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.
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.
- 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.
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.
Photo Credit: darby, Twenty20