The Ins and Outs of Equipment Leasing

Suppose you need expensive equipment to run or grow your business. If you pay cash for it, your employees’ paychecks would bounce. Equipment leasing might be the rescuing you need.

1. What is Equipment Leasing?

Equipment leasing is a payment strategy accounting for around one-third of all equipment in use, from desktop computers to jumbo jets. “Evidence suggests,” according to the Commerce Finance Institute (CFI), “that an origin of leasing may have started… in the ancient Sumerian civilization.” Leasing has since evolved into an accessible financial resource.

The CFI defines an equipment lease as “a contract for the use of a piece of equipment over a specified period of time where the user of the equipment becomes the lessee and agrees to make periodic payments to the lessor of the equipment with specific end of term options.” In other words: you’re renting the equipment. Unlike renting a home, for example, the opportunity to buy the equipment outright when you enter the lease, is typically an option.

The accompanying illustration provides a breakdown of the categories of equipment leased today, and their share of the leasing universe. In the following pages we will explain when, why and how it is done.

https://www.elfaonline.org/data/market-trends/facts-about-industry-sectors (NEED TO CREATE AN IMAGE FROM THIS ARTICLE – BA)

2. When Should I Lease Equipment?

Before you begin to think of different ways you can bring in new equipment, whether by leasing, borrowing or even paying cash, give the idea a reality check. Ask yourself the same questions that a leasing company or a lender will probably ask you:

  • Will the equipment meet an important business need that’s currently unmet?
  • Does the cost of continuing to use the equipment I already have, in repairs and/or inefficiency, justify the price of acquiring new equipment?
  • Is now a good time to get new equipment due to special “deals” in the market?
  • How does the new equipment fit into my overall business plan?
  • If I wait a little longer before bringing in new equipment, might more advanced models become available that will give my business more bang for my buck?
  • What is my expected return on investment?
  • Do I have adequate free cash flow to enter a lease agreement without needing to sacrifice more urgent spending priorities today or down the road?

Another important consideration pertains to your company’s tax situation. With an “operating lease,” you are unable to take advantage of an important tax code provision known as Section 179. That benefit is available to companies using a different kind of lease known as a “capital lease.” It’s also available to companies that buy equipment through borrowing.

If you haven’t payed a lot of business taxes lately and don’t expect to soon, you won’t get the full benefit of Sec. 179. It could make sense to use an operating lease. That way, the lessor—the company you lease the equipment from—gets that tax benefit. This helps you because the lessor takes into account the tax benefits factors when deciding how much to charge.

3. What’s The Difference Between Leasing Equipment And Financing Equipment?

When you lease equipment, you’re essentially renting it. Equipment “financing” means you buy equipment with money borrowed from a lender. You own the equipment. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.

A third way to obtain business equipment is buying it outright without borrowing or leasing.

4. What Are The Pros And Cons of Financing?

Equipment financing pros:

  • If you have a strong balance sheet and profitability, you might be able to obtain a very competitively priced loan to purchase the equipment at a lower total cost than leasing. Having the purchased equipment as collateral for the loan already makes the loan less risky for the lender than an unsecured loan. A strong balance sheet makes you more attractive to lenders.
  • Depending on your financial strength, you might be able to borrow all of the money you need to buy the equipment without a down payment.
  • As the owner of the financed equipment, you may be able to claim tax benefits such as Sec. 179 and deductions for loan interest.
  • With a loan, you have the option to pay the principal balance off if you want to–without penalty. This allows you to reduce the total interest you pay, and ultimately, the cost of getting the equipment.
  • If you own the equipment and can pay off the loan, you can dispose of the equipment at your discretion.

Equipment financing cons:

  • Borrowing to purchase equipment could limit your ability to borrow for other purposes, if lenders believe you’re assuming too much debt.
  • An equipment loan appears as a liability on your balance sheet.
  • Depending on the size of your down payment for the equipment, the lender might need more assets to secure the loan than just the equipment being financed, possibly including personal assets. The equipment might depreciate faster than the amortization schedule for paying off the loan.
  • The equipment could be obsolete before you pay the loan off.

5. What Are The Pros and Cons of Leasing?

Equipment leasing pros:

  • For companies of average or even sub-par financial standing, equipment leases are generally easier to obtain than loans.
  • It is often easier to obtain equipment via leasing without having to put any money down, than with a loan.
  • The only “security” you need to pledge is the equipment itself—which technically isn’t yours anyway since you’re borrowing it from a lessor.
  • Leasing equipment is known as “off balance sheet financing.” At least with an “operating lease,” the liability associated with your lease obligation isn’t reported as a liability on your balance sheet. Also, lease payments are treated as operating expenses–and tax deductible.
  • At the end of the lease term, which should coincide with the time you want to replace old equipment with newer models, selling or otherwise disposing of it isn’t your problem. You just return it to the leasing company. This is helpful with high-tech equipment which becomes obsolete more quickly than other equipment, and thus more difficult to sell.
  • Flexibility is a hallmark of leasing. There are many ways to structure a lease agreement.

Equipment leasing cons:

  • Because the leasing company is typically assuming greater credit and technology obsolescence risk rather than a lender making a loan to a financially strong company, lease payments often have a higher built-in cost structure than loans.
  • You are obligated to make all of the payments prescribed by the lease contract. You typically cannot pay it off ahead of the original schedule. Or if you can and want to, you would incur a large financial penalty.
  • Many lease agreements place the burden on you to pay for certain repairs and maintenance services.

6. What’s Involved In Entering A Lease Agreement?

The first decision you’ll face, after you decide on the equipment, is what kind of a lease agreement suits your needs. You’ll probably have several options, you just need to figure out which is best for you.

What can you really afford? While a leasing company makes its own judgments about that, you might want to be more conservative in the appraisal of your financial capacity. This will give your company plenty of breathing room for future financial needs.

Another task associated with entering an equipment lease agreement is which leasing company to work with (see Section 10). Some equipment manufacturers have their own “built-in” leasing companies. But, you owe it to yourself to be sure you’ve found the best deal before signing on the dotted line.

The final step in the process is persuading a lessor that you’re the kind of company with which it wants to do business. That may involve turning over reams of financial documents, along with good explanations of why you need the equipment and what it’ll do for your business. The process is like applying for a bank loan. However, it will probably be less rigorous since you aren’t borrowing money. You’re simply paying rent on property that you don’t own.

7. What Are The Main Categories of Equipment Leases?

There are two basic kinds of equipment leases: capital and operating. With a capital lease, you’re treated (for tax purposes) as the owner of the leased equipment. That means you can take depreciation deductions or, if you’re eligible, a Section 179 deduction. With an operating lease, you are treated more as a renter than an owner, and not eligible for that tax benefit. The only tax benefit is that lease payments are tax deductible.

Under Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code, you are able–in 2019–to take a deduction for up to $1 million in equipment acquisition by purchase or through capital leasing. There are strings attached, however. You’re only eligible if a) you don’t acquire more than $2.5 million of equipment in that year (although you might still be eligible for a partial deduction) and b) the equipment is used at least 50% of the time for your business.

The Section 179 deduction is phased out dollar for dollar, for every dollar your equipment acquisitions exceed $2.5 million. For example, if you acquire $2.7 million in equipment, your maximum Section 179 deduction would be $800,000. The kinds of equipment eligible for deductions are restricted.

Any of the following criteria must be met in order for a lease to be treated as a capital lease.

  • You automatically become the owner of the leased property at the end of the lease term.
  • You have the option to purchase leased property at a subsidized price.
  • The lease term is long enough to cover at least 75 percent of the “useful life” of the equipment.

8. What Are Some Subcategories Of Leases?

Under a capital lease, there are several subcategories. The most expensive (in terms of monthly payments) is the $1 buyout lease. You have the option to buy the leased equipment for $1 at the end of the lease term. In effect, you’re buying the equipment over the lease term, since the lessor is prepared to turn it over to you at that time for the price of $1.

This type of lease may be the easiest to qualify for as the lessor is getting more money from you. You might not want to use a $1 buyout lease unless you plan to buy the equipment, and expect to use it for years to come.

Another common capital lease is the 10 percent option lease. As the name suggests, it gives you the option to buy leased equipment for 10 percent of the original value when the lease is up. Your monthly payments might be lower than the $1 buyout lease since you’re only paying for 90 percent of the equipment. Yet, the interest rate the lessor uses to calculate the payment might be higher, because it’s assuming the risk that you’ll decide not to buy the equipment at the end of the term.

A variation on the 10 percent option lease is the 10 percent “purchase upon termination” (PUT) lease. You’re obligated to purchase the equipment for 10 percent of the original equipment cost when the lease is up. This is more of a financial risk to you, thus giving you lower monthly lease payments. Of course, you have to come up with the cash simultaneously.

What are the terms?

Terms for a standard operating lease, in which there are no special tax benefits (beyond writing off lease payments), is the FMV lease. It gives you the option of purchasing leased equipment for its fair market value (as set by the lessor) at the end of the lease term, return the equipment or renew the lease. It’s an operating lease because it’s more like a simple rental arrangement. Lessors set approval standards highest for FMV leases.

A fifth lease category, known as a TRAC (Terminal Rental Adjustment Clause) is a hybrid contract. Depending on specifications, it can be a finance or an operating lease. They’re used primarily for commercial vehicle leases.

9. How Much Does Leasing Cost?

The cost of leasing equipment varies. These are the factors determining the cost:

  • The value of the equipment
  • The competitive state in the market of lessors that specialize in companies like yours
  • The interest rate environment
  • The way credit and obsolescence risk are allocated between you and the lessor
  • The assigment of which party gets the tax benefits

Also critical is your credit history. In a perfect world, the stronger your credit score is, the lower your lease payments will be. You can find lease payment calculators online to give you ballpark numbers for your own leasing situation.

10. How Do I Decide Which Equipment Leasing Company Is Right For Me?

When you start looking for an equipment lessor, you’ll find four kinds:

  1. A company that just puts together equipment leases.
  2. A “captive”: a subsidiary of a company making costly equipment.
  3. A financial institution offering equipment leasing among a variety of other financial services.
  4. A lease broker, who helps you find a suitable lessor.

Considering the long-term financial commitment involved, shop around. Your best bet might be a leasing company that specializes in working with companies like yours, and / or specializes in the kind of equipment you want to lease. Getting competitive terms is important, but so is the strength and integrity of the leasing company.

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Minority Small Business Grants to Help Fuel Your Growth

The challenges minority-owned businesses face when growing a business are multi-fold. A minority small business grant could give your business the access to funding it needs to grow with confidence.

According to the Forbes Finance Council, minority-owned businesses in the U.S. have soared. They’ve increased over 79 percent – faster than any other category of small business ownership. Yet despite this surge, challenges exist. Most notably, access to funding remains a challenge. That’s where minority small business grants could help fill the gap.

Grants can help businesses fill funding gaps to fuel a myriad of initiatives. Initiatives range from payroll to hiring new talent or securing new office space. Loans and grants have a few crucial differences, though.

Unlike with loans, businesses don’t have to repay grants. Grants do, however, come with caveats. Generally, funds are used for a specific business purpose or industry. The application process for grants is often significantly more intensive than loan applications, too. Multiple businesses compete for the same pool of limited grant money. On the other hand, the strength of a financial-centric application serves as the basis for loan awards.

The good news? For small business owners encountering financial barriers, there are several minority small business grants available. The following grants can potentially give minority-owned businesses (including women-owned businesses) a leg up in their efforts to thrive.

The following grants follow in alphabetical order.

Amber Grant for Women

If you’re an entrepreneurial woman in need of a financial boost for your business, it’s worth looking at the Amber Grant for Women. Founded in 1998, this grant program makes monthly grants to women across the business spectrum. They encourage applicants to lead their applications with heart. There is a $15 application fee and the application is short. Grants doubled from the previous $2,000 to $4,000 beginning January of 2020. Recipients of the monthly grant award are eligible to win an additional grant of $25,000 at year’s end. This is on an annual basis.

Cartier Women’s Initiative Grants

Open to women across the globe, Cartier grants benefit women-owned businesses with an eye on growth. Annually, the grant program selects three finalists from each of seven global regions. The 21 finalists all receive exclusive networking and publicity opportunities. The seven regional winners then receive $100,000 in prize money each, and the two runners-up per region receive $30,000 each. Eligible businesses are woman-run, for-profit and in the early stages of growth. Also, you must be running for between one and five years, and meet some additional criteria). Visit the grant program’s website for a comprehensive explanation of the grants and the eligibility and application processes.

Concurso de subvenciones para pequeñas empresas de FedEx

Since 2013, FedEx has awarded over $700,000 in grants to businesses through its unique grant competition. Each year, there are ten grant recipients. To be eligible, you must own a U.S.-based business; have been in operation for at least six months; run a business that sells a product or service and have fewer than 99 employees. The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest isn’t exclusively a minority small business grant. However, minority-owned companies with considerable followings could leverage those loyal customers to help win one of the ten awards. During the application process, businesses need to upload a short profile, a video, business photos and a logo. Next, companies will encourage their loyal fans to vote for their business in the contest. While votes aren’t the only deciding factor, it can’t hurt to rally support. Grants in the contest range from $15,000 to $50,000 for the lucky winners.

First Nations Development Institute (FNDI) Grants for Native Americans

Since 1993, the FNDI has awarded more than 1,600 grants, totaling more than $34.9 million in 40 states. Their grants fund both technical and financial resources for organizations and projects that seek to improve the lives of Native Americans. Their website offers a variety of resources designed to support those curious about applying for grants. The website includes details about the application process, too. Applicants for this grant are Native-controlled, tribal-operated organizations. To see which grant programs are currently accepting applications, visit the website regularly. New programs emerge throughout the year.

Grants.gov

This website offers grant seekers a searchable database of thousands of government grants. Many of them are minority small business grants. Those seeking grants can search using the keyword, “minority”, and utilize additional filters to review current and upcoming grant programs sponsored by federal agencies. Some participating government agencies on the site include: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Space and Aeronautics Administration (NASA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There are a total of 26 federal agencies that participate in grant listings.

Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Grants

The MDBA awards a series of minority small business grants–“cooperative agreements”–throughout the year. The MDBA operates within the U.S. Department of Commerce. They focus on helping minority-owned businesses access capital, contracts, and markets necessary for sustained growth. Grant program applications open periodically throughout the year. Interested applicants should check the website regularly for programs they’re eligible for as they’re announced. Eligibility criteria vary by grant program. Grants are generally a minimum of $200,000, and interested businesses can review a sample of previous organizations that have received grants aquí.

National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) Growth Grants

Do you have a business goal that’s within reach? If only you had a little financial help to push you over the edge, right? Well, these $4,000 grants from NASE can be used for a wide array of business purposes. Additionally, awards are on a quarterly basis. Applicants must be members in good standing with NASE for a minimum of three months before applying for a grant. Applicants must be able to state how grant funds will be used. Requirements include basic business information like a résumé and business plan. There are several cost-effective ways to access membership to NASE to begin the eligibility process.

Office of Minority Health Grants

These minority small business grants from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are specifically geared for agencies and organizations working to better the health outcomes for historically disenfranchised communities in the U.S. Grants range from $275,000 to $500,000.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT)

If your business creates or aims to develop cutting-edge biomedical research and development, these grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH) could be for you. While not limited to minority-owned businesses, this highly-competitive grant program has eleven leading government agencies participating. Agencies include but aren’t limited to: the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and NASA. Eligible businesses are American-owned, for profit and have 500 or fewer employees and should include a principal researcher employed by the company. For detailed eligibility and use of funds requirements, visit the SBIR website.

USDA Rural Business Development Grants

These grants from the USDA aim to boost businesses serving rural areas. These grants are awarded for narrow use and must be for organizations that plan to use the proceeds for “projects that benefit rural areas or towns outside the urbanized periphery of any city with a population of 50,000 or more.” Potentially funded projects include pollution control, rural transportation enhancements, rural business incubators and more. Additionally, Those eligible for these grants include (but aren’t limited to) minority business owners (including members of federally-recognized tribes), towns, communities, and even state agencies. While there’s no maximum grant amount, the USDA states that they give priority to smaller grant requests. Interested applicants can reach out to their local USDA office for application information.

 

Research. Apply. Grow.

There you have it! These 10 minority small business grants can help fuel the growth of businesses on the rise. As you consider available opportunities, keep in mind that the application process for grants is highly competitive. Most companies invest significant time and resources into developing the most compelling application possible to rise to the top of the pool. The key to a successful application process is to start early and give yourself the time to create a well-supported package that clearly states your goals, growth strategy, and how you’ll ultimately use grant funds to advance your initiatives.

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How to Get Funding That is Best Fit for Your Small Business

Small businesses (SMBs) are at the core of the US economy. They are the largest employer in almost every sector.  Despite this, it has been proven to be extremely difficult for business owners to find favorable financing to sustain and grow their business.  In fact, many have found that it is far more difficult to finance their operation than it is to run it.

How to choose the right funding option

Recently, a business owner asked me about which type of financing was best for him.  The obvious answer is: the type of financing for which you will qualify.  This will set the tone for your capital search. Obviously, the primary goal is to find the type of financing that offers you the most money for the lowest cost and the longest repayment terms – with the fewest downsides. The reality is that this set of terms will vary wildly depending upon the credit quality of the applicant.  A problem for many SMB owners is that they develop a preconceived notion of what their financing SHOULD look like as opposed to what it will REALLY look like based on the credit quality of the borrower.

Lo primero que debe hacer al iniciar su búsqueda de financiamiento es hacerse una pregunta: Soy financiable? Este es un término amplio que indica si puede ir a su banco y obtener un préstamo o financiamiento de equipo bajo los términos tradicionales o con el beneficio de una Garantía de la SBA. En mis años de experiencia en finanzas comerciales y como propietario de PYMES, puedo decir que la gran mayoría de las PYMES NO son financiables, incluso cuando han escuchado a su banquero decir que podrían obtener un préstamo. Los términos para el financiamiento tradicional rara vez se presentan de manera realista durante el proceso de solicitud y la mayoría de las solicitudes se rechazan porque el prestatario no puede cumplir con los requisitos de la institución crediticia.

Be objective

Lo segundo que debe hacer es recordar ser objetivo y determinar exactamente cuáles son sus posibilidades de aprobación en varios productos y con los diferentes tipos de prestamistas. Debe aceptar que existe un diferencial de precios de riesgo con diferentes tipos de financiamiento y con diferentes prestamistas. Cuanto más fáciles sean los términos de crédito y más rápido, generalmente, la originación delimita una financiación más cara. En muchos casos, vale la pena el costo, ya que otros prestamistas no lo financiarían a cualquier costo.

La tercera cosa que debe hacer es obtener tantas ofertas como sea posible: no se sienta insultado por una oferta de financiamiento, incluso si es oneroso y parece indignante. Siempre se puede pasar. Al evaluar las ofertas, debe recordar que se aplica la Regla de oro de los préstamos: "¡El que tiene el oro - rige!"

Obtaining small business funding that’s best for you

El entendimiento básico de esta guía es que usted ya es un negocio operativo. Las empresas nuevas son una discusión completamente diferente. Entonces, si ha estado en el negocio por al menos 1 año, ¡siga leyendo!

Las opciones de financiamiento de las PYMES cubren un amplio espectro: desde bancos tradicionales, cooperativas de crédito y prestamistas institucionales no bancarios hasta prestamistas no tradicionales, compañías financieras alternativas, plataformas de financiación colectiva y amigos y familiares.

Los bancos, las cooperativas de crédito y la SBA pueden ofrecer tasas más bajas y plazos más largos, pero los obstáculos para obtener uno de estos préstamos son considerables. En el otro extremo del espectro se encuentran compañías financieras alternativas, empresas de alquiler de equipos e incluso sus tarjetas de crédito personales, que comparten todas las mismas características. Son mucho más caros que el financiamiento bancario tradicional, pero están fácilmente disponibles y son mucho más fáciles de obtener aprobaciones. El verdadero valor del dinero está en su disponibilidad. ¿De qué sirve un préstamo del 6% de su banco si no puede obtener la aprobación? Por otro lado, si usted es una empresa de alta calidad crediticia, ¿por qué debería abreviarse para obtener un alto costo de financiamiento?

Veamos si podemos ayudarlo a manejar sus expectativas y brindarle información sobre la perspectiva de los prestamistas.

What do the banks and the SBA want, so I can get funding?

I have spent many years around bankers and have asked a number of them what qualifications are needed for them to consider lending to an SMB owner.  They always offer the obvious response: everyone has their own unique circumstances underwritten at application. But almost every banker I have spoken with talks about the “Five C’s of Credit”.  This is a basic set of criteria that they all use when evaluating a company for a loan:

Capital

Los prestamistas quieren ver que tienes piel en el juego. ¿Cuánto capital duro has puesto en el negocio? No les importa el sudor, quieren ver el dinero. La mayoría de los prestamistas quieren ver entre el 10 y el 40% del capital total en el negocio proveniente de los propietarios. Quieren ver que hay activos duros y blandos de maquinaria, equipo, bienes raíces y algunos incluso considerarán tecnología de TI patentada. Quieren compartir el riesgo con usted, y su inversión asegura que usted también sufrirá si el negocio fracasa.

Collateral 

These lenders are “risk averse”. They want to know that if, for some reason, your business fails to pay back the loan that they can attach assets and liquidate them to offset the debt. This is one of the reasons that they want to see meaningful assets in your company before lending to you. Not all loans require collateral, but if you want favorable terms, you should expect it.  In the case of SBA Guarantees, you will be required to pledge not only the business assets, but all owners holding 20% or more of the business must pledge their personal assets as well.  Homes, cars, cash, jewelry – everything. If you can’t pay back the loan, you could lose everything.

Capacidad 

A lender must have a realistic expectation that the borrower does indeed have the capability to repay. Lenders rely on numerous metrics and factors in determining your “capacity”. First among these is your personal credit score. Even though this would be a business loan, the main driver of an SMBs success is the owner. If you don’t pay your creditors for personal debt, it is a reasonable conclusion that you won’t pay your business debt. To get to the next step with a bank you will need a strong FICO of over 700 with no liens or judgments. The bank will also look to your current vendors for your payment history. Most lenders look for 1.25x or higher, which relates to the big driver of cash flow of the business. If you have cash, then they know you can pay back.

Conditions 

This looks at the reason for the loan and if the bank feels that you will be successful in reaching your goals. The bankers will look at everything from the economic conditions in general to those in your local area. The industry you are in is also a strong indicator of success. The “SIC code” of your business provides risk assessments for your business – and it can work with you or against you. Most importantly, the bank wants to understand the purpose of the loan and if the proceeds will help you grow the business as opposed to adding to your debt load. You will need to provide an explanation for the amount you need, why you needed it, details on how you plan to spend it and the benefits you expect to gain from the loan.

Character 

Este es un factor difícil de evaluar, pero el banco básicamente está tratando de determinar si usted es de buen carácter y se puede confiar en su desempeño. Esto puede ser muy subjetivo y, a menudo, lo determinan los banqueros con los que habla al preparar su solicitud. Quieren saber lo más posible sobre la persona detrás del negocio. ¿Eres un novato o un profesional experimentado en tu campo? ¿Cuál es su fondo? ¿Tuviste logros previos que deberían conocer? ¿Tiene referencias profesionales sólidas de proveedores, clientes o proveedores de crédito? ¿Tiene defectos que podrían influir en el proceso de toma de decisiones, como arrestos, DWI o problemas de impuestos anteriores?

What types of lenders do I have to choose from for funding?

Large Commercial Banks

These are the big guys. You know them – JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America. These banks all have assets greater than $10 Billion and are large bureaucratic machines. While the largest banks account for about 40% of SMB loans, they do very little lending to Mom and Pop businesses or those that fall within the agriculture industry. Community banks are far more active in those sectors. Large banks are better for bigger, more established companies who seek over $250k in loans. This is their true minimum lending floor – it’s simply not worth their time processing smaller loans.

Mid-Tier Regional Banks

Estos bancos con múltiples sucursales tienen una gran cantidad de poder local y son más receptivos a las necesidades de sus clientes SMB. Tienen bases de activos sólidas pero practican las mismas prácticas de suscripción estrictas que los bancos más grandes. Su conocimiento local hace que sea mucho más fácil comunicarse con ellos y muchos son socios fuertes de la SBA que pueden ser de gran ayuda.

Small Community Banks and Credit Unions 

Estas son las instituciones de base para que trabajen las verdaderas PYMES. Todavía creen en el valor de conocer a sus clientes y su comunidad, y trabajan arduamente para desarrollar fuerza en todos. Aquí es donde se originan la mayoría de los préstamos agrícolas de los Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, a los bancos comunitarios más pequeños les resulta difícil competir y cierran a un ritmo regular. Esto requiere que sean más conservadores, lo que puede influir en el resultado de su solicitud de préstamo. Solo el 40-45% de sus solicitudes de préstamo son aprobadas.

Instituciones financieras no bancarias

Access to these lenders is usually limited to higher growth specialty finance. These groups rarely, if ever, consider Main Street businesses. Large firms like CIT or Apollo will provide multi-unit franchise financing for restaurant or hotel chains, but not loans to single unit operators. These groups include private equity firms, hedge funds, family offices and high net worth individuals. You must be well prepared with strong documentation and the ability to pitch your deal and defend your representations with facts. This is not for financial amateurs or novices.

Alternative Funding Companies 

Over the past 15 years, this has been the fastest growing sector for SMBs to access capital. Factoring companies, merchant cash advance, FinTech online lenders and equipment leasing firms all fall into this category. Most of these companies lend from banks and take on the credit risk for the performance of their clients in return for higher fees.  The main attractions are speed, less documentation and higher approval rates. They will often look for a blanket UCC security agreement over the assets of the company, but do not require the hard-collateral pledges that banks and SBA require to provide loans. Their cost of capital is high because they take considerably more risk to provide financing than banks do.

Crowdfunding 

Crowdfunding appears to have key advantages of being quick and easy to raise funding, but it really isn’t as easy as it appears. First, you need to determine the type of crowdfunding you wish to pursue. Rewards based platforms solicit donations for worthy projects or companies in return for “rewards” that you provide. Debt and equity crowdfunding involves high levels of transparency and reporting as well as time consumption and expense. Many Crowdfunding platforms have specific rules governing time limits and funding goals. If you don’t reach your goal after a specified time, you lose. Or you may encounter an “all or nothing” funding policy, precluding you from accessing capital raised beneath your goal. Some users have been disappointed to realize that often the success of the campaign revolves around their social network. This means that you are really doing a “friends and family” round – but incurring fees.

Corredores independientes 

There has been a dramatic explosion in the number of independent brokers/“finance advisors” who are marketing loans, lines of credit, invoice factoring, receivables financing, cash advances, equipment leasing and other funding products to the SMB community. Some brokers are reputable and can be extremely beneficial in expediting the process of finding financing. They can look at the overall parameters and know where to place the application for fastest approval. On the other hand, there are bad players who are only interested in their own enrichment. Some ask for retainers up front and fail to deliver. Buyer beware. Know who you are dealing with. Look for complaints and ask a lot of questions before trusting your financial information to an unknown outsider.

Friends and Family 

Este es uno de los lugares más comunes donde los propietarios de PYMES buscan capital semilla o capital de trabajo general. Si bien esto puede ofrecer pocos obstáculos para la financiación, ya que se trata de un prestamista familiar y de apoyo, el incumplimiento puede afectar negativamente su relación con estas personas por el resto de su vida.

Personal Savings, Home Equity and Credit Cards 

Before draining your savings, your business plan should reflect cash reserves for funding to carry both you and your business through hard times. Most businesses have ups and downs. The failure to plan for this can be catastrophic. The use of funds from a Home Equity loan or Line of Credit can be a very useful tool. Interest rates are relatively low and the money is not being lent on the qualifications of your business. It is being given to you against the equity value of your home. The downside is that if your business fails, you could lose your home as well. Also, some SMB owners feel it is reasonable to finance their business with their personal credit cards. This can cost upwards of 29% compounded, which is a formula for disaster.

Landlords and Real Estate Developers 

If you have a brick and mortar business and you need to make improvements to the space you are occupying, landlords and developers often provide “tenant improvement allowances” or TIAs for businesses to enhance the overall building. This is usually paid back in the form of additional rent or larger escalations in annual increases. This can be a good way to access capital for betterment and improvements. But sometimes, the escalations exceed the business’s ability to pay.

Wholesalers, Suppliers, Purveyors 

Cada vez que un comerciante / proveedor le extiende los términos para pagar sus suministros, está recibiendo un préstamo de facto. Esto le permite pagar por los bienes después de haber tenido la oportunidad de venderlos a una tasa marcada. También ha habido casos en que los proveedores primarios han hecho préstamos directos o inversiones en pequeñas y medianas empresas que son importantes para su negocio.

Government Business Development Agencies 

Many state and local economic development agencies offer loan programs and grants. These opportunities are often very specific in their requirements, including formal financial statements and reporting. Most have extremely favorable rates.

Ejecutando el Proceso

The search for financing should be run as an organized process. Your first decision should be to target the groups to which you should be submitting applications for financing.  In this process of elimination, the lenders will decide to approve or decline your application. You then must decide to accept an approved offer or continue to shop – or if declined, where to apply next.

Reasons for funding rejection

While each lender or equity investor assesses applications differently, there are numerous reasons why an application for funding is rejected. Below are a few key reasons:

  • Mala calidad crediticia de los propietarios y / o negocios.
  • Estados financieros mal preparados o inexactos
  • La industria es un riesgo de crédito pobre
  • Geografía / Región tiene Desafíos Económicos
  • Documentación insuficiente o inconsistente
  • Flujo de efectivo negativo / ventas insuficientes
  • Gravámenes fiscales y juicios
  • Información negativa no divulgada sobre el negocio o los directores
  • Estacionalidad de negocios / ventas inestabilidad

 It can best to aim high and hope for approval, then work your way down the waterfall. It may be labor intensive, but could provide you with lower cost, longer term and more favorable options. Your goal is to find the best deal you can, but be realistic and objective

Combining a number of approved options into a blended structure can give you a better cost structure. Smaller but lower cost personal or commercial loans can be supplemented with higher cost cash advances and equipment leases. This can give a blended rate that is much lower than the more expensive products.

Do your homework and be realistic in your expectations. Take the application process seriously and be as meticulous as you can, so you can get the best funding for your small business.


Business Loan vs. Business Credit Card?

Business Loan vs. business credit card how do you decide which is best for you?

When it comes to financing, entrepreneurs and small business owners continuously debate business loans vs. business credit cards. In many cases, the final decision comes down to the state of the business, relevant market conditions and what makes the most sense for the company’s long-term strategic objectives.

Before weighing in on the debate, here’s a brief description of each financing option:

Business loans

Business loans can boost your cash flow on both a short- and long-term basis. Short-term loans are good to cover unexpected expenses. A traditional term loan enables you to take on larger projects, without harming cash flow.

For business owners with great credit, stable revenue, and a solid business plan, a business loan can be a great option.

Credit card

A business credit card gives a small business owner instant access to cash. It doesn’t come in a lump sum as with a loan, but rather as a set amount of funds available when and as needed.

Interest rates with a credit card are generally higher than with a business loan, but by paying each month’s bill in its entirety, this isn’t a concern. Often, the appeal of business credit cards is enhanced by various perks, purchase protections and rewards.

Business loan pros and cons

With business loans, a borrower often has a voice in determining the frequency and flexibility of payment deadlines. Payment frequency may be based on existing cash flow, or you can pay back larger amounts without prepayment penalties.

In general, a business loan works best for companies in need of working capital for investment to in large-scale expansion opportunities, such as equipment purchase, hiring more employees or launching a new location, etc. It’s also useful in refinancing an existing business debt.

On the other hand, with traditional lenders, business loans “can be more difficult to qualify for, and the lending process can take weeks or months,” according to The Ascent at Motley Fool.

Credit card pros and cons

With a business credit card, a sole proprietor or ambitious entrepreneur enjoys rapid availability to money needed to finance operations. It’s also a viable option if you wish to make ongoing purchases or regularly incur significant expenses (though, as noted, it’s best to repay in full each month).

There’s a great deal of psychological comfort in knowing you have access to funds if and when your business needs them.

At the same time, the APR (annual percentage rate) for a credit card can sometimes be as steep as 20%, which adds up. Also, if your business experiences an unforeseen dip in cash flow, you may find yourself facing considerable (and growing) business debts, due to high interest rates. And in some cases, there’s an annual fee to keep a card account open.

Finally, a business that borrows money up to the pre-assigned credit limit and still needs funds can find itself in a tight spot.

Loan options to consider

The good news about business loans is it’s no longer mandatory to go to a bank for a traditional loan. Funding options includes:

  • Online loans. Requirements are less strict for these stand-alone cash flow loans. But, revenue stability and a strong business plan are essential for approval.
  • SBA loans. In fact, the SBA (Small Business Administration) doesn’t loan money itself, but the government-backed agency does agree to back a certain percent of the loan, which makes it easier to obtain loan approval elsewhere.
  • Purchase order financing. This is a short-term loan covering up to 100% of supplier costs. The key factor is whether a big order is just about to close. Following the sale, the lender’s fees are deducted from the proceeds.

Still more alternative types of loans include equipment financing, invoice factoring, and revenue-based financing. A fuller description of these options can be found here.

Taking time to debate a business loan vs. business credit card is important. No business can afford to delay making a final decision. The good news for small businesses is that there’s a wealth of financing opportunities available that help keep the dream of business growth a genuine reality.

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Do You Know Your Fixed Charge Coverage Ratio?

Usually when someone mentions a company’s coverage ratio, they’re referring to the ability of the business to pay its debt obligations. Specifically, they’re referencing a financial metric known as the times-interest-earned ratio. But, a company has more fixed obligations than its principal and interest loan payments. The fixed charge coverage ratio includes all of a company’s fixed obligations–not just its debt service coverage.

What are a Company’s Fixed Charges?

Every business has fixed obligations they must regularly meet, regardless of sales volume or profits. Here are a few of the fixed obligations in addition to loan payments that most companies have to make:

Insurance premiums covering vehicles and property
Rent for offices and warehouses
Licenses and fees
Employee wages and salaries
Lease payments on equipment
Property taxes
Utilities

A company’s cash flow must be enough to at least pay these obligations or it could go out of business.

What is the Fixed Charge Coverage Ratio?

The fixed charge coverage ratio, FCCR, shows the ability of a business to pay all its recurring fixed charges before deductions for interest and taxes. The formula to calculate the FCCR is as follows:

Fixed Charge Coverage Ratio = (Earnings before interest and taxes [EBIT] + Fixed charges before taxes)/(Fixed charges before taxes + interest)

Let’s illustrate with an example. Suppose Company A has an EBIT of $110,000, interest charges of $10,000 and other fixed obligations of $115,000 before taxes (leases, insurance and salaries). Its FCCR would be as follows:

FCCR = ($110,000 + $115,000)/($115,000 + $10,000) = 2.0

The FCCR shows the amount of the company’s cash flow that fixed costs consume. In the case of Company A, an FCCR of 2.0 means the company generates $2 in EBIT for each $1 in fixed costs.

How do Lenders Use the FCCR?

Lenders use FCCR to gauge a business’s financial health and ability to repay its loans. They want to know that a company can meet all its obligations even if sales decline.

Generally, lenders prefer an FCCR of at least 1.25:1. Higher ratios mean that the company can more comfortably cover its fixed costs with its current cash flow. It also shows that the company can take on more debt and still meet its obligations. An FCCR less than one means the business does not have enough earnings to cover its fixed costs. In this case, the owner could be forced to dip into reserve savings to cover the deficit.

How Can a Small Business Owner Use FCCR?

A business owner can use it to learn where the company currently stands and look for ways to improve. Tracking the FCCR over time will let you see if the company’s financial health is improving or declining.

You should know your FCCR before submitting a loan application. An FCCR of 1.25:1 makes lenders less inclined to offer a loan. As a result, you’ll know that you need to improve your FCCR.

If your FCCR is low, you could look at ways to improve marketing and increase sales. Or, on the other hand, you could analyze fixed costs to see if any expenses could be reduced. Owners can use this information to find which projects they can pursue without straining the business’s financial resources. Constructing various “what if” scenarios of different loan arrangements and the effects of changes in revenues and expenses will let you see the resulting FCCRs in the future.

Besides a high FCCR helping you to get financing, it is also assuring to you and your employees to know that the business is healthy and on a solid base for growth.

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A Small Business New Year Checklist to Help You Ring in the 2020s

After crunching for year-end deadlines, the arrival of a new year–and decade–gives you a chance to take a breath, reevaluate your business and get back on track. Depending on the seasonality of your products, January may be a good time to make changes and begin long-term projects to help your company run better. Here’s a list of items to consider adding to your Small Business New Year Checklist for 2020 and beyond.

Formal Goal Setting

This may be the year to start setting clear business goals if you haven’t done so in the past. What do you want to get out of your company? What are some areas of potential improvement? Are you happy with the amount of business you bring in, or would you like to try new strategies to increase growth? Setting formal goals with a supporting action plan can help you propel your business forward.

Implementing Process Changes

If something is simply not working and causing you unnecessary stress, the start of the new year is a good time to revamp a broken process. Does your equipment need to be upgraded? Have you outgrown your manual record-keeping system? Would you benefit from technology that streamlines financial recordkeeping?

Develop a Budget

Goal setting and strategizing are big picture tasks. Experienced owners also recognize the importance of setting a detailed budget to keep spending in check. At the very least, start tracking your business spending. Open a separate bank account or credit card to help determine where the company’s money goes. Look for opportunities to improve profitability by lowering expenses.

Review Insurance Coverage

Has your business changed significantly in the last year? You should review insurance policies annually and add new items to coverages to reduce loss risk.

Tax Preparation

The beginning of the year is also tax prep season. Resolve to start the process early and know when your deadlines are. You may also want to research small business tax credits that you may qualify for.

Tax Planning

As you prepare tax forms for last year, keep an eye out for opportunities to save in the future. If tax laws change, research the ways they may affect your company. Consult with a tax expert, if warranted.

Facilitate Growth

You may need to invest in your business and prepare to handle more customers and higher sales volumes to increase growth. A new truck, expanding to another storefront, or hiring more employees will increase your expenses in the short-term, but also help to facilitate expansion. To help manage cash flow during growth periods, look into business financing options.

Start the new decade off right by using this small business new year checklist: set clear goals supported by tangible actions steps. Develop a budget and keep an eye on cash flow to determine how you’ll manage your company through the coming weeks and months. The new year is a chance to start over and improve your business aspirations. It is the perfect time to make improvements and upgrades to your company.

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Understanding the SBA Microloan

The SBA Microloan program can provide small business owners with small-scale, low-interest loans with very good repayment terms to either launch or expand a business. Here is what prospective borrowers need to know.

What Is a Microloan?

The SBA Microloan program offers loans up to $50,000. They help women, low income, veteran and minority entrepreneurs, certain not-for-profit childcare centers and other small businesses startup and expand. The average microloan is approximately $13,000, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Microloan lending is different from other SBA loan products from traditional financial channels. The SBA microloan program provides funds through nonprofit community-based organizations. These nonprofit organizations act as intermediaries and have knowledge in lending, management and technical assistance. They are also responsible for administering the microloan program for eligible borrowers.

Uses for Microloans

Microloans are applicable for working capital purposes or for purchasing supplies, inventory, furniture, fixtures, machinery and equipment. Ineligible uses include real estate, leasehold improvements and anything not listed as eligible by the SBA.

Microloans are a great option for businesses with smaller capital requirements. If you need additional financial assistance with purchasing real estate or help with refinancing debt, other SBA Loan Programs are available, such as the 7(a) loan or 504 loan.

Microloan Stipulations

De acuerdo a SBA, microloans have certain stipulations. For instance, any borrower receiving more than $20,000 must pass a credit elsewhere test. The analysis from the credit elsewhere test determines whether the borrower is able to obtain some or all of the requested loan funds from alternative sources without causing undue hardship. No business or single borrower may owe more than $50,000 at any one time. Furthermore, proceeds cannot contribute to real estate purchases or pay for existing debts.

Microloan Qualification Requirements

Each microloan intermediary has their own credit and lending requirements. In general, intermediaries require some type of collateral in addition to the personal guarantee of the business owner.

Eligible microloan businesses must certify before closing their loan from the intermediary that their business is a legal, for-profit business. Not-for-profit child care centers are the exception and are eligible to receive SBA microloans. Qualified businesses are in the intermediary’s set area of operations and meet SBA small business size standards. Another requirement is that neither the business nor the owner are prohibited from receiving funds from any Federal department or agency. Furthermore, no owner of more than 50 percent of the business is more than 60 days delinquent in child support payments, according to SBA.

Prospective microborrowers must also complete SBA Form 1624.

Microloan Repayment Terms, Interest Rates and Fees

Microloan loan repayment terms, interest rates and fees will vary depending on your loan amount, planned use of funds, the intermediary lender’s requirements and your needs.

The maximum repayment term allowed for an SBA microloan is six years or 72 months. Loans are fixed-term, fixed-rate with scheduled payments. Interest rates will depend on the intermediary lender and costs to the intermediary from the U.S. Treasury. The maximum interest rates permitted are based on the intermediary’s cost of funds. Normally, these rates will be between 8 and 13 percent.

Microloans aren’t structured as a line of credit nor have a balloon payment. Microloans are malleable if the loan term does not exceed 72 months, but not exclusively for the purpose of delaying off a charge. They allow refinancing. However, any microloan that is more than 120 days delinquent, or in default, must be charged off, according to SBA.

There are certain microloan fees and charges. You might have to pay out-of-pocket for the direct cost for closing your loan. Examples of these costs include Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filing fees and credit report costs. You may also have to pay an annual contribution of up to $100. This contribution isn’t a fee and can’t be part of the loan. Late fees on microloans are generally not more than 5 percent of the payment due.

How to Apply for a Microloan

To begin the application process, you will need to find an SBA approved intermediary in your area. Approved intermediaries make all credit decisions on SBA microloans. Prospective applicants can also use the SBA’s Lender Match referral tool to connect them with participating SBA-approved lenders. Document requirements and processing times will vary by lender.

You may need to participate in training or planning requirements before the SBA considers your loan. This business training helps individuals launch or expand their business.

For more information, you can contact your local SBA District Office or get in touch with a financing specialist at Kapitus.

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Financing for Business Expansion

How do you find financing for business expansion, when the time is right? No matter how successful a business might be, the decision to proceed with expansion inevitably comes with Más spending, not less, and therefore a need to identify funding sources early in the process.

Often, the single best solution is to obtain a small business expansion loan. Traditional lenders (such as a bank) will naturally want to know what you plan to spend the money on, in order to finance your growth plans.

Reasons for financing growth

Typical areas where business leaders focus their expansion efforts include the following:

Opening a new location.

A retail business with a bricks-and-mortar presence may wish to expand to a second or third location. For this and other related goals, it’s important to gauge the anticipated costs.

Como Inc. notes, “you’ll need to acquire estimates for leasing space, building out your location, hiring staff and procuring additional inventory.” To make sure the numbers work, conduct a “break-even analysis to determine how long you’ll need to support your new venture before it becomes profitable.”

Hire additional staff.

Your current workforce might not match the needs of expansion. You’ll have to find time, money and other resources to recruit new team members (to pay them, once they’re hired). This is an important area to focus on, so that you and your workforce aren’t stretched too thin by your company’s “growing pains.”

Purchase new equipment.

Technology or other business-related equipment represents another area impacted by expansion. Whether it’s needed to facilitate greater employee productivity, respond to increased fulfillment and delivery demands or other needs, funding for equipment might be a key part of your expansion plans.

Other expansion-related areas include large-scale product upgrades or a new product launch and/or breaking into a new market. All of these objectives require new sources of financing.

Options for financing for business expansion

If attempting to secure a traditional bank loan isn’t your ideal financing strategy, consider these alternative funding options:

Online loans.

These stand-alone cash flow loans are fairly easy to qualify for, because requirements are less strict than for a bank loan. Also, it’s not necessary to secure the loan with future business revenue or other collateral. But stable revenue and a solid business plan are essential factors for approval.

SBA loans.

The Small Business Administration doesn’t actually loan money, but they agree to back a certain percentage of the loan. They guarantee repayment to the lender, which in term facilitates loan approval. Many small businesses opt for this approach.

Purchase order financing.

These short-term loans cover up to 100% of supplier costs, as long as it’s determined a big order is just about to close. After the sale, the lender deducts their fees from the proceeds.

Invoice factoring.

With this approach, you transfer over an unpaid invoice to a financing company (the “factor”), and receive an advance on payment. The factor takes over collecting payment from the clients. After deducting their fee (which can be as low as 1.5% of the invoice amount), you receive the rest of the invoice amount. Under this arrangement, you’re not obliged to wait 30-90 days for payment on your products or services.

Revenue based financing.

This type of loan involves a quick, simplified application process. Lenders approve financing after reviewing historic revenue and use this to forecast future cash flow. You receive a lump sum of cash. The lender collects a specified percentage of future sales, either on a daily or weekly basis.

Crowdfunding.

Financing business expansion through crowdfunding has become more popular in recent years. Online platforms like Kickstarter enable interested micro-investors to put up funding for your expansion plans, with numbers that can significantly boost your chances for successful growth.

Repayment, or debt crowdfunding, follows a similar approach to traditional small business loans. Here, the business owes money back to the individual lenders at a set (agreed-upon) interest rate for these deals.

Angel Investing.

It’s worth exploring ways to secure venture capital financing, or enlisting the services of an angel investor to help grow your business. Some investors seek to play an active role in a business’s next steps. A business owner must relinquish some equity in order to obtain investor funding.

Financing business expansion can be stressful, but knowing you have options can lessen the anxiety involved. Your expansion plans may or may not meet traditional lending requirements, but with the range of lending alternatives available these days, a growing business is likely to find the financing it needs elsewhere.

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How to Choose the Right CPA Firm for Your Business

You feel pretty confident in the accuracy of your financial statements. But, you know that “trust me” won’t cut it with outsiders when you’re looking for a loan or investment capital. And, perhaps, you just want some reassurance that whoever is doing your books (even if it’s you!) is up to the task – and honest. If this is you, it looks like it’s time for you to to face the audit vs. review and compilation question. This is where CPAs, and the assurance services they provide, come into the picture.

Audit vs. review

There are tiers of assurance services and levels of scrutiny that CPA auditors can apply to your books, with corresponding confidence levels. It ranges from a “compilation” at the low end, to a full-blown audit at the top. Each has a different purpose, and price tag.

Cost depends upon the amount of time spent performing the service, and the level of complexity (also impacting time requirements and thus cost). The range is wide, say from around $2,000 to $10,000, $20,000 or more.

A compilation of financial statements technically does not belong in the same category as assurance services because the CPA isn’t passing judgment on the accuracy of your financial statements, as they do in the audit vs. review area. A compilation, which does not need to be performed by a bona fide CPA, is basically just a set of financial statements compiled by an accountant using your financial records.

The accountant (or CPA) who performs the compilation should know your industry enough to understand your numbers, and adapt them to standard financial statement formats. Those statements will then be understandable to anyone who needs to look at them.

If the CPA has questions about where some numbers come from, you need to provide clarification. If the accountant / CPA isn’t satisfied with your answers, they quit the engagement.

Even if the accountant has no problem compiling the statements with a compilation, a letter accompanying those statements must be shared with anyone you give them to, making it clear that no opinions are expressed about their accuracy. The letter should describe the process used to perform the compilation, and any issues that arose.

Who Uses Compilations?

There’s a lack of assurance that goes with compilations. You might use them to seek a small loan or a larger one if you pledge sufficient collateral.

The entry level assurance services category is the review. According to the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the review service “is one in which the CPA performs analytical procedures, inquiries and other procedures to obtain limited assurance on the financial statements and is intended to provide a user with a level of comfort on their accuracy.” To produce a review, the CPA needs to gain a basic understanding of your business and your accounting procedures and principles.

Still, in performing a review, the CPA “does not contemplate obtaining an understanding of your business’s internal controls, assessing fraud risk, testing accounting records through inspection, observation, outside confirmation or the examination of source documents ordinarily performed in an audit,” the AICPA explains.

A review is only performed by a CPA who has no ties to you that could compromise the CPA’s independence.

“Material Modifications”

A report accompanies a report, giving the CPA’s opinion on any  necessary “material modifications” for statements. This will bring them in line with applicable accounting standards.

A review may get you by if you’re applying for a larger loan and prospective lenders will tell you what they need. They’ll provide a basic level of assurance, too. But a review is closer to a compilation than an audit, which involves significantly more digging on the CPA’s part. The audit is the gold standard of financial statement scrutiny. It provides what the AICPA describes as a “high level of comfort” in terms of accuracy.

An audit only reassures yourself, lenders, investors or prospective business buyers that your financial statements are solid. And if the auditor does have some issues with your numbers or your internal accounting quality control systems, anyone reading the audit report will know that, too.

A Roadmap for Improvement

Any reported weaknesses in your financial controls can give you a roadmap on how to improve them. Once you fix the deficiencies, your next audit report will be cleaner.

However, an audit report indicates that it only provides ‘reasonable’–as opposed to absolute–assurance of your financial statements’ integrity.

Think about an audit vs. review and keep this in mind: In an audit, the CPA can’t rely on numbers from last year’s statements as the starting point for the current year’s audit. Instead, the auditor might first need to perform tests on the prior year’s numbers (and possibly earlier years). That suggests that the sooner you have an audit performed, the less expensive it will be.

There are steps you can take to reduce the cost of an audit, or for that matter, a review. Make sure your bookkeeping system is reliable, and that your financial records are easy to decipher. Consider bringing in a pro in to clean things up before you engage a CPA.

The CPA tells you the documents you need for and inspection. Be sure to have all your papers ready before the review or audit.

Pick an appropriate auditor to get an efficient audit. Large CPA firms tend to be more expensive than mid-sized or smaller firms. You probably don’t need a large national firm. However, a firm that’s large enough to have experienced auditors might be cheaper than a tiny firm. If it can perform your audit more efficiently, take it into consideration.

The public accounting industry is highly competitive. Don’t hesitate to shop around. Before signing an engagement letter, gain a high comfort level with a firm. Check the firm’s client references, fees, promised turnaround times, scope of services, audit procedures and technology infrastructure.

Choose wisely and build a strong relationship with a CPA firm. This can benefit you not only in assuring your financial statements are trustworthy, but ultimately help you to build a strong financial foundation for your business.

 

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Can I Get Approved for the 7(a) Loan Program

Any small business owner who spends time searching for small business loans–both through banks and online–has likely come across the SBA 7(a) loan program. It’s one of the more popular small business lending options out there. With that, many small business owners look to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help with financing.

One way the SBA helps small business owners is through their Loan Guarantee Program. Here, you’ll learn what you need to know about the SBA 7(a) loan program and the requirements for approval.

What is the SBA loan program?

Préstamos de la sba don’t actually go through the government. Instead, the SBA offers guarantees to participating lenders, including traditional banks, credit unions, online lenders and private lenders.

The goal is to make small business loans less risky for these lenders. This means that more business owners can secure funding to help grow their businesses.

Guarantees typically cover anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of the total loan amount, depending on the loan. The SBA has a variety of loan options, including the 7(a) program, the 504 program, microloans and disaster loans.

However, the SBA 7(a) program is the focus here.

What is a 7a loan?

SBA 7(a) loans are some of the most popular options available for small business owners. In the 2019 fiscal year, over $23 billion in loans saw approval. An average loan was for just under $450,000.

The flexibility of the 7(a) loan program makes it popular among small business owners. 7(a) loans are guaranteed up to $5 million. For loans up to $150,000, the SBA guarantees 85 percent. The SBA guarantees 75 percent for loans over $150,000, up to $3.75 million on the $5 million maximum loan amount.

If you default, the SBA will pay out the guaranteed amount. It’s one way the administration removes some of the default risks from lenders. This allows them to offer more attractive repayment terms.

Many small business owners would likely struggle to secure financing from traditional financial institutions without the SBA Loan Guarantee Program.

What are the SBA 7a loan terms and interest rates?

SBA loan terms are set with the long-term goals of small business owners in mind. Repayment terms are often based on your particular financial situation. However, most of these are paid back via monthly installments.

The set terms are as follows:

  • Real estate: up to 25 years
  • Equipment: up to 10 years
  • Working capital and inventory: up to 10 years

Another benefit of an SBA loan is that it sets a maximum with lenders on interest rates. Base rates are tied to Prime Rates, benchmark interest rates and additional spread rates.

The spread rate varies depending on the loan amount and the term. Typically, higher loan amounts with shorter terms have slightly lower spread rates.

The SBA has specific spread rates they use. But, the rates can change as the market rates do over time.

Are there fees involved with the SBA 7(a) loan program?

While you typically won’t find origination, application and processing fees with SBA loans, there still are fees to consider.

These fees can include:

  • SBA loan guarantee fees (which vary depending on the size of the loan; but they only apply to the guaranteed amount)
  • Credit authorization fees
  • Packaging fees and closing costs
  • Appraisal fees for real estate related loans
  • Sanciones por pagos atrasados
  • Prepayment penalties which apply to loans longer than 15 years that are prepaid within the first three years

The guarantee fee is the highest of all associated SBA loan fees. Keep these fees in mind as you figure your total payment amount.

The basics of qualifying for SBA 7(a) loans

The SBA has several eligibility requirements you must meet to qualify for any of their loans, including the 7(a). Since these are popular loans, you should understand the different requirements before you apply.

First, your business must be for-profit and based within the United States or its territories. Also, the SBA has size standards they use to ensure that the definition of small business gets met–since it varies across industries. This standard is generally a combination of employee size and annual average receipts.

Second, the SBA wants you, as the small business owner, to have a stake too. So, they require that you invest your own time and money into your small business. Also, eligibility rules state that you need to have been in business for a sufficient amount of time, typically a few years.

Finally, your business must be eligible for a loan. Some are not including real estate investment firms, rare coin dealers, companies involved in speculative activities, and companies where gambling is the primary activity, among others.

What are the SBA 7(a) loan program requirements?

Your job isn’t over yet, even once your business is eligible for a loan application. You need to meet the loan requirements, too. The SBA requires you to submit information on your “personal background and character”. This includes criminal history (if any), your citizenship status, work history in the form of a resume, past addresses, and other items as well.

You also need to provide a business plan. A solidified business plan goes a long way towards showcasing the strength of your business and your plans for the future. Don’t forget to include detailed information on how you’ll use your loan.

Other documents required are your business financial statements. You need to show your revenue and profitability. The SBA typically approves businesses with at least $100,000 in revenue each year. You should also provide a listing of any debts and your debt schedule, which can help highlight your expected cash flow.

Your personal credit score is important. The SBA and lenders will typically look for a FICO credit score above 650.

Finally, there is some personal risk involved with 7(a) loans too. The SBA requires anyone who owns over 20 percent of the business signs a personal guarantee on the loan.

While each lender is different and requirements vary depending on your situation, keep these requirements in mind as you move through the process.

Types of loans in the 7(a) program

Within the 7(a) loan program, there are different loan options beyond the 7(a) standard loan you can explore.

The 7(a) Small Loan program has all the requirements of the standard 7(a) loan with one significant difference: it offers a maximum loan amount of $350,000.

SBA Express loans are designed with quick turnarounds in mind. They have a maximum loan limit of $350,000. Note that the SBA guarantees 50 percent of the loan amount.

SBA Export Express loans are directed at exporters for lines of credit up to $500,000. The SBA guarantees 90 percent for loans up to $350,000 and 75 percent for amounts beyond that. It’s yet another option with quick turnaround times.

An Export Working Capital loan is for a revolving line of credit up to $5 million with a 90 percent SBA guarantee. This loan often has short terms of up to 12 months.

International Trade loans are set to meet the long-term financing needs of export businesses. The maximum amount is for $5 million, with the SBA guaranteeing 90 percent of the loan.

How can you use a 7(a) loan?

The SBA sets guidelines for both the general loan terms and how funds get used.

These include:

  • Expansion and or renovation needs
  • New construction
  • Purchasing land or buildings
  • Purchasing equipment, fixtures, or lease-hold improvements
  • Working capital
  • Refinancing debt (the SBA cites it must be for “compelling reasons”)
  • Seasonal lines of credit
  • Inventory costs
  • Business startup costs

Understandably so, it’s essential to know this information before you apply. Otherwise, you could lose your funding if you’re using it for unapproved reasons.

The Bottom Line

It’s easy to see why SBA 7(a) loans are so popular with small business owners. They provide funding with flexibility and attractive terms. If you meet the qualifications and requirements for an SBA loan, it just could be what you and your small business need to achieve your long-term goals. To learn more about SBA loans, haga clic aquí.

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Business Loans for Contractors: The Best Choices

Contractors need different types of capital to run their businesses. They use long-term capital to finance equipment purchases and short-term capital to smooth out temporary fluctuations in cash flow. Here are the best loans for contractors with descriptions of their collateral requirements, application procedures and repayment terms.

Línea de crédito

A business line of credit is a valuable and flexible source of funds for a contractor. It allows you to make “draws” as needed against the maximum approved line of credit. You will only pay interest on the amount of loan drawn down. If you repay the loan, you can come back later and borrow again. These types of loans are known as “revolving” lines of credit.

Lines of credit help smooth out short-term fluctuations in cash flow. They can be used to meet payroll expenses, pay suppliers and provide cash during slow periods. They can be drawn down at any time.

Lines of credit are usually secured by the contractor’s assets, such as accounts receivable, inventory and equipment. The amount of the loan is based on the lender’s appraisal of the worth of the company’s assets and its financial leverage. For example, a lender might advance 80% of the value of accounts receivable but only advance 50% of the book value of inventory and equipment. The maximum line of credit would be the sum of these appraisals.

The application and approval process for a line of credit is usually very quick.

Equipment Loans

From vehicles to high-priced heavy equipment, contractors need all types of equipment to perform their work. Equipment purchases for large amounts should align with the useful life of the asset. Equipment purchase loans are payable over several years, usually up to five years with monthly payments.

Lenders will require down payments of 10% to 20% but will finance the rest of the purchase price. This enables contractors to buy big-ticket items that may have otherwise been out of reach.

The collateral for an equipment loan is typically the equipment itself. This leaves the contractor’s other assets, such as receivables and inventory, available for collateral for other loans.

Small Business Administration Loan

Because of their long repayment terms and low interest rates, SBA loans are highly desirable. Lenders guarantee up to 85% of loans to contractors. This way, they have solid security in case the borrower defaults.

To finance long-term working capital needs and businesses with seasonal fluctuations, you can use funds from an SBA loan.

The hard part is that SBA loans are difficult to get. Only the most creditworthy applicants receive approval. Borrowers must have several years in business with good revenues and a strong credit history.

SBA loan applications require a considerable amount of paperwork and can take several months to get approved. SBA loans are highly desirable if you have the credentials and time to wait.

Accounts Receivable Financing

Under an accounts receivable financing agreement, the lender agrees to make advances up to a certain percentage, say 80%, of the contractor’s total accounts receivable outstanding. Repayment terms are either weekly or monthly. The contractor retains ownership of the receivables and assumes the risk of non-payment from the customer.

To make up short-term deficits in cash flow as needed, use funds from an accounts receivable agreement.

Invoice Financing

Invoice financing, also known as factoring, lets a contractor receive an advance against the company’s receivables. The factor typically will make an advance to the contractor of up to 80% of the invoice amount and collect the balance from the client at due date. Funds from factored invoices normally go into the contractor’s bank account the next business day.

In a factoring agreement, the lender, known as the “Factor”, purchases invoices from the contractor. They assume the responsibility of collecting the debt. Factoring fees can range from 2% to 4% of invoice value.

Approval for this type of invoice financing is based more on the creditworthiness of the contractor’s customers than the credit rating of the contractors themselves.

Loans for contractors range from lines of credit and receivables financing to meet short-term cash needs to equipment loans and SBA loans for long-term purposes.

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Best Sources for Short Term Finance

Short term finance options abound for businesses that need capital to meet immediate financial needs. Along with business loans, there are other ways to obtain working capital outside of what’s offered by traditional financial institutions. So, if you need short term business financing to improve cash flow or for another reason, consider these options.

1. Short term loan

Term loans are exactly what they sound like: a business loan repaid over a set term. These loans have fixed or variable interest rates, with varying borrowing limits.

A short term loan could help fill cash flow gaps or cover working capital needs. For instance, this type of financing could cover your payroll costs during the slow season or stock on up inventory. Short term loans are typically designed to be repaid in a year or less, though some lenders offer terms up to 36 months.

2. Merchant cash advance

Merchant cash advances offer a convenient way to acquire working capital for businesses with less than perfect credit. A merchant cash advance isn’t a traditional business loan. In fact, it’s not a loan at all. Instead, you receive an upfront sum of cash in exchange for a percentage of your future sales.

This type of financing may be appropriate for newer businesses that lack an operating history or strong credit. The caveat is that merchant cash advances can be more expensive than other types of short term business financing.

3. Accounts receivable financing

Accounts receivable financing allows businesses to leverage their outstanding receivables for a loan. There are two ways this type of financing can work. First, the accounts receivable financing company could lend you money based on the value of your outstanding invoices. You’d then pay the financing company back, along with a fee or factor rate. The other option is selling your outstanding invoices outright to the financing company. Then, it’s up to the lender to collect on those invoices from your customers.

In each case, this type of financing can be convenient for business owners. It’s possible to get funding in just a few business days. Like merchant cash advances, perfect credit isn’t required. It’s important to consider the factor rate and fees, however. This way, you understand what this short term business financing is costing you.

4. Inventory financing

Inventory financing is a short term financimg avenue that product-based small businesses might consider. This type of financing offers working capital to purchase inventory. The inventory serves as collateral for the loan.

Here’s the idea: You should start repaying the loan fairly quickly as you sell the inventory you purchased. Inventory financing is interesting if you come across a great deal on inventory that you’d like to take advantage of. Alternately, you could use inventory financing to stock up for the busy season when cash flow is slower.

5. Business line of credit

A line of credit can offer flexible financing for the short term. With a business line of credit, you have a set amount of money you can borrow against. As you pay back what you borrow, you free up available credit.

This business loan alternative is attractive if you only want to pay interest on the amount of credit you’re using. With short or long term loans, you’d pay interest on the entire amount borrowed. A business line of credit generally requires a good credit score to qualify; the better your credit, the better your interest rate.

6. Trade credit

Also called vendor or supplier credit, trade credit is another way to bolster cash flow temporarily. With trade credit, your vendors allow you time to pay for products or supplies, instead of giving them cash on delivery. For example, payment may be due on Net 30 or Net 60 terms.

An advantage of using trade credit for the short term is that your vendors may charge little or no interest. In turn, this can be a helpful way to establish your business credit score and history if you’re able to report vendor tradelines to business credit bureaus.

7. Business credit cards

A business credit card isn’t the same as a business loan, but it can work well for short term finance needs. A business credit card is similar to a line of credit. You make purchases against your credit limit; as you pay them off (with interest), you free up available credit for new charges.

Also, a business credit card may be easier to qualify for than a business loan. Credit card companies typically check your personal – not your business – credit score. Many business credit cards also offer the opportunity to earn valuable rewards in the form of miles, points or cash back.

 

When comparing short term business financing, cover the basics. Check the interest rate and fees, repayment terms, whether any collateral is needed and the minimum requirements to qualify. This way, you’ll find the best short term finance solution for your business.

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