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.
“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.