On Wednesday, I attended SBA Expo sessions on financing and globalization. Some surprising numbers: There are now 225,000 businesses exporting, and SMEs make up 97% of those. Over 96% of the world's consumers live outside the U.S. And the SBA is expecting to underwrite about 100,000 loans under its 7a program this year. Other highlights:
- What are lenders looking for when you approach them for a loan? Good credit scores (above 680 is solid, said one panelist); a good business plan (mission statement, market study, demographic study, distribution channels, the company's hires and partnerships, and financials); management experience in the industry where you're looking to borrow; a down payment of 10-30 % of the project costs; and collateral, the more the better.
- If you're applying for an SBA loan, don't worry about what type (7a, Express, PLP etc.) you're offered. That's the lender's call. You should scrutinize the lenders, though. Get a list of SBA lenders through your local SBA office.
- Several giant global companies set aside lots of their contracting to small or minority-owned businesses. So far this year, Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary and Iraq and Afghanistan contractor, has gotten 57% of its procurements from small businesses.
- Meanwhile, several websites and government organizations can help businesses begin exporting. The Inter-American Development Bank (www.iadb.org) lists public-sector Latin American projects that need suppliers. The Small Business Exporters Association (www.sbea.org) can introduce small businesses to contacts in the federal government, or help them cut through red tape. Why bother? Over 96 % of the world's consumers live outside the U.S.--quite a market.
- Chris Padilla from the U.S. Trade Representative's office laid out the administration's priorities for global trade. They include lowering tariffs, simplifying customs, making procurement accessible, intellectual property rights for American companies (i.e. fighting "Made in China" knockoffs), and e-commerce.