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10 Things to Remember When Applying For a Business Loan

10 Things to Remember When Applying For a Business Loan

Precision and planning are the key stepping stones when you are planning to take a loan for your new start up or for business expansion. Different banks will have a different set of criteria and each banks’ requirements will vary. Also, while business loans are unsecured loans by nature, some financial institutions might ask you to provide some sort of collateral from your end as a guarantee. There are numerous business loans available in the market and these business loans can be used for different reasons such as purchasing equipments, vehicles or building inventory, among other things.

Just having a brilliant business idea will not help you go all the way. Your ideas will need adequate capital for successful execution. Often many startups fail to gain traction within the early years owing to the lack of financing. So, here are a few tips and pointers to help you boost your chances of getting that much-needed business loan sanctioned.

1. Prepare a business plan

The way you envision your business taking shape is the key to getting a business loan successfully. Every financial institution will ask you to submit a business plan to gain insight into how you want your business to grow and thrive.  Work on creating an attractive business plan, which will capture the interest of banks. Your business plan must reflect the confidence and faith you have in taking your business forward. Emphasize on the components of your business you wish to improve upon and what are the measures you are taking or will be taking to achieve successful execution. The purpose of the loan should be clearly elucidated.

However, it is not necessary for your business plan to be very elaborate. Your plan can be lean, crisp and short but complete with all the necessary business details along with a summarization of the company, a financial model, what your company envisages, products, the team, and how you plan to utilize the loan amount.

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2. Ensure your paperwork is in place

The importance of having your paperwork in place cannot be stressed upon adequately. If you do not have proper documentation in place, the bank can deny you the loan. This fact holds true no matter whether you are applying for a personal loan for medical expenses or a business loan to expand your manufacturing operations. It is imperative that your documents are accurate and true to facts. All your supporting documents have to be spot on, as the banks seek strong security for the loan meted out. If the bank needs collateral, you need to furnish documents that will prove your ownership of the assets you are showing as collateral. If you are showing your own property as collateral, you need to endorse your ownership over the property with the title deed, tax receipts, and possession certificate among other documents. Documents supporting your personal identity like passport, driver’s license, phone bill, PAN card etc. will be needed. Also, if the bank requires a guarantor, you will need to provide the required documents for the guarantor as well.

If the bank needs collateral, you need to furnish documents that will prove your ownership of the assets you are showing as collateral. If you are showing your own property as collateral, you need to endorse your ownership over the property with the title deed, tax receipts, and possession certificate among other documents. Documents supporting your personal identity like passport, driver’s license, phone bill, PAN card etc. will be needed. Also, if the bank requires a guarantor, you will need to provide the required documents for the guarantor as well.

In order to gauge your creditworthiness, banks will require all documents related to your credit history, whether personal or professional. So be prepared to furnish your bank statements over the previous years.

Also, some other important business documents include SSI registration, Board resolution, project report, power allocation, credit information report, IT and ST returns for 2 years, partnership deed if your company is run in partnership etc.

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3. Check the eligibility for business loans

As part of your preliminary research, you must check the eligibility criteria for applying for business loans, so that you can plan your business expansion in advance. Although the eligibility criteria vary from bank to bank, here are a few basic ones:

  • You should own the business
  • You should be aged between 21 years and 65 years
  • The business should be 3 years old in the least
  • The annual turnover of your business should be $75000
  • The minimum profit per annum should be at least $3000
  • ITR statements for the past 3 years are needed

4. Be confident of the collateral

As stated above, all banks do not require collaterals, as business loans are largely unsecured by nature. However, you must be prepared in advance when you are preparing to approach banks for business loans. Do you something tangible to show as collateral? Will it be adequate security for the loan you are seeking? Do you have all the documents in place to endorse the collateral? Have you calculated the value of the collateral? Is the collateral worth the risk? These are a few questions you need to answer before going ahead with the application for your business loan.

5. Ensure that all your business statements are reviewed

One of the essential pointers for acquiring a business loan is to make sure that whatever documents you are providing have no loopholes in them. One of the most important documents is the balance sheet.

The balance sheet enlists your latest assets, capital and liabilities. Hence your profit and loss statements over the last three years are crucial. Be systematic with keeping records. Just to be confident with your papers, and if required get your statements checked by an analyst or a chartered accountant to ensure they are sound and error-free. It is especially important to get your statements audited if the scale of your business is larger.

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6. Assess the needs of your business and seek finance accordingly

As an entrepreneur, you must have the foresight to judge your business needs. If the loan you are seeking is to meet short-term business goals, you can seek alternate financing options. Study the financing options in front of you. Assess and compare the interest rates offered and choose accordingly.

7. Judge your capacity to repay the loan

Before you decide on the amount of loan you need, you must judge your capacity to repay the loan. Talk to a financial consultant if required and learn how much your EMI will be and assess your repayment capability in accordance with it. Remember banks will only loan money to individuals or companies who have a good credit history and will not default on the EMI.

Alternately, you can use an EMI calculator to find out the exact EMI you will need to repay. Chalk your business plan in accordance with it. If required, take small steps. Take small loans to meet specific goals and repay them comfortably to ensure a steady pace of business growth rather than taking an excessive burden and putting your creditworthiness at risk.

8. Shop around to choose the best bank

The bank or financial institution you choose to take the loan from is of extreme significance. Hence do not be hasty with your decision when choosing the bank. Extensive research is crucial. Study the interest rates offered by different banks and the tenure.

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Also, if you have friends who have taken loans from various institutions, talk to them about their experiences when shopping for business loans. Know more about the goodwill of the institutions you have zeroed in upon and then read up on their guidelines and policies so that you know what to expect and what to say when you approach them. When you do your homework, it will surely add to your confidence when you present your business proposal.

9. Insurance

While the bank will check your personal credit history for ensuring the security of the loan meted out, it might also need information relating to your insurance policies, banks need to be assured that if anything were to happen to the key partners, the loan will be repaid timely.

This is especially checked for new organizations, which are more dependent on the founders and are not steady yet. So etch your business plan accordingly so that the banks find no loopholes.

10. Assess other financing options

With the rise in business startups all over the world, there is no dearth of loan options for fresh entrepreneurs. When you are stepping into the business loan market, you will see that there are is a myriad of options before you. You do not necessarily have to approach a bank or NBFCs for a loan. There is peer to peer lending that has recently been gaining traction.

There are several private organizations that specifically cater to the startup companies which seek financing. Private and individual lenders are also feasible options. However, it is better that you learn about the credibility of theses lenders before taking the plunge. Use your time efficiently to get hold of the best deals for your business needs.

Conclusion

Preparing a business plan and approaching financial institutions for a loan is not an easy task. It takes a lot of foresight to learn the needs of the hour and prepare a business plan that will capture the interest of banks as a project worth putting their money into. Be smart and crisp, and trim any unnecessary costs to present a plan that cannot be turned down by lenders

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Tanvir Zafar

The founder of ISU Technologies, passionate in writing about entrepreneurship, work and technology.

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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