If you’re a business owner, you know time is a precious resource. But did you know it can also play a major role in securing financing? That’s because many lenders include “time in business” as a factor when evaluating applications for financing.
Lenders often require that a business be established for a minimum number of months before it is eligible for small business financing.
“Time in business is an important factor lenders and banks look at when evaluating a financing applications,” says Katherine Li, head of product marketing at BlueVine, which provides small business owners with flexible lines of credit. “Businesses that have been operating for more than a year generally have a stronger chance of being approved for small business loans. That’s because by the one-year mark it is assumed that you’ve already achieved some kind of momentum and more likely to be able to take on more debt obligations.”
Time In Business General Guidelines
How long does your business need to operate before it will qualify? Here are some general guidelines, though it’s important to keep in mind that every lender has its own standards:
- Business credit cards – 1 day in business
- Equipment financing – 6 to 12 months in business
- Accounts receivable financing – 3+ months in business
- Lines of credit – 6 to 12 months in business
- Term loans – 12 to 24+ months in business
The average number of months in business required by lenders in Nav’s marketplace is 24 months. A few lenders do not have a minimum time in business requirement, some are much shorter, and the longest is 84 months. (Nav helps match small business owners to financing options and works with a wide variety of lenders offering various types of financing.)
Tips For Success
Here are some strategies for ensuring that time in business is a positive factor, and not a hurdle, when it comes to growing your business.
If you are thinking about starting a business, consider launching it sooner rather than later, even if you start small or start it as a side hustle. That’s what Kitson Walker did when he started his facilities support service company, EBS-4U Inc. He started it while he still had a full-time job, knowing that the sooner it was established, the sooner he would meet the required time in business if he needed financing.
2.Make It Official
Creating a formal business structure such as an LLC, C-corp or S-corp will require you to register your business with your state. That will not only give you an official start date for your business but it can also put your business on the radar at business credit reporting agencies. They often collect business registration information from Secretaries of State or state Departments of Corporations and add new businesses to their commercial credit reporting databases.
If you decide to operate as a sole proprietor, registering your business name and/or getting a business license through your state may help serve a similar purpose. Ideally, though, you’ll want to consider establishing a business entity as soon as possible.
3.Get A Business Bank Account
If you haven’t already opened a business bank account, consider doing so. Having a business bank account can help establish time in business even if you haven’t Incorporated. Plus it might just help you get financing. A Nav survey of small business owners found that the majority — 70% – of business owners without a business bank account were rejected for financing.
“Most alternative lenders will work with you as long as you have a bank account dedicated to your business and can show a consistent revenue stream,” says Ben Westerman, credit & lending manager at Nav.
4.Don’t Leave It To Chance
If you start your business as a sole proprietor and later decide to incorporate it, make sure you don’t lose the time in business you’ve already established. If you are not proactive, you will essentially have to start all over again which may cause you to lose out on valuable opportunities.
Westerman advises business owners who are incorporating a business they’ve been running as a sole proprietorship to consider filing a name change and transfer the EIN— by notifying the IRS and state agencies (such as the Secretary of State or business licensing agency)– rather than start all over again as a brand new company.“Business owners often times will just start a new LLC, without transferring their EIN (Employer Identification Number),” he warns.
5.Build Business Credit
Once you’ve started your business it’s a good idea to establish accounts with lenders and vendors that will report payment history to the business credit bureaus. This will help you start to build a business credit history. Some lenders will check business credit and may look at the information the business credit bureaus report to confirm the time in business you stayed on your application.
You can get business credit cards and vendor accounts for a brand new business as long as you otherwise qualify. (Here are three vendors that will help you build credit.) For small business credit cards, for example, you typically must have a personal credit score in the mid-to-high 600’s or above, and adequate income from all sources.
If you have obtained credit in the name of your business, whether it’s a small business credit card, a vendor account, or any other type of financing, make sure you notify those lenders if you subsequently incorporate and change your business name. “Making sure they have the new name and address (if applicable) is key,” warns Westerman, adding that if you don’t correct it, information may be reported to the commercial credit bureaus under the old business name or address. The previous business name may not get associated with your new business and rob you of valuable credit references.