As a new entrepreneur looking for capital, one of your first options for a loan will be a SBA-backed loan. SBA loan applications are made through a bank. The SBA guarantees a loan to the bank, so in case the borrower defaults, the bank is guaranteed a portion of the loan by the SBA. (You are still liable for the loan, so your obligation does not go away) This makes it easier for banks to lend to budding entrepreneurs, but it does not mean that the bank can lend indiscriminately. The bank will analyze the application to protect its interest as well as the SBA’s.
The SBA does not lend directly to the business owner. It is important that the bank you are working with is knowledgeable about SBA loans, as it will initially process your application, not the SBA. The SBA will review the application once the bank approves it.
What will the bank look for in your application?
Good Credit Score. This is a very important factor in the consideration for a loan, but not the only one. If your score is not good right now, work on improving it. Although good credit is a key factor for getting a loan, is not the only factor. If you don’t have perfect credit, you can mitigate it by providing a thorough business plan, collateral, a higher co-investment in the project, a cosigner, etc. You will have to explain any outstanding issues with your credit. Moreover, lenders have different appetite for risk (large commercial banks are usually more conservative), so you may be able to find a lender that will work with you.
Collateral (security for loan). In some cases a good credit score and down payment are enough to secure a loan. However depending on the amount of the loan, you may also have to offer collateral. You can use your house, stocks, or any other major possession as collateral if the bank requires security in the event you cannot pay back the loan.
Experience. The relevant experience of the business owner is an important factor for the loan package. Banks feel more confident in giving out a loan to business owners who have relevant experience in the business that they are starting, such as a dentist opening a private practice.
Owner’s Investment. If you are forming a new business, be prepared to invest a certain portion of the start-up costs personally. Lenders rarely finance 100% of the business. They will expect you to raise 20 to 40% of the investment yourself. The higher your personal investment in the business, the better the loan application looks to the lender.
Good Business Concept or Plan. A good business concept that is believable and relatively conservative. Lenders are conservative organizations that do not like to take large risks.
Capacity to Manage and Pay. The business should be able to generate enough cash to pay back the loan installments.
Guarantees. The lender will look at how the loan can be secured. He or she will give importance to the individual’s personal financial statement and see if the loan can be secured against personal or business assets.
When applying for a loan and writing a business plan, make sure your financial projections are correct. Do your research. Know your business. It is surprising to see the number of entrepreneurs who do not pay enough attention to the financial aspect of the business. Paying close attention to the financial details will determine whether your business will survive.
Although most banks want to help entrepreneurs fund and expand their businesses, their primary responsibility is to make money from the loans and minimize their risk. Just because you have a great idea and are motivated to see it through, you may not get a loan. In fact, banks are very careful with innovation; they are conservative institutions that tend to lend to “tried-and-true” businesses. Whenever you submit your business proposal, always ask yourself, “What would make this a good deal for the bank? What assurances (aside from my good credit and great idea) can I give to the bank so it will get its money back plus interest?”