Monthly Archives: April 2017

Bank Loans Still Pose Challenge for Small Businesses

While the ability of small businesses to obtain capital has improved in recent years, getting a traditional bank loan is still a tough obstacle, a new study finds.

Research from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management and Dun & Bradstreet revealed that over the last four years, there has been a 13 percent increase in access to capital for small businesses. However, most are getting that money from personal assets and not banks or online lenders.

The study revealed that only 38 percent of small business respondents qualified for a bank loan within the last three months, compared with 70 percent of mid-size businesses. While that’s up from 30 percent in the first quarter of the year, it is down from a four-year high of 46 percent in the third quarter of 2014.

When it comes to alternative lenders, small businesses had the most success with merchant cash advances. The research found that 41 percent of the small businesses surveyed were able to obtain a merchant cash advance, compared with just 20 percent who were able to get a regular loan from an alternative lender.

Most small business owners are relying on their own personal assets to help fund their business. Specifically, more than 70 percent of those surveyed used personal savings, 45 percent used personal credit cards and 19 percent used cash from the sale of personal assets.

Crowdfunding is growing increasingly popular with small businesses. The research found that 19 percent of small businesses that sought financing in the past three months used crowdfunding as a funding source, compared with just 7 percent of mid-size businesses.

Jeff Stibel, vice chairman of Dun & Bradstreet, said when they began conducting these studies four years ago, small businesses were reeling from the effects of the Great Recession.

“Since then, we have seen steady progress for small businesses being able to acquire the capital they need, although the financing is still predominantly not coming through traditional lenders,” Stibel said in a statement. “It will be interesting to see how the new option of crowdfunding will affect small businesses, as our study has shown more eagerness to use that option as compared to their mid-sized counterparts.”

Although access to capital improved over the past three months, the number of small businesses needing it declined. Overall, demand for capital from small businesses dropped from 38 percent in the first quarter of the year, to 32 percent in the second quarter.

Of those the small businesses that didn’t try to access capital over the past three months, 49 percent said it was because they had enough cash flow in place, while 24 percent indicated they already had sufficient financing. However, 16 percent didn’t apply for financing because they were worried they would be rejected, 12 percent shied away because of the weak economy and 7 percent said they were holding out for cheaper financing rates.

“Business borrowing habits suggest owners may not see a need for an immediate infusion of capital,” said Craig Everett, an assistant professor of finance and director of the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project. “However, these findings suggest business owners are still feeling the lasting impact of the recent recession and remain skittish about the future, as reflected in an abundance of caution when it comes to the economic environment.”

How Much Cash Will You Need

If you’re thinking about launching a new business, you may not know where to start with your finances. Of course, you’ll need a decent amount of cash flow to maintain your company. However, if you are organized and thorough, you can plan out your financing and keep your startup budget on track. Here’s how to figure out approximately how much you’ll need to launch your business. Start small You most likely have high expectations for your company. However, blind optimism may cause you to invest too much money too quickly. At the very beginning, it’s smart to keep an open mind and prepare for issues that may arise, experts say.

“A prospective business owner should start planning a small business by simply understanding the potential of the business idea,” McCahon told Business News Daily. “What this means is not assuming your idea will be successful.” The best approach is to test your idea in a small, inexpensive way that gives you a good indication of whether customers actually need your product and how much they’re willing to pay for it, McCahon said. If the test seems successful, then you can start planning your business based on what you learned.

While every type of business has its own financing needs, there are some tips that can help you figure out how much cash you’ll require. Entrepreneur Drew Gerber, who started a technology company, a publicity firm and a financial planning company, estimates that an entrepreneur will need six months’ worth of fixed costs on hand at startup. “Have a plan to cover your expenses in the first month,” Gerber said. “Identify your customers before you open the door so you can have a way to start covering those expenses.” When planning your costs, don’t underestimate the expenses, and remember that they can rise as the business grows, Gerber said. It’s easy to overlook costs when you’re thinking about the big picture, but you should be more precise when planning for your fixed expenses, he added. Indeed, underestimating costs can decimate your company, McCahon said. “One of the main reasons most small businesses fail is that they simply run out of cash,” she said. “Writing a business plan without basing your forecasts on reality often leads to an unfortunate, and often unnecessary, business failure. Without the benefit of experience or actual historical financials, it’s easy to overestimate a new company’s revenue and underestimate costs.” Understand what types of costs you’ll have According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are various types of expenses to consider when starting your business. It’s important to differentiate these types of costs, in order to properly manage your business’s cash flow for the short and long term, said Eyal Shinar, CEO of Fundbox, a cash flow management company. Here are a few types of costs for new business owners to consider: 1. One-time versus ongoing costs. One-time expenses will be relevant mostly in the startup process, such as the expenses for incorporating a company. If there’s a month when you have to make a one-time equipment purchase, your money going out will likely be greater than the money coming in, Shinar said. This means your cash flow will be disrupted that month, and you will need to make up for it the following month. Ongoing costs, by contrast, are paid on a regular basis, and include expenses such as utilities. These generally do not fluctuate as much from month to month. 2. Essential versus optional costs. Essential costs are expenses that are absolutely necessary for the company’s growth and development. Optional purchases should be made only if the budget allows. “If you have an optional and nonurgent cost, it may be best to wait until you have enough cash reserves for that purchase,” Shinar said. 3. Fixed versus variable costs. Fixed expenses, such as rent, are consistent from month to month, whereas variable expenses depend on the direct sale of products or services. Shinar noted that fixed costs may eat up a high percentage of revenue in the early days, but as you scale up, their relative burden becomes negligible. – See more at: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5-small-business-start-up-costs-options.html#sthash.VDy4CxmN.dpuf

Business Loan Myths Busted

You may be intimidated by the idea of obtaining a small-business loan. In fact, you may have heard that it’s nearly impossible to get approved for one. But you shouldn’t believe everything you hear. Business News Daily spoke with finance experts to debunk seven common myths about getting a business loan. Myth No. 1: Getting a small business loan is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. Obtaining a loan for your small business is no easy feat, but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable challenge. Small business lending experts agree that the best way to avoid trouble is to prepare for the challenges that the application process may present. “A lot of the frustration around obtaining small business financing can be eased by doing your due diligence,” said Michael Adam, founder and CEO of Bankmybiz, a site that connects business owners with business funders. “Be prepared, and have all your documents ready to present to lenders.” [See Related Story: Small Business Financing Trends: What You Need to Know] Myth No. 2: You have to have perfect credit to get a small business loan. Although low credit scores might have precluded you from getting a loan in years past, today’s lending environment is more open to subpar credit ratings. “While traditional banks may be restrictive when it comes to obtaining credit, there are alternative options,” said Michael Kevitch, president and founder of Small Business Funding. Alternative lending sites such as Small Business Funding tend to base lending decisions on the financial realities of a business rather than the financial history of business owners. Specifically, Kevitch said, alternative lenders take a close look at business performance, industry type, time in business and cash flow before handing out a loan.

Traditional lending institutions have been a mainstay of small business funding for many decades, and still are in some industries. But they are not the only sources of financing. For business owners looking to borrow a relatively small sum (between $5,000 and $250,000), getting a bank loan is likely to be more trouble than it’s worth, Kevitch said. However, he noted that bank loans may still be appropriate for business owners who need to borrow a large amount of cash, over a long period, and still get a low interest rate. Kevitch advised business owners to make sure they fall under those categories before applying through a bank. Kevitch noted that alternative lending sources often provide faster approvals; sometimes, businesses can obtain access to the funds in as little as seven days, he said. Myth No. 4: The worst way to obtain a loan for your business is through a bank. Bank loans may not be the best option for every small business, but they’re far from the worst funding option out there. In fact, for established businesses looking to grow at a moderate rate, traditional bank funding is generally a great option, Adam said. It’s when a business doesn’t fit those criteria that business owners should consider shopping around. “If you are a younger company, pre-revenue or low revenue — but plan to grow very quickly due to the industry that you’re in (e.g., health care, IT or software consulting) — then a traditional bank loan may actually limit your growth,” Adam said. To decide whether a bank loan is right for your business, research both traditional loans and alternative funding sources. It’s also important to know your business inside and out. “If you anticipate steady growth over the next few years, then a traditional bank may be best,” Adam said. “If you are growing like crazy and you know you will need to keep increasing your loan size by large increments each quarter, then entertain a nonbank lending partner, as banks may not be able to keep up with your needs.” Myth No. 5: The more money you ask for, the less likely you are to be approved for a small business loan. You may find this myth floating around online forums and perhaps even hear it from well-meaning friends and family members. It’s all right to ask for money, nonexperts will tell you; just don’t ask for too much. While this might be reasonable advice in personal circumstances, there’s not much truth to it in the business world. According to Jess Harris, content and social manager of business lender Kabbage, a working paper from Harvard Business School revealed that banks actually prefer lending larger amounts because they make more profit from large loans in the long run. In turn, banks are cutting back on smaller loans. Evan Singer, general manager at online Small Business Administration loan program SmartBiz Loans, said a business should apply for the amount it needs — no more and no less. He recommends considering both how much money you really need to grow your business, and how much money you can afford to pay back every month. “Make sure that you have cash flow to make your loan payments,” Singer said. “That’s the biggest thing that a [lender] is going to check — that [the business owner] can actually afford to make their loan payments.” Myth No. 6: The most important thing you need in order to obtain a small business loan is a good business plan. There are multiple perspectives on whether a traditional business plan still has a place in the loan application process. Some funding experts believe that the method of using a business plan to measure the likely success and fundability of a business is a bit outdated. Singer said that although traditional banks might still require business plans during the loan application process, online lenders typically don’t look for it. And although Adam agrees that most lenders won’t require a full-fledged business plan, he does think that having a plan at the ready is always a good idea. “Every business should have some sort of business plan,” Adam said. “It’s just a good practice to anticipate growth, set milestones and keep yourself accountable. If you don’t have one, create one. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.”