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Small Business Financing May Suffer From Obama’s Proposed Budget and Political Wrangling

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment


Business Mentoring
Posted: 02/21/2012 10:11 am

Lenders are concerned that President Barack Obama’s proposed 2013 budget and the political scuffling in Congress may leave the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture with inadequate loan-guarantee authority to satisfy the needs of small-businesses owners. If that happens, and “guarantee coffers are low, the borrower needs to worry if their loan will be approved before the program runs out of money,” says Mike Rozman, co-president and chief strategy officer of BoeFly.com. The New York City-based company matches borrowers with lenders online. Of further concern, he notes that “there is still limited conventional financing for start-ups.”

Before the financial meltdown and the Great Recession, start-ups were able to get financing when the applicant had related experience, invested approximately 20-percent equity into the venture and pledged collateral. That has changed drastically and fledgling entrepreneurs are left with few, if any alternatives. For more mature companies, however, “we’ve seen an increase in conventional lending over the past six months for existing profitable businesses seeking to expand or refinance debt,” Rozman says.

Kraig Kramers, a management consultant and consummate entrepreneur who turned around such Fortune 500 Companies as Snapper-brand lawn mowers, has advice for surviving economic turmoil and a possible tightening of credit. “Stay close to lenders and prospective investors long before you need them,” Moreover he says, “You must have prior happy relationships with those who will provide the cash timely when you really need it.”

He also coaches business owners to drill down “into cash management with tools you can introduce into your business to accelerate incoming cash.” Additionally, “Delegate these tools to those managers and employees who can do the best with them.”

Borrowing an idea from “a Fortune 500 company,” he says, “Look at a detailed balance sheet, yes, to the penny.” As a result, “we found a half-million-dollar stock certificate that had been forgotten.” But the technique is not just for large corporations. Kramers also found “recapturable deposits in several smaller businesses this way.”

Equally as important, cleaning up your financial statements, footnoting the most important line items and highlighting key financial ratios, prepares you for making a loan application. Furthermore, include an extensive discussion telling the loan officer and her committee how you arrived at the forecast for the next 12-month’s proforma.

Rozman adds that if customers get the cold shoulder from their exiting bank, the borrowers will need to be “aggressively seeking alternatives.” BoeFly’s 1,500 participating lenders pay subscription fees in order to view applications from entrepreneurs seeking financing. In addition to conventional loans, some of the lenders make loans that are partially guaranteed by SBA and USDA and may consider start-ups — especially for franchises.

SBA’s 7(a) loans are suitable to finance real estate, equipment, machinery, working capital, and to purchase an existing business. The agency’s 504 program is for fixed assets and most suitable to build, expand or purchase real estate. More recently, SBA initiated a temporary 504 program to “rescue” borrowers who have existing loans with balloon balances coming due and find that take-out lenders are scarce.

The basic 504 program requires job creation or retention and does not include working capital. But the temporary refinancing program waives the job-creating requirement. And it also allows some working capital for projected operating expenses.

USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Program is similar to SBA’s 7(a) but the businesses must be in rural locations. Sometimes, sparsely populated locations on the fringe of urban areas are approved. Unlike SBA’s loan limits of $5 million for 7(a) and approximately $10 million for 504, USDA’s B&I program tops out at $25 million under certain circumstances. And the loans may go up to $40 million for rural cooperative organizations that “process value-added agricultural commodities,” according to USDA’s web site.

Small-business owners are holding their collective breaths as the Obama Administration’s proposed budget wends its way through the politically-charged Congress. It is as much the chief executive’s opening salvo, as it is his wish list. But if the budget that survives includes large reductions of SBA and USDA guaranteed loans, you need to be prepared.

To test the water, talk to your bank’s loan officer about your chances of getting financing. It is better to see if your loan officer tap dances and stutters now than before crunch time. And if you don’t get a positive reply, start looking for other funding alternatives.

Jerry Chautin is a volunteer SCORE business counselor, business columnist and SBA’s 2006 national “Journalist of the Year” award winner. He is a former entrepreneur, commercial mortgage banker, commercial real estate dealmaker and business lender. You can follow him at http://www.Twitter.com/JerryChautin

Copyright © 2012 Jerry Chautin — All rights reserved
Huffington Post readers are permitted to distribute with attribution to the author

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Is There a Wikipedia to Go Dark for Homeowners?

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment
English: Foreclosure Sign, Mortgage Crisis


Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Posted: 02/ 6/2012 5:44 pm

When Congress was on the brink of pushing through legislation that Internet advocates opposed, over four million online signatures were gathered quickly. Congress relented.

Today, millions of American households are poised to benefit directly from the opportunity to reduce mortgage payments, avoid foreclosure, build up some savings, or have a few thousand dollars to spend a little more freely. Yet while even conservative economists believe that easier refinancings will boost the economy and help millions more families — a major part of Congress is ready to say a big, “No, let’s not even try.”

Not a day elapsed after President Obama outlined a more ambitious set of proposals to let average families take advantage of the same low interest rates that have benefited upper income households and large corporations before Speaker Boehner among others declared the idea dead on arrival.

“All [the refinancing plan] does is delay the clearing of the market,” Speaker Boehner told reporters. “As soon as the market clears and we understand where the prices really are — [that] will be the most important thing we can do in order to improve home values around the country.”

Saying millions of families should wait until the “market clears” is the modern equivalent of “let them eat cake.” Clearing the market is an economist’s term for letting the tidal wave of foreclosures continue. But unchecked foreclosures drag down everyone’s home values, let vacant homes pile up in neighborhoods, and force families to choose between struggling to make needlessly high mortgage payments or become another default statistic with ruined credit.

It is time to ask lenders and investors to shoulder some of the burden, and Congress should be taking the lead on this, not finding objections. As my colleagues at the Center for American Progress and I explain in detail, the principles of accountability to avoid more foreclosures — especially for families who haven’t missed payments — is at the core of the administration’s expanded proposal for making refinancing easier.

Families with mortgages, however, are not an easily organized constituency. Unlike the protesters most engaged in social media who were the bulwark of those moved to criticize SOPA and PIPA, borrowers are not necessarily the internet generation nor an easily reached interest group.

But given the politics of “embrace the opposite of what Obama proposes,” homeowners struggling to keep making payments could use a Wiki dark day of their own. And so could the tens of millions of others who live next door, as no neighborhood really wants another foreclosure.

The Power of Owner-Entrepreneurship Education to Restore Our Middle-Class

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment


Founder, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship
Posted: 01/26/2012 12:44 pm

President Obama focused squarely on the middle class during his third State of the Union address. He declared that, “We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

Obama’s speech has set off flares from the right about “class warfare” and from the left about “the disappearing middle class.” There’s no denying that the wealth gap is widening. In June 2010, a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities confirmed that the gap between rich and poor in the United States had reached levels not seen since 1929. Currently, the United States ranks fourth in the world in income disparity, after Chile, Mexico and Turkey.

The fact is, the middle-class is in serious trouble. The key question is: What are we going to do about it? As the founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and an educator of at-risk youth who has been in the poverty trenches for over thirty years, I can tell you that I’ve seen only one thing consistently create new members of our middle-class: Owner-entrepreneurship education.

At NFTE, we call our programs owner-entrepreneurship education, in order to stress the power of ownership as a means to create wealth. Disadvantaged youth are seldom let in on this secret to wealth creation. I once asked a leading venture capitalist and philanthropist, who has donated millions to helping low-income children attend private schools, “What about teaching kids the ownership skills that made you your fortune, so they can become financially independent?” He responded, only half-jokingly, “But then who would do the work?”

His comment illuminates a core issue in our society: If only the wealthiest people own the increased profits resulting from the better education of our low-income youth, how much has really been accomplished in helping our most impoverished citizens achieve the American dream?

This is why NFTE teaches owner-entrepreneurship education. We teach not only entrepreneurial skills like record keeping, sales, finance, negotiation, opportunity recognition, and marketing, but also the power of ownership. Our students learn how to properly value and sell a business, and how to build wealth utilizing franchising, licensing and other advantages of ownership.

Let me share with you the story of two courageous at-risk youth who traveled from extreme poverty into the middle-class through the power of owner-entrepreneurship education. Jabious and Anthony Williams were living crammed in with their mom and eight other family members into their aunt’s two-bedroom apartment in Anacostia, a violent southeast Washington, D.C., neighborhood. Every day the boys walked miles to the nearest Exxon station to pump gas for tips. “Typically, we would earn about thirty to fifty dollars a day to help support my mom,” says Jabious Williams.

Luckily, the Williams brothers met Mena Lofland, a caring NFTE-certified business teacher at Suitland High School in Maryland. She got the boys into a NFTE entrepreneurship class. NFTE currently reaches over 60,000 students a year in the United States, as well as in ten countries. There are 400,000 NFTE graduates globally.

Like many of our low-income students, Jabious and Anthony experienced tough childhoods that encourage independence, toughness, salesmanship and hard-won street smarts, and as a result, both showed great aptitude for entrepreneurship. I’ve seen this repeatedly: Our at-risk youth are uniquely equipped to handle the risk and uncertainty inherent in entrepreneurship. They also have valuable insights into their local markets.

The Williams brothers started their own hip-hop clothing line, for example, with support from Lofland, and two local mentors — Phil McNeil, managing partner of Farragut Capital Partners, and Patty Alper, a dedicated volunteer, philanthropist and former entrepreneur.

Now 24, Jabious is a scholarship graduate student at Southeastern University and operates Jabious Bam Williams Art & Photography Company. Anthony heads a youth-mentorship program. They recently gave their mom $5,000 as a down payment on a house. “If it weren’t for the NFTE classes and the support of our teachers and mentors, we would have likely dropped out of school,” Jabious notes.

The story of the Williams brothers is just one of countless examples from NFTE’s files that beg the question: If entrepreneurship education can create jobs, prevent students from dropping out, and provide economic rescue for people in our low-income communities, what’s it going to take to open a conversation about making owner-entrepreneurship education standard in every high school in America?

Professor Andrew Hahn of Brandeis University points out the social consequences for an entire generation brought up in poverty that has never set foot in a workplace-and the potential benefits of entrepreneurship education. Hahn notes:

Research shows the scarring effects of early unemployment. The lack of work experience among minority teens contributes to a host of more serious challenges in their early twenties. Studies demonstrate that NFTE’s entrepreneurship programs create jobs and are among the few strategies that work during these periods of massive youth joblessness.

I’ve seen firsthand that entrepreneurship education gets disaffected teens excited about school again, and about their futures. It teaches them that they can participate in our economy and make money. They quickly realize that to do so, they must to learn to read, write and do math. I’ve also seen how owning even the simplest small business fills a teen with pride.

Owner-entrepreneurship education is a great way to teach basic subjects to children who are failing to learn through traditional academic approaches, because it provides concrete incentives. Owner-entrepreneurship education teaches young people that they can create jobs for themselves and do not have to be victims of this economic downturn, but rather view it as an opportunity to start a business. It also makes them more employable in the long-term, because by running their own small businesses, they learn how business works and what makes an employee valuable. This shift in viewpoint can immeasurably benefit the psyche of an unemployed teenager, and also benefits companies that hire them.

Currently, our national strategy to combat poverty among low-income youth is built around improving K-12 education. That’s a good choice, yet we’re not teaching entrepreneurship, even though most Americans would probably agree with President Obama that small business is the driving engine of our economy.

Instead, most of our national education efforts seek to teach low-income youth to become better workers. Given the widening gap between rich and poor in this country, I’d like to raise one critical point: Why aren’t we also teaching them how to own? If entrepreneurship is the engine of the American economy, why aren’t we raising more creative entrepreneurs like the Williams brothers?

On an income statement, workers are located on the “wages” line. Professional business owners, venture capitalists, and private equity firms have a distinct advantage in the creation of wealth because they can sell the profits generated by workers for a multiple of a business’s earnings. One dollar of profit can become $3, $10, or even $50.

This is how fortunes (and jobs) are created — an entrepreneur starts a business, sells some or all of its ownership, and uses the resulting capital to start and build other businesses that he or she can sell in the future, creating more capital. Workers, on the other hand, spend their lives selling only their time for hourly wages, or perhaps a salary.

Teaching business skills without also teaching the power of ownership potentially creates wealth for an owner down the line, not necessarily for the entrepreneur who created a business. Even well-educated entrepreneurs can find themselves at a disadvantage when dealing with professional owners who are experts in valuation and procuring a high rate of return in exchange for investing in a business.

We seek to demystify wealth creation for our low-income students, so they will have the same knowledge that a child of wealthy parents might pick up at the dinner table. Owner-entrepreneurship education empowers young people to make well-informed decisions about their future, whether they choose to become entrepreneurs or not. They become aware of five assets that every individual has: time, talent, attitude, energy and unique knowledge of their communities. They learn to use these assets strategically as they move along in their careers — which may include creating businesses and jobs, and building wealth in their communities.

Owner-entrepreneurship education reveals that anyone can start a business and use it to create wealth. This awareness can be a matter of life or death for at-risk young people like the Williams brothers. Through owner-entrepreneurship education, they discovered the value of their assets and created a business out of a comparative advantage — in this case, their unique knowledge of hip hop culture and what kind of clothes would appeal to other kids in their community. As a result, they became motivated to stay in high school, went on to college and helped their mother become a homeowner.

As the Williams brothers learned, owner-entrepreneurship education can help solve the youth unemployment crisis, rescue our low-income communities by increasing home ownership and employment, and even bring about a fairer distribution of wealth. We need a national debate on owner-entrepreneurship education, particularly for low-income youth. We must raise the consciousness of those who have been left out of our economic system, so that they comprehend the joys and responsibilities of ownership.

As Jabious Williams says, “Because I own my business, I know I have a future.”

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