The other week over at Small Business Trends, I saw an interesting poll. The sole question: “What’s your biggest business mistake?” Though there are various options to choose from, such as “Failing to market my business,” and “Selling myself short,” the overwhelming favorite response (at the time of writing it is holding at 86% of almost 2,000 respondents) is “Borrowing money.”
While this may come as a shock to those who still believe that the banks should be handing out more credit to businesses in order to jump start the economy, several well-regarded reports, such as this recent one by the NFIB, have pointed to the fact that many small business owners these days are not looking for credit, and a significant amount of businesses are actually focused on dumping the balances they’ve already racked up.
But this brings up a dilemma of sorts: part of a healthy cash flow strategy when running a business is having options to borrow, both in the short and long term, and without investment (usually of the borrowed kind), growth will typically be impossible.
So how do you know if it is good for you to be borrowing money for your business? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to help ensure that your business borrowing doesn’t end up being a business blunder:
1. What are you borrowing the money for? While this may seem like a pretty straight forward question, there are actually certain categories of business borrowing that tend to be more problematic then others. For example, aside from short-term microloans or a revolving line of credit, if you are taking out a significant loan to cover your every day expenses, then it could be a red flag that your borrowing will get you in hot water.
On the other hand, if you are investing the funds in a business upgrade, then can you expect that upgrade to pay for itself in either increased productivity, sales, or market reach?
2. How will you repay the amount borrowed? This all leads to the next question which is how you plan on repaying the loan. Are you currently generating enough income to cover the debt? Do you expect your bottom line to increase as a result of the investment and when? Are you able to secure the loan with some kind of collateral? What would happen if you defaulted on the loan and had to lose that collateral?
3. What is your current debt load? A look at your current debt obligations is also vital to avoiding a business lending mistake. If you are already struggling to repay your business debts, then it could be a signal to avoid taking on an additional financing. If the loan is meant to consolidate your debts, then make sure you get qualified financial advice before jumping in.
4. Are there alternatives? If several red flags are going up, then perhaps you should consider any alternatives, such as cost-reduction strategies, or asset-based financing arrangements, such as accounts receivables financing or business cash advances.