I'm one of the biggest advocates you'll find for avoiding debt in both business and personal life. A life - and a business - straddled with an enormous debt load is being held back from being all that it can be. If there is a reasonable avenue to take with your business without going into lasting debt, take that route.
Of course, as we all know, there are many situations for businesses that can really only be handled with a business loan. You need to upgrade your workspace. You need more equipment. You need more people to handle all of the orders. You've got customers and orders on the table but you simply don't have the capital to push the product out the door.
In those cases, business loans really can help.
Every business is different, and every business has different loan needs. Even given that, though, there are still some universal principles that any businessperson can follow in order to greatly improve their chances of getting the business loan they need to create a thriving enterprise.
Be presentable. One of the biggest questions that a banker will have when they discuss a business loan with you is whether or not they can trust you. Don't give them the opportunity to doubt your trustworthiness due to something you can easily control - your appearance.
Right now, let go of what your own social beliefs are. Instead, put yourself in the shoes of that banker. That person is going to sit down, look at you, and start drawing conclusions that will help shape their recommendation. Don't hand them reasons to draw negative conclusions. Practice good hygiene. Cut your hair in a professional fashion. Dress cleanly and crisply. Look the banker in the eye when you speak and shake their hand firmly.
Know why you're there - cold. You need to absolutely, unequivocally know why you're there and what you're asking for. Why do you need this money? How much money do you need? How will you repay it? What can you offer for security on this money? If you can't answer those questions without any hesitation, you need to step back and look at your situation again. Know the answers to these questions cold.
Not only that, be prepared to answer "the five whys" about each of those questions. If they ask why you need the money and you give your answer, what do you say if they go "why" again? Know the reason for each reason. Know why you need the amount you do. Know the reason for your repayment ideas.
Bring the documentation. You'll likely have guidelines for the documentation you need to provide. Follow it to the letter - and go beyond it. If they want three years of statements, have five on hand for them and ask if they want them. Have documentation to support every answer and statement you might produce when doing the "five whys" exercise above.
Make it look professional, too. Don't just slap a notebook on the table with lots of jottings. If you need help to make it look good, get that help. Ask for someone to help you neaten everything up before you go. Presentable materials makes it look like you have your act together and that will work strongly in your favor.
Don't hide the problems. If there are problems with your case, you're better off being up front about them than hiding them. If they begin to dig into your records and find something problematic that you've avoided or glossed over, they'll wonder what other problems you might be hiding. Don't open that door. Instead, open your own door to the future by being up front about your challenges. A solid, open, honest business seems more trustworthy than a "perfect" business that just had a big flaw uncovered.
Don't be scared. Don't look at this as an opportunity to fail. The worst case scenario is that you wind up where you are right now. When you're seeking a loan to improve your business, the only place to go is up. Keep that in mind when you go: there is no penalty for failure here. There's no reason to be frightened or stressed out.