Before lenders will grant a small business loan, they want to be sure that the loan will be repaid. Every loan is a risk, but banks and brokers want to take as little risk as possible. They look for businesses that show promise, and they award loans to businesses that have solid personal and business backgrounds and are committed to the success of their businesses.
What are the first things the lender will look at? The following are the five basic items that all lenders look at before they will approve your business loan:
1. Credit history One of the primary factors lenders look at is the condition of your personal and business credit. This is generally reflected in your credit score that is obtained from the three credit reporting agencies. Your personal credit score is associated with your Social Security number, but business credit reports are tied to your tax ID number. Before you even start shopping for a loan, request a copy of your credit report from all three major reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Review it carefully and correct any mistakes before you start the application process.
2. Your investment Business loan applicants should have a reasonable amount of their own money invested in their business. Lenders want to know that you will be motivated to work hard to make your business a success. When they see that you have invested a substantial amount of your own money in your venture, they will assume that you will work hard to make it a success. The amount of your required investment may vary, but it should be at least 20% of the amount you need for the business venture.
3. Working capital Working capital consists of your current assets minus your current liabilities. Working capital can also be thought of as cash on hand or what is available to pay current debts and keep your business running. A lack of adequate working capital increases the risk that your business will fail and makes lenders much less likely to approve your loan.
4. Ability to repay Banks want to see two sources of repayment: cash flow from your business and a secondary source which is typically collateral. Lenders will look at your past and projected financial statements. They will want to see your personal financial statements, personal tax returns for the past two-three years, business financial statements for the past three years or for three projected years, and accounts receivables and payable aging. If your business has consistently made a profit or you can reasonably project a profit, you are more likely to get approved. If your business has not been consistently profitable, you can increase your chances of getting a loan by including detailed information of new opportunities, new contracts, or other information showing that your company’s future will be profitable.
Most lenders require collateral to secure the loan. Collateral is required for all SBA loans. Collateral can be business assets and personal assets. If you plan to purchase equipment and other assets with borrowed funds, these assets will be used as collateral for the loan. Lenders will also require you to personally guarantee the loan.
5. Experience and character Lenders will expect you to have experience in the type of business that you plan to run. If you do not have that experience, lenders will expect you to hire people who have experience. Even if you do not have experience in this type of business, you should at least be able to show experience in other businesses and managerial experience.
What documents will lenders require? In order to expedite the process, the following four documents should be available for the lender to review:
1. Business plan A business plan is particularly important for new businesses, as they lack a track record for lenders to review. Your plan should convey all important facts about your business in a concise manner. A professional business plan will be at least 20 pages long, plus financial projections. The business plan will include:
Balance sheets, Profit and loss statements, and Cash flow projections
from the last three years or for three years’ projections.
Accounts receivable and payables aging
breaking your receivables and payables into 30, 60, and 90-day categories.
Market data showing demand for your type of business
Research on competitors including their customer base and price points
2. Loan request This can be included with the business plan and should detail the amount of money requested, how the loan funds will be used, the type of loan, the amount of working capital you have, the collateral that will secure the loan, the personal guarantees of the loan, and how the loan will be repaid.
3. Personal financial statements You will need to provide personal financial statements for anyone who owns 20 percent or more of the business. The financial statements must include a complete schedule of assets, debts with balances due, payment schedules, maturity dates, and collateral used to secure other loans.
4. Other documents Lenders may also require articles of incorporation, taxpayer ID number, legal descriptions of real property, leases, equipment inventories with serial numbers, proof of insurance for collateralized items, and letters of intent showing that commercial accounts intend to do business with you.
What is the loan process? Some lenders like to prequalify potential borrowers to determine how much they can afford. This also gives you and your lender an opportunity to see which loan program would be most appropriate for your needs. After the lender gathers basic information and your application is received, a loan officer or processor will review your credit reports, the amount of available collateral, and your income.
The loan officer will determine if any additional documentation is required. If you are purchasing real estate, you may also need to submit preliminary environmental reports, area maps, title reports, property appraisals, and lease summaries. Next, your commercial loan package is submitted to the decision makers — either a loan committee or underwriter. During the underwriting process, you may need to furnish additional documentation.
After the underwriting process, you will receive a letter of intent or term sheet. A letter of intent or term sheet is a formal document intended to put all parties (the lender and your company) on the same page. The letter of intent will include the names of all parties, amount of financing, type of collateral, and other key terms. After all underwriting conditions are satisfied, the final loan package is resubmitted to the loan committee for final approval.
At this point, the lender will issue a final full loan commitment. If your loan is approved, you will receive closing documents and they may be handled by a title company. The title company will record deeds and mortgages, order title insurance, coordinate the exchange of funds, and arrange for you to sign the loan documents. At the closing, the lender funds the loan with a cashier’s check, draft, or electronic wire transfer.
Being prepared and organized can save time and help your loan get approved. Be prepared to have all required information ready to submit if your lender requests it.