Setting up a new business is never easy. There are innumerable details that need to be taken care of. Start-up businesses are mainly dependent on loans for almost all their business requirements. It is therefore extremely important to find an appropriate and reliable lending source to cater to their financial needs. However, since most conventional lenders and banks are not keen on providing loans to new business owners due to various security reasons, opting for SBA small business loans can be an excellent idea.
Small businesses can contribute immensely in developing and enhancing the nation’s economy. The Small Business Administration (SBA), which is a United States government agency that provides loans to small businesses with the aim of improving the country’s financial condition. These loans are meant to support the establishment of small businesses by providing through adequate financial assistance. These loans cannot be obtained directly from SBA, but through a number of their lending partners working in accordance with the SBA rules and regulations.
The SBA offers a wide variety of loans that demand different qualifications of the borrowers. The various financial programs offered by SBA such as surety bonds, debt financing and equity financing are designed to cater to the different financial requirements of borrowers. In order to avail a loan from them, it is extremely important to understand how the SBA works. Let us discuss some basic rules and regulations of the SBA:
The SBA loans are provided to business owners at a lower interest rate than banks and other conventional lending sources owing to the fact that start-up business owners do not have adequate capital to opt for loans with high interest rates.
SBA does not provide loans to small business owners directly. Instead, they merely set certain rules and regulations that are strictly followed by their partners, including private-sector lenders, micro-lending institutions and community development organizations, who are authorized by the SBA to provide loans to start-up businesses.
The loans are provided to the business owners under an SBA guarantee to ensure that the loan is repaid on time to the lending partners. Business owners cannot avail SBA small business loans in case they have the eligibility to obtain loans from other lending sources on affordable and reasonable terms.
You can obtain SBA loans fast and without any kind of hassles. They can be acquired on an immediate basis as soon as they are applied for. This can be immensely beneficial for start-up businesses that need financial assistance for all their business needs. Delay in acquiring loans can create problems for them in setting up the business.
One of the most beneficial aspects of SBA loans is that they can be availed even if you have a poor credit record including bankruptcy, insolvency, IVA etc. It can be an excellent way to improve your credit records.
SBA offers various kinds of loans, including 504 for purchasing real estate and equipment, 7 (a) for common small business loans, disaster loans and microloans. Not all banks issuing SBA loans offer the same loan programs. Moreover, in accordance with individual bank policies, the loan requirements for a particular program can differ from bank to bank.
A business loan provides financial aid to business of all sizes (i.e. small businesses, medium-sized businesses or start-up businesses). It is ideal for business owners who need funding to enhance or expand their business. When you need a loan for your business, you must adopt a strategic approach. Cautious planning is necessary for ensuring success in obtaining business loans.
When you are considering applying for a business loan, it is important for you to take enough time to create a convincing and detailed business plan. Your business plan should include information, which will assist your finance broker as well as the lender/credit provider in providing you with the right type of finance and advice. Here is a list of information you should include in your business plan:
>> Your business structure
>> The purpose and goals of your business
>> Your past and future plans for your business
>> The profit and loss projections and cash flow forecasts of your business
>> Your marketing strategy (i.e. the products or services your business provides)
It is also important to state in your business plan the specific purpose for which you want to use a business loan.
Decisions to Make
Once you have assessed your needs for a business loan, you should investigate which finance products suit your needs for a business loan as each loan has varying features for you to choose. To help with this process, here is a list of things to consider and which you can discuss with your finance broker:
>> The loan amount required
>> The loan term (i.e. the period in which the loan will need to be repaid)
>> Interest rate type and repayments (i.e. fixed or variable)
>> Loan fees, and
>> Loan security (i.e. the type of security offered by you)
There is a variety of business loans available to choose from. Here is a brief summary of common business loan products specifically designed by lenders/credit providers for business owners, which can assist your individual situation as a business owner:
Commercial Bill Facility
A commercial bill (also called a bank bill or bill of exchange) is a flexible credit facility that can give your business a short-term or long-term injection of cash. The finance provided by the commercial bill can help your business in the event that you may need to solve an unexpected or urgent problem, and you do not have the required cash flow. You agree to pay back the face value of the commercial bill plus interest to the lender/credit provider on a specific maturity date.
The purpose of establishing an overdraft facility is to provide working capital for your business in the short-term, before receiving income. An overdraft facility should not be used for capital purchase or long-term financing needs. The overdraft is a normal trading account facility for your business, whereby the lender/credit provider permits you to use or withdraw more than you have in the trading account. But, only up to an agreed amount and any negative balances typically need to be repaid within a month.
Line of Credit
A line of credit (also called an equity loan) can provide access to funds by allowing you to draw an account balance up to an approved limit. The loans are designed as a long-term debt facility and are usually secured by a registered mortgage over a property.
Fully Drawn Advance
This is a term loan with a scheduled principal and interest repayment program. The loan provides access to funds upfront, which can be used for funding long-term investments that will expand the capacity of your business, such as purchasing a new business or even purchasing equipment. Fully drawn advance loans are usually secured by a registered mortgage over a residential or commercial property or a business asset.
A short-term loan can provide short-term funding needs for your business. You can take out a short-term loan if you want to take advantage of a very quick financial opportunity or to help you get out of a financial cash flow crisis. The loan offers a fixed sum advance and requires a periodical interest charge to be paid by you. Short-term loans typically require a security to be provided.
Business Equipment Finance
If you decide to expand your business operations and take benefits of potential tax advantages, you should consider taking out business equipment finance, as the finance arrangement allows you to buy, lease or hire a new vehicle or specialised equipment (e.g. cars, trucks, forklifts, printing, computing, medical and office equipment as well as plant equipment and machinery). Typical finance arrangements to consider for business equipment finance are asset lease, commercial hire purchase, chattel mortgage or equipment rental.
Truly, there are several finance products available in the market to help business owners. When you seek out finance for your business, don’t be in a hurry. Consider all the alternatives in detail and then choose the one that is right for you and your business.
As we continue to sift dutifully through the over 1,000 pages of the stimulus bill (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), there is one provision that is not getting much attention, but could be very helpful to small businesses. If you are a small business and have received an SBA loan from your local banker, but are having trouble making payments, you can get a “stabilization loan”. That’s right; finally some bailout money goes into the hands of the small business owner, instead of going down the proverbial deep hole of the stock market or large banks. But don’t get too excited. It is limited to very specific instances and is not available for vast majority of business owners.
There are some news articles that boldly claim the SBA will now provide relief if you have an existing business loan and are having trouble making the payments. This is not a true statement and needs to be clarified. As seen in more detail in this article, this is wrong because it applies to troubled loans made in the future, not existing ones.
Here is how it works. Assume you were one of the lucky few that find a bank to make a SBA loan. You proceed on your merry way but run into tough economic times and find it hard to repay. Remember these are not conventional loans but loans from an SBA licensed lender that are guaranteed for default by the U.S. government through the SBA (depending upon the loan, between 50% and 90%). Under the new stimulus bill, the SBA might come to your rescue. You will be able to get a new loan which will pay-off the existing balance on extremely favorable terms, buying more time to revitalize your business and get back in the saddle. Sound too good to be true? Well, you be the judge. Here are some of the features:
1. Does not apply to SBA loans taken out before the stimulus bill. As to non-SBA loans, they can be before or after the bill’s enactment.
2. Does it apply to SBA guaranteed loans or non-SBA conventional loans as well? We don’t know for sure. This statute simply says it applies to a “small business concern that meets the eligibility standards and section 7(a) of the Small Business Act” (Section 506 (c) of the new Act). That contains pages and pages of requirements which could apply to both types of loans. Based on some of the preliminary reports from the SBA, it appears it applies to both SBA and non-SBA loans.
3. These monies are subject to availability in the funding of Congress. Some think the way we are going with our Federal bailout, we are going be out of money before the economy we are trying to save.
4. You don’t get these monies unless you are a viable business. Boy, you can drive a truck through that phrase. Our friends at the SBA will determine if you are “viable” (imagine how inferior you will be when you have to tell your friends your business was determined by the Federal government to be “non-viable” and on life support).
5. You have to be suffering “immediate financial hardship”. So much for holding out making payments because you’d rather use the money for other expansion needs. How many months you have to be delinquent, or how close your foot is to the banana peel of complete business failure, is anyone’s guess.
6. It is not certain, and commentators disagree, as to whether the Federal government through the SBA will make the loan from taxpayers’ dollars or by private SBA licensed banks. In my opinion it is the latter. It carries a 100% SBA guarantee and I would make no sense if the government itself was making the loan.
7. The loan cannot exceed $35,000. Presumably the new loan will be “taking out” or refinancing the entire balance on the old one. So if you had a $100,000 loan that you have been paying on time for several years but now have a balance of $35,000 and are in trouble, boy do we have a program for you. Or you might have a smaller $15,000 loan and after a short time need help. The law does not say you have to wait any particular period of time so I guess you could be in default after the first couple of months.
8. You can use it to make up no more than six months of monthly delinquencies.
9. The loan will be for a maximum term of five years.
10. The borrower will pay absolutely no interest for the duration of the loan. Interest can be charged, but it will be subsidized by the Federal government.
11. Here’s the great part. If you get one of these loans, you don’t have to make any payments for the first year.
12. There are absolutely no upfront fees allowed. Getting such a loan is 100% free (of course you have to pay principal and interest after the one year moratorium).
13. The SBA will decide whether or not collateral is required. In other words, if you have to put liens on your property or residence. My guess is they will lax as to this requirement.
14. You can get these loans until September 30, 2010.
15. Because this is emergency legislation, within 15 days after signing the bill, the SBA has to come up with regulations.
Here is a summary of the actual legislative language if you are having trouble getting to sleep:
SEC. 506. BUSINESS STABILIZATION PROGRAM. (a) IN GENERAL- Subject to the availability of appropriations, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration shall carry out a program to provide loans on a deferred basis to viable (as such term is determined pursuant to regulation by the Administrator of the Small Business Administration) small business concerns that have a qualifying small business loan and are experiencing immediate financial hardship.
(b) ELIGIBLE BORROWER- A small business concern as defined under section 3 of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 632).
(c) QUALIFYING SMALL BUSINESS LOAN- A loan made to a small business concern that meets the eligibility standards in section 7(a) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 636(a)) but shall not include loans guarantees (or loan guarantee commitments made) by the Administrator prior to the date of enactment of this Act.
(d) LOAN SIZE- Loans guaranteed under this section may not exceed $35,000.
(e) PURPOSE- Loans guaranteed under this program shall be used to make periodic payment of principal and interest, either in full or in part, on an existing qualifying small business loan for a period of time not to exceed 6 months.
(f) LOAN TERMS- Loans made under this section shall:
(1) carry a 100 percent guaranty; and
(2) have interest fully subsidized for the period of repayment.
(g) REPAYMENT- Repayment for loans made under this section shall–
(1) be amortized over a period of time not to exceed 5 years; and
(2) not begin until 12 months after the final disbursement of funds is made.
(h) COLLATERAL- The Administrator of the Small Business Administration may accept any available collateral, including subordinated liens, to secure loans made under this section.
(i) FEES- The Administrator of the Small Business Administration is prohibited from charging any processing fees, origination fees, application fees, points, brokerage fees, bonus points, prepayment penalties, and other fees that could be charged to a loan applicant for loans under this section.
(j) SUNSET- The Administrator of the Small Business Administration shall not issue loan guarantees under this section after September 30, 2010.
(k) EMERGENCY RULEMAKING AUTHORITY- The Administrator of the Small Business Administration shall issue regulations under this section within 15 days after the date of enactment of this section. The notice requirements of section 553(b) of title 5, United States Code shall not apply to the promulgation of such regulations.
The real question is whether a private bank will loan under this program. Unfortunately, few will do so because the statute very clearly states that no fees whatsoever can be charged, and how can a bank make any money if they loan under those circumstances. Sure, they might make money in the secondary market, but that is dried up, so they basically are asked to make a loan out of the goodness of their heart. On a other hand, it carries a first ever 100% government guarantee so the bank’s know they will be receiving interest and will have no possibility of losing a single dime. Maybe this will work after all.
But there is something else that would be of interest to a bank. In a way, this is a form of Federal bailout going directly to small community banks. They have on their books loans that are in default and they could easily jump at the chance of being able to bail them out with this program. Especially if they had not been the recipients of the first TARP monies. Contrary to public sentiment, most of them did not receive any money. But again, this might not apply to that community bank. Since they typically package and sell their loans within three to six months, it probably wouldn’t even be in default at that point. It would be in the hands of the secondary market investor.
So is this good or bad for small businesses? Frankly, it’s good to see that some bailout money is working its way toward small businesses, but most of them would rather have a loan in the first place, as opposed help when in default. Unfortunately, this will have a limited application.
Wouldn’t it be better if we simply expanded our small business programs so more businesses could get loans? How about the SBA creating a secondary market for small business loans? I have a novel idea: for the moment forget about defaults, and concentrate on making business loans available to start-ups or existing businesses wanting to expand.
How about having a program that can pay off high interest credit card balances? There is hardly a business out there that has not been financing themselves lately through credit cards, simply because banks are not making loans. It is not unusual for people to have $50,000 plus on their credit cards, just to stay afloat. Talk about saving high interest. You can imagine how much cash flow this would give a small business.
We should applaud Congress for doing their best under short notice to come up with this plan. Sure this is a form of welcome bailout for small businesses, but I believe it misses the mark as to the majority of the 27 million business owners that are simply looking for a loan they can repay, as opposed to a handout.
Operating a business takes money and just about everyone has heard the expression you have to spend money to make money, but where do you get the money if you aren’t independently wealthy, or established? A business loan is the answer to most business needs. It doesn’t matter what size a business is, almost every business owner at some point has to consider a loan. A business loan can help a business get started, expand once it’s on its way and growing, or get a business through the tough spots that happen occasionally. Deciding on a business loan is a key step, but which loan is right for you and how do you decide between the many different various types?
Skip the Loan and Use Plastic
Some business owners opt for a slight variation on a business loan and choose to use credit cards to back their startup, expand on an existing business, or help their business through a tough stretch. The positive reason for using credit to fund your business is that it is often easier to get, or already existing in a personal credit card, but there are a couple of serious negatives to using this type of business financing. The first negative is that unless your existing credit line is unlimited there might not be enough funding on your credit cards. The second negative to using personal credit cards is that your personal and business cash flow is not separate. This can create havoc if you need to use your credit for important personal needs and it can have a similar effect on business funds if you suddenly have to tap into your credit for personal reasons. Lastly, the interest rate on credit cards is normally much higher than any of the various types of business loans.
A Bridge Between Credit Cards and Business Loans: Lines of Credit
A line of credit operates much the same as a credit card. You apply for a business loan line of credit and based on your qualifications you are approved for up to a certain amount. You are not charged on the loan until you actually use the money and are only charged for the amount you actually use. Another similarity between lines of credit and credit cards is the loan is often an unsecured loan meaning no assets are used to guarantee the loan such as homes, cars, the business itself. However, unlike a credit card business lines of credit have interest rates much closer to a traditional loan level.
On the downside those interest rates are usually variable like a personal credit card and go up or down over the period of the loan. Another downside to lines of credit is that like a credit card your payments will usually be only a little more than the interest rate each month.
This may seem like a plus at the start because the monthly payments are so low. The catch there is that lines of credit to not extend forever. There is almost always a set number of years for the loan amount to be available. At the end of that time (and sometimes within the last two years of the payback) money is not longer available. After that period, the payments are higher to make sure the money is completely paid back by the end of the loan.
If you have the discipline to make yourself pay more than the minimum every month in order to pay down the loan, this can be a good loan to get. It allows for times when money is tight. You can pay the minimum at those times without risking a default on your loan.
Traditional Types of Business Loans
Even if you do not have an extensive amount of credit, and if you don’t think a line of credit is right for you, all is not lost. There are many more traditional styles of business loans to choose from:
- Working Capital Loans: These loans are what most people think of when they consider getting a business loan. They come in two types, secured and unsecured. Unsecured versions of working capital loans are usually only available to those business owners with stellar credit, a sound business plan, and an established business with a proven track record. Startups are usually too risky to be granted unsecured working capital business loans. Secured working capital loans are a little easier to get although the amount of collateral needed to obtain these loans is often based on the credit of the borrower. These loans make it possible for all types of business to conduct their affairs on a day-to-day basis with available cash. Loans are commonly secured with homes, and other valuable assets.
- Accounts Receivable Loans: These are short term types of financing available when you hit a tough spot and now you have money coming in at a particular time. Your business’ records of accounts receivable act as a security for such loans. On the downside the interest rates of these short term loans are usually higher than a long term standard loan, and you can end up in a vicious circle of using your assets (receivables) before you get them and then not have money left before your next income period. This type of loan should only be considered in a select few types of cases of emergency such as the need to meet payroll, purchase inventory at a value, or other necessities.
- Business Only Loans: This type of loan is applied for using the capital and assets of the business alone and not any personal credit or credit history of the owner. It is only available to a business with a solid record of reliable income, the long-term prospect of fluid operation, and very strong business credit scores.
Other Function Specific Loans
There are times during business operation when you need a loan for a specific type of purchase such as to buy new or replace old equipment, the purchase of real estate for the business, or other dedicated needs there are loans designed to be separately available for just those times.
Getting The Loan
The best way to ensure success in getting your business loan is to be prepared. Enter your bank with a well-formulated business plan in hand and make sure your credit is up to par. If you know of any spots on your credit history, be prepared to explain them. Lenders are human too, and know that there are situations that are unavoidable but if you can prove your trouble is in the past and you are on more solid footing it will help a lot in getting the loan you desire. Letters of explanation to go along with your loan package help if there were situations such as illness, or caring for a sick loved one that caused problems in the past.