Tight credit conditions can hit small businesses particularly hard. That was the case during the credit crisis of 2008. Yes, that’s right, during our lifetime we had a credit crisis. Some of you will recall it. The tight credit markets caused a rough time for some businesses. This piece is what Professor Shane wrote at the time, offering pointers for how to respond in times when credit is tight:
If you’ve been watching TV, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, or looking at the Web, you realize that the credit crisis has hit small business owners particularly hard.
So what can small business owners do to cope with tight credit markets or when credit is not available? I’d like to offer five suggestions.
1. Extend Less Credit to Your Customers
You can better cope with the credit crisis if you cut back on the amount of capital that you need.
Many businesses lend money to their customers, in the form of trade credit, increasing their own need for capital. Providing less trade credit to your customers will allow you to conserve your capital for your own operations.
You can also reduce the amount of credit you provide to your customers by reducing your accounts receivable. You can do this by cutting the length of time your customers have to pay you or by offering them greater discounts for paying quickly.
You can even turn over your receivables to a factor to get your cash immediately and let the factor collect the receivables.
2. Try Different Sources to Borrow
Despite the fact that credit is tight, some lenders still have capital. Don’t take a “no” answer from one lender as the only answer.
Community banks, in particular, did not get involved in the toxic mortgage mess. So going to community banks might get you a lender willing to lend to small businesses today. Also peer-to-peer lending is growing at a rapid pace.
Borrowers with good credit still seem able to borrow at reasonable rates from private individuals. So you might consider peer-to-peer borrowing rather than going to banks and other institutions. Finally, if your trade creditors are still offering you credit terms, you can get money from them.
3. Bootstrap, or Raise Equity
The credit crisis is a crisis in the debt markets — in other words, lenders have less money to make traditional loans.
Sources of equity capital — friends, family, business angels, strategic partners, and venture capitalists — are in better shape. So you could seek equity instead of debt.
If you can’t get the equity you need from outside sources (that’s hard for most small businesses to do), you might try getting equity from inside sources — the founding team of the venture. While you might be less diversified by putting more of your capital into your business, you won’t face lenders who aren’t lending if you go to your savings.
Finally, don’t forget bootstrapping. You can use retained earnings to grow your business instead of borrowing.
4. Cut Your Costs
The difficulty that you face in getting credit is a good opportunity for you to think about ways to avoid needing capital in the first place.
Instead of borrowing to buy equipment, you could lease it instead, and cut your capital needs. Similarly, instead of hiring employees on salary, you could use commissioned sales reps and contractors to keep your labor costs down.
In other words, when credit is tight, try to reduce your need for outside capital.
5. Sell Assets
If your business has valuable assets, try selling them. You might find that you don’t need to borrow additional money for growth if you, say, sell your trucks and lease them back. The switch from owning to leasing might generate you enough cash to fund what you need to do.
While nothing is a perfect solution when credit is tight for small businesses, these steps are action oriented and will help small businesses with cash flow and liquidity pressures. And they help a lot more than bemoaning what the Wall Street wiz kids did to make a mess of the credit system.