Finding It Difficult To Get Financing for Your Business?
What kind of financing is right for you?

A buffet of options, but definitely a matter of individual taste. One man's sushi is another's dead fish. Start by chewing over some of the issues that can affect your choice of financing. Here you can figure out which sources can satisfy your appetite for size and speed.

Educate yourself on the various flavors of financing available, and the pros and cons of each: debt, equity, asset and other sources. And be sure to test your own attitudes toward the consequences of using various funding sources. Venture capital sounds glamorous and exciting. But ask yourself if you'll be happy with the loss of control that giving up a sizable chunk of equity entails. And how you'll like sitting on the sidelines while others rush to take your baby public -- or sell it off -- in three or five years, making a killing in the process. On the other hand, owning 30% of a $100 million business may be a whole lot better than owning 100% of a $100,000 business stunted by lack of capital.


Financing issues to chew over

How much debt are you comfortable taking on? A highly-leveraged company is one with a high proportion of long-term debt, relative to the amount of owners' equity. One time-honored rule of thumb is that each dollar of early-stage equity can support a dollar of debt, assuming the debt is anchored by collateral. When you leverage equity with debt, your business can expand more quickly. Some financial advisers recommend a 1-to-1 ratio, while others can stomach a 2-to-1 ratio.

How much are you willing to give up? Interest charges on loans can increase your costs and shackle you to years of monthly payments. But equity investors chip away at your control over the company. They will want to know what's going on, give advice, and in some rare cases, can even remove you from running the company.

Where to go for financing?

How much money do you need?

If You Need less than $20,000, look close to home:

If You Need $20,000 to $100,000, go for:

If You Need Over $100,000, but less than $1 million, look into:

If You Need at least $1 million, consider:

If You Need at least $5 million, your likely options are:

How much time do you have?

"None! I need the money now!" You've gotta act quick, so try:

"Don't need it today, but will in a couple of weeks" Go for:

"I'll definitely need money this quarter" Crank out that biz plan and shop:

"I've got Months" Good planning! You have time to reel these in:


Self Exam: Which recipe for getting money tastes right to you?

1. A venture capital firm buys a majority stake in your business. Within a few months, they bring in a professional manager who replaces you as CEO, allowing you to remain as "Executive Vice President." The new chief modifies your product, and sells the firm -- whose value has increased greatly -- to a Fortune 500 company a year later. Your share of the sale is 3%.

A. You're delighted. At last, your product will win the wide distribution it deserves. Isn't our free enterprise system wonderful! God bless America.

B. Where's the nearest window so you can jump out?


2. You're opening a computer cafe serving gourmet coffees. Hey, why not cash in on two trends at once? Your wife's parents offer to lend you $2 million.

A. Great. No reason to go to a bank when your in-laws can afford to be so generous.

B. This disaster-in-the-making smells worse than burnt coffee. Nothing kills your appetite for money quicker than the thought of having your creditors (or your spouse) eyeing you over the dinner table, asking why you missed the last few payments -- or hearing advice on how you should turn the cafe into a karaoke bar.


3.You have 10 credit cards. You decide to charge all the supplies and equipment for your graphic design business, and get cash advances up to the $5,000 credit limit on each for cash flow. You're $50,000 in debt in no time.

A. So what? It's tough to get a regular bank loan. You'll work it off soon.

B. Now you know where the expression "rob Peter to pay Paul" came from. Every month as you look at your statement, you feel yourself sinking deeper into the hole of no return. All you can make is the minimum payment, since you need the rest of the money to keep your biz afloat.


4. Your older brother and uncle, excited by the success of your start-up catering business, buy in as equity investors .

A. Terrific. You welcome the extra helping hands, money and advice. there's more than enough work to go around.

B. Lousy. In a flare-up of sibling rivalry (which you thought had been outgrown) your brother keeps reminding you the business was his idea, and starts telling you what you're doing wrong. Your uncle, unfamiliar with the catering industry, becomes the loudest silent partner you've ever seen.


5. A favorite client, a computer manufacturer, likes your software so much they decide to become an equity investor. Then they demand so much of your time, you really have to scramble to find time for other clients, each grumbling more than the next .

A. It's only fair. After all, your client is now part-owner.

B. You feel like Faust after he sold his soul to the devil. Money isn't everything you tell yourself, but now wonder how you'll ever get out of this hell.


6. You've taken out a bank loan for your public relations business, requiring a hefty monthly payment. The trouble is, some of your clients are slow payers, and you often face a cash flow crunch.

A. You welcome an equity investor as a silent or active partner the way others welcome a $50 million lottery ticket. Banks are overrated and unfeeling, you're convinced.

B. You're doing the prudent thing others would kill for. Your loan is at prime rate, you haven't maxed your credit cards to the limit, and you cherish your independence.


7. After that experience with your family in your catering firm (which dissolved, fortunately), you vow never again get in business with family. But recently, a long-time friend joins you as 50-50 partner in your new gourmet food shop. Unfortunately, your friend seems to have undergone a major personality change, expecting to be treated like queen for a day every day and making bizarre demands.

A. Anything is better than dealing with those family tensions. Your partner is just a little insecure and trying to prove herself. Both of you will soon get along because you've been friends a long time.

B. Other people dream of vacations in Tahiti. You dream of sole proprietorships.


How do you score?
There's no cut and dried "score" but from observing your own responses to these scenarios, you can steer clear of heartburn. Keep in mind that no matter what happens with the financing/success of your business, or what you have to do to get it, you still have to be able to live with yourself and the situation you've created. Go with your gut, or it'll get back at you later.

More idea tips

Frankly, a lot of entrepreneurs do not have a full plate of options when it comes to getting money for their biz. The options are out there -- but not for them.

Many businesses are too new to get a bank loan because they haven't been around long enough to have a track record yet.

Many businesses will never be considered for venture capital because they don't have the right biz genes for explosive growth.

Many businesses don't have the option to borrow from friends or family because nobody they know has spare money.

And many businesses can't squeeze the necessary funds from credit cards because their owners didn't acquire enough cards when they still had the income to qualify.

So the real truth may be bitter, not to mention unfair. But it's also true that where there's a will, there's a way. Study our descriptions of the various financing options. When one clearly does not fit you, don't dwell on it, move on to the next. Or, follow our tips to do what's necessary to reshape your biz body so you'll qualify to get the flavor of money you want.

Think out of the box. Think small -- see if there's anything you can do to get started on less (like hiring your mother to answer your company's email -- for free). Think big -- reinvestigate private placements. Or think sideways -- get your current employer to become your first client -- you'll hang out your own shingle and build other clientele, they'll save the cost of benefits they used to pay.