At some point in the growth of your company, you’ll likely need a financial helping hand. You might want to expand, acquire a company, obtain a project that requires more resources than you have, or have some other opportunity too good to pass up. Whether you decide to go to a bank for debt financing in the form of a term loan or are seeking capital from outside investors, there are some common strengths and documents that can make a difference in getting the funding you need.
Any business seeking funding needs to have a good hand on its financials and how it is performing relative to other businesses in its industry, says Tom Boyle, CPA, founder of Boyle CPA, PLLC, an accounting firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bankers and investors want to see that you understand the cycles of your business, the challenges and opportunities in your sector, and how your business compares to its competition.
“You have to know these things inside and out, because the last thing you want to do is present your financials to a lender and not be able to back them up,” he says.
Industry benchmarks and research can come from a variety of different places. Trade associations and media are a great place to start. In addition, services like Dun & Bradstreet’s and Hoover’s can give you basic financial and personnel data about companies in various sectors, as well as aggregate industry information. BizStats.com offers basic industry profiles and expense benchmarks in a variety of industries.
Boyle typically likes to present prospective lenders or investors with a 13-month trend report which outlines income and expenses, showing a full year’s cycle. If the year had anomalies, such as a particularly low cash-flow period or high expenditures, he might urge his client to show two or three years to illustrate the business’s earning power and capacity to repay the loan or earn money for investors. Prior to seeking funding, he also counsels business owners to “hoard cash.”
“Cash is king. Banks want to lend to really strong, healthy companies, and those aren’t always the companies that need cash,” he says. The more cash you have on hand, the more attractive you become to lenders, he says.
A typical loan or investor package will have at least a one-year profit and loss statement, income statement, balance sheet, and other documentation. For example, a professional services firm such as a law firm might have six figures in receivables, so it would show an accounts receivable report, he says. A waste company that just signed a big contract would want to show that, as well, while an apartment complex would show a report on its increase in leased units. Again, Boyle says, the package should be industry-specific and use documentation necessary to show an understanding of growth metrics in the business’s sector.
While some believe the package is all about the numbers, and that banking relationships matter less, Boyle says it’s still a good idea to get to know the manager of your bank and develop a friendly business relationship with him or her. While the loan needs to meet underwriting standards within the institution, the bank representative can be a good counselor, shepherding the business through the process and giving advice. A bank representative can also be a good source of contacts and referrals, depending on the industry sector.
“To land the capital you need, you need to be able to tell the narrative of your business. Your banker isn’t going to want to see you ‘wing it,’” he says. Winning over a lender means showing your business success story and backing up that presentation with solid numbers and industry benchmarks.