The Small Business Financing Crisis

The current small business credit crunch is getting much attention and rightly so. We know very little about the overall small business universe because it is so huge and diverse. Most discussions about this topic focus on credit and lending, but the issue is much more complex than that. A more broad-based discussion is necessary to understand the full extent of the current crisis. The crisis encompasses both types of financing, debt and equity.

Personal Wealth

In good times or bad the top source of small business capital is the personal wealth of the owner. Even beyond startup, owners often tap into their personal wealth like a line of credit, on an ongoing basis. If available, personal wealth is easier to access than other forms of financing and may be the only source available. The primary sources of personal wealth are typically real estate and retirement accounts. Since 2008 both of these sources have taken a huge hit, so the amount of personal wealth available has plummeted. Most owners are experiencing the worst economic times in their lifetime. So even if they have personal wealth available, they are less likely to invest it in their businesses. Instead, they are cutting back or forgoing expansion.

Friends & Family

Another common source of capital has essentially dried up – friends and family. For the reasons discussed above, friends and family have less wealth available and are less willing to invest.

Creditworthiness

The ability of a private company to borrow funds depends on the cash flow of the company, the available collateral, and the credit of the owners. Most small business revenue, profits and cash flows are down substantially. The value of available collateral, often including the personal residence of the owners, has also dropped significantly. The compensation of the owners is often based on profits, so it is down, too. With both personal income and wealth declining, the credit score of the owners has likely declined as well. All of these factors, in combination, result in less creditworthy private companies.

Credit Cards

Another common source of capital is using credit cards typically based on the personal credit of the owner. Credit card companies have tightened credit standards for getting new or increasing existing credit lines. In many cases they have actually reduced existing credit limits. As discussed above, the creditworthiness of both the owners and the company has declined. The result is that credit card financing is less available and tougher to get.

Bank Financing

Many banks have funds available and seem willing to increase small business lending, but have other issues preventing them from doing so. The demand for business loans has decreased because many companies are cutting back or forgoing expansion. As discussed above, there are fewer creditworthy companies. Many banks are facing increased pressure from regulators to reduce risk while experiencing difficulties with some of their commercial real estate loans. Although small business loans can be very profitable, they are very risky. Many small banks are more familiar with other types of loans and may have little experience dealing with Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs. Continuing issues with the funding of SBA programs has created some doubt about the availability of loan guarantees. Again, the result is bank financing is less available and tougher to get.

Conclusion

All of these issues create a complex small business financing crisis that requires broad-based solutions. A vigorous and sustained economic recovery would alleviate many of the issues, but many expect small business to lead us out of the recession. How is that supposed to work? We need better ways to finance small businesses. Ones that will enable institutional and individual investors to invest in small, private companies like they currently do in large, public companies. The expansion and increased visibility of the secondary market for SBA guaranteed loans is a small step in the right direction that will hopefully lead to a more comprehensive solution.

How To Deal With Your Small Business Finance Needs

One of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks for any business owner is to finance even a small business. While it is considered an essential part of running and expanding a business, it should be done properly and carefully so that it won’t hinder the establishment of the business as a whole. Small business finance is basically the connection between cash, value, and risk. Maintaining the balance of these three factors will ensure the good financial health of your business.

The first step that a business owner needs to take is to come up with a business plan as well as a loan system which comes with a well structured strategic plan. Doing this will certainly result to concrete and sound finances. It is of necessity that prior to your financing a business, you figure out what exactly your needs are in terms of small business finance.

In trying to determine your business’ financing requirements, keep in mind that you have to have a positive mindset. As the owner of the business, you should be confident enough in your own business that you will be willing to invest as much as 10% of your small business finance needs from your own pocket. The other 30% of the financing can be from venture capital or other private investors.

In terms of the private equity aspect of your business, you would want it to be around 30 to 40 percent equity share in your company for a period of at least three years and a maximum of five years. But of course, this will still be dependent on the value of your small business along with the risk involved. Maintaining this equity component in your company will assure you majority ownership of the business. As a result, you will be able to leverage the other 60 percent of your small business finance needs.

It will also be easier to satisfy the remaining financing needs of your growing business. You may opt to get the rest from a long-term debt, inventory finance, short-term working capital, and equipment finance. Remember also that as long as you have a steady cash position in the business, many financial institutions will be more than willing to lend you money. In this respect also, it is recommended that you get an expert commercial loan broker who will do the selection of your financing options. This is also a crucial stage as you would want to find the most appropriate financing offer to meet all your small business finance requirements.

These are just some of the important considerations that need to be taken when financing a small business. There are, however, so many business owners who do not pay enough attention to these things unless their business is in crisis. As a business owner, what you should keep in mind always is how you can grow and expand. Therefore, have a small business finance plan as early as possible so that you can make sure that every financial aspect of your business is in good condition.

Small Business Financing Goes Into Intensive Care

An earlier article noted that business financing is effectively on life support based on recent reports of reduced business loans made by banks throughout the country. There are several reasons why intensive care comparisons might help to explain what is wrong with working capital financing and at the same time provide a healthy prognosis for impacted businesses. Because commercial financing is proving to be a serious challenge for most small business owners, this analysis should be reviewed by any borrower about to obtain or refinance commercial loans.

During the past two years, banks have lost much credibility and good will. Until the federal government provided massive bailouts for many of them, most of these lenders were on life support themselves. While some of the banks have recovered, others are effectively still in the intensive care process. But whether we are reviewing the healthy banks or ones still recovering, working capital financing for most small businesses is predominantly in what appears to be long-term intensive care. Banks are generally reducing or eliminating a large portion of their business financing activities, as indicated from most ongoing public and private reports. For example, with little or no advance notice, most banks appear to be closing commercial line of credit programs for small businesses regardless of profitability or length of the lending relationship. This is apparently not a temporary move to the sidelines but rather a permanent reallocation of resources to more profitable activities based on the manner in which this is being accomplished.

Lending activity has also decreased significantly for other forms of business financing such as commercial mortgage loans. Commercial loans have essentially been downsized or laid off just as many workers have. The realization that banks are rarely announcing publicly that these cutbacks have occurred is what makes this situation different. Perhaps bankers like to think that when they stop making small business loans nobody will notice. When it becomes public knowledge that their small business lending window is effectively closed, the bankers who placed commercial financing into intensive care are astute enough to realize that their public image will suffer even further damage.

Before they realize that the business financing world has changed before their eyes, it is possible that small business owners might need to connect several dots. As this article and other reviews indicate, banks are simply no longer providing the commercial loan services that they once did. Commercial borrowers should primarily rely on extensive candid discussions with other small business customers of the bank to confirm whether their bank is one of the few exceptions to this new reality. Even in the rare instances in which banks are truly lending “normally” to small businesses, the prevailing trend of less working capital financing coming from traditional banks should not be ignored.

While business financing patients (commercial borrowers) might be in serious condition when they find that their bank will not provide needed commercial loans, experienced small business finance specialists can frequently help in restoring financial health that will facilitate a business getting out of an intensive care situation. In some cases, this involves finding a healthy bank that is willing (and able) to provide “normal” commercial loans and working capital financing. For successful commercial funding it will be necessary to explore non-bank solutions in many other instances.