I recently met an entrepreneur who started a franchise in his mid-50s with funds from his 401k but was now in a tough spot. His first payroll check had just bounced and he was shaken up about it, as his franchise employed 30 people and he dreaded the thought of having to shutdown.
Like many others, this entrepreneur experienced sporadic cash-flow droughts in his first years of business. To rebound quickly, he took out cash advances that quickly led him into a cycle of renewals. Now, cash advance merchants claimed 30 percent of his monthly revenue.
As the founder of a small-business loan advisory, my firm often receives calls from entrepreneurs who are stuck in a debt cycle. I see many cases where the entrepreneur realizes the risks of cash advances or short term business loans too late and they're left repaying with huge percentages of their revenue, plus the expensive fees and interest rates.
Better standards for this self-regulated industry would help, but until those standards are in place, entrepreneurs need to educate themselves about this industry and the impact merchant cash advances might have on their business. Here are steps entrepreneurs should consider taking before signing the dotted line.
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- Applying for a short term loan online or cash advance should always be your last resort because these forms of capital are often the priciest option. If you’re considering one of these loans take a step back and look at investment lenders or SBA lenders who will offer you much longer amortizations and reasonable interest rates.
- Before you take on one of these loans or advances, ask your vendors if they can be flexible with your payments. Even if the vendor charges you a fee, it will likely be cheaper than the short term online lender.
- If you do choose to pursue one of these loans or advances, the most important step is to calculate your daily payment to the lender. These payments will come out of your checking account daily for the life of the loan. Think long and hard if you will be able to handle these cash withdrawals.
- Also, the lenders or advance companies will often encourage you to take the shortest possible loan. In the cases where these loans are the only choice for your business, I encourage a borrower to take the longest possible loan, and get the smallest possible daily payment. While the longer loan will cost the borrower more dollars in the long run, you have to think about your cash flow. If you take the shorter term, you might be forced into a renewal half way through your loan or advance in order to keep up with the cash flow.
With the right education, entrepreneurs can keep running their businesses instead of getting trapped in a debt cycle until better standards for unregulated lenders are in place.
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