Monthly Archives: January 2017

Separate Your Personal Business

You’ve been warned about mixing business and pleasure, but what about personal finances and business finances? At times, it may seem tempting to utilize your personal finances to help out when your business needs a boost, but it’s not always the best solution in the long run. Implementing a financial division between your personal and business finances can help you treat your business like the independent entity it is while safeguarding your personal finances.

 

Why is separating your finances so important?

Though there are many benefits to keeping your personal and business finances separate, two of the main reasons you should draw a line in the sands of finance are based on taxes and personal protection.

 

Taxes

Do taxes ever really seem cut and dry?  If you’re in the majority, the answer is no.  If you’re not, then rest assured that many of us are incredibly envious of your taxation acumen.  One of the main reasons you’ll want to split your business finances from your personal finances is taxes.It is much easier to keep track of business expenses if you use a separate business account.

Once you have your shiny new business checking account, keeping track of things like expenses is essential to properly filing taxes.  From office expenditures to operational and inventory purchases, every receipt counts.  When it comes time to file your taxes (or hand everything over to your accountant), a thorough collection of business-only information is going to save you a lot time and a significant amount of stress.

 

Personal Liability

Separating your personal and business finances is important for tax reasons, but perhaps equally, if not more important is a separation of your personal finances for the sake of your personal security. Using your personal finances to back any entrepreneurial venture can be risky business, but not just because of the initial financial gamble.

Entrepreneurs often wind up signing personal guarantees for leases, loans and lines of credit. Sometimes that’s necessary–especially when your business is young and hasn’t established a strong business credit rating. But your goal should eventually be to avoid personal guarantees as much as possible.  The way you do that is by building strong business credit, so lenders can be confident that your business can and will repay its debts

 

Tips for Separating Your Personal & Business Finances

Now that we’ve distinguished two of the more significant reasons to keep your business and personal finances separate, let’s take a look at a few of the ways that you can proactively put this division in place.

  1. Consider incorporating. incorporating your venture as a C Corp, S Corp or limited liability corporation (LLC) can provide tax benefits, but more importantly help protect your personal assets, provided you set it up properly and maintain it correctly.  By maintaining a corporate structure, you can protect your personal assets from business debts, losses and lawsuits. (Keep in mind, though, that if you sign a personal guarantee, creditors can try to collect from your personal assets if you default on a debt.) If you’re serious about creating a business, incorporating is a smart first step.
  2. Open a Business Checking Account. Once you’ve made the decision to start your own business, one of the very first things you should do is head to the bank and open a business checking account. There are multiple reasons why this is a healthy step for a business.  For starters, it will streamline cash flow and making record keeping much more efficient.
    Additionally, a business account lends itself to easy finance tracking – something that you or your accountant will vastly appreciate come tax time. As mentioned before, a separate business account can help signify to the IRS that your venture is a business and not just a side project or hobby, making more of your expenses tax deductible.
  3. Apply for Business Credit Card. Business credit is a big deal, and one quick and easy way to start to build it is by obtaining a business credit card. In addition to fantastic perks like building a credit history for your company, a business credit card will help you eliminate the need for personal credit cards for businesses purposes. Opening one of these cards will also help streamline business finances, and some cards reduce the risk of having your business transactions impact your personal credit. In addition, you may be able to deduct card costs (an annual fee and interest, for example), if you use it exclusively for business purchases. That may not be the case if you mix personal and business expenses on the same card.

What You Need to ABout Bad Credit

Although it may seem like you need to have stellar credit and multiple years in business to secure financing, in today’s lending environment that statement is far from true. In fact, there are over 44 different financing options available to business owners, and not all of them require an A+ personal or business credit grade.

Very poor credit will likely put you out of the running for the lowest cost loans such as bank loans and SBA loans, however you will find that some of those 44 financing options are still wide open to you and your business.

 

Bad Credit Business Loans: The Trade-Off

There is a trade off. Business owners with bad personal credit can often secure financing, but the more risk the lender assumes because of your poor credit scores, the more likely you are to pay a higher annual percentage rate (APR) to cover the extra risk.

This can seem counterintuitive—why would lenders charge more to the business owners who historically have the most trouble paying back debts? Doesn’t it make sense for the lender to charge less so the bad credit borrowers will have a better chance of paying it back?

That may sound better from the borrower’s perspective, but unfortunately it’s the lender’s money, and thus the lender’s ball game. Lenders charge a higher interest rate to individuals with low credit scores to offset a higher expected default rate. (Keep in mind that, although lenders are giving you a capital infusion to help you grow your business, they are trying to grow their business as well, which means maximizing their return on investment.)

Let’s take a look at some of the better options when it comes to business loans for bad credit.

 

Business Loan Options for Bad Credit

Microlenders:

Microlenders are institutions, often operating not for profit, that help low-income or underserved small business owners secure loans.. These loans are “micro” in the sense that they are usually only available in smaller amounts. Up to $35,000 is typical.

There are many microlenders, and each has their own set of rules and requirements. For example, Accion is a microlender that serves small businesses that need assistance with startup costs. A personal credit score of 575 or higher is required, so if you meet their other requirements this can be an option if your scores are lower than average.

The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) helps business owners find microlenders by state and business focus. Try a quick search and check out the microlenders’ individual websites to find out what their specific credit requirements are.

 

Kiva

Kiva is a microlender that deserves its own callout because of its unique model. It offers entrepreneurs 0% interest loans up to $10,000. The only catch is that entrepreneurs must crowdfund their own loans from the philanthropic individuals who use Kiva’s platform. Kiva has over one million donors and boasts a 94% success rate. To qualify, you must have a business plan and invite friends and contacts for initial funding.

Kiva also reports your payment history to Experian Business. This is great news for the future of your business—if you make on-time payments, you start to build a higher business Intelliscore credit score.

 

BlueVine

BlueVine is an option for B2B businesses who have long invoice cycles and often find themselves waiting to get paid for services or products they’ve already delivered. If this sounds familiar to you, or you experience irregular cash flow and would like to free up some of your cash, BlueVine advances up to 85% of your outstanding invoices up to $100,000. To qualify, you’ll need a 530 personal credit score, and your business must be a U.S.-based business-to-business (B2B) business.

 

Credibly

Credibly offers two different financing options, a small business loan and merchant cash advance product. Their small business loans range from $5k to $250k. Credibly uses their own algorithm to qualify business owners, thus they have no credit score minimum, and you could be approved for a loan within 48 hours of your online application.

To qualify you must be in business a minimum of 6 months with $15k average monthly bank deposits, and stable monthly revenue. Their rates can be high based the risk level they assign to your business, so be sure to calculate the APR of your loan first.

How Many Types of Loans

The SBA, Small Business Administration, provides loans to small businesses through financial institutions such as banks, microlenders, and online lenders. These SBA loans are government guaranteed, meaning lenders will offer them to small businesses at low interest rates because the government has promised to pay back 85% of the loan in the event of default.

 

The three most talked about SBA loan types are:

    1. 7(a) Loans: the most popular loan provided by the SBA, available to new and established businesses with a FICO SBSS Score of 140 or above.

 

    1. 504/CDC(Certified Development Company) Loans: long term financing available for businesses to purchase real estate or high-cost assets they need to run their business.

 

  1. Microloans: small loans up to $50,000 available through non-profit community lenders to new and established businesses.

But wait… there’s more! In fact, there are over 12 different types of funding provided by the SBA.

The following list of additional SBA loans are either for specific types of businesses or for more specific purposes. Some of these loans fall under the umbrella of one of the above loans. It’s worth taking a look to see if you qualify for one or more of these loans.

 

Special Eligibility Loans

 

Community Advantage Loans

Part of the 7(a) loan program, this loan type is for newer businesses in low-to-moderate income areas. Employees of the business must be considered low income or reside in an area that is a low-to-moderate income (LMI) area. Whereas most 7(a) loans require a FICO SBSS score of 160 or above, you’ll only need a 140 or above to qualify for a community advantage loan. Community Advantage lenders offer these loans up to $250,000.

Small businesses experienced

A line of credit, or revolving line of credit, is a flexible loan option for businesses. Businesses are allocated a specified maximum amount of capital available to them through a lender based off certain factors such as current cash flow and business credit rating.

The business then decides when, if, and how they would like to use that capital. Interest will be charged only when you decide to pull money from the line. You will have a specified repayment period, but, like a credit card, there is no penalty for paying early (in fact, it is encouraged).

Although interest is only charged once you use the line, there may be a monthly maintenance fee for letting your line of credit sit unused. Check with your bank or lender to see if that is the case for any line of credit you are considering.

 

What is a secured vs. unsecured line?

A secured line of credit is a line in which the borrower puts up collateral as a security deposit on the line of credit. An unsecured line does not require any collateral assets.

Secured lines are often preferred over unsecured lines by both lenders and borrowers. The lender is taking on less risk, so they will usually grant a higher credit maximum at a lower rate for secured lines. New businesses or businesses with poor business credit might only qualify for a secured line of credit because of the inherently higher risk.

Unsecured lines of credit are more expensive because the lender assumes higher risk. Credit cards are a type of unsecured line of credit. Businesses with many years under their belts and stellar business credit are more likely to qualify for unsecured lines at reasonable rates.

 

What are lines of credit typically used for (and not used for)?

Lines of credit are great for many situations. Here are a few examples:

  • Your business has seasonal fluctuations — perhaps your sales take a dip in the summer. A line of credit will help during the periods of low sales.
  • Your clients take 30 days or longer to pay you for products or services you provide. You might need a line of credit to cover the interim time until you are paid.
  • Your product requires expensive materials — you may need a line of credit to cover the expenses while you build and sell your product.
  • You have the opportunity to receive a discount if you pay a particular bill early — if the resulting discount is significant, you can cover the bill with your line of credit while you wait for cash flow to catch up.

The uses of a business line of credit really can extend far beyond these to touch all businesses. A line of credit, however, is a form of short-term financing, so avoid using your line of credit for long-term expenses.

 

How can I qualify for a business line of credit?

A lender will look at the strength of your cash flow and the strength of your business credit to qualify you for a line of credit. If you don’t yet have a bank account set up for your business, and if you are not yet building business credit, it will be wise to start if you suspect a future need for a line of credit.

An additional factor that a lender will look at is your ability to secure the line. Again, a secured line will be a less expensive option, so if you can put up collateral for the line of credit, a lender will be more likely to approve your application.