(BPT) - A challenge for any entrepreneur is getting access to capital. If you’re like many, you’re constantly looking for ways to reduce expenses and free up cash flow so you can be ready for anything, whether it’s a slow season or an opportunity to expand.
When tax season rolls around, you’re already taking a deep dive into your expenses and income for the past year. Don’t stop when you file. With all that information at your fingertips (and fresh in your mind), it’s a great opportunity to take a big-picture look at the health of your business and make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible.
Use the following tips to take your tax preparation efforts a step further and boost your cash flow in the upcoming year.
Dust off your business plan: No doubt when you started out in business, you were eager to put your vision to paper. Most entrepreneurs get busy with the day-to-day pressures of deadlines, and that vision can recede into the background. Schedule some time with your board members or business partners to revisit and update the business plan. Now that you understand the realities of your market, you should have plenty of ideas on creating the 2.0 version of your enterprise. When finished, it’s important to not allow it to gather dust again. Set goals and schedule check-in meetings with your team to make sure everything’s on track.
Update your budget: The nature of entrepreneurship is being agile in the face of change. Market trends, price changes from vendors and suppliers, effects of new laws and ordinances, even road construction are variable forces that can send anyone’s budget into a new direction. That’s why your budget isn’t ever going to be a spot-on prediction. Think of it as a plan. If you stay on top of it, you can spot the trends early and make adjustments right away so you can reap the full advantage — or head off problems before they become unmanageable.
Check your credit score: If you’re planning to raise capital to expand or make improvements in the next year, checking in on your credit score is an important first step you can take several months before you apply for the loan. Even if you have a business credit score, certain business loans still require a look at your personal credit score, especially if you’re a sole proprietorship. Visit Your.VantageScore.com to find free resources to learn your credit score. There’s also helpful information on what factors influence your score and things you can do that can help increase it over the coming months to help you get the best rate possible.
Create a tax strategy: The tax break Congress passed in December will save small business owners 20 percent on their tax bill this year. In the coming year, small business owners have many opportunities to capture more tax savings with the right plan and strategy. For example, if you’re planning a large equipment purchase, you may find yourself in a better tax bracket in 2019 if you time it before Dec. 31, rather than waiting until the following year as planned. Have a meeting with your accountant to discover more ideas.
Pay down debt: One way to use the windfall of your 20 percent tax savings is to pay down revolving loan debt. Doing so is a great way to raise access to working capital should you need it down the line. Depending on the source of credit, reducing your credit-to-balance ratio is one factor that could raise your credit score. Before you do so, make sure you have enough cash flow to meet your expenses.
Improve accounts receivable: If your business extends lines of credit to your customers, it may be worthwhile to implement a credit check policy on all new customers. Knowing they’re creditworthy before the fact can help you create the appropriate plan for them and protect your business. Credit reporting is also an effective way for even a small business owner to let customers know they are serious about collecting what’s owed. In the end, you’ll get paid faster and increase cash flow.
The life of an entrepreneur means things can change drastically on a dime. A thorough check-in with your finances can put you in the best position for success. To learn more about the tools and solutions offered by VantageScore, visit Your.VantageScore.com.
(BPT) - Small businesses still struggle to obtain credit; nearly half of those who applied for credit in 2016 didn’t get all the funding they sought, and 17 percent of those who didn’t apply for financing skipped it because they didn’t think they could get what they needed, according to the Federal Reserve Banks’ Small Business Credit Survey. However, a growing number of small businesses are turning to alternative sources of financing.
“The process for accessing and receiving funding can be slow and cumbersome and alternative forms of lending are greatly helping to improve the availability of financing for small business owners,” says Jacqueline Reses, head of Square Capital. "Ensuring that the financial system is more inclusive and addresses the needs of small business owners who may have been previously underserved by traditional lenders is paramount."
The Federal Reserve study has shown steadily increasing numbers of small businesses, with annual revenues of less than $1 million, seeking financing through non-traditional sources such as online lenders. In 2014, just 18 percent applied to online lenders, while in 2016, 21 percent did.
As the alternative lending industry continues to grow, small business owners should keep five points in mind when evaluating loan offers, Reses says:
Total payback amount of a loan
Knowing how much a loan is going to cost isn't always easy. For a small business owner, being able to see exactly how much you will need to repay and accounting for that in your budget is crucial, and you should always look for transparency. Total payback amount is the dollar value that represents all costs, so business owners know exactly what they will owe over the life of the loan.
Businesses should look for this when they assess loan offers. Assessing offers solely on other metrics like APR may not always provide a fair or easy comparison.
The ease of repayment is also important to consider and there are some unique options available to small businesses looking for flexibility when it comes to repayment. With Square Capital for example, a fixed repayment amount is automatically deducted from the business’s daily card sales processed through Square until the loan is repaid, enabling the business to pay more when things are busy and less if things slow down. Businesses also have the opportunity to repay early and without penalty at any time before the end of the loan term.
Traditional small business loans can take weeks to process from the time you collect all the paperwork to apply, to the time you actually get approved, to when you see the money in your account. Yet, according to the Fed's survey, the majority of small businesses that applied for credit in 2016 did so in situations where time was a factor; 64 percent wanted to expand their business or take advantage of a new opportunity, and 45 percent needed the money to cover operating expenses.
While some funding sources have a reputation for being faster to approve, getting the money can still take time small business owners don’t have. Others have been able to tackle both of those challenges. For example, Square Capital can see the health of a small business based on its sales and transaction data, allowing it to evaluate the business's stability and actual ability to repay over time. With this unique insight, it can assess eligibility for a loan and deliver offers right to the small business owner. From there, an application takes as little as a few clicks to complete and once approved, funds are deposited as quickly as the next business day.
Business owners may know how much they need, but be less aware of what size loan they can afford. It's important to accept a loan offer that your business can repay within a reasonable time period while also helping it grow.
Square Capital's ability to use unique data to assess the eligibility of a business for a loan also enables it to provide access to loan offers tailored to a business's cash flow, reducing the risk of businesses borrowing more than they can afford to repay. Loans are sized based on a reasonable projected payback period so that a small business can use its funds to grow and not be stuck in debt for extended time periods.
Before applying for credit from any lender, it’s important to do your research. Know how they present their offers, look for transparency and flexibility that puts the borrower first and understand customer satisfaction and lender dependability. Working with a trusted brand is important to many small business owners and should be to you as well.
While online lenders are opening up access to the financing small businesses need to run and grow, it's important to do your homework and carefully determine which financial partner best meets the needs of your business. To learn more about small business loans through Square Capital, visit www.squareup.com/capital.
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