No matter how you slice it, taking on debt is a really big decision as a new business owner. It's personal, it's dependent on a lot of factors, and no one can make the decision for you.
That's why we decided to document our personal experience applying for and making the decision to accept an SBA loan.
This article is a bit different than others on our blog: it's a documentation of our experience and may not apply to everyone. Check out this guide if you're interested in applying for an SBA loan, or, read on to see how we approached the question of "Should I get a business loan?"
We took a hard look at sales
One of the hardest things about running a business is predicting your future sales. Revenue is often all over the place; it's sporadic from month to month, it's seasonal depending on your industry, and it can be difficult to predict.
When we applied for a loan, one of the biggest deciding factors for both the bank and ourselves was evaluating our ability to pay back the debt. All loans come with terms: how much interest is the bank charging? How long do you have to repay the loan? How much money are you receiving? Breaking down these terms into a monthly payment amount allowed us to see how much we would be on the line for.
It also gave us an idea of how much money we'd have to bring in every month in order to not only pay our regular expenses but also the loan.
This understanding of our monthly burn rate allowed us to see how many additional clients we'd need to bring on in order to break even with our new loan payment. Ultimately, we felt confident in our ability to increase the number of sales that were coming in the door in order to properly afford to take on debt.
We see debt as leverage
Debt is not the savior for a failing company; it's the leverage that allows you to maximize the amount of money you're able to generate! Because of this, debt also amplifies your failures and can magnify your problems.
We knew that it was going to be time to grow our company rapidly over the next few months, but we simply didn't have the capital to start working on the strategies that we were planning on implementing at the time. We wanted to hire a new employee, invest more heavily in marketing, and ultimately, scale up.
While it would've been possible to accomplish this without taking on any debt, it would've been a slow, painful process. While I do believe that patience is important and that growing a business takes a long time, it seems like most business owners often reach crucial inflection points where they can either choose to take their business to the next level or remain at the status quo. There's nothing wrong with moving slowly; in fact, sometimes it's better than going too quickly!
Still, if you have a solid plan and a desire to take the leap, leverage can help get you where you want to go.
Other options simply weren't right for us
When you've decided to grow your business using outside funds, there are a number of things that you can do. Whether you're applying for grants, seeking angel or venture capital funding, or selling your receivables, there are a lot of options for creating more leverage in your business.
The goal is to find something that's right for you.
You've got to consider the impact that the route you're taking will have on you and your business. Will taking on a loan cause problems for you and your family? Will accepting an investment from a mentor strain your relationship? Are you prepared for the ways your life will change as your business changes?
The goal for many entrepreneurs in owning a business is to achieve the lifestyle that they dream about. From making boatloads of money to living a life free from corporate handcuffs, everybody's motivation is different. What may work for some may not work for others.
So, what's the right decision for your business? Oftentimes, it's less about knowing the exact right answer and more about asking the right questions to yourself. Thinking through all of the possibilities allows you to decide whether or not a path is right for you. It can be incredibly helpful to have a third party help walk you through these types of decisions. At the very least, they'll be able to ask questions or bring up ideas that you might've overlooked.
It will always benefit you and your business to have a trusted advisor with your best interest in mind.