As written for Fargo, INC
All businesses start out as a dream.
A hope, a vision, an intent to accomplish something. Whether that dream began as a child or was created out of happenstance, when someone decides to pursue that dream, amazing things can happen.
We see it every day. Someone takes the steps to begin the journey of starting or growing a small business. It’s a journey that is not for the faint of heart, but for those who dare, one that is rewarding in ways that cannot be predicted at the beginning.
It takes courage to step up and make the leap….
- The decision to leave a regular paying job and turn a hobby into a real business…
- The decision to open a restaurant or retail storefront…
- The decision to hire employees…
- The decision to invest in technology or equipment to improve efficiency…
- Or even the decision to purchase real estate to accommodate expanding business demand…
No matter what the stage, the decision also usually requires a financial commitment and understanding of that impact on the future of the business.
Often times, the financial literacy of business owners is an afterthought. How to manage and income statement or balance sheet seems like something that is only required of an accountant. Whether or not the business is able to make a profit or cash flow is something that is on a report printed from the bookkeeping system. A business plan and financial forecast (or budget)? “Well, I’ll get to that someday…”
Fast forward to “someday” and you are making a big decision and need to figure out financing to support your start-up or business growth.
As you begin to seek out options for capital or financing, the first thing you will need to provide are the financials, forecasts and plans. And, you’ll need to be able to explain them. Whether you seek traditional bank financing or special programs specifically designed to benefit small businesses, having the right financing partner will help guide you in the right direction.
- When a local startup needed $5000 to help purchase inventory and equipment to open a new, authentic Mexican restaurant, the funds came through a unique, online funding platform that offered 0% interest and a 2-year term for repayment. With no interest expense, this borrower saved money that helped improve cash flow to help get his business operational.
- When a small, local retail store needed to purchase equipment to bring costly design services in house to reduce costs as well as refinance some existing loans and reduce her monthly payments, a fixed interest rate loan with a longer term, allowed the borrower to free-up some cash flow for other business purposes.
- When a favorite, local bakery needed loans for expansion due to growing business demand, they found the most favorable terms with SBA 504 loans. This provided a lower down payment than traditional financing and also secured a below-market, fixed interest rate for the 20-year term of the loan on a portion of the project. With a lower down payment, the business avoided being cash strapped just to financed their expansions plus they are saving on interest expense with a predictable payment for the term of the loan.
- When a local, fast growing pizzeria needed financing to open additional locations, they looked for financing that would allow for buildout of leased spaces at reasonable terms. Using a combination of financing options, they have successfully managed their cash flow and business model during a fast growth phase, which can be the most challenging especially in the food service industry.
These are all examples of borrowers who benefited from working with financing partners who had the best interests of the businesses in mind. Often times, it takes creativity to put together a financing package that makes sense and doesn’t hamper the business in the long run. As with any other business decision, it is prudent to look into multiple options and visit with more than one institution to find the best deal for your business.
So just a few words of wisdom to those daring souls who venture out on the journey of owning a small business:
- Take ownership for understanding the financials of your business. Enroll in a class, find a mentor, utilize the services of small business advisory entities (like the Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Centers, SCORE business advisors and others), or hire an accountant that can educate you and help setup best practice accounting measures for your business.
- When you seek financing, explore options and ask questions. Lots of questions.