If you need financing, what’s the first thing you should do? Head to the bank? Post on Kickstarter? Go on ABC’s “Shark Tank”? In a world where the finance industry has developed a product to take advantage of many well-meaning entrepreneurs (i.e. “the business cash-advance”), where companies promise you funding within five days and use complicated terminology such as “factor rate” to put you in a bind, securing funding has become more confusing than ever.
These business cash-advance companies often charge an interest rate of 1.30-1.40. Some small businesses are securing capital with a 30 to 40 percent interest rate over a 6-12 month period and no break for paying early. My heart goes out to entrepreneurs who unknowingly enter into these sorts of deals just to see their precious profits transferred to a financing company.
Luckily, there are a few little-known ways to secure financing that are much more strategic. And because these strategies are not as well known, you won’t have as much competition as you would in more conventional circumstances.
Figure Out Creative Loan Structures for Friends, Family and Business Partners
Entrepreneurs often want to ask people to invest in their business and give them equity in return. But in today’s economy, many people feel like equity has as much value as toilet paper. They really can’t do anything with it unless the company exits. And if the company isn’t that profitable, their annual profit share is just a fraction of their investment.
Your company has to do extremely well for investors to get a significant ROI, and many people don’t have the stomach for it. So if you are already in revenue or will be in revenue soon, offer a revenue share to pay them back. For instance, if you want a $10,000 loan, offer a 2 percent revenue share at a payback of 20 percent. This basically means you give them 2 percent of your revenue until they’ve been paid back $12,000. It’s a great ROI for them, you haven’t given up equity, and they’ll feel more comfortable because they are getting checks on a monthly basis. No investor likes sweating bullets to get paid in a world where VCs, angel investors and private equity firms are steadily increasing their standards as they are pummeled with potential deals. This sort of creativity isn’t only good business sense — it will become necessary.
Use Term Insurance to Secure a Small Business Loan
If a small business owner goes to a bank seeking a loan, the bank often won’t issue a loan without a life insurance policy. A client of mine, Brian Greenberg, CEO of True Blue Insurance, explains why having term insurance is advantageous for small business owners. “I have seen business owners struggle to qualify for insurance and pay a huge amount of premium to secure a much-needed business loan. If business owners already have term insurance, they can use it to secure small business loans or construction loans whenever the need arises. When the business owner has a large policy, they can simply assign the required benefit to the loaning bank in order to get the loan.”
Understand That Entrepreneurship Is a Full-Time Job
Just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean you need to walk off the plank and yell “Geronimo!” into the deep blue ocean with no life raft.
Yes, entrepreneurship is a journey of faith and boldness; however, the most strategic individuals are still prudent. Meisa Bonelli, Managing Partner of Millennial Tax, a firm that specializes in helping new solopreneurs and home-based business owners finance their ventures through tax savings with a compliant tax strategy, used her savings and tax savvy to make the leap from employee to business owner. When Meisa started her first business, a vacation rental business in New York (pre-Airbnb), she did it with savings and recouped her investment through tax refunds. This is the type of strategy that requires a formal plan and diligent record keeping in case you’re ever audited by a tax authority.
Business is hard. Accessing capital isn’t easy, but it is doable. However, be careful; sometimes capital isn’t what you need. Instead, you need a better business model that produces revenue faster. Don’t let seeking capital become your crutch.