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The Credit Process: A Guide
For Small Business Owners

... Continued From Previous Page

The First Step: Preparing Your Business Plan and Loan Request

When you apply for a business loan, you will need to provide certain information about yourself and your business in the form of a business plan. A business plan can act as an ongoing management guide to help you establish production goals and measure actual performance. Your business plan can help demonstrate to a prospective lender that you have the knowledge, managerial competence, and technical capability to run a successful business.

The plan must be thorough and well organized. The finished document should be typed and placed in a binder. Make several copies for each of your prospective lenders and keep several copies for your files. Lenders recommend that you prepare the plan with the help of your accountant or a professional at a small business development center. Resources to assist you in writing your business plan and loan request are listed in the Information Guide.

The Business Plan

The business plan should include the following sections:

  • Title page. List the name of the business, the owner(s),
    the address, and telephone and fax numbers.

  • Executive summary. Provide a brief summary of the plan and tell the reader how it is organized. The executive summary should be written last because it will draw on the other parts of the business plan. It tells who you are, the function of the company, and gives a summary of your purpose for borrowing.

  • Company description. Give an overview of the function
    and history of your company, its size, products or services, and markets.

  • Market analysis. Present your research and a discussion of the conditions and trends within the industry. Review the market for your product and the demand for it. Describe how many major competitors you have, how much of the market each of your competitors controls, and your strategy for gaining a share of the market or developing a new niche. You should be able to explain any barriers to entry into new markets you are considering and how you plan to overcome them.

  • Products and services. Explain your product or service
    and its function.

  • Operations. Explain how you make your product or provide your service. Specify how you get your product out the door to the customer. Where will you get your raw materials or inventory? If a manufacturing process is involved, describe it here, including the size of the factory, stages of production, and work flow. Or, if you have a retail business, give the location of your store. How was the site selected? Where will inventory be warehoused?

  • Marketing plan. Describe how you intend to sell your product or service and who will buy it. Also, discuss your distribution plans, advertising arrangements, and sales force.

  • Ownership. Indicate what type of legal entity your company is and its ownership structure: sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. If you have partners, who are they? How much of your company do they own? Describe how these individuals became principals and what you have agreed to give them in return for their investments.

  • Management and personnel. Review who is in charge, who works for you, and why you hired them. Describe how their experience will contribute to the success of your business. Include resumes of key people, including yourself.

  • Funds required and expected use. Summarize why you need a loan and how you will use the money. Ask for a specific amount. Include documentation on collateral, guarantor agreements, and signed contracts. Describe your repayment plan and present a contingency plan should your initial source of repayment fail.

  • Financial statements and projections. Include a personal financial statement, personal tax returns, and business financial statements—balance sheet, profit and loss statement, cash flow analysis for the last three to five years (if you have been in business that long), and projections for the expected performance of your business for the upcoming three-year period.

    In this section you will need to demonstrate your understanding of basic accounting and the financial concepts that are crucial to the success of your business. By using complete and correct financial statements, you will be able to communicate to a prospective lender how these concepts are successfully applied in your business.

  • Appendices/exhibits. This section should document any issues that can't be addressed in the text. For example, distribution agreements, contracts for the purchase of your product, and your operating licenses would all be included as appendices.

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