Improving Your Odds of Getting a Small Business Loan and Identifying Your Alternatives

Small Business Loan Application

For a bettor or a gambler, few things are as revered as a “sure thing.” That’s because few things are ever truly assured. OK, in horse racing, seeing Secretariat’s, Seattle Slew’s or Seabiscuit’s name in the lineup is never a bad sign. The same can be said for holding a royal flush in a high-stakes poker game. But how many times do these happen? In most endeavors, success is never a sure thing, which is why so many people want to stack the odds as much in their favor as possible before taking a chance. And even then, there’s still the possibility of walking away empty-handed.

A small business owner faces that dilemma each and every time they apply for a loan. Getting a small business loan is far from a sure thing. In fact, the odds are often greater of failure than success.

An estimated 30 percent of all businesses fail not because they had a bad idea or they lacked customers but because they ran out of money to keep the operation afloat. So, access to capital, be it to launch a small business or to grow it, is vital.

Small businesses can be capital hungry ventures. They borrow approximately $600 billion a year, a Small Business Administration study has found. About 40 percent of small business owners applied for a loan in 2017, according to the Federal Reserve. The average loan size was $633,000. However, more than half of borrowers applied for loans of $100,000 or less.

Banks and other traditional financial institutions typically reject far more small business loan applications than they approve. Alternative lenders are a slightly better bet with a little more than half approved.  But even then, it’s not much more than a 50-50 proposition. Not the best of odds. Is there anything you can do before you apply for a loan to improve your chances? Can you swing the odds more in your favor? The answer is yes, and there are alternatives too.

Build Up Your Personal Credit Score and Business Credit Score

When applying for a loan, no matter what kind of loan, one of the first things a financial institution will look at is your credit history. Personal credit scores show the lender (especially traditional lenders such as banks) your ability to repay personal debts, such as credit cards, mortgages, and car loans. They also look at if you repay your bills on time, how often you have late payments, and the lines of credit you have taken in the past. If you are applying for a small business loan, financial institutions will look at your personal credit score to see how you manage debt. 

More established businesses, or companies that have been around for longer, will have business credit scores. Your personal credit score is known as a FICO score and usually ranges from 300 to 850 (the higher your score, the better), while business credit scores usually range from 0 or 1 to 100. Credit bureaus like Experian, Equifax, and Dun & Bradstreet are able to provide you with one free credit report per year. 

You can build your business credit by establishing trade lines and keeping your public records clean. To qualify for an SBA loan or a traditional bank loan, you’ll need excellent business credit and good personal credit. However, online lenders may be more lenient because your business’s cash flow and track record are typically considered more important than your credit score.

Have a solid business plan: Lenders are not gamblers. They are risk-averse. It’s simply their nature. Your job is to convince them you’re a sure thing. How? By having a complete, thorough, and well-presented business plan, accompanied by a concise executive summary. Demonstrate your knowledge, foresight and planning skills. Show you’ve thought of every conceivable contingency as well as a way to overcome any potential issues. Let your passion shine through, but also display your sound judgment and fiduciary responsibility.

Have some skin in the game: Don’t walk into the lender’s offices expecting them to finance your business 100 percent. Even with the best business plan in hand, you still represent a risk. The lender is going to want to see you’re willing to share at least some of that bet with your own money. The more equity you have in the business when asking for a loan, the greater your odds of approval. Anything less than a 25 percent stake jeopardizes your chances of success.

Invest first in things that generate income: Lenders want to see a revenue stream that can be put back into the business to grow and expand towards continued success. What they don’t want to see are things that constantly take away from that revenue. One example is your business’s physical location. Do you plan to purchase or construct a building or rent space? If it’s the former, the bank will likely frown on that, considering those costs to be a drain on future revenues and your ability to repay the loan. Rent space in the beginning. You won’t be tied down and if trouble comes, you can easily downsize as needed. Plus, it will show the lender your first interest is generating income not expenses, something they want to see.

Shop around: As we’ve already seen, small business loan approval rates vary greatly among different types of lenders. Generally, the bigger the lender, the less likely you are to get a loan. Focus more on smaller institutions. Not only do they have a higher approval rate, but they are also more likely to give you greater attention and service. If you’re considering an alternative lender, such as an online loan provider, first check out our previous article on the potential pitfalls of going this route.

Five Essential Tips to Enhance Your Small Business Loan Application

Securing a small business loan can feel like navigating a complex labyrinth, especially for first-time applicants. However, understanding what lenders are looking for and preparing accordingly can significantly increase your chances of approval. Here are five tips that can make the difference:

Solidify Your Business Plan: A detailed and well-articulated business plan is not just a document; it’s a reflection of your foresight, strategy, and preparedness. It should outline your market analysis, financial management strategies, and a clear summary of your business’s goals and operations. Lenders want to see a viable path to profitability and growth, as it directly impacts your ability to repay the loan.

Strengthen Your Credit Score: Both your personal and business credit scores are critical to your loan application. They indicate your repayment history and financial responsibility. Before applying, check your credit report for any inaccuracies and take steps to improve your credit score, such as reducing credit utilization and ensuring all bills are paid on time.

Demonstrate Strong Cash Flow: Cash flow is king in the eyes of a lender. It’s the lifeline of your business and a key indicator of your ability to manage financial obligations. Prepare to show detailed financial statements and projections that illustrate a robust cash flow, sufficient not only to cover operational costs but also to comfortably repay the loan.

Prepare Comprehensive Business Documents: Beyond the business plan, be ready with all necessary documentation that a lender may require. This includes financial statements, tax returns, legal documents, and a detailed plan on how the funds will be used to grow your business. Being thorough and organized can speed up the application process and increase your chances of getting approved.

Explore Alternative Lenders and Loan Types: Don’t limit your search to traditional banks. Credit unions, online lenders, and SBA loans offer various terms and conditions that might be more suited to your business’s needs. Each lender has a different criterion and understanding these can help you apply to the right institution, thereby enhancing your chances of securing a loan.

By focusing on these five areas, small business owners can not only improve their odds of loan approval but also position their business for successful growth and expansion. Remember, preparation and understanding the lender’s perspective are key to navigating the loan application process successfully.

There’s another way to get same day funding: Engage an invoice factoring company to fund you the amount of your outstanding accounts receivable invoices upfront, giving you the cash you need today to run your business today, and eliminating the worry and hassle of waiting to collect payments from your customer accounts. You’re left free to run your business. Invoice factoring is a convenient alternative to a traditional bank loan or fee-laden online loans.

Factoring gives you the money you need when you need it with no long-term obligations. You can also get cash quicker through invoice factoring – usually within a day or two. To learn more, simply call toll-free 1-877-960-1818 or email

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