Borrowing money is an essential part of building a small business. But when you need a loan, traditional lenders like the bank might not be an option. They tend to have strict small business lending standards. For example, you need established business credit, collateral and detailed financial statements for bank loan approval. This is a difficult hurdle for companies that have only been around for a couple years. Fortunately, as a business owner, you have other options, with a number of business alternatives for bank loans on the market today.
These alternative options can be your financing lifeline until you build enough of a financial track record to qualify for more traditional financial products.
Let’s take a look at these business alternatives for bank loans and when they make the most sense.
1 – Online Loans
Banks aren’t the only ones lending money. Alternative and online lenders are also a quality source of small business financing. They offer stand-alone cash flow loans that you can invest into your business and spend however you choose. If you want more flexibility, you could also open a line of credit. A line of credit lets you borrow, pay the money back and re-borrow again as many times as you want.
It’s easier to qualify for loans from alternative lenders because their requirements are not as strict as with banks. Another advantage is you often don’t have to secure the loan with your future business revenue or other collateral. However, your business will need to meet some standards like stable revenue and a good business plan for how you will use the loan proceeds.
Best fit for: A business with stable revenue looking to borrow cash quickly, without putting up collateral.
2 – SBA Loans
Another way to borrow is through the Small Business Association. This government organization assists small business owners and one of their services is to help them qualify for loans. The SBA doesn’t actually lend money. Instead they agree to back a certain percentage of the loan, guaranteeing repayment to the lender. This makes the lenders more likely to accept your application.
SBA loans can be a great tool provided you can qualify. The process does take time and you’ll need to submit, at minimum, similar documents that you would include as part of a bank loan application – such as a business plan, bank statements and your credit report.
Understanding the SBA system can improve your chances of qualifying so be sure to work with a lender that regularly works with these types of loans.
Best fit for: A business that can meet the SBA standards for a loan and also knows a lender that understands the application process.
3 – Equipment Financing
If your small business needs money specifically to buy a new piece of equipment or machinery, then equipment financing could be the answer. These small business loans can only be used to buy an asset, which also counts as the loan’s collateral. This makes it easier to qualify because if you end up not paying off the debt, the lender can take back the equipment as repayment.
With this type of financing, you can often buy new equipment with no money down but you’ll still receive the full tax break for the business investment, as if you bought the equipment with cash. You can also set up the financing as a lease which would let you replace the equipment earlier with new versions as they come out.
Best fit for: Buying or leasing new equipment for your business.
4 – Purchase Order Financing
A lack of cash can put even thriving businesses in trouble. 52% of small business owners had to forgo a project or sales worth $10,000 because of insufficient cash, according to an Intuit Quickbooks survey (slide 2). If you’ve got a project lined up but need some extra money to make it happen, purchase order financing could be the answer.
These short-term loans cover up to 100% of your supplier costs if you can show that you’ve got an order that will turn things around. Once you make the sale, the lender will deduct their fees from the proceeds. That way you still fulfill your order without taking on any extra debt. And since you can prove that you’ll be able to pay the money back quickly this financing is easier to qualify for. You just need to prove the upcoming purchase order.
Best fit for: When you’ve almost completed a sale and need a quick cash infusion to reach the finish line.
5 – Invoice Factoring
After you make a sale, your job still isn’t done because you you’ll need to collect payment. This can take between 30 to 90 days, depending on your payment terms. And, as many know, it could take even longer when customers miss payment deadlines. Not to mention there’s always the risk they don’t pay.
If your invoices are piling up and you need cash, invoice factoring could be the solution. You transfer over an unpaid invoice to a financing company, called the factor, and they’ll give you an advance on the payment.
From there, the factor takes over collecting from your clients. Once they get paid, they’ll give you the rest of the invoice amount minus their fee, which could be as little as 1.5% of the invoice amount.
Best fit for: A business with unpaid client invoices that wants to improve cash flow.
6 – Revenue Based Financing
Revenue based financing is the last of our business alternatives for bank loans. These loans have a simplified and fast application process, a great solution if your business needs money now. Lenders can approve this financing quickly because they just look at your historic revenue and how long you’ve been in business. They use this to forecast your future cash flow.
Based on that, they’ll give you a lump sum of cash. The lender will then collect a set percentage of your future sales on a daily or weekly basis.
Best fit for: A business with a proven history of revenue that needs money but does not want to go through a lengthy loan application process.
Don’t let a bank loan rejection discourage you from raising the money your business needs. As you can see, there are plenty of alternatives. If you have any questions to figure out which of these solutions is the right fit, reach out to a loan specialist today.