How to Prepare for a Lender Matchmaking Event: A Checklist of What to Bring

Originally published at AccessToCapital.com

One of the most important steps to securing funding for your small business or startup is meeting your potential lender face-to-face. No other meeting or opportunity can have such an immediate, direct impact on the future of your business. After all, if the meeting goes well and leads to access to capital, the future of your business could change forever.

An Access to Capital event gives you the chance to meet with traditional lenders, alternative lenders, venture capitalists and crowdfunding experts – all under one roof. Normally you’d have to pursue these relationships separately, spending time and resources to set up meetings with the right prospective lenders. This type of event, however, allows you to conduct multiple meetings in a single day, as well as learn business credit basics from panels of industry experts.

Attending an Access to Capital event can be the first step in your journey toward financial independence and business profitability. With the capital you need to pursue your business goals, you can be able to:

  • Expand into more lucrative markets
  • Move into that new office you’ve been eyeing
  • Increase your marketing efforts
  • Improve and enhance your current operations

So how can you best take advantage of the opportunity in a way that’s most likely to get you approved for funding? Show up in a big way by coming to the event prepared with your business information, financial information, personal information, and that little “something extra” that will help get you noticed by the right lenders.

Here’s a breakdown of exactly what to bring in order to help put your best foot forward:

Your Business: The Basics

Lenders need to know basic information about your business in order to help them get to know your business, and see how their capital might best fit your needs.

Be sure to have this basic information on-hand in a way that’s easy to share with the interviewer. You might print out a one-sheet, include the information on a branded postcard, or list it as part of a promotional packet contained in a folder with your logo.

Basic business information should include:

  • Your official business name, including your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name that you use with the IRS.
  • Your contact information, including physical address, email, pertinent phone numbers, and fax numbers. Keep in mind that even if you use a P.O. box for your business, you will need to provide a physical mailing address to the lender.
  • Your company’s current status, including the business type, the names of all full and partial owners, and an historical breakdown of how business type and owners have changed over the lifetime of your company. Don’t forget to include the year the company was founded and a timeline of major events.

Your Financials

Lenders need to have a comprehensive overview and understanding of the financial health of your business, in order to see how they can best help you meet your goals.

While it may feel intimidating to share your financial records with potential investors, don’t feel like you need to present a snapshot of “the perfect business.” All businesses have ups and downs, and all businesses seek capital at different stages in their growth. Some businesses seek loans when they’re in need of help, while others look to partner with investors when they’re having an unparalleled period of growth.

Whatever your reason for seeking capital, full financial disclosure is crucial to successfully building relationships with lenders and investors.

Be sure to bring…

  • Your gross annual sales or revenue for the past five years, if possible. Keep in mind that your gross revenue is what your business generates before taxes, expenses, and business deductions are taken into consideration.
  • Your business banking information, including account numbers and balances.
  • Your tax returns for the past five years. If you don’t have these records handy, you can easily obtain them from the IRS. Just be sure to contact the IRS in advance of the event. In many cases you’ll be able to download your tax return from the IRS website. However, some tax years may not be available electronically and will have to be mailed to you, so be sure to plan ahead.[1]
  • A cash flow analysis that shows how money moves in and out of your business. A strong cash flow analysis includes three distinct sections, including your operating activities, investment activities, and financial activities. Beyond monies earned for goods and services and monies spent on business expenses, you’ll also need to include monies that flow in and out of your business in the form of loans, credit, and debt payments.[2]

Your Personal Information

Even though you’re pursuing capital for your business, you may still need to share your personal information with potential lenders. In fact, anyone who owns more than 20% of your company may need to provide their personal information as well. Investors and lenders interested in partnering with small businesses understand that businesses are comprised of individuals. For that reason, every owner’s personal information should be disclosed.

You’ll need to bring:

  • Your personal contact information, including your legal name, home address, email address, and personal phone numbers.
  • Your social security number and the social security numbers of all business owners.
  • Your date of birth and proof of your country of citizenship if you are not a U.S. citizen. A passport and birth certificate from your country of origin may be requested.
  • Your personal tax returns for the past three years, which should include a clear picture of your annual household income. Additionally, you should bring personal tax returns for any business owners with 20% or more ownership of the company.
  • Your personal financial statement that includes a breakdown of all your assets and liabilities. A personal financial statement should include assets like real estate, automobiles, and insurance policies, as well as liabilities like your mortgage, personal loans, and unpaid taxes. Each business owner should provide their own personal financial statement. You can download a sample personal financial statement here.
  • IRS form 4506-T for all business owners. This form is a request for tax transcripts, and will allow the lender to gain a more in-depth picture of your financials beyond your tax returns. You can download form 4506-T here.

A little something extra

Now that you’ve shared your personal, financial, and business information with your potential lender, why not share a little something extra? Don’t hesitate to bring a copy of your business plan, marketing materials, customer testimonials, goals, and success stories to share at the event.

Potential investors want to get to know you as an individual, and get to know your business beyond the numbers. Be able to clearly articulate why you’re passionate about what you do, and how partnering with them will change the face of the future for your business. If you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and can demonstrate how you’re taking steps to get there, lenders will be that much more likely to start a conversation with you – a conversation with the potential to become a long-term, profitable business partnership.

 

References

[1] How to get a copy of a prior year tax return, IRS. Retrieved from: https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/How-to-Get-a-Transcript-or-Copy-of-a-Prior-Year-Tax-Return.

[2] Developing a cash flow analysis, SBA. Retrieved from: https://www.sba.gov/content/develop-cash-flow-analysis-your-business.

Small Diverse Business Trends: What You Should Know About Taxes, Healthcare, and Employment In 2016

Originally published on DandB.com

There has never been a better time to be a small diverse business owner in the United States.

With more and more attention being placed on diversity in the workplace, many companies, from small businesses to large corporations, are committing to diversity in both their hiring practices and their partnerships.

For many small business owners, this means a growing number of opportunities to work with influential companies and organizations as a diverse supplier.

Increased profitability and notoriety can be possible for your small business when you stay on top of employment trends, take advantage of current tax laws, and make the new healthcare requirements work for you.

Here are the top trends that are likely to have the biggest impact on small diverse businesses in 2016, and information to help you successfully navigate each to your advantage.

Tax Law

As a small diverse business, your company may be eligible for special development programs through the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), and those who invest in your business may qualify for  lucrative tax incentives.

Keep in mind that you won’t necessarily qualify for tax breaks because you’re a small diverse business owner. Instead, other companies, corporations, and investors may qualify for tax incentives by partnering with or investing in your business, which in turn can create more profitable opportunities for you.

If your small business is located in a distressed area or an empowerment zone, you may qualify for special tax deductions. While many diverse business owners qualify for incentives through these programs, accessing the benefits is primarily contingent on the geographic location of your business, and not the fact that your business is minority-owned.

Because tax laws often benefit small diverse businesses indirectly, it’s important to stay informed about tax changes that impact all small businesses, diverse or not.

In 2016, there are several tax law changes that stand to impact small diverse business owners.

Section 179 allows you to deduct up to 100% of the cost of qualifying business equipment or software purchased in 2015. If you bought any kind of equipment – from a new printer to a new company vehicle – you can deduct up to $500,000 off the cost of purchase.

Don’t forget to consider software or other online subscriptions purchased during 2015. The monthly fees you pay for CRM software or your email marketing program will most likely qualify for this deduction. Talk with your tax preparer for details.

Another important change that can impact small diverse businesses is that the standard mileage deduction has decreased from 57.5 cents per mile in 2015 to 54 cents per mile in 2016.

While you still can’t deduct the cost of commuting between your home and your business, small diverse business owners who work from home may be able to deduct mileage between their home office and other business sites.

Healthcare

One of the biggest changes small diverse businesses may face in 2016 is the application of the Affordable Care Act.

This year, businesses with 50 or more employees will be required to provide health insurance to the majority of their full-time employees, or face some pretty steep penalties from the IRS.

What’s more, if your small diverse business falls into this category, you will have to follow strict reporting guidelines in order to inform the IRS about the health coverage you’re offering to your employees.

If you have 50 or more full-time employees….

  • You are required to offer health coverage to at least 95% of your full-time employees and their dependents up to age 26.
  • If you don’t offer coverage, you may have to pay up to $2,000 per employee in fines.
  • You are required to report how much you spent on healthcare for each employee by sharing that information on the employee’s W2 form. If you fail to report this information, or fail to report it on time, you could be fined up to $200 per employee.

Employment Classifications

If your small diverse business employs fewer than 50 employees, or you work primarily with freelance contractors, you may not need to offer health insurance or other benefits – yet.

With the rise of freelance workers in the United States and around the world, there is a growing debate about which type of employees should be treated like freelancers, and which should be considered traditional employees.

As a small business owner, chances are good that you’ve made use of freelance or remote workers in the past. Outsourcing administrative tasks, online business management, marketing, and other as-needed services can be a cost effective way to meet your business needs without hiring a full-time employee.

But what about a 1099 contractor who works 40 hours per week for your company? The U.S. Department of Labor argues that this type of worker should be treated as a kind of hybrid employee-freelancer, and offered benefits appropriate to that type of employment status.

In 2016, a new bill proposed by the USDL (USDL) will present a brand new category of worker. If the bill passes, small diverse businesses could be on the hook for additional costs, even when hiring freelancers.

While there are many potential new costs facing your small diverse business in 2016, there are even more benefits.

By forming relationships with companies that value diversity, pitching yourself as a diverse supplier, and applying for specialized status with the Small Business Administration, your small diverse business may able to take advantage of tax incentives, mitigate the rising costs of healthcare, and create a more profitable, sustainable business model in 2016.

To find a list of Fortune 100 companies committed to supplier diversity, visit SupplierEdge’s Supplier Programs page.

10 Ways That Your Small Business Can Compete With Big-Box Retailers

Shopkeeper and saleswoman at cash register or cash deskIf you’re going to compete with bigger businesses on your terms, you need to think and act quickly. Here are ten tips to guide you:

  1. Be agile when responding to your customers
    Like a speedboat compared to an oil-tanker, smaller businesses can move faster than larger ones when market conditions change. Keep careful track of your customers’ interests and preferences and you’ll be able to anticipate their requirements. You can also take advantage of these relationships to check in with customers and prospects on a periodic basis. Ask for their feedback on your product or service, shop and website.
  2. Don’t slash your prices
    Competing on price with the big players is usually a bad idea. Economies of scale mean that the larger stores have more purchasing power than you, and can drive down their suppliers’ prices.     Read more about 10 Ways That Your Small Business Can Compete With Big-Box Retailers

How to Get Comfortable with Discomfort

Engagement Matters Episode 31: One of the best ways to improve your business is to eliminate your mental space of all self-imposed roadblocks. Do you suffer from lack of action because you are fearful. You may have fear of failure, fear of mistakes or even fear of success! You can avoid this by applying the 3 steps mention in this video.

How to Pinpoint Your Prospects’ Pain Points

pain pointsKa-boom! You’ve just had a brilliant idea for a new product. You rush to get all your ideas down on paper, shell out thousands to your web designer, and start building a new business that you’re sure is going to change lives (not to mention make you a millionaire!)

Six months later no one’s buying, and you end up disheartened, disillusioned, and broke.

What did you do wrong?

You failed to consider your prospects’ pain points.

Keep reading to learn:

  • Why you should never start a business without a problem in mind
  • How to tell the difference between a problem and a pain point
  • How to determine what’s causing your customers pain

Read more about How to Pinpoint Your Prospects’ Pain Points

How to Stop Cloning Unsuccessful Businesses

stand out“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” ~ Mark Twain

What makes you different?

One thing that makes humans amazing is that there are not (and never have been) two people that are exactly alike. Try matching your fingerprints or dental impressions to anyone who has ever lived. It’s impossible!

You are absolutely unique. Your business is absolutely unique.

So, why is it that your business looks similar to every other business in your industry?

Shouldn’t you stand out from the crowd like a 7-foot tall 3rd grader? How would that help your business if you were that noticeable as a problem solver?

If you are making decisions in your business based on what “everyone else” is doing, it’s time to add greater value to your audience (and increase your income) by being a bit different. Read more about How to Stop Cloning Unsuccessful Businesses

Effectively Marketing Your Business Even When You’re Disorganized (VIDEO)

If being disorganized is standing between you and marketing your small business to increase your revenue, these 3 simple tips will help turn your mess into success.

Watch as I share proven insights tailored to the busy entrepreneur!

Questions from Readers: “How to Talk About What I Do”

Q. “Hi! it was such a pleasure meeting you Sydni! The information you shared was beyond helpful! Thank you!  A question I wanted to ask: In your opinion how or what would be a good and effective way to tell about what it is that I do?  (In other words, how can I say it? I’d like your opinion please.) I have had formal coach and counseling training and experience. I remember you said people don’t care about that. I know I make a difference in peoples lives.  I usually share my gift to help family and friends.  They do not pay me but when they have followed my instructions the results have been great for them. Thank you in advance for your help!” ~ C.S.H. – Oakland, CA     [Read more…]

5 Keys to Setting Goals That ACTUALLY Get Accomplished (SSMS Episode 90)

[display_podcast]

Subscribe to Sydni's PodcastSmall business owners are great at coming up with ideas! But we’re not always very good at finishing the projects we start and turning our ideas into results. Without proper planning, one can easily get overhelmed by a new project and give us, thus missing out on the very rewards they were so excited about in the first place! Listen in as I share 5 proven tips for setting and achieving goals that create more success in your business.

How to Network for Dollars

Let’s face it. Most folks go to a networking event hoping to close new business. Is that the case with you?

If so, then you need a plan to make this happen. Simply showing up and collecting a few business cards, is NOT going to create new money in your business.   Read more about How to Network for Dollars