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By David Burch

 

As an entrepreneur, you may rely on a variety of sources for capital – such as banks, family, personal savings or even angel investors. Regardless of the financing sources you tap or the stage of your business, securing and accessing capital is likely to play a critical role as you plan for future growth.

 

34977526_s+copy.jpgAccording to the Bank of America spring 2017 Small Business Owner Report, more than half of small business owners nationwide are planning to grow their business over the next five years. If you’re among those millions of business owners planning for long-term growth, what should you know about financing that growth?

 

Below are top strategies to help secure financing, identify resources for capital, and navigate through emotions and financial arrangements when funding is provided by loved ones.[1]

 

1. Know the “5 Cs”

To increase your chances of securing funding, planning is essential – and a key component of that preparation is having a general understanding of creditor expectations. While each business is different and has unique financial needs, there are generally “5 Cs” that creditors evaluate when making lending decisions for small businesses: Capacity, Collateral, Capital, Conditions and Character.

  • Capacity evaluates whether your business can support debt and expenses. Typically, you need enough cushion to absorb unexpected expenses or a downturn in the economy.

  • Collateral can be offered as security for repayment and forfeited in the event of a default. Examples of collateral include accounts receivable, inventory, cash, equipment, and commercial real estate. Creditors may also take into consideration existing debt that your business may still owe on collateral.

  • Capital takes a look at whether your business’ assets outweigh its liabilities, and how much capital you and other outside sources have invested.

  • Conditions such as the economy, industry trends and pending legislation may be a consideration, although these are often out of your control as an individual small business owner.

  • And finally, Character – your own character and the character of those tied closely to the success of your business – is critically important. Factors such as personal integrity, industry experience, and good standing can make a difference.

 

2. Treat every loan as a contract – regardless of the source!

/videos/1039 When you’re starting out, the financial support you might receive from family and friends can make a big difference in helping to get your business off the ground. However, this can sometimes cause stress and awkwardness for everyone involved. To minimize this, it is important to create a contract for every type of loan you receive – whether it’s a financial agreement with a family member, friend or a bank. It can be immensely helpful to clarify up front with family and friends whether you are receiving a gift versus a loan. If it’s a loan – are they expecting some interest to be paid back? Do you need to pay back the loan within six months, a year, or is there more flexibility? Does your family member or friend want something in return, such as a stake in your business? To avoid unnecessary stress and confusion, it is important to know and write out the full terms of your agreement so you can focus your efforts and energies on making your business successful instead of worrying about misunderstandings.

 

3. Take advantage of resources

There are a variety of available resources you can turn to for lending advice, guidance and support – family members, friends, your professional network, financial experts, small business advocates, online content and more. Take advantage of this vast well of knowledge. I also encourage you to meet with a small business banker. They are experts in small business lending and can provide advice about what is best for you and your business, both in the short- and long-term. Even if you are just starting out and don’t think you will qualify for a bank loan, small business bankers can give you guidance on where to turn for capital. They can also help you develop a business plan so you get where you need to be to receive a traditional bank loan.

 

There is a treasure chest of free online tools and technology that can make life easier for business owners, such as Nav and the Small Business Administration. You can also turn to Google to search for answers to your questions, but a word of caution - use Google searching as a starting point, and always double check with other reliable sources to make sure you are getting good advice.

 

Want to learn more about securing the financing you need to grow your business? Check out the Bank of America Small Business Community for tips and information on accessing capital and more.[2]

 

 


[1] The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of Bank of America, NA (the “Bank”), and have been obtained or derived from sources believed by the Bank to be reliable. The information provided herein is solely for educational purposes, and the Bank does not recommend that the information serve as the basis of any business decision and may not be construed as such. The Bank does not make any representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the information's accuracy or completeness, and the Bank makes no promise or guaranty that any particular measure of success or results will be achieved from relying on the information provided herein

 

[2] Bank of America, N.A. (the “Bank”) provides informational reading materials for your discussion and review purposes only. Please consult your tax advisor, as neither the Bank, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Credit is subject to approval, loan amounts are subject to creditworthiness, and normal credit standards apply. Some restrictions apply.

By Joe DiNicola, Bank of America Practice Solutions executive

 

 

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Access to capital is a vital component of growth for small businesses. While credit demand was lower in the years immediately following the 2008 recession, the lending market is much more fluid now. According to the spring 2015 Small Business Owner Report, 39% of small business owners said they have applied for a loan in the past two years, up from 28% a year ago. In addition, 19% of small business owners intend to apply for a loan this year, compared with 14% a year ago. And these numbers are even higher among younger small business owners.

 

In light of the importance of access to capital for small business owners, this month’s installment of the Bank of America Small Business Social Series discusses how to help entrepreneurs prepare, negotiate for and secure capital.  Click the video below to watch.

 

 

Carol Roth, author and CNBC personality, hosted the discussion. Participants included myself, as well as Barbara Weltman, Publisher of Idea of the Day® and Big Ideas for Small Business®, and Steve Strauss, author and small business columnist for the USA TODAY.

 

We hope you’ll watch! You can also check out previous Google Hangouts which have covered finding balance, tax tips, women and small business and more.

by David Tremblay.


There is no silver bullet when it comes to getting a loan to fund your business.  With Small Business lending on the rise, knowing how to approach the process can help you secure a loan more quickly than others in your industry. When it comes down to it, it’s all about Ability, Stability, and Willingness to Pay, limiting uncertainty on the lender’s side by providing a very detailed plan.

 

Respondents were split when asked by our Fall Small Business Owners Report what they believe is the most important factor in receiving a loan.

Small Business Owner Report Graphic

The funny thing is that none of them are wrong.  Most financial institutions look at ALL those things, but in reality, less-than-perfect credit scores or a lack of a previous business borrowing history won’t carry the same weight individually that cash flow does. It’s also important to have a good relationship with your banker, who can provide context if one of those factors comes up short. Figuring out how much to ask for when applying for a business loan is part and parcel of the factors above. Here are a few thoughts on how financial institutions look at those different factors:

 

Cash flow:  Cash flow is typically considered the primary source of repayment for credit. It is important because that’s what repays the lines of credit and loans that banks extend to clients.  Does your business have the financial capacity to support debt and expenses?  Do your assets outweigh your liabilities? Typically a business needs to have between $1.15 and $1.35 of income to support every $1 of debt service, including the new debt being requested. The extra $0.15 to $0.35 provides a cushion for your business to absorb unexpected expenses or a downturn in the economy. It is important for the business to demonstrate more than one year of adequate cash flow history to show consistency in the ability to service debts. The ability to use projected cash flows as opposed to historical cash flows is uncommon.  Inadequate cash flow is a frequent reason why banks are unable to extend new credit to businesses.

 

Image of David TremblayCredit score:  Banks often look at multiple credit scores – business scores, consumer scores of the owners who will act as personal guarantors, and other internal scores based on bank risk factors and relationships. The credit scores of the business and individual owners in and of itself aren’t nearly as important as what is driving them, but the scores still play an important role in predicting creditworthiness.  As Jeannie Kelly also notes in a post running today on the MasterCard Small Business site, important drivers of credit scores are payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, types of credit used and new credit opened.

 

Track record of ability to repay previous loans:  Relationships are important to banks, whether new or existing. An established borrowing and/or deposit relationship with their bank is often beneficial to the applicant requesting new credit. An existing borrowing and/or deposit relationship can offer immediate insight into the potential creditworthiness of the applicant based on the bank’s established risk guidelines.  When applicants have a proven track record of adequate repayment of previous loans, the decision to extend new credit is often an easier or quicker one to make.  The length of time for a bank to consider a small business to have a proven repayment track record can vary. Two years would be considered a minimum but 5+ years is preferred in order to establish trends that cross different economic cycles. Business borrowing history is less important than credit scores or cash flows but it brings an additional positive factor to the lending decision.

 

Annual revenues:  The gross annual revenues of a business is one factor that helps banks size potential credit needs and guide applicants to the most appropriate products available.  Annual revenue size is an indicator of how marketable the product or service is.  After our established revenue minimum of $250,000 for lines/loans, revenue trends over several years become far more important than the number itself.  Banks also care more about client base diversification to provide cushions in volatile markets. 

 

Personal finances:  Work experience, experience in your industry, and personal credit history are all “character traits” banks will consider. Your personal integrity and good standing—and the integrity and standing of those closely tied to the success of the business—are critically important. Business owners who have demonstrated challenges in managing their personal finances will have higher hurdles to obtaining new credit for their business. Related to this, many banks will ask how much stake the owners have in their business. If leadership is heavily invested monetarily in their own business, the bank sees this as a higher commitment to success, and therefore a higher chance of repaying the loan. To be further prepared for the loan application process, the Small Business Administration website has a Business Loan checklist that goes in more detail.

 

Again, it’s important to develop a strong relationship with your business banker – before you ever ask for credit. If that person understands the story behind the factors above, she can make the process much easier and help you get a yes to your loan request.

 

This month, I’ll be part of a Google Hangout on this very topic, so feel free to revisit this post for an updated start time. Top small business influencers from around the country will be discussing what drives credit decisions.

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