How Commercial Lenders Went Wrong With Small Business Financing

Small business owners will be more likely to avoid serious future business finance problems with working capital management and commercial real estate loans by exploring what went wrong with business financing and commercial lending. This is not a hypothetical issue for most commercial borrowers, particularly if they need help with determining practical small business financing choices that are available to them. The bankers and banks responsible for the recent financial meltdown seem to be saying that even if anything actually went wrong, everything is fine now in the world of commercial lending. Nothing could be further from the truth. Commercial lenders made serious mistakes, and according to a popular phrase, if business lenders and business owners forget these mistakes, they are doomed to repeat them in the future.

Greed seems to be a common theme for several of the most serious business finance mistakes made by many lending institutions. Unsurprising negative results were produced by the attempt to produce quick profits and higher-than-normal returns. The bankers themselves seem to be the only ones surprised by the devastating losses that they produced. The largest small business lender in the United States (CIT Group) declared bankruptcy after two years of attempting to get someone else to pay for their mistakes. We are already seeing a record level of bank failures, and by most accounts many of the largest banks should have been allowed to fail but were instead supported by artificial government funding.

When making loans or buying securities such as those now referred to as toxic assets, there were many instances in which banks failed to look at cash flow. For some small business finance programs, a stated income commercial loan underwriting process was used in which commercial borrower tax returns were not even requested or reviewed. One of the most prominent business lenders aggressively using this approach was Lehman Brothers (which filed for bankruptcy due to a number of questionable financial dealings).

Bankers obsessed with generating quick profits frequently lost sight of a basic investment principle that asset valuations can decrease quickly and do not always increase. Many business loans were finalized in which the commercial borrower had little or no equity at risk. Banks invested almost nothing in cash (as little as three cents on the dollar) when buying future toxic assets. The apparent assumption was that if any downward fluctuation in value occurred, it would be a token three to five percent. In fact we have now seen many commercial real estate values decrease by 40 to 50 percent during the past two years. Commercial real estate is proving to be the next toxic asset on their balance sheets for the many banks which made the original commercial mortgages on such business properties. While there were huge government bailouts to banks which have toxic assets based on residential mortgages, it is not likely that banks will receive financial assistance to cover commercial real estate loan losses. As a result, a realistic expectation is that such commercial finance losses could produce serious problems for many banks and other lenders over the next several years. As noted in the following paragraph, many lenders have already drastically reduced their small business finance programs.

Inaccurate and misleading statements by commercial lenders about their lending activities for business finance programs to small business owners is an ongoing problem. Although banks have typically been reporting that they are lending normally with their small business financing, the actual results indicate something very different by any objective standard. It is obvious that lenders would rather not admit publicly that they are not lending normally because of the negative public relations impact this would cause. Business owners will need to be skeptical and cautious in their efforts to secure small business financing because of this particular issue alone.

There are practical and realistic small business finance solutions available to business owners in spite of the inappropriate commercial lending practices just described. The emphasis here is focusing on the problems rather than the solutions primarily because of the lingering notion by some that there are not significant current commercial lending problems. Despite contrary views from bankers and politicians, collectively most observers would agree that the multiple mistakes made by banks and other commercial lenders were serious and are likely to have long-lasting effects for commercial borrowers.

Small Business Financing Goes Into Intensive Care

An earlier article noted that business financing is effectively on life support based on recent reports of reduced business loans made by banks throughout the country. There are several reasons why intensive care comparisons might help to explain what is wrong with working capital financing and at the same time provide a healthy prognosis for impacted businesses. Because commercial financing is proving to be a serious challenge for most small business owners, this analysis should be reviewed by any borrower about to obtain or refinance commercial loans.

During the past two years, banks have lost much credibility and good will. Until the federal government provided massive bailouts for many of them, most of these lenders were on life support themselves. While some of the banks have recovered, others are effectively still in the intensive care process. But whether we are reviewing the healthy banks or ones still recovering, working capital financing for most small businesses is predominantly in what appears to be long-term intensive care. Banks are generally reducing or eliminating a large portion of their business financing activities, as indicated from most ongoing public and private reports. For example, with little or no advance notice, most banks appear to be closing commercial line of credit programs for small businesses regardless of profitability or length of the lending relationship. This is apparently not a temporary move to the sidelines but rather a permanent reallocation of resources to more profitable activities based on the manner in which this is being accomplished.

Lending activity has also decreased significantly for other forms of business financing such as commercial mortgage loans. Commercial loans have essentially been downsized or laid off just as many workers have. The realization that banks are rarely announcing publicly that these cutbacks have occurred is what makes this situation different. Perhaps bankers like to think that when they stop making small business loans nobody will notice. When it becomes public knowledge that their small business lending window is effectively closed, the bankers who placed commercial financing into intensive care are astute enough to realize that their public image will suffer even further damage.

Before they realize that the business financing world has changed before their eyes, it is possible that small business owners might need to connect several dots. As this article and other reviews indicate, banks are simply no longer providing the commercial loan services that they once did. Commercial borrowers should primarily rely on extensive candid discussions with other small business customers of the bank to confirm whether their bank is one of the few exceptions to this new reality. Even in the rare instances in which banks are truly lending “normally” to small businesses, the prevailing trend of less working capital financing coming from traditional banks should not be ignored.

While business financing patients (commercial borrowers) might be in serious condition when they find that their bank will not provide needed commercial loans, experienced small business finance specialists can frequently help in restoring financial health that will facilitate a business getting out of an intensive care situation. In some cases, this involves finding a healthy bank that is willing (and able) to provide “normal” commercial loans and working capital financing. For successful commercial funding it will be necessary to explore non-bank solutions in many other instances.

How To Deal With Your Small Business Finance Needs

One of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks for any business owner is to finance even a small business. While it is considered an essential part of running and expanding a business, it should be done properly and carefully so that it won’t hinder the establishment of the business as a whole. Small business finance is basically the connection between cash, value, and risk. Maintaining the balance of these three factors will ensure the good financial health of your business.

The first step that a business owner needs to take is to come up with a business plan as well as a loan system which comes with a well structured strategic plan. Doing this will certainly result to concrete and sound finances. It is of necessity that prior to your financing a business, you figure out what exactly your needs are in terms of small business finance.

In trying to determine your business’ financing requirements, keep in mind that you have to have a positive mindset. As the owner of the business, you should be confident enough in your own business that you will be willing to invest as much as 10% of your small business finance needs from your own pocket. The other 30% of the financing can be from venture capital or other private investors.

In terms of the private equity aspect of your business, you would want it to be around 30 to 40 percent equity share in your company for a period of at least three years and a maximum of five years. But of course, this will still be dependent on the value of your small business along with the risk involved. Maintaining this equity component in your company will assure you majority ownership of the business. As a result, you will be able to leverage the other 60 percent of your small business finance needs.

It will also be easier to satisfy the remaining financing needs of your growing business. You may opt to get the rest from a long-term debt, inventory finance, short-term working capital, and equipment finance. Remember also that as long as you have a steady cash position in the business, many financial institutions will be more than willing to lend you money. In this respect also, it is recommended that you get an expert commercial loan broker who will do the selection of your financing options. This is also a crucial stage as you would want to find the most appropriate financing offer to meet all your small business finance requirements.

These are just some of the important considerations that need to be taken when financing a small business. There are, however, so many business owners who do not pay enough attention to these things unless their business is in crisis. As a business owner, what you should keep in mind always is how you can grow and expand. Therefore, have a small business finance plan as early as possible so that you can make sure that every financial aspect of your business is in good condition.

Understanding Small Business Finance

If you are an entrepreneur, then you know that there is always a need for small business finance to keep things going. Being able to get the money that is needed for your business means that you need to make several financial and non-financial considerations.

Firstly, before you search for funding for your business, it is important to know what type of financing required. Would the business need debt financing (a loan for running your business) or equity financing (money that is taken from savings or investors)?

Small business finance through debt financing means taking loans from credit unions, banks and other traditional financial institutions. Among the loans that are available are short-term loans which must be repaid, with interest, within a specific period of time. Such loans may be termed as demand loans as the lender can call in the loan for repayment any time. Small business finance longer debt loans are normally used for financing assets like renovations or investments in equipment.

There are many businesses that make use of lines of credit as a source of small business finance. They make arrangements with lending institutions for a set amount of available credit that they can draw upon when need arises. Lines of credit allows businesses to use the cash when they need it and they only need to pay back the amount that has been used and interest is paid on the outstanding balance of the line of credit. Numerous lending institutions offer credit cards as a means of small business financing. These cards are used by establishments to finance their operating expenses. But, credit cards can be expensive because of the interest rates. The cards are ideal for use if the balance is paid in full monthly.

Small business finance through equity is normally used in a limited manner. Informal source of equity funding includes friends and family; while the formal sources include venture capitalists. Venture capitalists generally have a considerable pool of resources that allow them to finance ventures and participate in some of the more crucial decisions in the business. However, these capitalists conduct studies before making the decision to provide funding.

There is also some equity small business finance that are received from people who are called as “angel investors”. These are normally people who have deep pockets and are willing to provide funding.

Different types of small business finance helps to increase the chance of the business to become successful.

Top Signs That You Need Small Business Finance

It is easy to start a business. To keep it rolling and then grow is the tough part. As one goes along there will always be instances of cash crunch that prove to be roadblocks to further progress. Smart businessmen always keep lines of finances open so that they can take care of such situations. That is not the only reason to have a line of funding; growth and expansion are also equally viable reasons to have access to funds. There are signs that you need finance for small businesses.

Pay vendors and pay salaries

You are already running a business and your funds are committed. It depends on cash flows to keep it running. All of a sudden a customer may delay payment but you must meet your commitment to vendors and to employees. You may consider borrowing from friends or relatives but there is no guarantee they will be forthcoming. This is when you need small business finance from the right lender. There is nothing wrong in borrowing if one has receivables incoming but which are delayed for some reason or the other.

You secure a large order

Small businesses need large orders in order to make a big leap. If a businessman secures a large order the problem is how will he execute it? He needs to buy raw materials, processes it and supplies it. He needs funds to buy materials and then he must manage while the materials are processed and supplied. It takes time from when he invests to when he recovers the money. This is when small business finance comes in handy. He can process orders quickly and by satisfying customers he can expect even more orders.

Expansion

One may start small and as one grows one finds that the present circumstances stand in the way of growth. Equipment may not be capable of high production that the growing business requires. Premises may be too small and cramped. This is the right type to access finance for small business and expand production capability and move into larger premises. One can engage more staff. It is necessary to take this step and expand or just be left behind as customers cannot wait for orders to be executed and they are likely to shift their business elsewhere.

Promotions

A business may have a satisfactory number of clients but it must always engage in promotions, especially during some seasons. Promotions help keep the business visible and attract new customers and one can explore regular channels as well as others such as online. Periodic campaigns will net more customers and help the business sell its products in bulk. Obtaining finance for small business for these purposes will pay rich dividends.

Business Finance Training and Effective Business Solutions

Business finance training refers to programs that teach individuals how to handle various financial duties. Finance training is similar to finance tips in that both help business owners make better monetary decisions, but training programs offer a more detailed explanation of finance strategies. Training programs vary in price and can be used by the owners and employees of a business.

The most basic business finance training provide information on budgeting, preparing financial statements, managing cash flow, strategizing, forecasting, improving performance, and applying basic procedures and concepts to more effectively manage a business. These programs are recommended for new business owners to help them understand standard business practices. Once these basic methods are mastered, more specific financial training may be looked into.

Advanced business finance training delves more deeply into a certain financial procedure or concept, usually at a higher cost than basic programs. Advanced programs may teach business owners how to set up effective business models, make decisions based on quantitative analysis, manage and control accounts, practice due diligence, measure productivity, and strategize concerning mergers and acquisitions.

Taking part in any kind of business finance training gives a business owner the resources to make more intelligent business decisions that result in increased productivity and profits. Many different types of courses are available either online or at a specified location. Some programs may even offer the option to train at the business. Taking into consideration the needs and abilities of a business is the key to finding the best business finance training.

A business finance solution generally refers to methods of funding and maintaining the finances of a business. Most solutions involve ways of obtaining working capital, but others also offer ways of protecting and increasing that capital.

To obtain working capital, business owners look to finance solutions that offer funding by several different means. The most common means are loans and financing. Asset-based loans use a business’s assets, such as inventory and equipment, as collateral. A business may also opt for a property loan in order to acquire commercial space. Invoice financing, such as factoring, involves liquidating or selling a business’s accounts receivables in exchange for quick funding. Some businesses look to trade financing to supply their inventory. The business will tell its financer the amount and cost of goods needed, and the financer will pay for the goods. The business then repays the amount financed over a specified period of time.

Most companies that provide business finance solutions also offer ways to protect and increase a business’s capital. Credit protection safeguards a business from daily risks, such as customers not paying on time, so that the business does not suffer incredible losses. This makes it much easier for the business to borrow money in the future, and it protects the balance sheet. A finance solution may also offer business insurance plans that increase the stability of a business. The most common types of business insurance are employee and public liability, car, property, and health insurance. These business finance solutions are designed to protect businesses against potential losses.

Functions of Business Finance

Strength and soundness of business depends on the availability of finance and competency with which it is used. The abundance of finance can do wonders and its scarcity can ruin even a well established business. Finance increases the strength and viability of business. It increases the resistance capacity of a business to face losses and economic depression. It is just like a lubricant, the more it is applied to the business, the quickly the business will move. Following headings explain the importance of finance to business:

(1) Initiating Business: Finance is the first and fore most requirement of every business. It is the starting point of every business, industrial project etc. Whether you start a sole proprietary concern, a partnership firm, a company or a charity institution, you need ample amount of finance. It is equally important for profit seeking and non-profit activities. It is equally important for a multinational organization and for a free dispensary.

(2) Purchase of Assets: Finance is needed to purchase all sorts of assets. Even if credit is available some down payment is to be made. Mostly finance is needed at the start of business for the purchase of fixed assets. These fixed assets consume a large amount of initial investment of the entrepreneur, so he may face liquidity difficulty in running day to day affairs of the business.

(3) Initial Losses: No business attains high profit on the first day of commencement. Some losses are normal before the business reaches its full capacity and generate enough revenue to match cost. Finance is necessary so that these initial losses can be sustained and business can be allowed to progress gradually.

(4) Professional Services: Certain business need services of specialized personnel. Such personnel have rich experience in specialized fields and they can provide useful guidance to make business profitable. Nevertheless these services are costly. Finance is always needed so that services of such professional consultants can be hired.

(5) Development: Business is always exposed to change. New innovations and emergence of new technologies replaces old techniques out of market. So in order to remain in the market, it is needed to keep the business well equipped with all emerging tools and techniques. This required finance. New technology is always expensive as it is better than others. So finance is needed to purchase new equipment and keep the business running.

(6) Information Technology: Information technology has now changed the geography of the business battle field. The home markets have now extended virtually to other comers of the world. The whole world can be your customer or competitor. To face such a fierce competition, IT is needed. Skills and competency in IT can perform miracles. But finance is again the decisive factor. It is very much needed to incorporate expensive IT products in the business.

(7) Media War: The advertisement and promotion have now become a vital elements for the success of business. The way a businessman approaches a customer and convinces him to purchase his product has become more important than the quality of product. With advertisement on International media, a businessman can reach the minds of millions of people around the globe. However, advertisement is a luxury which every business can’t afford. Huge finance is required to meet advertisement expenses.

(8) Resource Management: Finance is very essential for efficient resource management. Resources here include capital and human resources. Maintenance of plant and equipment and training of employees all need finance. Establishment of new industrial units, expansion of plant capacity, hiring of well learned skilful laborers – all
these factors can lead to huge revenue but at the first place they need finance to start with.

(9) Stock Investments: These investments are those which are made to hold ample stock of raw materials in hand. Bulk purchase of raw materials is profitable in a sense that purchase discount can be attained and there is no danger of production halts. So companies most often hold huge amount of stocks and raw materials. But such an investment can be made only if a company has sufficient capital or finance to carry out its daily operation easily besides holding huge stock.

(10) Combating Risks: Everything is exposed to one or more risks. A business is also exposed to variety of risks. These risks include natural hazards, burden of any huge liability, loss of market or brand name etc. Finance is needed to make business powerful, so that it can sustain occasional losses and liabilities.

The Primary Cause Of Business Financing Frustration

Finding proper business financing is not easy at the best of times for most small and medium sized business owners and managers.

There are a number of reasons that collectively explain why the business financing market can be so difficult to understand and navigate.

But probably the single biggest reason is the lack of useful information about how the business financing market actually works.

Business financing information and education sources predominantly come in two forms: 1) Text books; 2) Major bank advertising.

If you’ve ever read through a educational finance text book or taken a business financing course, you already know how difficult it can be to apply the theories, principles, and strategies to a small or medium sized business.

Our formal education system provides limited information as to how the market place works, how to plan for financing requirements, how to manage periods of growth, decline, transition, start up, etc.

Sure academic books and courses can go through all these areas in great detail, but is the information practical, real world, something you can relate to and apply yourself as a manager or owner of a small or medium sized business?

In most cases, the answer is a resounding NO.

Most finance text books speak to big business financing dynamics that are not easily transferable to small and medium sized business scenarios.

Outside of the formal education system, the next great source of business financing information is the information provided by the major banks, which they tend to make available to you by the boat load through their broad based marketing campaigns.

Unfortunately, the information by itself seldom helps you determine if a particular institution would be able to provide you with financing, or what would be required to qualify for a loan.

The good news is that business financing sources continue to grow in numbers as more and more lenders carve out a particular piece of the market to service.

In order to take advantage of these alternatives, you need to have a solid approach in place when seeking business financing.

Here’s a short list of things to consider

>>> Develop a solid, ongoing, understanding of both your personal and business assets, income, and cash flow.

Regardless of the business financing model, these elements will always come into play to some degree.

Being able to demonstrate a solid understanding of your business financials is also an indication of your ability to manage the underlying business.

>>> Monitor and manage your personal and business credit.

Small and medium sized business financing is focused on both personal and business credit histories.

Regular reviews of both personal and business credit reports from the major credit reporting agencies are important to avoid errors and credit practices that can severely damage your borrowing power.

>>> Develop your marketing position.

Yes, seeking business financing is a marketing exercise.

When applying for business financing, you’re marketing your business to lending sources and they in turn are marketing their business financing programs to you.

Think of the lender as a customer to better understand what they’re looking for. Then, develop a business proposal that addresses all their potential needs and concerns.

>>> Research Lending Sources

There are lots of business financing sources. But there is also lots of variation in the types of business applications each one is prepared to consider.

Broad based lenders rely on credit history and net worth. As you get more specific in terms of financing application and industry, lender programs become more narrow and can be harder to locate.

You need to consider things like industry, sector, and geography when looking for business financing sources.

Financing consultants and business loan brokers can be an excellent source of information to aid you in this process.

>>> Qualify The Lender

Before you make a formal application, find out if the lender has the programs and lending track record to meet your specific needs.

Too often, the lender is doing all the qualifying.

>>> Compare your options

Depending on the scenario, there can be several financing strategies that could work for your business.

Make sure you take the time to compare before making a decision. The extra time spent could save you considerable time and money in the long run.

>>> Start Today

Regardless of what your business financing needs are right now, you should regularly invest time staying on top of your business financials, monitoring your credit, and researching financing sources that fit your industry and potential future requirements.

When the time comes to acquire capital, your proactive efforts can make all the difference in getting the capital you need with terms and timing that are acceptable to your business.

Business Finance Funding Advice and Commercial Financing Help

The Working Capital Journal is one of several commercial financing resources which should be reviewed regularly by small business owners to assist in keeping up with the imposing difficulties posed by rapid changes in the business finance funding climate. As noted below, there have been some surprising actions taken by lenders as a direct result of recent financial uncertainties. The increasingly complex and confusing environment for working capital finance is likely to produce several unexpected challenges for commercial borrowers.

The working capital finance industry has primarily been operating on a regional and local basis for many years. In response to cost-cutting that has permeated many industries, there has been a consolidation that has resulted in fewer effective commercial lenders throughout the United States. Most business owners have been understandably confused about what this might mean for the future of their commercial financing efforts, especially because this has happened in a relatively short period of time.

Of course, for some time there have been ongoing complex problems for commercial borrowers to avoid when seeking commercial loans. But what has produced a new set of business finance funding problems is that we appear to be entering a period which will be characterized by even more uncertainties in the economy. Previous rules and standards for commercial financing and working capital finance are likely to increasingly change quickly, with little advance notice by business lenders.

Business owners should make an extended effort to understand what is happening and what to do about it due to this realization that substantial changes are likely throughout the United States in the near future for commercial finance funding. At the forefront of these efforts should be a review of what actions commercial lenders have already taken in recent months. The Working Capital Journal is one prominent example of a free public resource that will facilitate a better understanding of the responses by business lenders to recent economic circumstances.

By publicizing actions taken by commercial lenders, this will contribute to these two goals, both of which are likely to be helpful to typical business owners: (1) To highlight controversial bank-lender tactics with a view toward reducing or eliminating questionable lending practices. (2) To help business owners prepare for commercial finance funding changes. To assist in this effort, sources such as The Working Capital Journal are encouraging business owners to report and describe their own experiences so that they can be shared with a broader audience that might benefit from the information. Some of the most significant commercial financing changes reported so far by commercial borrowers involve working capital loans, commercial construction financing and credit card financing. A notable situation of concern is that predatory lending practices by credit card issuers have been reported by many business owners. Some specific businesses such as restaurants are having an especially difficult time in surviving recently because they have been excluded from obtaining any new business financing by many banks.

One of the few recent bright spots in business finance funding, as noted in The Working Capital Journal, has been the continuing ability of business owners to obtain working capital quickly by business cash advance programs. For most businesses accepting credit cards, this commercial financing approach should be actively considered. Business cash advances are literally saving the day for many small business owners because most banks appear to be doing a terrible job of providing commercial loans and other working capital finance help in the midst of recent financial and economic uncertainties. For example, as noted above, restaurants are virtually unable to currently obtain commercial finance funding from most banks. Fortunately, restaurants accepting credit cards are in a good position to obtain needed cash from credit card receivables financing and merchant cash advances.

Small Business Finance Success Improves With Realistic Options

The goal of being realistic when seeking new commercial loans and working capital financing will help commercial borrowers avoid a number of commercial finance problems. With proper preparation business owners should be in a better position to obtain new financing despite the difficult challenges impacting most working capital loans and small business financing. Nevertheless it should be anticipated that terms of financing will be different from prior commercial financing. Because of recent commercial lending difficulties, business owners actively assessing the most effective options for their small business finance decisions are likely to find the smoothest path to business loan success.

In view of volatile conditions which have recently impacted credit markets, this will not be a simple task. A very common example of the problem is illustrated by how much misinformation and confusion there has been about business financing and working capital availability. Getting more accurate information about what is realistically possible can be one of the most difficult challenges for commercial borrowers.

When seeking to identify realistic choices in a confusing working capital management climate, a number of harsh realities must be confronted by all small business owners. For most current commercial financing decisions by business owners, there are several major factors to anticipate. In the first example, additional small business loan collateral is being requested by most commercial lenders. Second, many regional and local banks have discontinued lending for business financing and working capital. In a third example, businesses which are not currently profitable or not current in their debt payments will have extensive difficulties. Fourth, business construction funding currently is very limited in most areas. In a fifth example, lenders are eliminating unsecured business lines of credit for most small business owners.

Despite the new business financing limitations just noted, there are practical working capital options for small business owners to consider. An increasingly effective commercial financing option in the midst of an uncertain economy is a merchant cash advance program based on credit card processing activity. Even though this commercial funding option has been available for a few years, it has not been used by most small businesses. For most businesses which accept credit cards, merchant cash advances should be evaluated as an important tool for improving business cash flow. Small business owners wanting to pursue this financing option should consult a business financing expert who is knowledgeable about this working capital management approach as well as other small business loans.

Even though working capital loans are not as widely available as they were just a few months ago, this kind of small business financing is still in fact obtainable. Since some of the largest providers have stopped making these business loans, the main change for business borrowers is the likelihood that they will be dealing with a different commercial lender. Small business owners will benefit from finding an experienced and candid business financing expert to assist in evaluating realistic options because the most effective working capital financing providers are not aggressively marketing this capability.

As stressed above, when making commercial financing decisions it is becoming increasingly important for business owners to first determine their effective business finance funding options. Because of recent volatility in financial markets, this task is likely to be much more difficult than most commercial borrowers realize. It is advisable to explore commercial finance options that might be necessary if economic conditions change even further even for business owners who are satisfied with their current working capital financing arrangements. The use of Plan B contingency financing is an important tool to assist commercial borrowers in this process.