How to Strengthen Your Balance Sheet to Qualify for a Loan
Admittedly, some business owners neglect to review their financial statements monthly. Some, actually, only review financial statements yearly–and only for tax purposes! If you want a true ideal picture of your company’s financial health, you absolutely need to regularly monitor your financials, including your balance sheet. While lenders want to see that your firm is profitable, they are most concerned with whether or not you have sufficient working capital, a manageable debt to equity ratio and a strong operating history. Since your balance sheet provides all this information and more, you will definitely want to strengthen your balance sheet if you are seeking a loan.
Increase your working capital.
The more cash or assets you have readily on hand that can be converted into cash to pay your current obligations, the lower the risk you will default on a loan. In other words? Lots of cash and equivalents encourage a lender to lend. Working capital is short-term assets less short-term liabilities. Short-term assets include cash and cash equivalents as well as inventory and receivables. Short-term liabilities include all payables. Hence why lenders focus on working capital.
However, your working capital calculation can significantly differ from the lender’s. Lenders will drastically discount older current assets. If your inventory does not have quick turnover (this timing varies by industry), then lenders will discount its value from what shows on your balance sheet. Furthermore, if you are in an industry with shorter inventory lifespans such as retail and you have unsold inventory that is over two years old, when you sell it, you likely will only get a fraction of what you paid for it. Obviously, lenders cannot count on that cash for bill payment. They will thus exclude that inventory from your firm’s working capital calculation. The same applies to receivables. If your receivables are due in 30 days but 40 percent are over 90 days old, the lender will completely ignore that 40 percent. The exceptions are slow-paying industries such as industrial construction.
Since your old inventory and receivables will be totally excluded by lenders in their working capital calculation, convert those assets to cash. The cash will be included. Sell off your old inventory. Vigorously pursue all overdue receivables. To ensure your inventory turns over in a reasonable amount of time, only buy what sells or ramp up your marketing efforts. To square up your receivables within 30-day terms, create and implement strong accounts receivable and credit policies.
Decrease your debt.
Lenders look at your overall debt, your interest-bearing debt or both, compared to your equity. A high debt burden could mean trouble. Acceptable debt to equity ratios vary by industry. A capital-intensive industry like manufacturing will require much more capital investment than a services-oriented industry like marketing firms.
If you have unused or chronically underused equipment, strongly consider selling it. The purpose of an asset is to help produce or deliver the goods or services your firm provides. If a large asset is just sitting there, it is not fulfilling its mission. Not only will selling reduce your debt, it will convert the associated asset from PP&E to cash on the balance sheet. Although both are assets, the additional cash is much more powerful because it increases your working capital. Remember, working capital indicates your firm’s ability to repay debt in the near term.
Increase your equity.
The lender wants to see that your company has a profitable history. She also wants to know that you reinvest in the company. Why? That shows you both believe in your firm and expect it to grow. Therefore, the owner’s equity piece is very important. Do you retain a sizable portion of the earnings or do you pull every last dollar out you can? If it’s the latter, stop. Your owner’s equity needs to be high enough to be compelling.
One way to both decrease debt and increase owner’s equity at the same time is to convert any shareholder loans to equity. Owners often provide loans to the company instead of injecting equity capital for several reasons. The most notable reason is that you can receive a loan repayment of principal tax-free. But, you must pay taxes on any distributions received. However, if you are seeking funding, a strong balance sheet trumps your lower taxes. Make that conversion and immediately strengthen your balance sheet.
Reviewing your financial statements is important as they serve as the barometer of your firm’s financial condition. This is especially true of the balance sheet. If your firm is in expansion mode, use one or more of these suggestions to proactively strengthen your balance sheet to qualify for a loan.