As banks, auto giants and Wall Street have money thrown at them, the small business owner has been asking, ‘What about me?’
Someone in Washington has heard the cry: $730 million from the Obama stimulus plan will reduce small-business lending fees and increase the government guarantee on some Small Business Administration loans to 90 percent. Under the administration's new initiative, the government will step in to buy these loans to help unlock the frozen credit market.
That’s positive news, says Richard Russakoff, co-founder and CEO of Bottom Line Consultants, but that doesn’t mean small business is in line for any easy money.
“Let’s assume you’re loan is up for renewal in four months. Regardless of assurances from your banker, start looking at lenders now,” Russakoff says. “Things change quickly and you have to be prepared.”
The numbers tell the story. From October through December of last year, Bank of America took permanent losses on about 2.9% of its outstanding small business loans, an annual loss rate of almost 12%, double the rate it was the year before.
Back then, BofA started offering unsecured credit lines of up to $100,000 to startups. A small business owner that existed for 24 hours could qualify, and for loans under $50,000, financial records weren’t even required.
Overall, small business loans around the country were also dicey propositions. The U.S. government's Small Business Administration said losses made through its lending programs more than doubled in 2008, reaching nearly $1.3 billion. In 2007, the SBA took permanent losses against $504 million of the loans; in 2005, it charged off $276 million.
Those numbers have made the game harder now, and creativity is a must.
Russakoff stresses that finding capital doesn’t always have to begin and end at the bank. “Keep in touch with your personal network. That includes business associates who are also going after capital,” he says. “Prices are going up for money and you need to shop til you drop for the best deal.”
Those deals don’t always come easy. “Entrepreneurs are risk takers and bankers are conservative. Emphasize the factors that will win a banker's attention in your application.” For additional informational on small business advice and loans visit: Bottom Line Consultants.
The SBA does not provide direct loans. The agency provides guarantees to loans availed through SBA's partner lending institutions, which includes many community banks. The applicant must satisfy the lender's requirements before he or she can ask for a guaranty from the SBA.