Oh no, not again. Yes, that’s right, I’m not going to go there… at least not for today. There’s no shortage of excuses and reasons why small businesses can’t get approved for business loans. It never fails to amaze me the coverage this topic gets especially when the national economy goes into recession or when major political races are at stake. Yes, I agree that small business growth and success is the economic back bone of the US and also, that more than 60% of the US workforce are employed by small businesses. But where I get off the group think is when it comes to the lack of financing for a small business with a business loan. In this article, let’s explore the REAL REASON that small business don’t qualify for loans and the truth may even surprise you.
It’s Deeper Than Statistics
I love numbers and even better, I love reading financial statements and the notes. The love for numbers did not become a passion for me in the world of small business lending until I came to understand that the financial statements tell the story of a business. Similar to the story behind the financial statements, there’s a story behind the statistics stating that small business owners can’t get approved for loans especially if they’re of a certain ethnic group, gender, and / or industry. I’m not completely washing away the reality that there’s a shred of discrimination in our world… hey, we live in a broken society with broken people. However, a large part of this thinking (small business owners can’t get a loan because of skin color, gender, etc) is just simply untrue. I’ve been on both sides of the fence so to speak in the world of small business lending. I’ve worked for a big bank, and I’ve worked for a not for profit community development financial institution and it’s always the same. The number one reason why small business can’t (and don’t) get approved for loans is due to the considerably large operating risk that exists in these businesses.
Operating Risk: It All Starts with You
What does operating risk mean? Well, here’s a question to bring some clarity. What speaks more to sustainability: a business that’s been operating for at least one year or a business that’s still in the owner(s) mind? I’d go with the first option. Operating risk means that you have and continue to execute on your business plan(s) and that the business is cash flow positive (i.e. returning a sustainable profit margin to cover costs and make you money). Here’s the sad truth: not many small businesses get to this point. Most if any, within two years are still trying to figure things out. OK, granted, there are levels to this particularly when you observe the diversity of businesses. However, I’m speaking to the ones that endeavor to obtain a business loan.
In closing, I offer a couple of ways to minimize your operating risk and increase your chances of getting approved for a loan. (1) Grow tough skin and learn to survive. The game of business is one of survival. Most days, things will not go your way and you just have to stay the course, be adaptable, and stay true to the business mission. (2) Never forget the 3 P’s – Production, Processes, and Personnel. Become efficient in the production of what you offer for sale, create and put in place processes to enhance production efficiency and ultimately the customer experience, and finally, hire, train, and invest in people who share your vision for the business.