The capital structure of your business — that is, the extent to which you use equity or debt to finance your operations — is an important determinant of your creditworthiness.
If other companies see a lot of debt on your balance sheet, whether in absolute terms or relative to your competitors, they are less likely to extend credit as you pose greater risk of default. Conversely, not having access to capital can limit your company’s ability to succeed.
Types of Financing for Your Small Business
The following represent options for financing your small business operations, and improving your small business credit.
Business Credit Cards – Business Credit Cards are a good way to gain access to capital. They can provide you with the funds to buy equipment, purchase inventory, pay for advertising, etc. If your business is able, then apply for a credit card using your business’s FIN number with your bank.
You may have to start with a beginner or secured card linked to your personal credit profile, but after building your credit by using and paying off your monthly balance, you may soon qualify for a no personal guarantee business credit card. Business credit cards have an advantage — they are one the easiest form of credit to procure and can be used for any purchase. The downside can be the high interest rates that banks often charge.
Trade Credit – Vendor credit is business-to-business financing on terms (typically 30 days). These can be with office suppliers, printing and sign companies, small online wholesalers, and inventory suppliers with whom your company trades. Not only will this type of financing help your immediate business cash flow, but if you make purchases, and pay timely (10 or 20 days early) it will also help your long term credit profile. Just ensure the vendor reports payment histories to a credit agency, and you will see immediate gains to your credit score.
Small Business Loans – It may be difficult to secure a small business loan or line of credit, but once you’ve established a reasonable level of business creditworthiness, you can apply. A credit line or loan will allow you to better manage your cash flow, and expand your business. In addition, prompt and full repayment of the loan will improve your business credit score and allow you to increase your line of credit, or get an even larger loan if and when the time comes.
Grants – If you can get approved for one, a grant is an excellent source of financing for your business. Small businesses grants are usually offered through federal, state, and local government programs. The Federal government requires that all applicants for Federal grants and cooperative agreements, with the exception of individuals other than sole proprietors, have a D&B D-U-N-S® number. Receiving a grant will then also be reported on your credit profile, and will actually enhance your credit score.
Venture Capital – If you are starting a business in an emerging market, or high risk/reward environment, then venture capital funding may be a great source of financing. Venture capital gives businesses that don’t have established credit, or ways of borrowing money, an option to receive funding.
Businesses in the technology and energy sectors are typical examples. The advantage of this type of financing is the typically large amount of capital that will immediately be at your disposal. But because venture capital firms take huge risks in funding these sorts of businesses, they often require a significant return on their investment, sometimes taking a stake in the ownership in the company.