Looking for a business loan? What Bankers are looking for.Business Loan: Want to borrow money? What does a banker look for?

As your company grows you will probably be looking for money to expand your business as well as purchase vehicles, equipment and inventory. Applying for credit can be frustrating. The first place you will probably look is a bank. Bankers are conservative by nature. Their first priority is to protect their loan portfolio as well as earn a competitive return on their loans. As a borrower you need to give the banker as many reasons as you can to make him feel comfortable with you as a borrower.

Although business loan applications vary from bank to bank, they all have some basic information in common. Here are some universal Business loan questions:
• Why are you applying for the business loan?
• Who will be managing the business?
• What will you use the funds for?
• What assets do you need to purchase?
• What is your personal background?

Once you submit the application the bank will ask for a business loan package. The loan package usually consists of an application detailing your company’s history as well as future plans. The following items are usually required in the loan package:
• Personal Net Worth Statement of the Owner – The bank will usually give you a template that they use to present the information. It may be a good idea to have your CPA complete this form as she usually knows what the bank is looking for and she will be able to provide complete information.
• 3 Years Prior Personal and Business Tax Returns – Most businesses are taxed as either partnerships (including LLCs) or corporations (S Corp or C Corps) and have tax returns that are separate and distinct from the personal tax returns of their owners. The bank will require a signed copy of each year. In a few cases, a business may be taxed as a sole proprietorship or a single member LLC. In this case, the personal tax return contains the Profit and Loss statement of the business on Schedule C. Here again the bank will require signed copies of these returns as well.
• Most Recent Profit/Loss and Balance Sheet – If you are using QuickBooks these reports are extremely easy to produce. Again, it would be highly advisable to have a CPA look at the interim reports prior to submission if she is not already preparing them on a monthly basis.
• 3 Year Budget – The main purpose for a budget is for the banker to determine if you are serious about your business. While the budget may or may not come to fruition (and only hindsight can determine this), all well run businesses budget for the future.
• Most Current A/R Aging, A/P Aging – The Accounts Receivable reports will come from your dispatch program or general ledger program and should be aged 30, 60, 90 days. The Accounts payable reports will come from your general ledger program as well and should also be aged.

The banker will use these documents to assess risk. One of the first things he will do is perform a ratio analysis. Some of the more important ratios include Interest coverage, profitability, return on investment. In this analysis he is determining if you are credit worthy, how much debt you can afford and what collateral is available to secure the credit.

The most important concepts here would be:
• Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA)- Most banks will require EBITDA to be at least 1.25 times debt service (All payments for all debt) and will provide financing up to a monthly payment that will coincide with this payment amount.
• Equity – Equity on your balance sheet would include All Assets minus All Liabilities. You can think of it as if you purchased your home for $200,000 and mortgaged $125,000. Your equity would be $75,000.

Equity should be positive. In most instances, since assets are recorded at purchased value rather than fair market value an appraisal can be done on existing assets and if market value of assets minus liabilities is positive your company may in fact be healthier than what your balance sheet may depict.

For those who are uninformed, banking relationships can be tricky as the bank will require you to submit periodic financial information verifying that your ratios are within the terms of the loan or credit line agreement. If your scores fall below the covenants described in the loan document you can be put on a “watch list” whereby the bank will not lend you any more money or allow you to draw on your credit line. In an extreme situation, the bank can or has the right to call the loan.

Banks try very hard not to let a problem get to this point but these options are clearly open to them as described in the loan document. So prior to establishing a banking relationship, it is always a good idea to employ the services of a competent CPA to help plan this endeavor and to keep you on the right side of the loan covenants as time passes.

A strong banking relationship is extremely important in growing a business. Proper planning and financial management is the key to a healthy relationship. In business you are judged on your word and your ability to execute on what you say you are going to do or what you are required to do. So in order to start and maintain a strong banking relationship, make sure you can meet the terms of the agreement and treat the relationship as one of the most important factors in your success as a growing business.

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