As a small-business owner, you’re bound to make a few missteps. Spending more time thinking when you should be acting, overselling your idea when you should be playing it cool—these are typical beginners’ mistakes. But when it comes to getting a loan, you (literally) can’t afford to slip up. Here are five loan application don’ts you should do your best to avoid:
1. “I don’t need a business plan. I’ve got it all in my head.”
Business plans matter—especially when you’re applying for financing. Banks like to see that you’ve given your loan application serious thought. A well-organized business plan shows banks that you know exactly how much money you need and exactly what you want to do with it. The best business plans cover everything: The past and projected performance of your business, itemized accounts of your proposed expenditures, a clearly scheduled plan for repayment, and a detailed explanation of your target market. A solid business plan proves to banks that you’ve done your homework. Who wouldn’t want to lend to a good student?
2. “I’ll just accept whatever loan I qualify for.”
Remember the amount of money you said you’d need in your business plan? Stick to it. Your business may qualify for triple the funding that your business plan requires, but that doesn’t mean that you should take it. More money isn’t necessarily better, particularly in the case of loans. The larger the loan, the longer it will take you to pay back. And in this recession, it’s hard to be sure that you’ll always have the money to make debt payments. Avoid the risk—apply for the money you know you need. No more, no less.
3. “I can only get financing from a bank.”
Banks may be the most prominent source of small business loans, but they’re certainly not the only one. These days, there’s a myriad of financing options available to would-be borrowers, and it’s worth your while to take notice of them. Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have funded thousands of startups over the past few years by allowing users to financially donate to projects that they find promising. It is particularly appealing for artistic ventures and efforts requiring smaller amounts of money. Community-based microlenders like the SBA Microloan Program, ACCION, The Business Center for New Americans (BCNA), and The Opportunity Fund in California (to name just a few) are great options for small businesses in need of loans under $50,000. If you’re interested in giving up a degree of ownership of your company in exchange for capital and industry advice (this is called "equity financing"), then pitching your ideas to angel investors or venture capitalists could be the way to go.
4. “If I reveal weaknesses in my credit history, I won’t qualify for a loan.”
The key to securing a loan is being honest. If you’re applying for financing, then you need to be realistic about not only how much money your business needs, but also how readily you’ll be able to repay your debt. You know that you don’t want to take out a loan that you’re not equipped to pay back, so why lie about it? Be forthcoming about your finances, and the right lender will help you find the loan package that’s best for you.
5. “I’m an independent business owner. I can do it all on my own.”
The Small Business Administration is practically begging to help small businesses in search of loans, so don’t be shy about approaching SBA-preferred lenders for financing. As a small-business owner, you have the potential to revive the U.S. economy by creating new jobs. That’s a powerful asset, and you should use it to your advantage. The SBA makes it more likely for small-business owners to secure loans by guaranteeing loans issued by banks around the country. With the SBA in your corner, you’re simply a far stronger candidate for a loan.
Remember, there are literally thousands of different financing institutions out there that specialize in lending to small-business owners like you. Avoid making these five common mistakes and you could find the funding you need in no time.
Rohit Arora, CEO and co-founder of Biz2Credit Business Loans, is one of the country's leading experts in small-business finance. Since its founding in 2007, Biz2Credit has arranged $800 million in small-business loans and has helped thousands of entrepreneurs. Rohit was named Crain's New York Business "Entrepreneur of the Year" in 2011." Follow Rohit on Twitter and Facebook for small-business news and company updates.