Obtaining a small business loan is no simple task. You can better your chances by getting your finances in order early and working with your accountant to put together a proper loan package.
Weigh Your Options
The first step in obtaining a small business loan is making sure you need it. Does it fit your situation? Would another type of funding, such as a business credit card, invoice financing, an angel investor or venture capitalist work better for you? You need to determine the length of time you need the funds and the amount of money. It also matters what for what purpose you want to use it.
Credit Scores Make The Difference
If you determine that a loan works for your situation, your ease in obtaining it hinges on two items:
- your personal credit score,
- your business credit score.
Both credit scores impact your ability to obtain a loan and the loan’s terms.
Keep Them Separated
Increase your credit scores for personal and business by keeping the accounts completely separate. It may seem easier when starting out to have a single account, but at tax time or loan application time, it complicates things.
Establish a separate business account and ensure you deposit all funds directly into it. The earlier you establish an account, the earlier you begin building a business credit history. This also prevents your personal financial situation from impacting your business credit score.
About That Credit Report
Every purchase you make as a business gets recorded to your business credit report. The credit report becomes the basis for your credit score. Pay your bills on time to ensure your credit score rises. Three main scoring systems exist: Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian.
- The Dun & Bradstreet PAYDEX score examines the business’ payment history to calculate its score.
- Equifax examines its collection agency data, legal filings, payment history and public records.
- Experian also examines its collection agency data, legal filings, payment history and public records.
Each system produces a three-digit score but uses a different scale.
Personal Credit Score Health
No matter how healthy your business score gets, banks and other financial institutions still consider your personal credit score when you apply for a small business loan. Think of it this way – if you hired a professional driving instructor, you’d check their personal driving record to ensure they had not incurred moving violations.
As with your business credit score paying your bills on time makes the biggest impact. Two main scoring systems exist: the FICO score and the VantageScore. Both scores range from 300 to 850. The higher the score, the better.
Mistakes to Avoid
In addition to making on time payments, you can improve your credit scores by avoiding common mistakes. It’s a mistake to:
- have a high outstanding balance. That means you’re carrying a large debt.
- overutilize credit. If you use too much of your available revolving credit, it hurts your score. Keep utilization under 10 percent.
- ignore your credit report. Obtain your annual free copy and check it thoroughly.
The VantageScore system places greater weight on the utilization rate than FICO does. Use this formula to calculate your utilization rate:
Utilization Percentage = (the current balance / the credit limit) * 100
That means if your credit limit is $1,000 and your balance is $500 then your Utilization Percentage is 50 percent. Here’s the math: 50 = (500/1000) * 100.
Getting Ready to Apply
Before you apply for a small business loan, use the benefits provided in the Fair Credit Reporting Act to obtain your credit report and analyze it. You get a single copy of your report free annually.
Where to Get Your Reports
You obtain business credit reports and personal ones from different organizations. Obtain business credit reports from:
- Nav (formerly Creditera),
Obtain personal credit reports from:
- Credit Karma,
You can access it online or have a paper copy sent to you. Once you obtain it, begin analyzing it for correctness.
You can increase your score simply by identifying and reporting mistakes. You may have to call or write to have it addressed more than once. Follow up is your friend.
1. Check for mistakes. You or your business could have been confused with another person or entity. The amount of credit or history of payments could be incorrectly reported.
2. Check for missing information. Your credit report should list all of your credit accounts. Those missing accounts could boost your creditworthiness.
3. Check for negative activity you already addressed or paid off. A paid in full account that still shows as late or unpaid hurts your score.
If you notice mistakes, missing extensions of credit, or addressed activity that remains, report this. The sooner it gets rectified, the sooner your score increases.
Look for Quick Pay Offs
Find any past-due debt and pay it off. If you cannot afford the full amount all at once, then phone the creditor to request a payment plan or goodwill adjustment in exchange for the lender bringing the account current and erasing the late payments.
Pay off any state or federal tax liens. Contact the government to set up a payment plan. If you can, pay it off in a lump sum.
By practicing vigilant score clean up and smart credit habits you can raise your scores and keep them high. Hire the help of a credit monitoring service. For about $20 a month they’ll monitor your report and flag errors. You’ll get a monthly update from them on your status.
Better Loan Applications
You’re ready to apply. Make your request specific. Create a budget for how you’ll spend the funds. If you want to make renovations or purchase equipment, provide estimates from contractors and the manufacturer’s retail price of equipment. You’ll need to provide a copy of your business plan, too. Obtain the following from your accountant – balance sheet, cash flow statement, income statement.
The financial institution looks at these to determine your company’s fiscal health. Profitability goes a long way.
You will also need to provide your company’s financial statements, one to two years of tax returns, and your accounts payable and receivable.
If the bank likes your reports and score, it will offer you a loan. The stronger your application, the better annual percentage rate (APR) and interest rate the bank will offer. Your interest rate refers to the percentage of the loan principal the bank charges you. The APR refers to yearly average of total interest you’re charged.
Landing a small business loan is not easy, but it’s possible. You need to prepare early and raise your credit score for the application.