Securing Financing For Your Small Business
October 2, 2019
Securing financing for your small business can feel like a monumental task. The daunting process of selecting a bank that will be right for your company and making an application, gathering the information to support the application and the interview process supporting the application can feel overwhelming. Not to mention after all of that, your loan may not be approved for the full amount, if at all!
Community banks help to remove the aggravation from this process through a friendlier, more personal and open-minded approach. Community banks are active participants in their communities through their contributions and their employees who live in the communities they serve. Community banks have skilled and well-trained employees who take a personal approach when dealing with business owners.
There are many advantages to applying for a loan through a community bank:
- Personalized Service – Many small businesses have unique needs that do not fit the “in the box” lending philosophy of larger banks. Community bankers take the time to make business owners feel welcome, rather than feeling like just an account number. In most cases, you will be working with the individual who will approve your loan instead of an unknown, out-of-state decision maker. Community banks were established to provide flexible financing catered to local business needs. You’re also likely to meet the executive management when applying for a small business loan through a community bank.
- Community Focus – Community banks rely on the health and growth of the communities they serve for their own success. Community banks support local organizations like Little Leagues, Scout Troops and food banks through contributions, employee volunteers and supporting the growth of local businesses. Some large commercial banks reject loans based on types of industries or loan size; community banks look to support all companies within the area they serve.
- Emphasizing Character – When assessing loan applications, community banks are more likely to consider the character of the business owner. The approval algorithms used by large banks cannot quantify character. Although financial results and collateral are the primary deciding factors for any bank, in many cases the assessment of character will be the deciding factor for community lenders.
- Flexible Lending – Community bankers seek to assist all businesses in their community while realizing that they cannot be “all things to all people.” Some large banks will not lend to certain industries or even consider loans that are too small. Business owners should not underestimate the lending power of the community bank, as many can provide loans in the five- to ten-million dollar range and provide technology-oriented products at competitive rates and nominal costs.
- Quick Turnaround – The lines of communication within a community bank are short and do not extend out-of-state. Community banks use rigorous underwriting, but their size allows for quick responses. The lender can focus on the request at hand rather than be out of the office selling the “product of the day” in order to make a bank dictated goal. At a community bank, the customer’s need is the only goal.
So you’ve heard the reasons why you should apply for your small business loan through a community bank and you’ve been convinced. Great! Now the question becomes: what do you need to do to prepare for a meeting with a commercial lender that will give you the best chance at being approved for a loan?
Like any good Boy Scout knows, before you apply for any small business loan you should “be prepared!” You should have the following:
- Two to three years of tax returns or financial statements
- The latest company-prepared interim financial statement
- A personal financial statement (listing personal assets and liabilities) for all of the owners of the company, as most small business loans will require the guarantee of the owners
- Be prepared to discuss the history and operation of the business
- Discuss why you need the loan and more importantly how the bank will be repaid
Having this information ready prior to the initial discussion allows the bank to make quick decisions and reduces the applicant’s aggravation.
Most banks large and small will have difficulty financing restaurants and start-up businesses (due to the lack of collateral and high failure rates). These types of requests are best served by area Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). Two are located at Lehigh University and Kutztown University and provide free help developing business plans and obtaining financing through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Obtaining a small business loan can be daunting, but community banks offer the most reliable route to financing a local enterprise. As a small business themselves, community banks only thrive when their customers and communities flourish. With the proper preparation and approach, a community bank can provide you with the personal experience and support your business needs to succeed.