Dominic Allon, Vice President and Managing Director, Intuit Europe
Starting your own business can be challenging in today’s competitive and overcrowded market. Even if you have an original idea and a strong team to work with, getting access to and securing finance remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks to overcome. Recent research has revealed that because of this, start-up firms are relying heavily on credit cards, with more than half using credit to keep their businesses afloat.
Luckily there are more options than ever to secure finance and help you get your business off the ground and stay afloat. These can range from P2P lending and invoice financing to crowd funding and loans from family and friends. Whilst all of these can be viable options for a small business, each one should be assessed with careful consideration before being the agreed finance option.
Here we look at four different ways to find funding for your business.
Friends and family
Firstly, let’s take a look at the option of borrowing from family and friends. This can seem simple, attractive and potentially lucrative for both you and your investor, but small business owners should follow certain rules to avoid damaging personal relationships. For example, clarify whether the loan is secured, when payments need to be made and if there will be interest. It’s important to agree everything in writing before getting started to avoid unwanted disputes later down the line.
This option does carry less risk for the business, depending on the relationship with the relative or friend. It also works well for the ease of getting a loan (i.e. no credit checks) and can offer better pay back rates, no loan rates at all and also the joy of shared success. But you should be totally sure that whatever happens, your relationship will come first.
Another viable funding option is P2P lending. This can open many doors for small business owners. Borrowing money directly and cutting out the intermediary banks can be a lifeline for companies which have been refused funding by traditional routes. It also offers the added benefit of being able to select the most attractive loan rate.
While the barriers to P2P lending are low, it can require enormous time and effort to process the loan. There are also some privacy issues connected with P2P platforms, so borrowers must be comfortable with their financial information becoming publicly available for lenders online.
Crowdfunding is a good route for small businesses facing difficulty raising funds through traditional routes. Crowdfunding investors contribute various amounts towards the overall target amount, and instead of return on cash, they are offered a stake in the company or benefits, such as loyalty points or free products. It’s a good way to get faster access to funding as well as a platform to engage with potential customers and investors, and attract media attention.
Business owners should bear in mind that a crowdfunding campaign is open to the public, which leaves your idea vulnerable to copy-cat competitors. Many crowdfunding platforms are non-regulated which puts the responsibility of safe practice with the investor and entrepreneur.
Lastly, invoice financing is an interesting option for small business owners that need fast cash but don’t want a loan or to give up equity to investors. This type of funding allows them to release cash tied up in outstanding customer invoices, so it can be particularly helpful for businesses that face problems with late payments and cash flow.
Allowing a third party to collect unpaid invoices might sound appealing, but that also means they take control of the customer relationship. The business owner must inherently trust the financial provider to handle the relationship sensitively and in line with the brand’s reputation.
Whichever financing option you choose, never forget to do your research and consider all the options available. Weighing the benefits and pitfalls for each will help you determine the one that meets your needs and grow a successful and thriving business for years to come.