How to Start a Business - Key Points to Consider
Article Index
How to Start a Business
How to Start a Small Business
Why Small Businesses Fail
Part 1: The Executive Summary
Part 2: Market Analysis
Part 3: Company Description
Part 4: Organization And Management
Part 5: Marketing and Sales Strategies
Part 6: Service or Product Line
Part 7: Funding Request
Part 8: Financial
Part 9: The Appendix
Key Points to Consider
All Pages

Key Points to Consider

Let's begin by exploring some of the key points your banker will review:

1. Ability to Repay/Capacity

The ability to repay must be justified in your loan package. Banks want to see two sources of repayment cash flow from the business, plus a secondary source such as collateral. In order to analyze the cash flow of the business, the lender will review the business past financial statements. Generally, banks feel most comfortable dealing with a business that has been in existence for a number of years because they have a financial track record. If the business has consistently made a profit and that profit can cover the payment of additional debt, then it is likely that the loan will be approved. If however, the business has been operating marginally and now has a new opportunity to grow or if that business is a start-up, then it is necessary to prepare a thorough loan package with detailed explanation addressing how the business will be able to repay the loan.


2. Credit History

One of the first things a bank will determine when a person/business requests a loan is whether their personal and business credit is good. Therefore before you go to the bank, or even start the process of preparing a loan request, you want to make sure your credit is good.

First get your personal credit report. You can obtain a report by calling Fiji Credit Bureau. It is important that you initiate this step well in advance of seeking a loan. Personal credit reports may contain errors or be out of date. In many cases, people find that they paid off a bill but that it has not been recorded on their credit report. It can take 3 to 4 weeks for this error to be corrected -- and it is up to you to see that this happens. You want to make sure that when the bank pulls your credit report that all the errors have been corrected and your history is up to date.


3. Equity

Financial institutions want to see a certain amount of equity in a business. Equity can be built up in a business through retained earnings or the injection of cash from either the owner or investors. Most banks want to see that the total liabilities or debt of a business is not more than 4 times the amount of equity. (Or stated differently, when you divide total liabilities by equity, your answer should not be more than 4.) Therefore if you want a loan you must ensure that there is enough equity in the company to leverage that loan.

Don't be misled into thinking that start-up businesses can obtain 100% financing through conventional or special loan programs. A business owner usually must put some of her/his own money into the business. The amount an individual must put into the business in order to obtain a loan is dependent on the type of loan, purpose and terms. For example, most banks want the owner to put in at least 20 - 40% of the total request.

Example: A new business needs a $100,000 to start. The business owner must put $20,000 of her own money into the new business as equity. Her loan will be $80,000. The debt to equity ratio is 4:1. Note also that this is only one of many factors used to evaluate the business -- just having the right debt/equity ratio does not guarantee you'll get the loan.

The balance sheet indicates the amount of equity or net worth of a business. The net worth of the business is often a combination of retained earnings and owner's equity. In many cases, owner's equity will be shown as a loan from shareholders and therefore a liability. If a business owner wishes to obtain a loan, she will be obligated to pay the bank back first and not herself. Consequently, it may be necessary to restructure the liability so that it becomes owner's equity or subordinate the loan. If the current debt to net worth is 4 or over it is unlikely that the business will be able to obtain additional debt/loan.

4. Collateral

Financial institutions are looking for a second source of repayment, which often is collateral. Collateral are those personal and business assets that can be sold to pay back the loan. Every loan program, even many micro loan programs, requires at least some collateral to secure a loan. If a potential borrower has no collateral to secure a loan, she/he will need a co-signer that has collateral to pledge. Otherwise it may be difficult to obtain a loan.

The value of collateral is not based on the market value. It is discounted to take into account the value that would be lost if the assets had to be liquidated.

Experience

A client that wants to open a business and has no experience in that business should not seek financing let alone start the business unless they intend to hire people who know the business or take on a partner that has the appropriate experience. Regardless, the client should be advised to take some time to work in the business first and take some entrepreneurial training classes.


Questions Your Lender Will Ask

Before you apply for a loan, you need to think about questions like these:

 

  • Can the business repay the loan? (Is cash flow greater than debt service?)
  • Can you repay the loan if the business fails? (Is collateral sufficient to repay the loan?)
  • Does the business collect its bills?
  • Does the business pay its bills?
  • Does the business control its inventory?
  • Does the business control expenses?
  • Are the officers committed to the business?
  • Does the business have a profitable operating history?
  • Does the business match its sources and uses of funds?
  • Are sales growing?
  • Are profits increasing as a percentage of sales?
  • Is there any discretionary cash flow?
  • What is the future of the industry?
  • Who is your competition and what are their strengths and weaknesses?


Government Regulations and Your Business

It may be inconceivable to you that your home based consulting service or hand knit sweater business would have to comply with any of the numerous local, state and federal regulations, but in all likelihood it will. Avoid the temptation to ignore regulatory details. Doing so may avert some red tape in the short term, but could be an obstacle as your business grows. Taking the time to research the applicable regulations is as important as knowing your market.

Below is a checklist of the most common requirements that affect small businesses, but it is by no means exhaustive. Bear in mind that regulations vary by industry. If you're in the food service business, for example, you will have to deal with the health department. If you use chemical solvents, you will have environmental compliance to meet. Carefully investigate the regulations that affect your industry. Being out of compliance could leave you unprotected legally, lead to expensive penalties, and jeopardize your business.

Business Licenses

There are many types of licenses. You need one to operate legally almost everywhere. If the business is located within town or city limits, a license must be obtained from the city; if outside the city limits, then from the Rural Authority.