Lenders prefer financial statements that have been audited by a certified public accountant (CPA). But many small businesses don’t want to incur the costs of an audit, so one alternative is to have the financial statements “reviewed” by a CPA (which is cheaper and faster). However, some lenders may not require either audited or reviewed statements.
After all, small-business loans can help you get from A to B, providing vital capital to jumpstart your business expansion. Yet these loans are also notoriously difficult to get; and, should anything go south with your business, you may lose the collateral you put up for the loan. What's more, to qualify for most bank loans, your company will need to have been in business for at least one to two years and meet annual revenue requirements -- to name just some of the criteria required.
How do so many small businesses get started? It all begins with the right type of financing. Whether you're just starting up or you're expanding your existing business, you need money to get rolling. This guide will help you figure out the type of loan you need for your business and will look at the step-by-step process of securing a business loan:
To find out the best ways for new business owners to secure loans, I consulted with experts who have a wide range of experience with funding businesses including Jared Hecht, CEO of the online lending website Fundera, David J. Hall from the Small Business Association, Hal Shelton who is a SCORE mentor and author of The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan (Summit Valley Press 2014) and Larry Conley, Senior Vice President and Specialty Finance National Manager for Chase bank.
To start your application for a business loan, calculate how much money and what kind of loan you need. Then, gather the necessary documents, including a profit and loss statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, tax documents, and a detailed business plan. Once you have all of your information, approach lenders, such as the Small Business Administration, banks, and credit unions, and complete the application for the best loan for your needs. Finally, wait to hear back from the lender and be sure to thoroughly review the terms of your loan.
SBA.gov is the website for the Small Business Association. Founded in 1953, the SBA functions as an independent agency of the federal government whose mission, according to their website, is “to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” One way the SBA helps small businesses is by offering financial assistance through three programs: the guaranteed loan program, surety bonds program and venture capital program.
1. Get organized. Getting an organized plan is the first step in any marketing effort. Make one. Start with brainstorming, create themes and transfer action items to a calendar or to-do list. Start small, and try to get a good ROI for everything you do. Create an elevator pitch: What can you tell people about your business, products and services in 30 seconds or less that keeps them interested and wanting more? Get customer input early -- if you are opening a storefront or restaurant, try hosting a soft opening or invitation-only event to get your kinks worked out and your mishaps and mistakes out of the way. Whatever you do, make a good first impression.
So it pays to have a comfortable cushion, just in case things don’t pan out as expected. And it’s much easier and cheaper to arrange funding when times are good than it is when you’re desperate. Of course, you don’t want to be paying interest on unnecessary debt either, but there are funding options, like lines of credit, that you only pay for when you activate them. In any case, it’s worth researching your options early on.
Your first option is to change your business model to demand fewer needs as listed above. For example, if you were planning on starting a company as a consultant or freelancer, you could reduce your “employee” expenses by being the sole employee at the start. Unless you need office space, you can work from home. You can even do your homework to find cheaper sources of supplies, or cut out entire product lines that are too expensive to produce at the outset.
There are sources of startup money that may not be as obvious to franchisees that can be helpful. Using equity from a home loan or a 401(k) plan, can provide a kick-start to your business if conventional sources of financing are not available. However, those products may not be optimal over the long run when compared to loan products specifically geared to funding a small businesses.
Often, banks that aren't willing to work with you based on your financial profile become more amenable if you suggest working with an SBA loan guarantee; these loans are guaranteed up to 90 percent by the SBA. Small businesses simply submit a loan application to the lender for initial review, and if the lender finds the application acceptable, it forwards the application and its credit analysis to the nearest SBA office. After SBA approval, the lender closes the loan and disburses the funds; the borrower makes loan payments to the lender.
Some franchising companies run their own franchise financing programs that help franchisees get in the door. Program offerings and requirements vary by franchisor, with such options as limited-term loans, reduced license fees or reduced royalties, and minority stake ownership by franchisors. Some companies, like Ace Hardware, offer financing to existing franchisees to open a new store or buy out a competitor.
By the end of this lesson, you will be able to manage all of your downloaded banking transactions. You will also understand how to enter basic banking transactions manually. Finally, you will be able to use the reconcile tool to ensure that the transactions on your bank statement match up with what has been entered into QuickBooks. This will result in up-to-date financial statements.
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.
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. SBA 7(a) loans have longer repayment terms and lower down-payments than most conventional bank loans, and can be used for the purchase of owner-occupied real estate, business acquisition, equipment, or working capital. Wells Fargo also offers the SBA 504 program for larger, fixed asset purchases or construction.
Opening up a franchise is a huge undertaking that takes no shortage of time and effort. Once you’ve done your homework to find a franchisor you want to work with, you’ll want to review the funding options available to get the ball rolling. When you’re taking out financing, be sure to work with a reputable lender, getting only the amount what you need.
Microlenders: If your company is especially small, you may need to opt for a microlender. These are non-profits that typically lend short-term loans of less than $35,000. They also have a much higher APR than bank loans but may be useful by helping you bridge a temporary cash-flow gap. Microlenders require detailed business plans and financial statements, so be prepared for some serious paperwork.
Bank of America can work with you to design a special lending program to help you grow and better manage your business. This alliance enables us to provide customized financing solutions, based on a thorough understanding of your particular business model. Plus, you’ll have access to an underwriter who understands your business. We offer a variety of program options including:
1. Strategic Plan. All of us have heard of a “back-of-the-napkin” story about how a small idea turned into a successful business—and these stories do happen. However, it is typically the basic concept that happens on the back of a napkin, not the actual plan to bring that concept to the market. The first step is to develop a well-thought-out business plan that addresses key success factors such as:
The brand you choose to work with may provide upfront estimates of how much it will cost to start a new business and can also give you information on monthly and year-over-year revenue goals and expected progress. This information, if available, is often found in Item 19 of the FDD. However, a franchise is not required to provide this information in their FDD - so speaking with several existing franchisees is always a wise choice. Based on this data and your own projections make sure you understand when your business will break even factoring in both expenses as well as the loan payments and always assume there will be unexpected costs. When determining your loan amount make sure to include working capital to get you through the ramp-up period of the business until the business can support expenses and loan payments. When lenders review your loan application they will pay attention to several key things, but 2 items that you should be aware of are Loan To Value (LTV) and Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). LTV is a measure of the total value of the loan amount compared to the collateral pledged. Lenders will look at the collateral as a secondary source of repayment of the loan and in many cases with a start-up financing may look for collateral to cover the full loan. In cases where there is not enough collateral the lenders will look to other strengths of the deal. DSCR is a measure of the cash generated by the business available for the loan payments. The higher the DSCR, the better because in the bank's view there will be a cushion of cash just in case there are unforeseen problems or slow periods for the business. A lender will typically look for a minimum DSCR 1.20x or more. If your projections don't show the ability to service debt lenders may shy away from your loan request so it is important to understand the accuracy of your projections.
The primary disadvantage of Stock Option Plans for the company is the possible dilution of other shareholders’ equity when employees exercise their stock options. For employees, the main disadvantage of stock options in a private company—compared to cash bonuses or greater compensation—is the lack of liquidity. Until the company creates a public market for its stock or is acquired, the options will not be the equivalent of cash benefits. And, if the company does not grow bigger and its stock does not become more valuable, the options may ultimately prove worthless.
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Online personal loans are an option when nobody will approve you for a business loan. Ideally, you’ll borrow in the name of your business – it’s cleaner and more professional that way. But some small business owners can only get personal loans. Try marketplace lenders and peer to peer lenders, which tend to offer competitive rates and quick turnaround on applications.
Dana is a founding partner of TechLaw, LLP, where his practice focuses on trademark prosecution and licensing, copyrights, and business transactions. He is also adjunct professor of law at the University of San Diego School of Law, where he has taught IP Survey, and helped launch the IP Law Clinic. His expertise includes a broad base of intellectual property law that covers copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, and international intellectual property. Dana has filed, managed, and prosecuted thousands of trademarks over the course of his law practice career. He has represented clients in numerous trademark infringement actions, as well as cancellations, oppositions, and appeals before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
Franchises are worth considering because opening a business can be risky, especially if you don’t have prior experience juggling all the things that come with it. You’ll need to choose a name and image for your brand, make sure you have the right staff and build a full suite of products or services to meet demand. Even if you have mentors or a network of friends who are small business owners, you’ll often find that you’re struggling with important decisions.
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.
*Annual Percentage Rates (APR), loan term and monthly payments are estimated based on analysis of information provided by you, data provided by lenders, and publicly available information. All loan information is presented without warranty, and the estimated APR and other terms are not binding in any way. Lenders provide loans with a range of APRs depending on borrowers' credit and other factors. Keep in mind that only borrowers with excellent credit will qualify for the lowest rate available. Your actual APR will depend on factors like credit score, requested loan amount, loan term, and credit history. All loans are subject to credit review and approval.
1. You can do it because others are doing it. Think the country is dominated by big businesses run by people with MBAs? Wrong. 99 percent of businesses in the US are small businesses, and they employ 80 percent of the population! You don’t need any “special” training to run a business. You just need an idea, the desire to learn and adapt, and the ability to take action!
Having liquid assets, valuable collateral and a good credit rating will go a long way to helping you get a franchise loan. According to The Wall Street Journal, most banks will be looking for around one-fifth or 20% of franchise startup costs to come from the owner before considering lending options, and without a good credit score, most lenders won't feel comfortable extending a loan even if the proposed franchise is known for long-standing success.
"Accountants can be an important source of advice for small business owners. That's why Bizfi has partnered with the National Directory of Certified Public Accountants," says Stephen Sheinbaum, CEO of alternative lender Bizfi. "But there are many other places to find good people to talk to, such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a free mentoring service that is supported by the Small Business Administration."