Ep. 48: Business Loans Dos and Don’ts

Learn about business loans.

Money is such an integral part of your business. So when the time comes and you need to secure more, where do you start? Who do you turn to? We’ve got Iman Cotton, loans officer with CDC Small Business Finance to guide us through it. Iman says that a good place to start is by thinking, “something that sounds too good to be true, probably is.”Learn how to best prepare you and your business for a loan.

In this episode you’ll hear:

(01:39) How do you find a good lender?

(03:29) What documents do you need to apply to a small business loan?

(04:31) Mistakes small business owners make when they want to apply for a loan.

(07:34) Now that you have the loan, what happens if you’re struggling to pay it back?


1 -The first step is looking for a lender, the place to start is at institutions you have a relationship with. And be sure to check out all of your options, traditional banks are a great start but also check in with local SBA district offices. Do your homework and feel confident about which lender and loan is best for you before signing on the dotted line.

2 - Get all your paperwork in order. For startups, have your business plan, financial projections and your completed personal tax return on hand. Existing businesses are going to need personal and business tax returns completed and financial statements.

3 - There are definitely some things to avoid. Don’t spend money before you know you can finance the entire cost of your venture. Hire professionals when it comes to things you might not be qualified to do, like taxes. Be careful not to write off all of your revenue in order to keep your taxable income down. Don’t borrow more than you need.

4 - Be transparent with your lender if your financial plan goes awry. Things don’t always go as planned. If you’re struggling to hold up your end of the bargain, being open and honest is imperative.

Episode Transcript


Andrea Marquez: Money is always top of mind for an entrepreneur. You need it to be able to start, grow, pay yourself, your employees. The list goes on and on and on. And one way to fund your business is through loans. I don't know if you feel like this, but to me, loans are super scary. I've always been told to never spend money I don't have. What will happen if I miss a payment? How can I make sure I'll be able to pay it on time? Where do I even apply for loans? How do I find out if I qualify? If you've never applied for a loan before, it can feel like a daunting process. So let's break it down together. I'm Andrea Marquez and This Is Small Business, a podcast brought to you by Amazon. Today we'll be talking about business loans.


Iman Cotton: Each financial institution has credit enhancement products such as loans, government-guaranteed loans, state-guaranteed loans. They even also have lines of credits and possibly more products. Then there's non-traditional lending organizations such as a certified development company or a CDC, and they are created to help business owners access capital. There's also community development financial institution who provides access to affordable financial products and services in underserved communities.


Andrea Marquez: That's Iman Cotton. She's a loan officer with CDC Small Business Finance. And before that she worked in banking with loads of traditional institutions. Iman just listed a bunch of different options that are available to small business owners. But before you start applying for a loan, first you need to figure out who's going to be your lender.


Iman Cotton: Start with your deposit relationship or start with your actual bank that you're working with. So I'm huge on relationships and I love relationships because I love the guidance and I want to work with like-minded individuals and people who believe in me and will champion whatever it is that I'm doing. So who's your deposit relationship with? Also, you want to explore and research the SBA District Office in your area, and then there's other resource partners such as the SBDC and SCORE, and they can help with business plans, with different resources, with different lending partners.


Andrea Marquez: And there's a few red flags to keep in mind while you're trying to find a lender.


Iman Cotton: You want to ensure that they're an actual lender. So for an example, there's a Merchant Cash Advance or MCA. This is not a loan, this is an advance on your receivables that you're able to secure in the event you accept debit and credit card payments. But again, an MCA is not a loan. It's an advance on your future receivables where you pay back a percentage of your daily sales as the repayment.


Andrea Marquez: And you've heard this one before, but...


Iman Cotton: Something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So those loans that you can get approved in days or it's low doc or no doc or quick documents, you want to be leery of those because you may have an extremely high annual percentage rate or APR. And then also, if they can't disclose the APR or the annual percentage rate, be leery.


Andrea Marquez: Honestly, I apply that to all of my life. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So when you've done your research and figured out what loan and lender works best for you, you may be ready to apply. Let's get into what documents you'll need.


Iman Cotton: If you're a startup business, you want to ensure that you have a business plan and financial projections. We want to see that you have your personal tax return completed for the current year. If you're an existing business, you want to ensure that you have your current personal and business tax returns completed and that their current and accurate. We want to see that you also have interim financial statements such as an interim profit and loss statement and an interim balance sheet. Being aware of your current debt load and cash position is extremely important. That way we can have an intelligent conversation and I can help possibly quarterback the situation to make suggestions or recommendations, how to better prepare yourself in the event that I don't have a solution for you today. If the answer is no today, how can we turn that no into a yes or what's the actual game plan?


Andrea Marquez: Now, let's get into what you should avoid doing when you want to apply for a small business loan. The first is, don't spend money until you know can finance the whole cost.


Iman Cotton: So for instance, if you have construction or tenant improvements that you need for a new location that you're looking to lease or to have your business run out of. If the construction is $200,000 and then it happens to increase to $250,000, if you've already started that project and the project increases, you might run the chance where you can't receive financing because some lenders may not go into a project that's started to finance it.


Andrea Marquez: The second mistake is not getting help when you need it.


Iman Cotton: We have a lot of clients that have to get amendments because of their tax returns just being completely erroneous because they tried to do them themselves.


Andrea Marquez: The third mistake is running too many personal expenses to reduce taxable income. Iman says, this is the biggest mistake small business owners tend to make.


Iman Cotton: For instance, if your revenue is $10 million a year and you want to apply for a loan, but you write all of your expenses off to where now your net profit or net income is negative $2 million, we look at the negative $2 million versus the $10 million in revenue. So we more so care about profit and net income versus the revenue amount. So be cautious to not write all of your revenue off to reduce your taxable income.


Andrea Marquez: The fourth mistake is taking more money than you actually need.


Iman Cotton: It can ultimately put you in a tight cash flow situation. But we do our due diligence to ensure that we are not putting our clients in a worse off situation and that they can actually afford what they're actually requesting. And the use of funds is a legitimate use of funds. So within requesting money, what you say you'll use the money for, you have to use the money for that. We're not financing money for you to personally live off of. Keep that in mind. This is strictly for the business and you want to get exactly what you need


Andrea Marquez: And to make sure you can actually pay back the money you're borrowing, Iman says that you need to have a business plan and 24 months of financial projections.


Iman Cotton: You're sitting down, setting the road map of what you anticipate your sales to be, what you anticipate your cost of goods, the expenses, the payroll, just the overall operating expenses, so you can actually arrive at the net profit that you want to. So it's like backing into the numbers and creating that road map so you can have a plan to go off of to generate the amount of revenue that you need to pay back the loan and to cover all of your expenses.


Andrea Marquez: Let's say you finally got the loan, congrats. Now you need to make sure you keep up with those payments because there are consequences to not being able to pay back your loan. But if things don't go the way you planned, Iman says that you need to be transparent with your lender so that they can help you get through it.


Iman Cotton: The goal is not for our borrowers to default on the loan. So it's just about being transparent and communicating and trying to set in place a workout plan and going from there. Assuming they can't pay back because the business is closing, then the lender would come in to liquidate the assets and work with the borrower to work out any remaining balances. And then they may look at any personal collateral if it was held and things of that nature. But ultimately, one can lose their business and not be eligible for any additional federal lending if they aren't able to pay back the loan.


Andrea Marquez: That was a lot of information on how you can secure a loan. Iman did a great job of simplifying the process, but all this information can get a little bit overwhelming. So if you're still unsure about whether a loan is the best option for you.


Iman Cotton: Don't be fearful to at least have the conversations now about what goals you have for your business. I always say, don't call me after you've quit your job. Call me before you leave that place of employment. Get comfortable with no when applying for anything or when you're just trying to get your business off the ground. The more you hear no, the more you can also hear yes.


Andrea Marquez: That was Iman Cotton, a loan officer. Getting comfortable with hearing no is a great piece of advice to end on. As an entrepreneur, you might be hearing it a lot. I hope this episode helped make loans a little less scary. Let me know how you're getting prepared to find or apply for a loan or if there's any advice that stood out to you. We covered a lot in this episode, so if you missed anything, don't worry, we've taken notes for you. You can find them at smallbusiness. amazon. com/ podcasts.  

That's it for this episode of This Is Small Business brought to you by Amazon. If you liked what you heard, make sure to subscribe and tell your friends about us by sending them a link to this episode. And we would love to know what you think, so please, please, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easier to do it through your phone or send us an email at thisissmallbusiness@ amazon. com with your thoughts.

Until next time, This Is Small Business. I'm your host, Andrea Marquez. Hasta Luego and thanks for listening. This Is Small Business is brought to you by Amazon with technical and story production by JAR Audio.


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