Category: Small Business

End of Year Checklist for Your Small Business

November 20th, 2017 by

The end of the year is a good time to take stock of your business – review your accomplishments from this year and plan for next year.

In this infographic, we’ll give you some ideas on getting started and what you might want to include in your checklist. Take a look, and build on this list to close out your business year on a positive note and get prepared for a successful 2018!

Small Business End of Year Chceklist

7 Steps to Creating a Business Plan

October 23rd, 2017 by

To give your business the best possible chance of success, you need a business plan. Whether you’ve been in business for a while or you are in the planning stages for your new business, a business plan is key.

A good business plan lets you measure your achievements, attract investors, secure financing, and serves as a roadmap for your business success.

There are many templates available to help you, but generally, you want to answer what, why, who, how, and when. To help you think about creating this very important document, check out the points in this infographic. In addition, we’ve listed a number of online resources you may find helpful.

7 steps to writing a business plan


• SBA’s online course learning – How to Write a Business Plan
• HubSpot provides a step-by-step example
• SCORE mentors offer multiple business plan resources
• SCORE mentors recorded webinar on the elements of a nimble business plan

Financial Planning for Your Business

October 2nd, 2017 by

5 C's of Credit
October is Financial Planning Month, and financial planning is as important for your business as it is for your personal finances.

Are you thinking about starting a business or are you already a business owner? You will probably need money for your business at some time. So, what do you need to do to prepare for a meeting with a lender to talk about a business loan?

A business plan that answers the important questions – what, why, who, how, when – is important to present to a lender. Showing your knowledge and ability to run the business, and being able to demonstrate how the business will make enough money to pay back the loan is key.

Thinking about the 5 C’s of Credit will also help you prepare for a conversation with a lender. These 5 C’s delineate the information a lender is looking for in a business to determine the creditworthiness.

For more information and resources for your business, visit our Small Business page.

How to Boost Your Small Business Credit Score

June 27th, 2017 by

Are you a small-business owner who’s not getting the love you need from lenders? Are suppliers insisting on terms you find downright unfriendly?

The common denominator may be a poor business credit score. Here are some steps you can take to fix it.

What goes into your business credit score?

Just like a personal credit score, a business credit score measures the level of risk you pose for a lender. Unlike personal credit scores, most of which adhere to the FICO model, business credit scores don’t follow an industry standard.

The three major bureaus — Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian — use different methods to compile and monitor business credit (more…)

Bank Accounts to Open for Your Small Business

May 15th, 2017 by

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when starting a business is choosing the right bank accounts. As an entrepreneur, you’ll want to make sure you don’t mix your personal finances with your business money: If your cash isn’t kept separate, it could be hard to meet IRS record keeping requirements, and that could lead to tax penalties. Opening new accounts in your company’s name is typically a better practice.

Having separate bank accounts could also help limit your personal liability. Say someone were to sue your company; your business assets might be at risk, but your personal assets would likely be protected from legal action.

Here’s a look at three common types of accounts to consider for your company. (more…)

Obstacles Facing Women Business Owners — and How to Overcome Them

May 8th, 2017 by

The number of women-owned businesses has risen dramatically in recent years, a healthy sign for those who value greater diversity in the nation’s economy.

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of women-owned firms increased at a rate 2½ times the national average (52% vs. 20%) and employment at women-owned firms grew at a rate 4½ times that of all firms (18% vs. 4%). In 2015, for the first time, the government met its goal of awarding 5% of federal contracts to women-owned small businesses.

But such gains must be put in perspective. For example:

  • Women-owned firms make up about one-third of all businesses in the U.S., but they receive less than 5% of all available loan dollars, according to a 2014 report by members of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
  • Women-owned businesses are smaller than average, employing only 7% of the private-sector workforce. More than 9 out of 10 women-owned firms have no employees other than the owner.


How to Boost Your Small Business Credit Score

May 1st, 2017 by

Are you a small-business owner who’s not getting the love you need from lenders? Are suppliers insisting on terms you find downright unfriendly?

The common denominator may be a poor business credit score. Here are some steps you can take to fix it.

What goes into your business credit score?

Just like a personal credit score, a business credit score measures the level of risk you pose for a lender. Unlike personal credit scores, (more…)

SBA Loans – What You Might Not Know

April 10th, 2017 by

The Small Business Administration is a great resource for those who are starting or growing a small business. SBA loans offer an alternative to traditional lending, which can be difficult for small businesses. As an SBA-preferred lender, Howard Bank’s expertise can make the process much more streamlined. Here are some things you might not know about an SBA loan.


SBA Loans

SBA Loans: Why Howard?

March 1st, 2017 by

If you have a small business, and you need a loan, or maybe you have had some trouble getting a conventional loan, an SBA-backed loan may be the best choice. Small Business Administration loans offer affordable financing options, with small businesses more easily meeting the lending qualifications than for traditional loans. small business

SBA loan is a bit of a misnomer. The SBA doesn’t actually lend money directly to businesses. A bank makes the loan, and then in turn works with the SBA to get a guarantee between 50% and 90% of the loan. If the bank has experience with SBA and they are a Preferred Lender it is even easier to work with the SBA. So, choosing the right lender is important.

With SBA-preferred lender status and SBA Champion, Rosa Scharf, Howard Bank is a good choice as a lending partner. “The delegated authority from the SBA (that’s what the SBA-preferred status signifies) means that we have a 99.9% chance of getting the loan through the SBA process and approved. Howard’s size and position [in the region] means that we are much more nimble and flexible than larger SBA lenders, and usually the first one at the table.”

This competitive edge also provides the business more focused and local attention and knowledge. “You need a partner, and you’re getting the same level of expertise as the other banks, but I just have to walk down the hall to talk to the credit decision makers,” notes Ms. Scharf. There is no call to Raleigh or Buffalo. There is no need to sell the market to the person making the loan decision. He or she is local and understands the value of the local market.

Howard Bank offers the same level of service for a half a million-dollar company as for a ten-million-dollar company. The products change and needs change a little, but in general you need the same advice.

I can’t change the rules. They are what they are. But I can make it a little less painful.

The Howard Advantage

Howard Bank’s experience means we understand the SBA and how it works, and what can get done.  We are the perfect partner to shepherd you through the process.

“That’s where my 20 years of doing it comes into play,” says Rosa. “And that’s what I tell prospects. I can’t change the rules. They are what they are. But I can make it a little less painful. Because of my experience, early on when I’m talking to someone, I can say, ‘These are going to be our hurdles from an eligibility standpoint.’ So, you don’t have to go through a loan process for three months, and then say, ‘Oh, we can’t do it.’  I can tell you up front what qualifies and what doesn’t qualify.”


Seven Things You Probably Don’t Know About SBA Loans

February 16th, 2017 by

SBA-backed loans provide affordable financing options for small businesses that may have difficulty obtaining financing via traditional channels. Howard Bank is a preferred lender for loans that are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

Here are seven things you probably don’t know about SBA loans:

  1. The SBA doesn’t actually lend directly to businesses.
    The bank makes the loan, and then works with the SBA to get them to guarantee between 50% and 90% of the loan.
  1. Personal credit is important in the SBA loan process.
    Especially with true startups, there is usually no credit history for the business and little collateral, so the credit history of the business owner(s) is significant. The owners’ credit history is an indication of how they handle credit.
  1. The SBA won’t deny a loan because of collateral (lack of), but all collateral must be taken into account
    The SBA requires the bank to consider all available collateral for the loan request. This could include the business owner’s equity in their home, vacation home, etc.
  1. Quality is more important than quantity when you are deciding whether to apply.
    Business Plans should be concise and cover the important details. The What, Why, Who, How and When of your business.
  1. Banks are interested in small business loans.
    Banks in general, and Howard Bank specifically, are very interested in helping small businesses grow and become really good bank customers. The SBA is a great tool that helps Howard Bank add value to the businesses in the communities we serve.
  1. The SBA process doesn’t take as long as most people think.
    Especially with an experienced SBA-preferred lender like Howard Bank, it is easy to navigate this process smoothly and avoid any potential obstacles. The experience Howard adds cannot change the SBA rules, but it does make it a lot less painful!
  1. Borrowers must be a small for profit business in order to be eligible for an SBA loan.
    A business must meet size standards to qualify for an SBA loan. Generally this means $7.5 million or less in revenue and 500 employees or less (depending on the industry).

With more than 20 years of SBA-backed lending experience, Rosa Scharf is the SBA Champion at Howard Bank, who works to provide SBA loan solutions to small businesses in various industries.

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