Posted at 12:48 PM
Created on May 28, 2015
Cash flow is the lifeblood of all small businesses. Across the nation, thousands of small firms are searching for term loans, equipment financing, lines of credit, invoice financing, and real estate loans to help them build their business and create new jobs. Finding a business loan can be time consuming, and often times frustrating and disappointing.
Changes in technology have made the process of finding and securing a small business loan less tedious and time consuming. Online matchmaking services, pairing lenders with prospective borrowers, comprise a multibillion dollar industry. Examples include the TV commercial in which a creditworthy home buyer goes online and is delighted to find banks competing to finance her home. Small business lending is the next frontier for these online “matchmaking” services. Using the power of the Internet, commercial lenders are finding creditworthy business borrowers, while entrepreneurs are finding loan officers who are ready to sit down and talk specifics.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) not only supports this concept, we’re implementing and embracing it. Recently, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet announced a new agency initiative called LINC (Leveraging Information and Networks to access Capital). Our commercial loan matchmaking service will help entrepreneurs get a “date” with a lender. SBA spent months surveying its lending partners to discern what critical information they require from prospective borrowers before a loan application will be considered. Based on those discussions, we’ve developed a simple online form with 20 questions that takes less than 15 minutes to complete and submit. Once completed, the form is sent to participating SBA lenders in an applicant’s county, as well as financial institutions with a statewide or national reach.
While a positive preliminary response from a lender does not ensure the entrepreneurs will receive a loan, it does put them on a fast track because they will have already been pre-screened. If LINC doesn’t produce an immediate match, entrepreneurs will be directed to their local SBA adviser for additional assistance with their loan application. It is a win-win-win for the business owner, lender, and the SBA.
LINC is expanding small business lending options beyond someone’s local bank. Instead, technology can help them get their foot in the door based on their merits at one of many commercial lenders nationwide. This new program has allowed the SBA to become more innovative and creative in the way it does business given current technology.
SBA is rolling out LINC in two phases. First we’re connecting small business owners with nonprofit lenders that offer free financial advice and specialize in microlending, smaller loans (our Community Advantage program), and real estate financing (our 504 program). Phase one began in early April and is off to a strong start. We already have participating LINC lenders in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Later this year, in phase two, we plan to add more traditional banks that offer an even wider array of financial products. In the longer term, we also believe LINC could be modified to facilitate government contracting by connecting eligible small businesses with procurement officers, prime contractors, and federal buyers. I am proud to say that the SBA is changing with the times and has embraced technology in meeting the needs of small businesses in 2015 and beyond. For more information on LINC, or to apply for a business loan, visit www.sba.gov/tools/linc .