5 Common Startup Loan Scams You Can Avoid
Getting the right loan for a new business in today's borrowing environment is extremely tough. On top of that, there are plenty of unscrupulous suppliers offering services to help you find your way to a loan. Every day, I receive a phone call from a cash-starved entrepreneur who has wasted thousands of precious dollars on some seemingly-related junk that won't make a difference in the long run.
Here's what you have to watch out for:
1. Costly business plan writers.
Ah, the business plan. Hailed as one of the most important documents for businesses, it can be a major trap for startup owners. Depending on the type of loan that you are applying for, you may not even need a business plan or business forecast before the application process begins. Be wary of companies that want to sell you an expensive business plan or financial forecast in a neatly buttoned up package. If you're paying a hired gun to do the work for you, you may be wasting more than just money; being part of the business plan development ensures that you'll actually know what's going on in your business and the direction it's headed for the foreseeable future. I've met with countless entrepreneurs who have no idea what their business plans and forecasts say.
2. Hyped-up business credit services.
No startup lender will expect you to have good business credit. While business credit can be helpful as your business continues to grow, it doesn't make a difference for a startup. Watch out for scams from companies that will sell you a business credit service, as you'll just be throwing away precious time and money.
3. The strength of your personal credit.
Lenders to startups will look at your personal credit, since you're responsible for paying the money back. If your personal credit report is at a 650 or higher, you're likely in good shape for getting a business loan and you don't need to waste time on personal credit repair before applying for a loan. If your personal credit is lower than 650, and you want to repair it, be sure to go with a reliable and reputable service to help you.
4. Cash-advance lenders who sell speed and convenience.
Some cash advance lenders offer "startup" loans without a deep dive into your personal credit or a lengthy application process. Be especially careful when considering such a cash advance, as rates and pay off timeframes can be so harsh that they could kill your business before it even launches. Make sure you fully understand the terms of a cash advance before signing on and that you have a clear path for paying it back.
5. Unscrupulous loan brokers.
If someone wants money from you to help you to look for a loan, you should smell the word "scam" immediately. There are plenty of reputable brokers who will work without a down payment. Hunt for one who is willing to put her money where her mouth is by betting her time on you.
AMI KASSAR is founder and chief executive of MultiFunding, which helps small-business owners find the best business-loan options. Kassar speaks regularly at universities and small-business events about entrepreneurship and access to capital. He has an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in American studies from Brandeis University. He lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with his wife and two children.
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