to find your own work, because it won’t fall into your lap until after you’re well established. Business owners need to understand how to budget, keep records and handle small business taxes. They must familiarize themselves with employment laws if they want to hire staff. They also need a plan for protecting their business and everything that’s tied to it if something goes wrong. (For more, see Are You An Entrepreneur?)