After years as a business owner, I can attest to one fundamental reality of every business; companies ALWAYS require money to operate and to grow. And no matter how profitable you are today, there could always come a time when a liquidity crunch will make you look outward for funding.
For small business owners, like me, finding money to fuel business growth (or even just to keep ticking through a lean period) was a constant challenge. It always seemed to me that the banks just made it too hard to get funding!
The paperwork, the wait, and, most critically, the uncertainty of approval made me lose many opportunities over the years. Thankfully, alternative financing institutions have now become a part of the mainstream funding sector – making it easier for small business owners, like me, to inject money into our businesses.
Over the years, I have taken three financing deals from alternative lenders (Cresthill Capitals/Mantis Funding), and this is what I recommend for business owners approaching alt-lenders for the first time –
1.Understand your requirements
In my opinion, the first and most crucial step is to analyze your business need. How much do you need, for what and for how long, and, most importantly, what can you afford? These are important questions you need to consider before you approach any alt-lender.
Once you have a basic idea of your needs, it is important to detail it out. Put down a timeline with specific goals for month or quarter – for example, if you are planning to take a financing offer to update your business premises, then you should have fixed price quotes from the builder, with a timeline and all the costs involved. You should also have a projection of how your revenue will pick up after the changes.
2.Research the alt-lending marketplace
The alternative financing sector is pretty diverse and vast – and spending time researching the various companies will certainly ensure you get the best deal possible.
Along with the lender and their specific deals, you must also weigh the different lending options. Most alt-lenders, such as Cresthill Capitals/Mantis Funding, offer merchant cash advances, business lines of credit, equipment financing, or working capital funding. Each comes with different rates and timelines.
You must match your needs to the right financing type. For example, my first funding offer from Cresthill Capital was a merchant cash advance for $10,000, which I used to stock up on seasonal inventory. The money was paid in a lump sum, and repayments were made as a percentage of daily sales.
3.Apply online and keep documentation ready
Once you have found the right deals, it is time to fill up the application. For a first-timer, it makes sense to apply to 2-3 different lenders. Once you apply, someone from the company’s team will get back to you for more information and to negotiate terms. Comparing a couple of offers can give you some leverage here.
The first time, I also kept my options open. But I had absolutely no Cresthill Capital complaints, so the next time I just went back to them as I was pretty sure they would give me the most competitive rates.
One of the things I like best about alt-lenders is the extreme flexibility they offer. The terms are not written in stone, and there is always room to get a better deal. So my final piece of advice is to negotiate a bit, as you will certainly shave off a bit from your total cost.
I hope this article makes your first time financing process a bit easier! One final piece of advice – take time and explore different options. For this start talking to various alt-lending institutions soon, don’t wait for a cash crunch to hit your business!