1. Find out if your business is qualified
Ultimately, the most accurate way to find out if you qualify for a business credit line is to apply — but you wouldn’t want to apply to many lenders only to get rejected or receive a disappointing offer.
To get a quick pulse on if you’re qualified for funding, consider the factors below:
Most lenders will look at your personal and/or business credit score to figure out the riskiness of your business. The stronger your score (680 is usually the cut-off for banks), the more options you have. However, just because you have a weaker credit score doesn’t mean you won’t be able to qualify for a business line of credit at other lenders.
To determine whether you can pay back your credit line, lenders will look at your monthly or annual revenue from your income statements as well as the trajectory of your revenue over a period of time. Your annual revenue is one of the most important metrics lenders look at; when they see your sales grow month after month, it shows that you know how to run your business and execute on your business plan. This not only makes lenders more likely to lend to you, but also makes them more likely to gradually increase your credit line to support the growth of your business.
When you apply for a business line of credit, lenders will ask you how long your business has been in operation. Banks look for businesses that have been around for at least two years. If you’re a new business (between three to 12 months old), online lenders are a better option because they’re more willing to take on the risk of lending to younger businesses.
Different types of credit lines
There are many types of business credit lines. One major difference is credit lines with short or long repayment terms.
- Short repayment terms are credit lines with six to 12 months repayment terms. These terms are ideal if you’re looking to pay off your line of credit faster and want to potentially save more in interest.
- Long repayment terms are credit lines with repayment terms over 12 months. Longer repayment terms make sense if you need more time to pay off your credit line or want lower monthly payments.
Short-term business line of credit
If you’re looking for a business line of credit with short repayment terms, it’s worth applying to online lenders. Online lenders are generally a better option for businesses that are looking to save time on the application process and want access to funds on-demand. Additionally, since online lenders offer shorter repayment terms, the requirements aren’t as rigid.
When you apply to an online lender you will usually get a decision within one to two business days. To apply to an online lender follow these steps:
- Apply online: for lenders that have shorter repayment terms, they typically have an online application process that takes at most five minutes to complete.
- Upload your statements: online lenders don’t require much documentation; at most, you’ll need to upload three months worth of bank statements. If they need more information, they may ask for your tax returns and/or a debt schedule.
- Get a decision: once you’ve submitted an application, you should get a decision within one to two business days.
Long-term business line of credit
If you want to get a business line of credit with longer repayment terms, you should apply to a traditional bank. Here are the steps you’ll need to take:
- Check your credit score and business financials: to qualify for a bank line of credit you should expect to have a strong credit score of at least 680 and stellar business financials (stable cash flow, high revenue, and little to no existing debt). You may want to consult with a finance professional beforehand so that you have a clear picture of your business’s financial health.
- Get all of your documents together: When applying for a business line of credit with longer repayment terms, you must be prepared to submit a lot of documentation. This includes historical financial statements, balance sheets, tax returns, P&L statements, and income statements.
- Apply and wait: Once you’ve sorted out your documents, all you have to do is apply and wait. Some banks such as Wells Fargo still require you to visit a branch in order to submit your application. After you apply, expect to wait at least a couple of months to get a decision.
2. Compare your business line of credit options
Now that you have a general idea of how to apply for a business line of credit, your next step is to understand the major pros and cons of each type of popular lender:
Traditional bank lines of credit
Getting a line of credit from traditional banks are highly sought after because of their affordability and terms. If you manage to get a line of credit from a bank, you probably should accept the offer. But securing a line of credit from a bank is a lot easier said than done. To qualify for a line of credit, traditional banks often require at least two years of business history and $250,000 in annual revenue.
A good first step to securing a business line of credit with a bank is to contact the bank you have an existing relationship with. However, you should note that most banks have a time-consuming application process. If you have a hard time getting accepted by traditional lenders but still want reasonable rates and terms (like Bank of America or Chase) you might want to consider a line of credit from your local credit union or community bank.
Online lender business lines of credit
For those who don’t have the time or resources to spend filling out a traditional bank application, online lenders are a better option. In order to qualify for a business line of credit, most online lenders will ask you to complete the entire application online. The best part is that most online lenders don’t require sky-high credit scores or extensive financial records.
Once you submit your application, these lenders use a combination of both automation and manual underwriting to get you an offer. This means you can get a decision on your application within one to two business days. The interest rates are slightly higher with online lenders because they get the funds they lend to businesses from capital markets which is more expensive. But their application and approval processes are typically much faster.
Business credit lines from credit unions
Credit unions are member-owned and not-for-profit. This means that each member of a credit union has equal ownership and that any earnings made will go back to improving their products and services, which means lower rates and generally better products for their customers. To join a credit union, you usually must qualify for their field of membership, pay a small fee, and use your account frequently. Fields of membership vary depending on the credit union. Some credit unions are community-based, which only requires you to live within a certain area, and others are occupation-based.
A major drawback of credit unions is ease of use. Most credit unions have fewer branches and ATMs, which can make drawing funds a hassle. Additionally, credit unions don’t have strong mobile and online banking capabilities like online lenders and banks.
3. Know the minimum requirements
The following table is a broad overview of the minimum qualifications for each lender. As you can see, traditional banks are the hardest to qualify for, followed by credit unions and online lenders. Please note that the information here is not definitive; you should use it as a benchmark to gauge where your business stands the best chance of getting a business line of credit.
4. Understand the total cost of interest rates and fees
Annual percentage rate (APR)
When it comes to rates, it’s often thought that APR is the only rate to keep an eye out for, but that simply isn’t true. APR, or annual percentage rate, is an annualized percentage of the original loan amount plus the additional fees.
While knowing the APR is important, in some cases knowing the simple interest rate – the amount of interest you pay as a portion of the loan – makes more sense and may be cheaper. For instance, if you plan on borrowing money for less than a year, calculating the simple interest rate would give you a clearer picture of how much the loan would cost you than an annualized rate.
Simple interest rate
The simple interest rate is the interest you’ll pay to the lender on top of the loan you’re borrowing. You can use this formula to calculate simple interest rate:
Simple interest rate = Total interest charged / Loan amount
So if you are charged $100 in interest fees on a $10,000 six-month loan, you would pay a 1% simple interest rate.
Other lender fees
Here are some of the most common fees that lenders charge to use a business line of credit.
- Draw fees: Draw fees cost between one to two percent of the total draw amount. They are charged on each draw that you take.
- Payment processing fees: Payment processing fees are incurred depending on how fast you want funds deposited in your bank account. A wire transfer can get you funds within hours but usually costs between $15 to $35. The ACH method is usually free of charge but takes about two or more business days to complete.
- Late fees: When you pay late or fail a payment, you may be charged with late fees. Late fees usually cost a low percentage of your credit line but can add up quickly.
- Termination fees: If you decide to end your line of credit at any point before the full term of your loan, you may have to pay a termination fee of one to two percent of your credit line.
- Prepayment fees: Some lenders will actually charge fees if you pay your draws off early. These fees range from 3 to 5 percent of the loan principal. The good news is that many online lenders offer no prepayment fees.
5. Gather your financial documents and apply
The last step to get a business line of credit is to gather your documents and wait for the right time to apply. Here are some of the documents and type of information you’ll be expected to submit to a lender:
- Personal information: to verify your identity, lenders will require you to submit information about yourself. This includes your full legal name, social security, criminal record, and educational background.
- Bank statements: many lenders require at least one year of bank statements; alternative lenders are the exception to this and need only three months of statements.
- Financial statements: to determine the financial strength of your business, you’ll need to submit important financial statements such as your P&L sheet, cash flow sheet, and balance sheet.
- Information about other stakeholders: if you own less than 50% of the business, you must provide information about any additional stakeholders.
- Legal documents: depending on the lender you apply to, you will be expected to submit one or more of the following: business licenses and registrations, business formation document, business tax ID, contracts with third parties and/or UCC filings.
- Debt schedule: if you have any existing debt, some lenders will expect you to provide a debt schedule. This shows all your business’s outstanding loans, credit, and payment schedule.
- Tax returns: lenders will require you to show personal and business income tax returns over the last three years.
After you’ve applied, all you need to do is wait. Applying when your business is doing well is a smart way to increase your chances of getting a business line of credit, as well as getting a higher credit line amount.
This post originally appeared on the BlueVine blog at https://www.bluevine.com/how-to-get-a-business-line-of-credit/.
This is a guest post by Stuart Blake of BlueVine.
Having available cash on hand is crucial for businesses of all sizes, and a business line of credit is often a great way to get that cash. A credit line can help when you have unexpected cash flow gaps or when you want to take advantage of opportunities that arise. That’s why so many business owners have turned to a business line of credit—according to a 2017 study by the Federal Reserve, a business line of credit was one of the top three most popular financing options amongst business owners who applied for financing.
But how easy is it to actually get a business line of credit? Your chances of getting a credit line largely depend on a few things: your qualifications, the lender, and type of credit line you want.
Most line of credit lenders require businesses to have at least a few years of history and healthy revenue numbers to qualify for a line of credit. Larger lines of credit may require additional requirements, such as collateral.
This can all seem intimidating — especially if you’re a new business. To make the process easier, we’ve laid out five straightforward steps to securing a business line of credit.
- Review your credit score and finances. Your credit score and financial history are a big part of your business line of credit application. A higher credit score will give you a better chance of getting approved.
- Compare your options. Compare your lending options (link to Part 2) to get an idea of how well you qualify for a business line of credit.
- Check the requirements. Traditional banks tend to be harder to qualify than other types of lenders.
- Know the cost. Some lenders are more costly than others. Make sure you know your interest rates and fees upfront from your lender.
- Gather documents and apply. When you’re ready, gather and submit your documents and business information, and you’re done!
Why consider a business line of credit?
A business line of credit is a convenient form of financing for businesses that want a flexible way to cover working capital expenses or finance growth opportunities. Whether you need funds to pay rent, cover payroll, purchase equipment or take on a new project, a business line of credit can create a cash cushion when you have cash flow gaps and want to keep your business running smoothly.
Business lines of credit are inexpensive to maintain, especially compared to other forms of financing (think term loans or merchant cash advances). Keeping one open costs virtually nothing—and just like how a personal credit card works, you’re only responsible for paying interest on the amount you draw.
Common business line of credit application mistakes
1. Not having a clear idea why you need the funds
You should always have a game plan when applying for a business line of credit or any form of financing. When we speak to potential clients, we want to make sure that the financing we’re offering fits into a longer term plan for the business.
Sometimes business owners obtain financing without a long-term strategy. Some businesses have applied for financing with us two months after getting a short-term loan with another lender. That limits what we can do for them because now they’re more leveraged. It affects what we could offer them. When there are liens on a business that might limit our offer. From what could have been a $50,000 credit limit, we’re now looking at $20,000.
2. Rushing through the application
If you’re a small business owner, it’s a given that you wear many hats and work very long hours. So when there’s a desperate situation and you need funds quickly, it may be tempting to rush through as many credit line applications as possible. Sadly, this can hurt your chance to obtain financing.
Simple errors can cause you problems, such as a typo in the EIN [employer identification number] or using the incorrect business address.
That’s why you should set aside at least an hour of your day to really focus on the application.
TIP: Make sure you list the best contact number or information. There are times when business owners put down the main business line or email even though they typically don’t answer calls on that line. So lenders end up not being able to get a hold of them, leaving business owners wondering why they haven’t gotten a response.
3. Being dishonest on the application
You may be tempted to over-state your financial standing on your application. Bad idea.
Lenders know that sometimes businesses are in a desperate situation. But don’t try to fudge the numbers, because that typically gets exposed in the end through their underwriting process. And once the lender finds out, it can really hurt your chances of getting a line of credit.
So keep this in mind: never compromise the integrity of your business.
Ready to get a line of credit?
A business line of credit is one of the most convenient forms of financing for businesses. Before applying, it’s important to consider your business’s financial health, know the rates, understand your options, and gather the appropriate documents. Make sure your application stands out by having a web presence, inputting the correct information, and being honest about your business financials.
This post originally appeared on the BlueVine blog at https://www.bluevine.com/how-to-get-a-business-line-of-credit/.
This is a guest post by Katie Bilek of Republic Capital Access.
Small businesses face a unique set of financial challenges as federal government procurement has evolved over the past few years. Here are some recent trends that stress small businesses:
Awards too large for a company’s financial wherewithal
The nature of the federal contracting environment has led to many out-sized contract awards to small businesses. It’s not uncommon for us to see a contractor win work that is at least 3 to 4 times the size of their existing portfolio of contracts. In many cases, this may be the result of desired efficiency, where a contracting officer chooses to merge multiple legacy contracts into a single vehicle.
More frequently, contracts are “flipped” from full and open to a small business preference (such as HUBzone, SDVOSB, etc.) to achieve set-aside goals, introducing the potential awardee to what was previously a large business task, most likely at the high end of their NAICS ceiling. It is important to have a financial institution that is prepared to triple or quadruple the size of your existing financing upon contract award.
Cost of pursuing indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) and blanket purchase agreement (BPA) contracts
While multi-billion (or trillion) dollar contract ceilings sound enviable for any small business owner, IDIQ/GWAC and BPA contracts are merely a license to hunt. We have seen many small businesses expend nearly all of their resources and cash reserves to win large IDIQ contracts. When they finally pursue task orders and hire key personnel in advance of execution, many lack the capital to perform the work.
Focus on cash flow projections and choose a financial partner who can provide financing based upon the creditworthiness of your government customer and contract, not your balance sheet.
Requirement to have financing in place in order to be compliant with bid
We have seen increasing scrutiny on the part of contracting officers to make sure small businesses can demonstrate financial capability to execute the contract in compliance with the FAR.
Many solicitations now require a financial capability letter from a financing institution citing the solicitation, description and a financing facility equal to at least three months’ worth of billings in. Your financial partner should be able to provide this commitment letter at no cost for future contract awards.
Challenges related to financing joint ventures
Unpopulated joint ventures are a popular teaming vehicle, yet the unpopulated joint venture structure itself often struggles to qualify for stand-alone financing without significant capital contributions or guarantees from its participating partners. Even when the JV partners maintain their own bank lines of credit independent from the JV, those banks are often unwilling to extend credit to the JV as an external entity.
Find a financial partner who will underwrite the unpopulated joint venture without requiring capital contributions from either party. This is done via non-recourse receivables financing.
Surges and volatility of product procurements
For value-added resellers, the federal fiscal year-end results in the lion’s share of revenue. For our small business friends holding NASA SEWP, CIO-CS and other contract vehicles, a combination of receivable and vendor financing is critical to executing large product orders.
While vendor credit programs can be affordable sources of financing, not all small business balance sheets can support 8-figure product orders on vendor credit alone; the non-recourse sale of receivables to pay vendors and manufacturers completes the financing package that allows resellers to execute during peak seasonal times. Choose a financial partner with a vendor financing solution with adequate availability for your largest product orders.
Loan sharks in sheep’s clothing
The prevalence of online, financial technology (FinTech) loans is startling. These fast money products are basically like an electronic version of payday loans for businesses, usually priced well above 30%.
They dress their virtual storefronts up in any manner of ways: the jeans-and-t-shirt, San Francisco techies; the self-proclaimed veteran lovers invoking images of patriotism, the Buy by Midnight! used car salesmen and the not-so-subtle cash advance lenders.
All of these lenders hawk financial products that are priced higher than most small business government contractor margins can support. Beware of online lenders, and always read the fine print; even if they tell you “It’s only 9%!” share the proposal with a banker who can shed light on the real math.
Republic Capital Access (RCA) is a specialty finance company for government contractors. RCA’s product offering includes non-recourse receivables financing, unbilled (mobilization) financing, financial commitment letters, joint venture financing, term loans and more. Katie Bilek currently serves as senior vice president of Republic Capital Access. She is also co-founder of govmates and board member of the National Veteran Small Business Coalition. Katie lives in Alexandria with her husband Beau and son Jackson.
This is a guest post by Eileen Kent, The Federal Sales Sherpa.
1. Reach out to a Procurement Technical Assistance Center who can help your connection register with the federal government – it’s free, and SAM.gov is the site. If you want to learn more about it, listen to this episode of my blog talk radio show. It’s not rocket science – but it’s the first step a company needs to take first before approaching anyone in the federal government.
2. Find basic training if you’re dabbling in the market and doing it yourself. For a small investment (often under $100 and sometimes free), attend a few SBA-sponsored local events or PTAC-sponsored local events, or listen to some of my connections’ webcasts, podcasts, and webinars (including The Federal Sales Sherpa Show).
3. If you’re serious about this market, purchase one-on-one training from federal sales experts who have “been there/done that” – and can customize the material for your business and your services. This is only for those wanting to stand up a team member – or hit the ground running. It’s refreshing and time saving to hear a non-government sponsored training – because an expert giving you the training will tell you the realities of what it truly takes to win federal contracts.
My training is called, “The Federal Sales Game-How to Play to WIN!” but others have something similar. You and your team need to learn the difference between the goals of the contracting officer and your customer on the inside – the END USER – who will need what you sell. You need to find and capture their attention, imagination, pain, needs, and perceived solutions. You also need training on clearly understanding contracting vehicles. What is a GSA Schedule, IDIQ, BPA, GWAC? What are set asides, 8(a), SDVOSB, HUBZone, EDWOSBs? Know the difference and understand the power of having these contract “bridges” or partnering with someone who does.
4. Build a strong capabilities statement, with provable, quantifiable best values. Follow this document up with several past performance/case studies ready to present in a capabilities briefing, stand-up field meeting, or webinar.
5. Perform a competitive analysis of the data, which is available at your fingertips WITHOUT BUYING A SUBSCRIPTION. Know how to use all the tools available to you that can uncover which agency buys what you sell, from whom and with what contract vehicle, so you know who to approach, what to say and how to differentiate yourself from their current provider.
Only buy a subscription when you understand the data you’re looking at and you plan to DO something with the intel uncovered. One client of mine just got a renewal for a subscription which is $20k a year now for them. Stop the madness! Wrap your head around the intel and stop living in it. It’s time to take that intel and DO something with it, such as make decisions about which contract vehicles (like GSA, Seaport-e, GWACS and such) to keep and which to drop.
6. Build a federal sales action plan focused around the 3-5 agencies who buy what you sell. Stop stumbling around the public bid sites and randomly bidding on contracts you think are “perfect for us.” Start developing relationships and finding the end users and program managers making decisions about purchasing like-products/services as yours and execute that plan.
What do I mean by execute? Simple. Call. Email. Ask for directions. Call again. Email. Email. Call. Email. Visit. Present. Follow up. Call again. Check in. Follow through. Ask for referrals. Email., Call. Share an article or a whitepaper. Call again, and again, and again. Develop comfortable relationships with federal clients who start to share with you what’s really happening, and whether or not they need you now or later. If they don’t need you now, who would they call on if they were you? This is a long-term process of relationship building and you can’t hire a 100% commission sales person or a consultant to do it for you. This needs to be someone who is involved with your company – invested. You need the A-Team out front. Customers don’t want to talk to someone who represents you – they want to talk to YOU.
7. Train your team on proposal writing and have a standby proposal consultant ready to help if you have a sudden need to respond to an RFP/RFQ. But understand the process so you don’t waste a dime on misunderstandings between you and your proposal team. You need to have a strong bid/no bid process so you don’t waste a minute on a loser. You need to understand win themes, evaluation criteria, the past performance you need to submit which fits the opportunity perfectly, the technical, and more. If you don’t, get training and find a strong proposal team. Put this statement on your wall: We Only Write Winning Proposals.
About the author: Eileen Kent is The Federal Sales Sherpa and helps companies one-on-one with training on the federal sales game, a deep dive competitive analysis on who buys what you sell from whom and with what contract vehicles and then she builds you a custom federal sales action. If you’re serious about this marketplace and ready to hit the ground running, contact Kent at 312-636-5381.
This is a guest post from Tonya Buckner of BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc.
One of my fellow scholars from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program called me recently to inquire about the difference between the 8(a) Program versus GSA Schedule, and why BucknerMT recently elected to get a GSA Schedule instead of pursuing the 8(a) Program. Below is what I shared with her:
8(a) Program versus GSA Schedule
It is important to understand that the 8(a) Program and GSA Schedule serve two totally different purposes. The first is a business development program to assist in growing your business and the second is a negotiated contracting vehicle for the government to purchase their services.
Both are great tools to grow your business. In fact, the SBA encourages 8(a) contractors to consider participating in the GSA Schedules program to increase their sales.
As you determine the next step for your business, here are a few things for you to consider:
- The 8(a) Business Development Program is a business assistance program designed to assist small disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace. It is a two-phased program over nine years – a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage.
- 8(a) program participants are consistently encouraged to “ensure you build a pipeline prior to entering the program.” Meaning, it is to critical to build relationships with both potential clients who may use your services, as well as graduating 8(a) companies who are potential partners. The goal is to maximize your time in the program.
- Having a GSA Schedule contract simplifies the acquisitions process because terms and pricing are negotiated up front. That makes it the contracting officer’s vehicle of choice. Getting a GSA contract gives you that prestige of being an approved vendor.
- The greatest benefits of being a schedule holder are that there is less competition, access to exclusive eBuy opportunities, and the average award period is two weeks. As well, GSA Schedules can be negotiated for as many as 20 years with step increases in rates.
- As a GSA holder, you will receive a listing in GSA Advantage and GSA eLibrary. However, you must also actively market your schedule to potential buyers, i.e., put it on your Capability Statement and all of your company’s digital media, and notify current and potential clients, your peers, OSDBUs, etc. We also shared our news in a blog post.
Both the 8(a) program and a GSA Schedule are great tools to grow your business. We are positioning BucknerMT for the 8(a) program, however we made a business decision to pursue the GSA IT70 Schedule first. This decision allowed us to position ourselves for prime opportunities and, most importantly, it is the method by which our target clients purchase their services. In the meantime, we are focusing on building our pipeline to maximize our time once we are in the 8(a) program.
Lastly, it is critical to understand and remember that both the 8(a) program and the GSA Schedule give you a license to fish, but neither guarantee opportunities. Working with the government is complex, but if you are willing to put in the effort, it is also very rewarding.
Tonya Buckner of BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc. is the Chief Executive Officer at Buckner Management & Technology, BucknerMT and TAPE are teaming together to find new business for our two companies.
I asked Tonya to contribute some thoughts about life as a subcontractor:
Last week at a BrewtonMos Procurement Readiness luncheon, TAPE CEO/President Louisa Jaffe spoke on a panel and shared the following pearls of wisdom:
- Be passionate
- Have a clear vision and mission
- Clearly define your brand early
- Learn about contracting
- Master the proposal development process
- Start with vision
I just finished reading Three Feet from Gold by Sharon Lechter, a book about turning your obstacles into opportunities. The premise of the book is in line with what Mrs. Jaffe shared today:
- Have passion for what you do
- Find your own personal success formula
- Choose good counsel, and above all:
- Never give up
Although the above relates to entrepreneurs in general, I believe it is that entrepreneurship spirit that also allows you to be a successful subcontractor. For specific lessons about being a subcontractor, I’ll close with the “BucknerMT 20 Commandments,” which is a list we created based on our own experience as a subcontractor. We use them as internal guiding principles.
- Always remember when you are working with the client, you represent the prime so do everything in your power to make them shine.
- Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You have to stretch yourself past your comfort zone.
- Constantly look for value you can contribute to your teaming partners (e.g., participate in proposal efforts and/or bring new business opportunities).
- While subcontracting, strategically position yourself for prime opportunities.
- Focus on building your corporate reputation while building the past performance.
- Focus on providing high quality business solutions.
- Understand the culture, clients, leadership and systems.
- Be committed to excellence.
- Strive to foster and maintain positive relationships with each and every client (both internal and external).
- Equip yourself to succeed in business (develop/maintain a growth plan).
- Consistently seek innovative ways to assist your client in meeting goal.
- Make continual education/training a priority.
- Never compromise your principles.
- Set a corporate financial base in which you want to maintain. Try not to put all your eggs in one basket; the work is NOT guaranteed!
- Be flexible.
- Be ready.
- Be reliable.
- Be responsive.
- Be patient.
BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc. (BucknerMT, Inc.) is a verified service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) and woman-owned small business (WOSB). From service strategy to continual service improvement, BucknerMT have deep domain knowledge and experience in information technology and supply chain management.
Since 2007, BucknerMT have supported the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) by providing services that include engineering, integrating, and sustaining critical military platforms and systems.
This is a guest post by Staci Redmon of SAMS.
Women entrepreneurs own 10.6 million businesses in the U.S., and employ 19.1 million people, who account for $2.5 trillion in sales. But according to the Kauffman Foundation, women represent only 35 percent of startup business owners, even though they represent about 46 percent of the workforce and more than 50 percent of college students.
So why aren’t there more women entrepreneurs?
One study, conducted by the University of North Carolina and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (and reported by National Public Radio) looked at 90,000 entrepreneurial projects launched on the crowdfunding website, Kickstarter. The study found that men are much more likely to be overconfident than women. When their project failed, they were much more likely to keep trying, while women tended to give up. Also, when women succeeded, they were more likely to feel that they just got lucky, while men feel that they are “geniuses.”
There is help for women entrepreneurs just starting out. The SBA set up its 8(a) Business Development Program to assist economically-disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs) to compete for federal contracts in industries where women-owned small businesses are underrepresented. Women and minority-owned businesses can get access to specialized business training, counseling, marketing assistance, and high-level executive development. The SBA also offers guaranteed loans and bonding assistance for being involved in the program. SAMS has benefited from its SBA designation, and has also become part of the Mentor-Protégé Program which helps other women entrepreneurs through one-on-one mentorship.
Building a business is not easy, and many women cite the same characteristics as helping them to achieve their dream.
Gayle King of CBS news talks about persistence as a trait helped propel her to achieve her goal. She advises would-be entrepreneurs to “surround yourself with people that are better than you, because it forces you to up your game. Most importantly, never take no for an answer.”
When Staci Redmon founded SAMS, it was important to her to develop core values, which still remain at the heart of the company. These are commitment to employees, commitment to the client, and commitment to the community.
Staci started SAMS out of sheer frustration. As a veteran and a civil servant, she watched as vital equipment for our warfighters was denied funding. She used her determination and commitment to service members to fuel her drive to create an organization with the vision to measure impact not by the bottom line, but by the difference it could make. Since its founding, SAMS has won numerous awards and has been hailed repeatedly as one of the fastest growing companies in Virginia.
Another entrepreneur, JK Rowling, also relied on persistence to overcome adversity. Her literary agency sent the book to 12 different publishers before it was accepted. Rowling says, “I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into the only work that mattered to me. I was set free.”
As women entrepreneurs continue to pursue their dreams, the path to success, while never easy, becomes clearer and less uncertain by following in the footsteps of those who came before.
You can find more about SAMS and Staci’s 2020 Vision for the Future on our website http://www.getsamsnow.com.
This article originally appeared at http://getsamsnow.com/blog-post/whats-preventing-women-becoming-entrepreneurs/ and was adapted and reprinted with permission.
Any company that is just trying to stay in business and “keep on, keeping on,” will not be profitable in the long run. When you really think about it, you know contracts will end and you will have to move on – what is your plan to replace those contracts?
The process for this is to have a pipeline of potential income. Think of your pipeline like a funnel. At the outer edge up at the top it’s very wide, because at first glance there are always many possibilities. That’s why the first and most important step is qualification, that is to ask:
- Does this customer have money?
- Does this customer have a problem that we can solve?
- Does the customer know that our company can solve their problem?
If you can answer those questions with yes, then you try and capture the work, which is to say shape it so that you are more qualified than other potential competitors (your OSDBU office may be able to help). Thereby (through this capture) you learn the things you need to do to bid successfully.
You always want your pipeline to be full at every level, so there is a mix of some opportunities you’re qualifying, some stuff you’re capturing, and some proposals you’ve already written and sent, that may or may not come to pass in various time frames. Flexibility is essential, as new things come along that may bump aside a well-qualified, or even well-captured opportunity.
So your pipeline will be filled not with oil or gas, but with a continuum of opportunities. Some might not become proposals for a year or even more from now, some things you might start writing in the next three or six months, some things you’re writing now, and then things you’re waiting for awards on.
The most important question is how to fill the top of the funnel. Of course we’ve talked many times about how relationships with the people you already know are the heart of your capture process. Even if a customer doesn’t have more work, they have friends in other agencies and contacts in other places they work for.
But your own contacts can only get you so far; sometimes you also need outside help. Along with proposal consultants, you can also hire people just to do the research and uncover new potential customers for you. There are always opportunities that you’re not going to hear about that these people will uncover.
Now if you’re only pursuing opportunities from these data sources, you’re probably not mining your own customers enough. You really need to determine if such a service would be worthwhile for you to have, and if the benefits outweigh the costs.
Having a full pipeline means when one contract ends, you don’t have to worry where the next job is coming from. The capture process for that one, and many others, is well under way.
In a previous post, we looked at the Small Business Administration’s FY2015 Small Business Scorecard for how federal agencies did in meeting their goals to set aside a specific percentage of contracts and award them to small businesses.
So one of the things we can see is we’ve got five departments that achieved 40% or more: Agriculture has 50%, Interior 55%, Transportation 51%, State 44% and Commerce 43%. In addition there are several in the 30s.
Five years ago, none of that would have been the case – departments issuing 30-55% of their total acquisition for the year to small businesses was simply unheard of. Today there is a true migration towards more and more activity, including very robust contract sizes, being awarded to small businesses. This is clearly represented in the scorecard.
I think this trend will continue, and there are several things that growing and mid-sized small businesses need to understand to be ready. As it always comes back to on this blog, it’s all about relationships. Here are some specific relationships to think about:
- Large business partners and bigger small business neighbors – When they are awarded some of these robust contracts, they are going to want to flip them to other small businesses. They’ll keep a share, of course, and though they can’t get more than a 49/51 split, this still gives them a piece of the revenue and can be a win-win-win for all sides (you as the small business, the bigger business, and the end customer).
- Potential mentors and/or protégés – Another thing that we are tracking is the emerging regulations on extending mentor-protégé joint venture arrangements to all specially certified businesses as well as regular small business, where this was previously limited to 8(a) businesses.
- Small business partners – It is important to build early and often good solid relationships with your competitors that are doing the same kind of work. In fact, if one of your partners already has previous relationship and experience with a customer, that will count towards your joint bid for new business with that customer.
- Seemingly limited departments – Use the scorecard to focus on the departments that are clearly moving more and more work to small business. For example, Interior and Agriculture may have awarded small amounts compared to the giant amounts spent at DoD or Homeland Security, but when you look at the percentages these are no longer less desirable prospects. It is possible to design a robust portfolio and pipeline of opportunities from agencies you may have previously thought of as limited.
As you do your strategic planning, look at these entities and percentages and make some decisions – not just about who your prospects are but who your partners are. Consider whether you will build a true mentor-protégé partnership with bigger companies, and also whether you’re in a position to mentor another small business or mid-sized small business.
This is a guest post by Eileen Kent, The Federal Sales Sherpa.
One of the biggest mistakes in federal contracting is to set up a keyword on FBO.gov and wait for the bid opportunities to land in your email Inbox and read yourself into them, “This is PERFECT for us!”
Another mistake is to consider writing a loser bid just because you think it’ll “Get our FOOT IN THE DOOR.”
But, the worst mistake in federal contracting, however, is to take a year of your time to fill out the GSA Schedule Application – when you have no proof that the agencies which buy exactly what you sell even use the GSA Schedule to procure your products and services! Even worse than that is to go through the pain of building this contract vehicle/bridge and waiting for the contracts to drive in the door.
Here’s a shocking fact: GSA drops contractors who are below the $25k minimum sales requirement after the first two years! Take a look at how they dropped 1,000 vendors off the IT70 schedule in 2014 as reported by Federal News Radio.
So what should you do when you see an opportunity that is a fit for your company?
First, comb the bid for names, numbers, addresses and locations and add them to your federal sales action plan or marketing database for your sales team to begin developing relationships for next time. You can find the contact intelligence at the bottom of the solicitation and sometimes you can find end user names hidden under the title of Contracting Officer Technical Representative.
Second, do your homework and take the time, before you write a bid, to make a rational bid/no-bid decision.
When everyone is seeing green and thinking “this is perfect for us” through an opportunity discovered on federal bidding website, take the time to perform a bid/no-bid decision and remember, the bid effort will cost you a lot of time and money.
Here are 10 questions to get the bid/no-bid discussion started:
- Who is the incumbent doing the work or delivering the products to that agency?
- Who is the Contracting Officer, the Contracting Specialist and anyone else involved in the process? What are their specific bidding protocols? What contract vehicle/hallway/bridge are they going to use? Do you have that exact contract and are you able to “reach” the bid or do you need to use a partner instead? Are they going to set it aside for a specific small business preference? Do you have it? Does a teaming partner have it?
- Is it posted at GSA eBUY or through the Acquisition Gateway through another contract vehicle/hallway like SeaPort-e or SEWP? Do you even know what the Acquisition Gateway is and do you have partners who will keep an eye out for the opportunity for you? If it’s posted on FBO.gov, why is it posted up there, when they could have easily used a current contracting vehicle/bridge/hallway?
- Do you know the story behind the posting of that bid? Are they looking for something so unique it’s difficult to find or is it such a high-profile project that they need to show publicly that they opened it up for all to see? Is it a multiple award Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract (MA-IDIQ)? If so, this doesn’t guarantee business – it’s a contract bridge, or vehicle, or hallway — so they can run tasks through it for the next one-five years. If you bid an MA-IDIQ are you ready to handle the sales activities to drive business across that MA-IDIQ? Do you have a proposal team ready to respond to the multiple bidding opportunities after the so-called MA-IDIQ “win”?
- Did your sales team talk to the end user shopping for this service or product and did your team help at all in the client’s discovery meetings prior to the bid? If you don’t think you’re allowed to do so, read the mythbuster articleat the Whitehouse website. It says yes you can speak with people prior to the bid being released, according to FAR 15.201 which says the government is encouraged to discuss innovations with industry.
- How do you know you’ll win? Do you know their budget (also called the Independent Government Cost Estimate or ICGE)? Do you have exactly what they told you they wanted? Do you understand the scope of work and do you have any intelligence about the scope besides what is written in the bid? Can you deliver on-time, within budget and still make money?
- Are you filling in gaps in the bid on areas you don’t cover and trying to find a partner at the bidding point?
- Are you offering the name brand they requested or the equivalent?
- Are you wasting the government’s time by asking way too many questions and supplying a shoe-horn fit proposal because you don’t understand the scope of work? How is this making you look good for future opportunities? How is this getting your foot in the door? Why not, instead, book a flight to the agency, and stick your foot in their door? In other words, why not start making calls for next time, build some relationships, set appointments, perform capabilities briefings and get to know them first?
- How many of these answers are while you’re “seeing green” or experiencing “wishful thinking?”
Third, if you are puzzled by these questions, you need to learn the federal sales and proposal game so you can walk into this marketplace, visiting the agencies who buy what you sell with intelligence about their current incumbents and understanding the appropriate strategies to go after business well before a bid hits the streets.
If you’re blindly writing a bid that is “perfect for us” to “get our foot in the door” and you’re “seeing green” with every opportunity that crosses your screen – with no intelligence whatsoever – you’re going to lose not only the bid but a lot of respect and heart from your employees who spent late nights and weekends preparing the bid just to appease you. You’re going to lose a lot of time and all of that hurts the bottom line.
Implement a bid/no-bid process and you’ll begin the realization that you need to invest more on sales activities prior to bidding opportunities – and less time writing proposals.
And in 2016 – make this your motto:
Write Less – Win More.
This post was originally published on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/did-you-find-federal-opportunity-posted-fbo-which-think-eileen-kent and was adapted and reprinted with permission.
Visit Eileen’s website, The Federal Sales Sherpa.