It’s no secret that it’s difficult for most small businesses to get a bank loan these days. But it’s not impossible.
Gone are the days when just about any business could get a loan for under $100,000 with simply a strong credit score, says Jordan Peterson, a senior vice president at PNC Bank in Pittsburgh. While credit scores are still king, today you need more to prove you’re a sustainable, viable business. Banks will review an applicant’s tax returns for the last few years and want to know industry trends.
“Banks have always underwritten on cash flow, but even more they’re looking at sustainable cash flow and if it’s going to be sufficient to pay back the loan,” says Peterson.
Here’s some advice from the experts to ensure your small business loan application stands out:
1. Work with an Accountant
Peterson, who has worked in the commercial loan business for 23 years, says that although banks will accept tax returns, it can help a small business owner to work with an accountant to help prepare his or her financial position to show good, detailed records to a bank.
2. Work with a Business Banker
Get to know and really work with a small business banker. The banker can help an applicant work through the process. Peterson notes that PNC Bank’s small business loan applications are electronic, but that doesn’t mean a business owner can’t meet with a banker in person to help explain the application.
3. Beef Up Your Business Plan
Presenting a business plan is important for some loan applications, particularly those loans that are financially guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. It’s important to acknowledge the history of your company in the plan, too.
4. Explain Yourself
Don’t just fill out the demographics on a loan application, but give a good explanation about your business.
“If sales dropped 10% from 2007 to 2008, explain why that happened,” says Peterson. “Maybe it’s because your business exited a big customer because it wasn’t paying on time or maybe the industry is down but has stabilized.” If you don’t explain what happened you leave it up to the interpretation of the bankers, and they usually assume that the drop will continue. If writing isn’t your strong suit, there are many free business counselors available to help you.
5. Know Your Industry
Let the bank know that whatever industry you’re in, you’re the best in the business. "You want to be able to explain why you’re doing fine,” he says. For example, many contractors are suffering because construction is down but there are those who serve a niche, or those due for stimulus package funds, that are growing healthily.