Business loans are not given to people simply for their great ideas. If you’ve got a great business idea, congratulations! But this doesn’t make you unique, and it doesn’t make anyone want to give you money.
So what sets a real entrepreneur out from the crowd of idealistic dreamers in the eyes of a bank loan officer? The entrepreneur is serious about the business (and there is, yes, an actual business). The entrepreneur is willing to take on risk, get some “skin in the game,” and come up with a serious plan based on real research, not just hopes and dreams.
While bank loans are few and far between, they are out there. Here’s how to prove that your business is worth the bank’s investment.
1. Have a business plan.
Your business plan isn’t just for your banker, of course—it’s a key tool for planning your business and projecting gains and losses. It will prove to anyone reviewing your loan application that you’re more than just a great idea, that you’ve thought this through, and that you’ve done the research.
Tip: Business plans are, by definition, long. Give yourself a fighting chance by including a brief summary of the business plan to entice your potential loan officer to continue reading.
2. Show that you’ve got some buzz—or at least some solid potential.
Let me repeat myself: Bank loans are not given for great ideas alone. Can you show that you’ve taken that great idea to the next level?
It helps, in these planning stages, to personalize the banks a little—after all, every decision made by any institution really boils down to the people with the decision-making power in that institution. Ask yourself, If I were in their place, would I put my own money at risk to support someone else’s unproven idea based on their assurances alone?
The best loans aren’t used to start a business; they’re used to help out a business that already has some forward momentum. The more you can prove that you’ll be successful by already being successful, the more confidence you’ll inspire in your loan officers.
3. Show that you can survive without an income.
It’s a little like when the top car manufacturers were in trouble and they showed up in their private jets to ask for help—it reeeally doesn’t make a very good impression.
Any potential loaner is doing so because they believe the business can succeed, not to put a salary in your pocket. Obviously, you can’t be expected to live forever without an income—but showing that you had the foresight to take care of your personal details so as not to detract from helping your business get off the ground can only help the banks’ impression of you.
4. Share the risk.
This is a good time to put yourself firmly in your loan officer’s shoes. Imagine someone comes to you and asks you to invest in a new project. You notice that this person, however, isn’t putting up any of his/her own money—a huge red flag! Why aren’t they contributing to their own project? Do they lack the confidence in their ability to succeed? Would they just rather put the risk in someone else’s lap? What about this situation is supposed to inspire your confidence?
Nothing, of course. If you’re putting a modest amount of your own money toward your goals, your institution’s loan officer will get the sense that you believe in your business and that you’re serious about seeing it succeed—serious enough to put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.
If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ll be miles above those starry-eyed “entrepreneurs” who turn out to be all talk and no substance. Best of luck!
Have you been successful in obtaining a business loan? How did you do it? Tell us your story in the comments section below!