Money, money, money. It makes the world go 'round.
But getting money is easier said than done, especially if you're a small business owner. Accessing capital is a huge challenge, and misinformation and some commonly accepted myths about small business lending don't help.
Here are six myths most small business owners accept as fact when looking for a loan:
Myth #1: If My Banker Turns Me Down, I'm Out of Luck
Although the first place many people go when they need a small business loan is the bank where they have their business checking account, depending on the study you read, only 10 percent to 30 percent of small business owners find capital there—most leave empty handed. Unfortunately, since most small business owners aren't aware of other options, they trudge from bank to bank looking for a small business loan only to be rejected.
Today there are more small business financing options available than ever before. Online lenders who are willing to look at other information about your business in addition to your credit score don't require the same rigid qualification criteria as most traditional lenders. Although you might pay a little more for the capital, you won't be held to the same rigid standards you'd experience at the bank.
Myth #2: I Need Perfect Credit to Get a Loan
No question, a great credit score makes it a lot easier, but a less-than-perfect score doesn't mean a small business loan is out of reach. That said, traditional lenders like the local bank look at your credit score differently than many online lenders do. In a nutshell, lenders want to know you will repay any loan they provide and your credit score is one indication of your willingness to do so. Although every lender will want to know your credit score, there are lenders who don't think your FICO score is the best way to evaluate the health of your business and weight other information like cash flow and regular and consistent deposits into your business checking account as more important.
The bank around the corner will likely want to see a personal credit score of 720 or better and the SBA (Small Business Administration) is looking for a score of 650 or better. If you have been in business for at least a year, you may be able to get a small business loan from an online lender with a credit score as low as 500.
Myth #3: I Can Get a Loan from the SBA
The SBA does not make loans—they help banks make loans. Specifically, they guarantee a portion of qualifying loans for banks and other approved SBA lenders, but they are not a lender.
Myth #4: If I Ask for the Wrong Amount, I'll Get Turned Down
If I ask for too much
What lenders really want to know is, 'How much do you need?' It might be tempting to ask for more than what you need or maybe even, 'As much as I can get,' but knowing what you need, why you need it, and a plan for how you're going to use it will be appreciated by your lender. Asking for what you need subtly tells the lender you've given a lot of consideration to your loan request (something many borrowers don't do) and it will put you at the head of the line.
If I ask for too little
If you look at the decline in loans under $150,000 in recent years it's easy to make the assumption that asking for too little will get you turned down. And, it might even be true at the bank. If you applied for a $5,000 or $10,000 small business loan with your local bank, your banker might encourage you to apply for a credit card rather than process a small business loan request. Because it costs roughly the same for the bank to underwrite and process a $50,000 loan as it does a $500,000 loan, they'd prefer to spend their resources on the bigger loans.
Fortunately, there are many online lenders who specialize in loans of $50,000 or less. These companies leverage technology to make the process more streamlined and they are equipped to make smaller loans. Like Myth #4, the real question is, 'How much capital do you really need?'
Myth #5: It Takes Months to Get a Small Business Loan
While it's not uncommon for an SBA loan to take weeks or even months, that's not necessarily true in every instance. Some SBA lenders have taken a lesson from their online counterparts and are working to streamline the process to five to seven days for a loan approval—but traditional lenders still take longer than their online competitors.
Some online lenders can have a formal approval in a few hours and have your loan funded in 24 to 48 hours.
Myth #6: Online Means Impersonal
While it's true, many online lenders leverage algorithms to evaluate your business and your credit worthiness, that doesn't mean the process is impersonal. What's more, by looking at multiple data points within an algorithm to determine the health of your business and your creditworthiness, those lenders are able to make a much more informed decision about you and your business than focusing on your personal credit score. Many times, that amounts to a decision in your favor. In other words, the algorithm makes it more likely you'll get approved.
Additionally, many online lenders offer extended customer service hours to answer questions and resolve issues. For example, at OnDeck we offer customer service six days a week during business hours from New York to California.
Ignore The Myths
Qualifying for a loan and accessing capital for your business might be a challenge for many small business owners, but if you're willing to think outside the box and ignore the myths, there are more options now than ever before.