In business, you need money to make money, as the old adage goes. Studies show that well-funded businesses generate greater and greater revenue over time. So, if you want to grow your business, you’re likely to seek financing at some point.
In the book “A Rising Tide: Financing Strategies for Women-Owned Firms” the authors Susan Coleman and Alicia Robb did extensive research on why women business owners didn’t raise more capital. Their findings were surprising – women didn’t ask!
According to the research, women were apprehensive about seeking financing, thinking they’d be turned down. After extensive interviews, the authors concluded women business owners were intimidated by finance because they lacked skills in that area. And this held them back!
For 30 years I worked with lenders, loan officers and investors. During that time, I’ve been privy to their comments about why some businesses get funded and others don’t. I learned how they think, what they want, and what makes them say “yes”.
Here are 7 insights from a finance industry perspective. Use them to develop a winning strategy to get optimal financing for your business.
TARGET THE RIGHT LENDER
Lenders have different business models and different targeted markets. Some distinctions are obvious: banks like to lend to established businesses while investors prefer scalable businesses. But many preferences are not so obvious. Some lenders prefer certain industries, some prefer certain business models, and some prefer certain locations.
Do a little homework to find lenders who are lending to your type of business. Bottom line: If you apply to a lender that doesn’t fund your type of business, you won’t get the money—no matter how good your business may be.
PURPOSE OF FINANCING
When it comes to financing, one size does not fit all. There are different types of financings. Examples include term loans, lines of credit, equipment loans, merchant funding, working capital lines, acquisition loans, and letters of credit.
Each type of financing is designed for a specific purpose in business. Lenders will analyze your business from different perspectives depending on the type of financing you’re requesting.
Start with how the loan proceeds will be used. This dictates the type of financing you need. Next, understand the criteria for that type of financing and develop your strategy around that criteria.
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Your numbers paint the picture of your business for a lender. Understanding what lenders see when they review your financial information gives you a big advantage. So, be prepared.
When you know the story your numbers tell, you can control the narrative. You can highlight the strengths in the business, address the weaknesses, and make a more persuasive presentation.
This also “screams” you are a financially savvy business owner. In my opinion, it’s one of the most important factors in playing the funding game.
TIMING IS A BIG FACTOR
This might sound a bit counterintuitive, but banks don’t like to lend when a business has a cash shortage (too risky). They like to lend when the business doesn’t need cash (less risky).
A business owner had a liquidity problem and hadn’t planned ahead. Six months into a project he needed $250,000 to finish. His overall business was profitable and had several million in revenues, but when he went to the bank, they turned down his loan request.
Eight months later he applied to the bank again. His overall business hadn’t changed much, but his timing had. This time his cash flow was at a high point. He presented a sound business plan supported by historical monthly financial statements and realistic projections. The bank approved a $200,000 line of credit for his business.
Timing does make a difference. So, plan ahead. Anticipate your funding needs, position your business, and apply for financing at the opportune time.
You only get one chance to make a first impression. Find out ahead of time what financial information and documents the lender requires. Put together a financial package and have it ready at the time you apply for a loan.
A point to keep in mind—a loan officer usually doesn’t approve a loan request. A loan application is reviewed and approved by a credit officer or credit committee. When they receive a loan request with all necessary documentation, it expedites the process and says you know how the game is played. That goes a long way!
TALK THE TALK
To communicate effectively with a lender, you need to speak their language. And their language is finance. When you do, they will be more receptive to what you have to say.
Like it or not, lenders (and investors) judge you as a business owner. In their minds, business is about making a profit and producing strong financial results. When you speak their language and have command of your numbers, lenders are more inclined to believe you can make that happen.
Finally, a word of caution. There should be no commingling of money or assets. Keep your business accounts separate from your personal ones. If you don’t, it will be difficult to get a business loan. The request for financing will be treated as a personal loan.
Lenders see commingling as a red flag. They assume a business owner is using the business as a “personal piggy bank” and may pay personal expenses before repaying the loan. So, don’t do it!
Understanding your numbers and learning to “talk the talk” doesn’t happen overnight. But you would be amazed how quickly you can pick these skills up and how easy it is to do so. The important thing is to be aware of what’s happening financially in your business.
Financial awareness doesn’t just help you get financing. It’s also instrumental in helping you make better business decisions, maximize cash, plan strategically, and reach your goals faster. It puts you on top of your game.