Several times each week, I talk to small business owners who are seeking capital for their new or existing business and several times I have a very similar conversation with each of them that I thought I’d share today.
At the beginning of the conversation, I always ask the same two questions: How much money are you looking for? what’s the purpose of the funds?
I would say that at least 75% of the time, I have to re-ask these two questions two or three times before they’re answered. Most people think that telling me a long drawn out story of what they want to do and how they came to do it will be more important than answering these two questions.
What tends to come out after a few minutes is that the individual is hunting for what I call stupid money. You know, the kind that is prepared to write you a check on a very thin and likely non existent business plan where the lender is taking all or close to all of the financial risk.
Example. Someone has a great idea for a tennis equipment store. They have picked out a location and now need $300,000 for start up costs, working capital, and inventory. They have poor credit, personal debt, zero net worth, and no capital to contribute to the venture.
Is it possible that this individual could secure small business financing of some sort? Yes.
Is it probable? No.
That’s the great thing about the money business, virtually anything is possible, and I’ve seen enough to know first hand. After getting off the phone with me, this would be entrepreneur could go to the coffee shop, strike up a conversation with someone about his or her golf shop idea, and leave with a check in hand for the capital sought. Is is possible? Absolutely. Is it likely to occur? The odds would likely be lower than playing the lotto.
That’s why I’m always careful to not generalize about small business financing, as there is an infinite sea of money out there and strange things happen all the time.
But lets also get real. Just because its possible, doesn’t mean your new business financing strategy is to start going to coffee shops.
For the most part (can never generalize), money has a basic intelligence. If intelligence is not applied, the source of money will disappear very quickly based on making bad decisions.
People supply money to business ventures for a return. If you can show them a path to the return they seek within the level of risk they’re prepared to take, then eventually, you will find a source of capital for your small business financing requirements.
And here’s my tip of the day on this subject: You must have something to leverage and something to lose in order to have a realistic probability of getting business financing, whether it be for a new venture or existing business.
Something to leverage for low risk credit is your credit score, personal net worth, external cash flow, third party guarantee. Something to leverage for higher levels of credit risk would also include things like asset security, established cash flow, signed purchase orders from reputable companies, patents, intellectual property, contracts, etc. Remember also that something to leverage has to have a value to the source of money or there is no leverage.
Something to lose is at the very least the capital that you directly invest into the venture. 100% financing of anything is quite rare unless you’re taking about residential real estate and look what problems that has caused in the markets over time. Personal guarantees and corporate guarantees would also fall in this category if there was enough net worth to make them meaningful.
As the amount of leverage and borrower risk increases, so does the probability of securing capital.