By Rieva Lesonsky
“Money makes the world go ‘round…” No one understands that line from the musical Cabaret more than small business owners and entrepreneurs. You need money to start, run, and grow a business.
Traditionally, money has been hard for small business owners to get. But it’s been a decade since the Great Recession began, and the economy is in a much better place today. But does that mean it’s easier for business owners to get financing?
To find out more about the state of small business lending, we talked to Brock Blake, the CEO and founder of Lendio, a lending marketplace, to get his insights.
Brock Blake, Founder and CEO of Lendio
Fundbox: In general, how would you rate the lending environment for small businesses today?
BB: There’s been a lot of talk of doom and gloom, but it’s actually the opposite. There are lots of reason to be optimistic going into 2018. The metrics we see are positive. Small businesses are healthy, growing and repaying their loans. They’re balancing providing great customer experience and focusing on delivering what consumers demand while managing the profitability of their businesses.
Businesses are more credit-worthy these days—and we’re seeing low default rates among those seeking capital. And there’s also a lot of innovation on the lender side. There are great lenders, including newer players, online lenders, and traditional banks all innovating.
Small businesses have more options today, there are more loan products for different use cases as lenders focus on specific areas businesses are in.
From a small business perspective, there’s never been a better time to get access to capital. There are lots of lenders, more options, all competing to gain access to the customer.
Have advances in technology, like cloud computing, made a difference?
BB: Yes. Underwriters can look at data to access creditworthiness. Lenders are better able to customize their products. They’re getting better at knowing certain industries, allowing lenders to focus on the wheelhouse of the customers they want to underwrite. If they stick to their sweet-spot, there’s a lot of promise.
There’s an ecosystem of credit and loan opportunities for business owners available today. A landscape of products. But business owners need to be educated about them.
BB: I agree. Business owners’ perceptions are a bank is a bank is a bank. If anyone is going to give me a loan it’s my bank and [they apply] and get declined. They don’t realize that bank only does one type of business loan. They think, “I got declined, I’ll get declined from everyone.” They don’t realize all the different types of funding products available. It’s overwhelming.
But today, there’s an “always on” application. For instance, in QuickBooks, a business owner can get an alert from them that they’re prequalified [for a loan]. “Click here, get $20,000.” The business owner may not be seeking a loan, but they think, “if I had the money…that’s interesting, I’m going to pursue it.”
Money is being pushed, not pulled today. No one wants to apply for a loan and be declined. So, it’s [better] for the entrepreneur and less risky for the lender.
Are more business owners seeking capital?
BB: We see volume and demand continuing to increase.
Are there specific types of businesses/industries currently looking for funding?
BB: Retailers, in general, have more working capital needs. Restaurants too, as well as consumer-facing companies and seasonal businesses. There’s more inconsistency around these businesses. But, small businesses across the board need money. On average, businesses need access to capital every three quarters.
Do small businesses have to be more in tune with being global companies?
BB: The internet changed everything. Just selling locally is not enough. Small businesses need to embrace digital marketing. They have to reach new audiences in ways that are highly compelling.