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How can you create value without funding?

I read in today’s Bloomberg Businessweek Report that the chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben S. Bernanke said that small business is having trouble getting access to credit needed to keep the U.S. recovery going.

The article referenced Bernanke attending one of the series of meetings in Detroit last month and today recalling a business owner’s comment there that, “If you thought housing had declined in value, take a look at what equipment is worth.”

It’s absolutely true of course if business isn’t growing and equipment is at a surplus banks, which are conservative in good times, aren’t going to want to lend money on it. Most of small business collateral is either in plant buildings and / or equipment. The combination of real estate and equipment values being low makes collateralization difficult.

On the positive side I just had a client refinance his term debt at a great rate and excellent amortization schedule. The load was 90% guaranteed by the USDA rural enterprise program. Which is essentially a program that is working to create jobs in rural high unemployment areas.

First the company must be “bankable” that is approved by a bank subject to the USDA guarantee. A complete package of the loan evaluation by the bank along with company financial performance for the past three years and a detailed business plan showing sales and job forecasts three years out then goes to the USDA for approval.

Credit isn’t easy to come by but there are ways to get it. A company has to have solid financial performance, a well documented strategy and credible financial forecasts to go long with the collateral.

It goes back to what I’ve been preaching for a few years now. You have to have a plan that’s documented. You have to show progress toward making your projections and goals, and you have to have a credible plan moving forward.

Collateral alone isn’t enough anymore. Banks certainly don’t want to foreclose on your buildings or equipment, they used to get 10% to 25% of the loan value in a distressed sale. Depending on the equipment that number may be optimistic in the current environment.

It really goes back to a blog entry I made a few months ago, the strong find a way to survive and prosper in a poor economy and the weak don’t.

Leaders must take steps to clarify their vision for their organizations, document it, eliminate internal waste, and look for internal sources of cash before they will be successful looking at banks as a lending source. One bank I spoke to that specialized in USDA loans said they get anywhere from 12 to 25 deals a week to look at. They can afford to pick the best deals for them.

It is incumbent upon business owners and leaders to understand that there are sources of funds but competition is fierce, and only the best will be looked upon favorably. Strong economic times allows business to become complacent, weak economies make it imperative that they learn and adjust or perish.

In today’s environment you’d better have value before you look for funding.


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