Businesses around the country already feel the effects of President Trump's tariffs on Chinese imports, or will soon. The administration is weighing an additional $300 billion in added taxes to Chinese goods in the near future.
The extra costs to receive imports from Chinese manufacturers and suppliers especially hurts small businesses, many of which have neither the profit margins nor political influence of a company like Apple.
Just as damaging to small business supply chains is the uncertainty surrounding the tariff standoff. Will the tariffs end anytime soon? Will they last until the end of the 2020 campaign? Will they be permanent? Not knowing how much longer these added taxes will weigh down the cost of doing business is a perplexing puzzle piece for small businesses to deal with.
While some businesses scramble to switch to non-Chinese suppliers, and others consider shutting down shop for good, one option may be to take out a business loan to cover these unexpected costs.
There's an obvious issue with that idea, of course: Going into debt is a risky proposition in any circumstance, much less one with no end in sight.
However, there are a couple of ways that small business owners can use business debt financing responsibly when dealing with tariffs.
Financing to Preempt Tariff Prices
If you're expecting an upcoming round of tariffs to impact your supply chain, one move is to use a small business loan to buy as much inventory or raw materials as possible now, before the price goes up.
This is a common use case for small business loans. SBA loans, for example, often help small business owners get good deals on inventory by giving them the buying power to buy bulk, with enough of a profit margin left over to repay interest and fees.
If you own a long-established small business, have strong personal and business credit, and demonstrate strong revenue, you're in a good position to apply for an SBA loan, bank loan, or other loan or line of credit product with low APR.
Even a business credit card with a 0 percent APR in its introductory period can function as a short-term, no-interest loan through the life of that intro offer.
The only remaining issue is buying enough inventory--and having enough warehouse or storage space to store that inventory--to get you to a point where the administration rescinds the tariffs, or you can change to a quality non-Chinese supplier.
Financing as a Stopgap Measure
For many small business owners, the impact of tariffs has already arrived, and it's too late to get a better deal on their supplies.
In this case, you can also use business financing as a stopgap measure. Elite loan options like SBA loans may not be available to you--especially if you need funding quickly, since the underwriting process for bank loans takes weeks or months--but some alternative lenders may have a solution.
Online lenders can offer term loans, lines of credit, equipment financing, inventory financing, or even personal loans to help you extend the repayment term on your purchases. If you have a well-established business, you can get competitive rates on almost all these options--rates that beat the additional 25 percent tariff on some products imported from China.
Of course, this isn't a long-term solution. Eventually your interest payments will catch up with you and you'll need to find a lower-cost solution. But if you need an extra few months to find a less-expensive supplier--many businesses are looking to Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia--a loan can give you the bumper you need to make the transition.
The tariffs imposed by the Trump administration have either already landed or are on their way. If you're not interested in taking out a loan to help foot the bill, you'll need to move quickly to find new suppliers or pivot your business to use different materials that you can source from other countries.
The only way that a small business loan can work as a long-term solution, or even a bridge to a long-term solution, is if you use an elite business loan product like an SBA loan to refinance your debt. The interest rate is low enough on an SBA 7(a) loan that you can reduce your loan payments to a manageable monthly payment until you pay off your debt.
Unfortunately, no matter which way you slice it, small businesses are going to take the brunt of this trade war. For the vast majority of business owners, financing is only a temporary solution. It will be up to you whether to be proactive and seek new supply chain solutions, or wait out the storm and see what the next few months, or years, bring.