Be prepared, and make sure your ideas are viable.
So you have a big small business idea? Something you’re passionate about, something you’ve always wanted to do and something you believe is viable? The only problem: You don’t have the money to make it happen.
That’s where community banks and loan officers come in. We’re here to help. Here are a few tips that can help you get the loan you need.
1. A Great Idea isn’t Always a Great Business Idea
The first thing to know about getting a small business loan is that having a great idea isn’t everything. There are hundreds of great ideas—fantastically creative, never-been-done-before ideas, even. Not all of them are business ideas that can work. Some are just great ideas.
Great small business ideas, on the other hand, are backed by solid plans that demonstrate viability. If you don’t have that, it’s a waste of your time to approach a bank looking to fund your idea.
2. Speak Your Business Plan
Your business plan should outline what you want to do and how you plan to do it. It should define whom you are marketing to, how you’re going to execute it/get it made and how you’re going to get paid, along with expected margins. There are many resources available to help you create your business plan, so do your homework before asking for a loan.
Then be prepared to talk about it face to face with a loan officer. Prepare for that meeting like it’s an interview—the loan officer will be looking at your plan as well as who you are as a person. Be yourself, and be prepared. Even if your plan is summarized perfectly in PowerPoint, if you can’t describe it in person, it’s difficult for a loan officer to say yes.
3. Honesty and Integrity Matter
Bank officers need to know they can trust you before they approve your loan. They’ll ask about your personal and business credit, your existing financials and your collateral, which will be needed to secure the loan.
Sometimes people have valid circumstances that may have damaged their credit. Just be honest. The quickest way to ax the deal is not telling the truth. A bank will pull your credit, financials and more before authorizing a loan.
4. Find the Right Bank and Banker for You
When deciding which bank to approach for your loan, use your network in the small business community for referrals. Find out what other entrepreneurs think. Then, when you meet with a bank (or more than one), also ask to meet with more than one loan officer. It’ll give you a better sense of the bank as a whole. One officer, for example, may know more about a specific aspect of your business while another is more familiar with your industry.
5. Small Business is Going Strong
While the economy isn’t where it was pre-2008, there is cautious optimism, especially for small businesses that are thriving in the new normal. Why? Small businesses are quicker to adapt. They do more with less and are often more innovative by their very nature. In a way, there’s never been a better time to be a small business entrepreneur.
So get your ideas out there. Make a plan that’s viable, find your community bank lender and make it happen.