Very few people can afford to start a business using nothing but the money they’ve got lying around in their bank accounts. For most of us, we’re going to need to get a loan before we’d have anywhere near enough money to invest in starting up.
Standard Loan Uses
- The purchase of real estate to house the business
- Construction, renovation or leasehold improvements
- To purchase furniture, fixtures, machinery, or equipment
- For the flooring of inventory and for working capital
Your Credit History
You might not have realised that your credit history was going to count here, but it does. This is where all those late credit card payments come back to bite you. The better your credit history, the more likely a bank is to lend you money, and the better the rate it offers will be.
Banks usually have someone whose job it is to go through applications for business loans. These people have seen a thousand business plans, and they know what they’re looking for.
Take along all your plans and any other supporting material you can put together. Make sure you present yourself at your most professional. Act like the most sensible and level-headed person you’ve ever met. This is, essentially, a job interview: the bank is interviewing you and your business to try and figure out whether it would be a safe place to put their money. Remember that they’re just like every investor, lending you money with the expectation that they will get it back, plus interest.
Of course, you’ll probably have a much easier time persuading a bank to lend you money if you put up something of your own as collateral in case you can’t pay the debt back. Some dodgy banks would really like you to secure your business loan on your house, since they know that the failure rate of start-ups is high and they’d really like to get their hands on it. Be cautious, in case you sign your life away. It is almost never worth starting a business if you can only get secured loans – you’re tying the business’ fortunes too closely to your own.
As part of the push to support small businesses, there are now many government bodies that will offer no-interest or low-interest loans to small businesses, a category which includes home businesses. The government lot will obviously be even more picky about your business plan, but it’s still a good option to have available to you. Even better, these loans will often come with free help and advice from the agency that issues them, as well as all sorts of booklets and leaflets telling you the technical details of getting started.
Credit Cards and Overdrafts
These forms of debt are a very bad idea. Whatever you do, do not finance your business with personal debt. You’ll have to make a massive profit just to pay back your debts, and it’s unlikely that you’ll manage to both pay them off and have enough money to live. If you can’t get a loan, try to find other investors instead.
Friends and Family
Friends and family can be a surprisingly good source of loans to help start businesses, especially if they’re in the same industry themselves – they’ll be more than happy to help you get a foot on the ladder. You might be able to persuade someone to give you the money at a good rate of interest, or even to act as a ‘sleeping partner’, financing half of everything while leaving you to run it all.
Be aware, though, that many friendships and families have been ruined by failed businesses. I had a friend who went around raising thousands from everyone he could think of to start a magazine of his own, only for it to crash and burn by the second issue. Be warned.
If you get turned down for a loan, keep trying (preferably at different banks!) You should revise your business plan each time, and try to get as many people as possible to read it – the more people who see it, the more ideas and suggestions you can hear. If your credit rating is fine, then the problem has to be with the business plan: fix it, and you’re set. Good luck.
About the author:
Information supplied and written by Lee Asher of The Home Income Portal Home of Serious Online Business Options.