Depending upon your lender and the nature of your loan, you may or may not need all of these documents to apply. Regardless of whether or not you need them all, because depending upon the type of lender you choose they may or may not require all of them, it’s a good idea to have this information at your fingertips.
Below are listed some important documents—some may be required by your lender.
Even though most people don’t start a small business because they’re super excited about the financial reports that are part of the operation of a business, it’s important to make sure you have a good understanding of what the included reports on this list are telling you about your business. I once spoke with a loan officer who said, “If I can tell more about a business by looking at the financial reports than the business owner, I don’t approve the loan.”
1. Your business financial statements: These include a current Profit and Loss (P&L) Statement including any supplementary schedules from the last three fiscal years, a Cash Flow statement, and your Balance Sheet. All of these reports should be current within the last 60 to 90 days.
2. Bank Statements: In addition to the above-mentioned financial statements, some lenders require the last three months of your business bank statements. Many lenders want to verify that you have a business banking account and that you have the cash flow to make the periodic payments.
3. Any current loan documents or lease agreements: If you currently have a small business loan or equipment lease, you’ll want to disclose those current commitments and be prepared with those documents. It’s also a good idea to have your business lease, if you lease the property where you do business or the mortgage on your business property if you own the property.
4. Income tax returns: You’ll need the last three years of signed income tax returns for both your business and your personal taxes. Many online lenders are willing to work with a business owner who has only been in business for a year, so you may not need three years of business tax returns if applying with an online lender.
5. Your personal financial information: For most small business owners, your personal financial history will be part of the criteria many lenders use to evaluate your credit-worthiness. This is particularly true if your business is very small or hasn’t been in business for many years. You should also expect to sign a personal guarantee if you are offered a loan. It’s also a good idea to know your personal credit score.
6. Ownership and affiliations: Be prepared to disclose any other businesses you have a financial interest in, and if you have partners, they may need to sign any documents related to the loan you’re applying for. If this describes you, the lender may want to see the documentation associated with those ownerships and affiliations.
7. Your business license: You’ll want to have your business license handy, and if you’re business is incorporated, your corporate seal. Many lenders will also need to see proof of a business checking account.
8. A business plan: Although many lenders don’t require a detailed business plan, it is a requirement at many traditional lenders like the bank. The SBA will often require a business plan when applying for a loan within one of their loan guarantee programs. Nevertheless, whether or not it’s a requirement, it’s a great exercise to go through and well worth the effort as you plan for your business success.
Having this information at your fingertips when sitting across the desk, or on the phone, with a loan officer will help streamline the application process—particularly if you’re prepared to answer questions about the documents. And, while some lenders won’t require all these documents and others might need more information, this is a great way to demonstrate to any lender that you are prepared to seriously talk about a small business loan.