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Applying for a commercial loan with confidence

May 8, 2024

Few and far between are businesses that can either launch or grow without an infusion of outside capital. In some cases, that capital comes in the form of a commercial loan from a bank or some other type of lender.

If you and your company’s leadership team believe a loan will soon be necessary, it’s important to approach the endeavor with confidence. That starts with having valid, well-considered strategic reasons for borrowing. From there, you need to engage your bank or a prospective lender with a strong air of professionalism and certainty.

Essential questions

First, familiarize yourself with how the process works. It’s essentially built on four basic questions:

  1. How much money do you want?
  2. How do you plan to use the loan proceeds?
  3. When do you need the funds?
  4. How soon can you repay the loan?

Your loan officer will also likely ask about your business’s previous sources of financing. So, be ready to explain how you’ve financed your company to date. Methods may include personal cash infusions, forgone salaries and sweat equity, as well as any equity contributions from friends, family members and outside investors.

Loan products

As you’re probably aware, banks and lenders offer a variety of commercial loan products. Another way of expressing confidence is to know what you want. Common options include:

Lines of credit. One of these gives you access to an agreed-upon amount of funds that you can draw on as needed. As is the case with a credit card, you pay interest only on the outstanding balance.

Traditional term loans. These are what most people likely envision when they see the term “commercial loan.” You receive a lump sum with repayment terms, which include a payment schedule and interest rate.

Asset-based loans. True to the name, asset-based loans typically fund equipment purchases or plant expansions. The length of the loan is usually tied to the life of the asset being financed, and that asset is usually pledged as collateral.

Supporting documents

No matter the product, banks and lenders want to work with serious borrowers who are deeply knowledgeable about the financial condition and projected performance of their businesses. To this end, don’t go into the initial meeting empty-handed. Prepare a comprehensive loan application package that includes:

  • A “statement of purpose” explaining your strategic plans for the funds,
  • Your business plan,
  • Three years of financial statements, if available,
  • Three years of business tax returns, if available,
  • Personal financial statements and tax returns for all owners,
  • Appraisals of any assets pledged as collateral, and
  • Carefully prepared, reasonable financial projections.

Remember that most loan officers have been around the block. They know how to critically evaluate financial documents and prospective borrowers’ underlying assumptions. As much as possible, support your case with market research and data. Be confident — but realistic — about your strengths and market opportunities, as well as forthcoming about the challenges you’ll likely face in accomplishing your strategic objectives.

If your bank or lender finds your business a viable borrower, your application will be given to an underwriting committee or department. Underwriters will have greater confidence in your financial statements if they’re prepared by a CPA and conform to U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Professionally prepared financial projections are also recommended.

Shop around

Underwriters don’t approve every loan application, so don’t give up if a bank or lender turns you down. In fact, it’s a good idea to shop around. For help preparing to apply for a commercial loan and managing the approval process, contact us.

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