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6 ways to avoid wasting time when applying for a business loan

(Business Finance) Applying for a business loan can be a huge timesuck, but it doesn’t have to be if you know the right questions to ask yourself before beginning the process.

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The small biz challenge du jour

“One of the biggest challenges faced by small business owners is finding the capital they need to fuel growth and fund working capital,” said Ty Kiisel, a contributing author at OnDeck, a tech company aiming to solve small business’s biggest challenge: access to capital.

Kiisel notes that finding a loan can be a time-consuming process, citing former administrator of the SBA ,Karen Mills, who argues that the average small business owner spends about 25 hours filling out the paperwork associated with completing a loan application.

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“Asking yourself a few key questions before you sit down with a lender will make a lot of difference in how seriously they take your loan application,” said Kiisel, adding, “how long it takes to get an approval–and help you avoid wasting a lot of your precious time.”

In his own words below, Kiisel offers the six questions you should ask yourself prior to beginning any loan process:

1. Can I really afford a loan?

Dumb question, right? Not really. One of the first questions every lender wants answered is, “Can this borrower repay the loan?” That’s one of the reasons they want to see some experience in business and your bank statements. If you can’t honestly answer, “Yes, I can afford a loan payment,” it’s not likely your loan application will end with a “Yes” from the lender.

2. How much do I really need?

“As much as I can get,” is never a good answer. Small business owners always need capital, but borrowing capital can be expensive–in some cases very expensive. Paying a premium for more capital than you really need just doesn’t make sense. What’s more, in some cases it’s possible you might need more than what you’re asking for. You’re wasting time with the “As much as I can get” answer. It tells the lender you haven’t really thought enough about what you’re going to do with the capital and can even be a red flag that causes a loan officer to disregard your request completely.

3. Why do I need the money?

This question fits hand in glove with Question #2. Borrowing capital to take advantage of opportunities to purchase such things as equipment or inventory at a discount is a great reason to access credit (provided you can positively answer Question #1). Even if you need to augment a short-term cash flow need or have some other need for financing, you should be able to articulate exactly why you need the money and how much you are looking for. This tells the lender you understand how to use borrowed capital and you’re not a waste of his or her time.

4. Do I have all my ducks in a row?

Although every loan and every lender is a little different and requires different documentation, if you have some of the most requested documents in order before you visit a lender (and this applies to both traditional and online lenders), you’ll avoid wasting everyone’s time. Start with your past two years of business and personal tax returns, the last three months of bank statements, and a list of other loans or lines of credit you may have. Standard financial documents like a current P & L statement should also be at your fingertips. It’s not enough to have the documents either, it’s important to really understand what all this information means. I once spoke with a lender who said, “If I know more about a business by looking at the financial data than they do, I’m not going to offer them a loan.”

5. What’s my current credit score?

Did you know you have both a personal and a business credit score? If you’ve only been in business for a few years, your personal credit score will be part of the equation, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Your business has a credit score too. Dunn & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax are the three major business credit reporting bureaus and they all have different scores for displaying a business’ credit worthiness. A bad credit score doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get a loan, but it could mean you’ll need to pay a little more for the capital. It might also make a difference in where you should be looking for a loan.

6. What are my real chances with this lender or loan type?

It’s really important to understand the nature of the financing you’re looking for. For example, if your credit score is weak and you don’t have five or six years under your belt, a traditional loan at the bank, or maybe even the SBA, will be a waste of time. Nevertheless, even if you have less-than-perfect credit, but have a healthy business with a steady cash flow, there are a lot of online options that will work for you if your first year is behind you. Investigate and study your options before you start applying to save time.

Knowing what to avoid is the first step to escape wasting time. More importantly, it may even help you save time–time better spent making your business successful. It’s often said that time is money, ask yourself how much is your time is worth.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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Business Finance

Get outstanding invoices paid to you by following these 7 steps

(FINANCE) For a freelancer, it’s more important than ever to bring up the issue of getting paid on time. Here are 7 tips to get your money.

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For many, an awkward topic of conversation revolves around getting paid. Whether asking for a raise or asking to borrow money, people often feeling uncomfortable when talking money.

This is equally, or possibly even more so, true for freelancers who are solely in charge of their finances. Without a system of weekly direct deposit, freelancers have to work overtime to keep their earnings in order.

The issue with this is that clients also have a lot on their plates, and something as simple as a freelancer’s paycheck is common to fall through the cracks. This causes freelancers to have to work friendly reminders into their repertoire.

However, freelancers may not always be knowledgeable of the best ways to keep their finances in check (no pun intended). Below are seven ways to enhance payment methods.

  1. You have to be willing to make billing a priority. Due to the fact that money is awkward to talk about, as aforementioned, many let this fall by the wayside. The best way to do this is to keep up to date with your invoices and send them as soon as they are done. Making a calendar specific for billing can help with this idea.
  2. This second bit dates back to when we were young and learning our manners: it is crucial to be polite. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also increases speed in payment. Using “please” and “thank you” in invoicing emails are said to get you paid 5% faster.
  3. It is best to try and keep a complicated concept like finance as simple as possible. Make sure you are creating specific due dates. This will help to signify importance of payment.
  4. Now that virtually anything can be done online, it would make sense to use electronic payment verses an old-school check. Accepting online payments will get a user paid, on average, eight days faster as opposed to a check.
  5. This is an important notion to keep in mind for any aspect of your business life: be professional. Invoices are often seen by many eyes so it is best to include your business’s logo on said invoice. This has been found to increase chances of being paid on time by 10%.
  6. Specificity is urged again in the form of transparency. Make sure you are giving detailed descriptions on each invoice so that anyone looking at it knows exactly what you are being paid for. By doing this, you are 15% more likely to be paid on time.
  7. While you may be invoicing month by month, try to avoid sending on the 30th or 31st. Being that everyone, generally, sends their invoices in on these dates, it takes 10 – 20% longer to be paid. With everyone sending it at the end of the month, it has a tendency to back up payroll.

The most important thing to remember is that while the topic of money may be awkward, it is your money. If you let a few invoices fall behind because you are uncomfortable reminding your client, this has a way of adding up. Be sure to keep on track with your finances to earn what you are working for.

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Business Finance

Why you will pay more to live in larger metros: job opportunities

(BUSINESS NEWS) Small to mid-sized metros offer higher adjusted salaries, but don’t pack your bags just yet because your job may not be there

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When I told my parents how much my partner and I would be paying for rent at our new apartment, they quickly pointed out that I could purchase a home for that kind of money in my hometown.

My parents are right, I could literally buy a home for the amount of money I pay in rent every month to live in a large metro area. But the equation that determines where I and many other workers should live, is more complex than salary minus housing.

These areas are cheaper to live in, in part, because they may not offer the kind of job opportunities, and therefore social mobility, you see in larger metro areas. Sure, I could make my money go further in my hometown, but the chances of me finding a job in my industry there are smaller.

Your field of work does matter when considering whether or not the “small-city advantage” could work for you. If you work in tech or finance, two traditionally high-paying fields, then this advantage doesn’t apply.

“Before adjusting for living costs, typical technology salaries are 27% higher in two-million-plus metros than metros with fewer than 250,000 people. Even after adjusting for those costs, tech salaries are still 5% higher in the largest metros than in the smallest ones,” finds Indeed.

If a huge tech company offering thousands of high-paying jobs moved into a smaller city on the map, over time, it would get more expensive to live there.  It’s the hamster wheel that is currently driving income inequality in some of America’s largest major metro areas.

Finding the right place to call home is never going to be a single factor decision. Yes, salary is a huge factor, as is the cost of living, but there are also lifestyle factors to consider. What kind of opportunities would you have in this city? How much will it cost to move there? How will this affect the other members of your household?

It’s nice to play the ‘ditch the corporate world and buy a country house’ fantasy after a long day at work, but the reality is far more complex.

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Business Finance

How to win over investors immediately with a great 1st impression

(BUSINESS FINANCE) First impressions are everything, and it’s no different when it comes to approaching investors. We have the tips to win them over.

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Going in for your first pitch meeting with investors can be nerve-wracking – especially if you haven’t yet met these investors in person. Fortunately, if you land a solid first impression, you can set the right tone for the meeting, and make the rest of the presentation a little easier on yourself.

But why are first impressions so important, and how can you ensure you make one?

Let’s start with a recap of the benefits of a strong first impression:

    • A reputation framework. Our brains are wired to make quick judgments about our surroundings. Accordingly, we tend to judge people based on our first interactions with them, with little opportunity to change those initial judgments later on. If you strike investors as a smart, likeable, and capable person early on, they’ll see your pitch deck in a whole new light.
    • Memorability. First impressions stick with people. If yours stands out from the other entrepreneurs pitching these investors, they’ll be more likely to remember you, specifically, and therefore may be more likely to eventually fund your project.
    • Personal confidence. If you know you’ve nailed the first impression, you’ll feel more confident, and as you already likely know, confidence makes you a better public speaker. You’ll speak more deliberately, more passionately, and with fewer mistakes.

So how can you make sure you land this impression?

    • Arrive in a nice vehicle. Show up in a luxury vehicle, or at least one that’s been recently detailed, sends a message that you’re already successful. This isn’t a strict necessity, but it can speak volumes about what you’ve already achieved, and how you might look when you drive to meet your future clients.
    • Dress for the occasion. Along similar lines, you’ll want to dress nicely. You don’t need to have ridiculously expensive clothes, but you should wear standard business attire that fits you properly and has no signs of wear. It’s also a good idea to get a haircut, shave, wear tasteful makeup, and make other small touches that improve your overall appearance.
    • Smile. Smiling is contagious, and it instantly makes you more likable. Don’t force a grin (or else you’ll look like a robot), but do flash a genuine smile as often as appropriate during the first few minutes you meet your prospective investors.
    • Use your investors’ names. When you speak to your investors, try to address them by name as often as possible. People love to hear the sound of their own names, so it might help you win their favor. As an added bonus, it will help you reinforce your association with their name and face, so you eliminate your risk of calling someone by the wrong name later on.
    • Warm-up with something personal. It’s tempting to get down to business right away, especially because your investors’ time is limited, but in most cases, it’s better to warm up with something personal—even if it’s only a few lines of a conversation. Tell a funny joke you heard earlier in the day, or share an anecdote about how your morning has been going. It makes you seem more personable and charismatic.
    • Find a common link. If you can, try to find something in common with each of your prospective investors. You might comment that you got your tie at the same place they did, or that you use the same type of pen. Look for subtle clues about their personalities, lifestyles, and hobbies, and forge a connection through those channels. People disproportionately like other people like them, so the more commonalities you can find with your prospective investors, the better.
    • Watch your posture. Your posture says more about you than you might think. Keep your back straight with your shoulders back, and walk confidently with your hands out of your pockets. This is crucial for projecting confidence (and feeling it internally as well).

If you can land a great first impression, you’ll set the stage for a killer presentation—but don’t think you’re out of the woods yet. You still need to make sure you have a fantastic pitch deck in place, and enough knowledge on your startup idea to handle the toughest investor questions. If this is your first pitch, don’t worry – it does get easier – but the fundamentals are always going to be important.

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