Thursday, March 24, 2011

FNB opens doors once again to entrepreneurs

Great news for business finance seekers with viable business plans, is that in recent news stories it seems evident that First National Bank (FNB) is bent on lending money to small businesses even though so many entrepreneurs are so reluctant to request funding from financial institutions.

After a few years of tight belts from the banks it seems clear that they are once again saying to small businesses - hey, we are open for business!

SA’s president, Jacob Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan have, in recent speeches, alluded to the ability of small businesses to create jobs in 2011, Zuma’s year of employment growth.

The CEOs of FNB Commercial, who run relationship banking segments which focus on providing lending to small businesses, yesterday (Thursday) said they had gained an edge over their competitors over the last year, by making strong strategic decisions. This had included taking equity stakes in their clients and not changing their criteria to extend loans to those businesses.

"We work in a very competitive space but I think our edge has come through us coping with the recession better than our peers did. We have a widely balanced portfolio and did not expose ourselves to assets that were overly risky at the time such as gold course estates," CEO of FNB Commercial’s Premium Business Banking segment, Michael Vacy-Lyle said.

This segment provides funding and guidance to companies with an annual turnover in excess of R10m.

The group also has a segment for companies which record a turnover of zero to R10m each year, called Business Banking.

But businesses are reluctant to take out loans, CEO of the Business Banking segment, Kirsty Davis said.

"We are working in a depressed market with many individuals being highly indebted," she said.

Still, FNB Commercial’s overall commercial advances grew 8% year-on-year from July last year to date, while the industry it operates in saw virtually no growth, the group’s overall in that period CEO Willie Miller said.

The question here I'm sure many of you will already be asking is how much of this is PR and how much of it will come through to you as a business owner going in to see your bank manager for the 3rd time, requesting that more funds will be made available for you to pay your suppliers while clients are slow to pay. I guess time will tell and we will quickly see of FNB's word really does translate to more money being available to you the entrepreneur.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

a Business Plan for Business finance

For any entrepreneur, whether you are starting or growing your business, creating o a business plan is a key process, helping you to outline what will be done with which resources and ideally a justification of the demand, not to forget understanding the competition.

For many business owners, the business plan has the key purpose is to ensure finance for the business. Both business angels, venture capital firms and banks of course will be very keen to see a business plan before they consider whether to get to know you a bit better and if all goes well, start the negotiations regarding he terms of your way forward.

This guide explains what you should include in your business plan and how you should present it to potential investors, shareholders and your bank.

The essential elements of a business plan
Potential investors and lenders will examine your business plan closely to determine whether to risk their money.

There is no standard format but most plans include:
An executive summary highlighting the main points - to catch people's attention.

Details of key personnel with an organisational chart showing individual responsibilities.

Market research - details of competitors and how your product or service fits into the market - eg who your potential customers are and why you think they will buy your product or service.

Your marketing plan - how you are going to get your product or service in front of potential customers, together with any assumptions made when setting your targets.

Financial information - eg key ratios. These can be used to compare your business' performance against industry benchmarks. It's also a good idea to give details of any major expenditure you have made on long-term assets and explain the reasons behind any changes in working capital items, such as stock, debtors and creditors. Remember to include balance sheet and profit and loss account details. Many lenders ask for three years' financial information. If this is not available, supply details about trading to date.

When seeking funding, include:
A cashflow forecast indicating the amount of funding you need and why. For a start-up, include estimates of how much finance you will need for two to three years or until you start to make a profit. Indicate contingency funds that might be needed for rough patches. This is usually between 10 and 20 per cent of the total funding requirement.

Financial forecasts for a three- to five-year period. Try to present this information in the same way as historical financial information, so that straightforward comparisons can be made.

How a loan will be repaid, how investors can get their money back, and when.

Tailor your business plan to the target audience
A business plan serves a number of purposes and you may have to modify information depending on your target audience.

Your bank will be interested in:
how you intend to repay a loan or overdraft
what you are going to do with the money
how the loan will help the business to grow
what other loan or debt commitments you have

Most lenders operate a credit-scoring system. Make sure you give up-to-date and relevant information. A good relationship with your bank manager will not influence the credit score - the manager may have discretion to negotiate terms but not to change the decision itself.

Tell potential investors about:
what you are going to do with the money
when and how you are going to pay it back
the expected return
your other sources of funding
your management's track record
Include a detailed forecast of your profits and cashflow.

Indicate to shareholders:
the prospects for the share price
how they may be able to sell their shares
what dividend they can expect on their shares
your management's track record
what say they might have in the business

Demonstrate how they can exit with positive returns within three to five years.

Many businesses with growth potential fail to raise funds because they lack investment readiness, ie they do not understand the expectations of investors, cannot turn proposals into attractive opportunities or are unaware of financing sources.

Common reasons why business plans and loan applications fail include:
a weak management team
a flawed marketing plan
unrealistic forecasts
incomplete financial history
poor presentation

Demonstrate your commitment to the business
If you want to attract outside funding, you need to show that you are committed to the business. You will also need to either show that you have a good credit history or, if not, explain why not.

Demonstrating your personal financial commitment
To attract funding, you need to invest your own money in your business. If you are not prepared to risk your own capital, a lender or investor is unlikely to want to risk theirs.

Therefore, your business plan needs to show the extent to which you are committing your own resources.

For example, you should mention that you are:
investing your own cash in the business

reinvesting profits from the business rather than taking dividends yourself

using your own assets and guarantees to raise funds, eg by remortgaging your house

finding funds from family, friends and existing investors
It is always helpful to detail the backing you already have from banks and other investors - especially independent investors. Remember that money attracts money. The more backers you have, the easier it is to attract new ones.

Getting the best from your business plan - key considerations
Your business plan is a tool you can use to attract new funds or as a strategy document. Give yourself the best chance of success by following these suggestions.
Doing your research

Before writing your plan ensure that you:
check that the help you are applying for is still available - you may no longer qualify

back up any assumptions you have made with thorough research

find out your own credit rating by applying to Experian or Equifax for your credit file - a small charge is payable

Writing your business plan
Write your plan in a way that demonstrates your commitment to the business. Give it a professional feel by using graphs, pie charts, photos etc, but use only one font type and colour.

Your plan should:
Be realistic - make sure you can justify any assumptions or projections and avoid being overly ambitious.

Highlight any potential financial difficulties - warn your bank or lender if you anticipate that you may not be able to meet a repayment. There is every chance you will be able to come to some arrangement.

Show how you intend to devise and implement effective cashflow arrangements, eg have clear procedures for chasing up any accounts receivable.

Once you have finished writing your plan, get someone to read it to spot spelling and presentation errors, and to ensure it's set out logically.

Getting professional help
Seek the help of your business adviser or accountant in compiling your business plan or loan application form. They will ensure that the financial information is compiled and presented correctly and that key areas stand out.

A specialist broker can help to find potential investors, usually for a fee and a percentage of funds raised.

Revising a business plan
Once you have presented the plan, ensure you review and revise it as your business grows.
If you are refused investment or a loan, take the criticism on board and consider how you might improve the plan for presenting in the future.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Startup financing: Where to get it?

Starting a business is seldom easy. Exciting yes as all you can think of at this stage are the opportunities and possibilities of the idea, how much profit you could be making and how great it will be not to have to answer to you grumpy manager any longer. With all the many perks to start a business of course there also the challenges and finding start-up finance will be one of the first that you will need to overcome. Today we know that there will be a range of possibilities from banks, to venture capital firms to business angels or private equity. Which way to turn will be the real question at this stage and probably for convenience sake the bank will be your first port of call as you know here to find it and have probably dealt with a bank before. But the benefits of other business finance sources should not be overlooked.

Once you have your business plan ready and have done a realistic financial forecast considering all the possible costs, the amount of investment you may need and how long you will talk to pay it back, should it be a lone then the next step will be to start the search for finance.

It's important that you start the search for Start up Capital with a good business plan that shows investors and lenders your company's potential. Follow your business plan with a thorough knowledge of the resources available and a determination to make your business a reality, and you should be on your way to uncovering a source that fits your new business's cash needs.

You should know that many financial institutions provide some type of small business loan program just for those like you who need Start up Capital to get their business off the ground. However in order for you to get your Start up Capital from a bank and fund your business you'll need a pretty solid business plan. You'll need to earn your Start up Capital from the bank by proving that your business will generate enough cash to make the loan payments. Each and every bank will have its own requirements that will differ from other banks, but if you will be able to articulate how exactly your business will succeed, and if you have decent credit, and maybe a co-signer as well, you may be able to get your Start up Capital through a small business bank loan.

When you're looking for Start up Capital, you should look at what the SBA or Small Business Administration has to offer. The Small Business Administration is a great resource that will provide you with information on requirements, on credit factors, on how to apply for loans and many other important things you'll need knowing. Giving them a look-see would be a great starting point before attempting to apply at a bank; the better prepared you'll be the easier it will be when you'll begin the application process.

Now let's not forget that a lot of small businesses get their Start up Capital from family and friends. Your family and friends usually want you to succeed and will believe in your business. However if they are indeed providing you with your Start up Capital then it would be wise to treat these relationships as real business relationships and plan how and when you'll repay their loans, the exact time frame and at what interest rate.

You could also get your Start up Capital form private angel investors and venture capital firms. These two work generally in the same way they will invest in the equity of your business and expect a return in the form of an acquisition, IPO or stock buy-back in the future.

The key to any of the above mentioned methods of getting Start up Capital is to have a well written business plan. Having a good business plan will show your would-be investors that you are serious about your business and that you can demonstrate the way you plan on making it successful.

Don't be overwhelmed by the process. You are in many ways bringing as much if not more to the table. Investors in what ever shape or form will benefit from your business in a big way if the venture takes of so make sure you get what is most beneficial for you and your business.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Business loan options for small business

There are several things to take into consideration when seeking financial advice and assistance from institutions or angel networks when starting out a new business venture, or when u require a loan to expand your existing business. Many entrepreneurs may not be aware of the fact that there are various loan options when requiring business finance.

In a great article on business finance sources on the all business website the following options are discussed.

Standard business loans can take on several different forms in specific situations:
Term loans are the most common general purpose loan. They're used for working capital, expansion, refinancing, and acquisitions. You'll repay them monthly over a term based on the expected lifespan of the assets you're purchasing. This straightforward loan is most common for larger amounts.

Short term loans are almost always set up for terms of one year or less, and are repaid in a lump sum at the end of the term, instead of monthly. They're usually for smaller amounts - less than R100,000 - and are best for seasonal inventory buildup or small investments with quick returns.

Equipment financing is generally easier to obtain then general lines of credit, simply because the equipment you buy serves as direct collateral for the loan. It's also less risky, in that if you are unable to make your payments, you don't have a lien against your entire business or your personal real estate: all you lose is the equipment you bought. Depending on the size of your business, equipment financing can cover huge expenses into the millions of dollars.

Lines of credit are more general business loans that are often set up to insure against cash flow problems. Instead of getting a check for the full amount of the loan, the financial institution will allow you to borrow up to a certain amount per year - you take out the money in increments as you need it. The flexibility comes at a cost, though: if you don't repay the loan balances fairly quickly, they can quickly become more expensive than other types of loans. Avoid using a line of credit for significant business improvements: they're designed for temporary cash shortfalls.

Credit card advances - in lending, this phrase does not mean taking out cash through your business credit card, although many businesses do that. Instead, it's a loan based on your track record and your expected future business. It's a good choice if your business has at least a three-year history of accepting credit cards. Because the credit card sales are such a good estimation of your future earnings, you'll be able to get a fairly good rate on a loan against your expected income.

While there are stringent federal guidelines about how banks and other lenders conduct business, there are no definitive standards as to how the various types of business loans are structured: terms and conditions may vary from one lender to the next, and minimum and maximum amounts can differ. Be sure you know exactly what conditions apply to each loan you're considering.

Another option for many small businesses is factoring, also known as receivables financing. Factoring is basically selling your invoices to a third party: instead of waiting for your customers to pay, you can get the funds immediately - minus a small fee (3% to 5%) due to the factoring company. Typically you'll receive 80% of the invoice value upfront and the remaining value once the client pays.
Your business might be a good candidate for factoring if you have:
Fewer than three years in business
Good growth prospects but less than stellar cash flow
Active accounts but slow paying customers

Having taken into consideration the above-mentioned options, you can now approach the financial institution of your choice with a better knowledge of what you require and what the needs are in accordance with your business. As an entrepreneur its is important to bare in mind that the financial institutions are there to help and assist, however it is of utmost importance that as a success entrepreneur and business owner/partner, that you approach them with a clear understanding of where you wish to take your business in the future.