What are some alternatives to a bank loan?
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.The specific course of action you should take depends on several factors including but not limited to, the nature of your business (product/services, customer base, business location), the scale of your business (approximate monthly revenues/expenses, number of employees, etc.) and the business structure (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, etc.).
Those issues aside, the place to start is still with your bank. Many banks are still anxious to attract new business customers and in many cases currently have special lending programs at very attractive terms and rates right now.
If you don't have a personal banker, you should request one. In working with your bank, be as forthcoming as possible regarding your history and your needs. Your banker, in turn, will tell you exactly the information he or she needs to present your "best case" to the bank's credit committee.
Be sure to provide no more and no less than what is specifically requested. The banker may advise you that in order to obtain a loan you need to increase operating cash flow in the business.
For instance, I always advise my retail clients to find ways to shorten their cash cycle with more favorable terms from their suppliers, obtain accelerated collections on credit card transactions and other receivables and find ways to turn inventories more rapidly. Since they carry inventory, they do have collateral within the business. This is what a bank would look at first, and this is where I would start if I had a retail business.
Also, your local bank is your point of contact for federal Small Business Administration (SBA) and similar state programs. It's certainly to your benefit to ask about special SBA programs for designated urban areas that you may be eligible for.