Archive for June, 2012

Credit Unions: An Alternative to Community Bank Financing of Small Business Loans


I read a blog post today about how banks have started to lend to small business again. Considering the bad treatment banks have given their customers I wonder how they will treat small businesses after cutting off lines of credit and other lending to them during the financial crisis. I suggest considering the credit union as an alternative to a bank for small business lending. Personally, I like getting treated as a person instead of as a commodity and credit unions have many advantages. I just opened an account with a credit union and I found the I received much better treatment and the credit union valued not just my business, but me as a person.

I remember an SBA loan I had with a small bank that a larger bank later took over. For several years the bank and I had a good relationship. One day I received a notice the larger bank had bought the bank and the new bank no longer wanted SBA loans as part of its business. The new management made it difficult to preserve the good relationship by charging new fees for everything imaginable. A few years into the recent financial crisis I saw this bank on a list of the banks the Fed had shut down.

Because small business financing sources have evaporated during the global recession, small business should consider using credit unions. Credit union unlike small banks are cooperative nonprofit organizations. As nonprofit organizations credit unions have an exemption from tax resulting in lower costs allowing them more latitude in making loans. Credit unions also enjoy  lower costs from volunteer labor and employer sponsorship giving them the ability to offer lower rates. Besides offering small business loans, credit unions also offer other products like credit cards and car loans (Feinberg & Rahman, 2006).

The trend is for large banks to buy smaller banks especially in larger markets. This trend has resulted in less lending to small businesses causing a need for alternative funding sources like credit unions to service small businesses. Consolidating small banks has created less of an interest in small business lending. The lack of interest stems from the difficulty large banks have dealing with soft data, the more hierarchical bank’s need for more approvals, and lower credit supplies by the larger organization (Ely & Robinson, 2009).

Oriz-Molina and Penas (2008) found one way to mitigate opaque risk from small business is to shorten loan terms to watch the progress of small businesses. The more conventional approach is to want greater collateral over a longer term. Credit unions also have the ability to gain a better understanding of owners’ personal wealth. Although credit unions can focus on better addressing opaque risks using these approaches, larger banks often rely on credit scoring to approve small business loans to achieve a competitive advantage (Immergluck & Smith, 2003).

Despite the ability of larger banks to gain a competitive advantage in lending to small business, credit unions are closer to small business customers and able to forge better relations. Large banks have shown poor behavior in recent years making them less attractive than more personal, smaller thrift institutions. For example, banks have added new fees and restricted lending to only the strongest small businesses. Improved relations with small businesses promotes long-term relations despite shorter lending terms.

Consolidating small community banks into larger banks has caused banks to become less personal and more selective. Credit unions fill a social gap in the market because of consolidation of these community banks and the cost advantage they have from the nonprofit status. Credit unions can expand from solely personal to more commercial lending to fill this gap.

What sources have you considered for your business in achieving financing? Are credit unions part of the mix? Do you want to know more about the value of commercial lending by credit unions? Find out more about how you can benefit.

References

Ely, D. P., & Robinson, K. J. (2009). Credit unions and small business lending. Journal of Financial Services Research, 35(1), 53-80. doi: 10.1007/s10693-008-0038-3

 Feinberg, R. M., & Rahman, A. F. M. A. (2006). Are credit unions just small banks? Determinants of loan rates in local consumer lending markets Eastern Economic Journal, 32(4), 647-659. doi: 1241333261; 35361511; 11879; EEJ; INNNEEJ0000065491

 Immergluck, D., & Smith, G. (2003). How changes in small business lending affect firms in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship, 8(2), 153-175. doi: 502848551; 8351081; 38473; DVEN; INODDVEN0000469300

Ortiz-Molina, H., & Penas, M. F. (2008). Lending to small businesses: the role of loan maturity in addressing information problems. Small Business Economics, 30(4), 361-383. doi: 10.1007/s11187-007-9053-2

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Another Episode from my Marathon Experience: The Triathlon


In another post I related my marathon experience to starting a new business. Let me tell you about the next episode related to my running experience. One of the people I met while training for the marathon included an avid triathlete. I started running with Bill who ran much faster than me, but liked shorter distances and preferred the challenge of the triathlon. Bill excelled most in biking, but ran fast at shorter distances. Bill often finished in the top three of his age group. Bill motivated me to buy a bike and learn how to swim. Soon after, I started training for my first triathlon. Unlike Bill, I found biking the hardest to learn and I had a fear of the water inhibiting me from learning to swim.

The triathlon taught me how to take on new tasks similar to learning new tasks involved in starting a business. Someone starting a new business has to learn new tasks all the time. The founder of a new business often fears new tasks just as I feared learning how to swim. Yet, as I jumped in the pool every day and started to swim laps, I started to enjoy swimming because it provided solitude and relaxation in the water without the pounding of running. I found this similar to a new business owner because sometimes a new business owner has to step back in solitude and reflect on what he or she wants to do. The founder of a new business continually seeks new ways to make the business fit and productive. Imagine having the resources to learn new tasks to avoid fear and learn new tasks.

Learning to bike created new challenges a as I learned to stay with the pack by drafting. I found bikers stayed close together in a pack to preserve energy and keep pace with other bikers. I also found this strategy is not without risk. I learned quickly if one biker went down, many would go down and when bikers go down together they are in great danger of injury. I also learned the best bikers pick themselves back up and continue the race despite their injuries. Good bikers learn from other bikers in the pack about preventing the danger and sticking with the pack. Experienced bikers work as a team to prevent mass wipe outs and hang together in unison.

Savvy entrepreneurs are much like the biker because they continually scan what other people in their business do. Entrepreneurs learn to keep pace and stay together to reach their goals, but sometimes take a spill and have to pick themselves back up and move forward. Risk is inherent in entrepreneurship and a business owner has to accept failure as a path to success. The savvy entrepreneur learns from mistakes and shares with allies to prevent further wipeouts. Think about having the resources of a team to avoid mistakes by working as a team.

When race day finally came I became nervous and had doubts about completing the race. When the gun went off I plunged into the water and began to flail away as people swam over me and bumped into me. I kept lunging forward and noticed the cold water had taken my breath away unlike the pleasing temperature I became accustomed to at the pool. I began hyperventilating and thought I would drown, but I kept stroking away and moving forward. I finally reached a turnaround buoy and caught my breath even though I had no safety outlet as I did in the pool. I started feeling good and could see the shore coming within reach. I realized I would make it to shore and still many people had struggled behind me.

Entrepreneurs also have their doubts when first starting out, but successful ones keep moving forward toward their goals. A business founder also takes his licks and recovers despite unfamiliar conditions. Sometime the entrepreneur feels like he is drowning, but catches a second wind by moving toward the goal. Successful entrepreneurs struggle just like the triathlete, but keeps the goal in sight and moves toward it. Imagine training diligently for an event like the triathlon and not finishing. Not finishing is not a choice for the entrepreneur. With a good coach the entrepreneur can find the encouragement to keep moving toward the finish line.

Upon finishing the swimming leg, I ran toward my bike and found my biking gear and prepared to mount my bike. The transition entailed finding my gear in a sea of athletes, bikes, and gear. I had to change and put on my socks and shoes after drying myself off with a towel. I watched others with more experience than myself who had the transition down to a science and minimized the time to launch into the biking leg of the race. Although I did not do too bad, I learned how to become more efficient by making the transition more of a process. I learned experienced triathletes practice the transition just like they do the three main legs of the race.

The transition taught me I can improve with experience just as an entrepreneur improves with experience. A small business also becomes more efficient the more process-oriented it can become. The entrepreneur learns how to become more efficient just like the triathlete in the transition phase. Consider how the entrepreneur can improve having someone with experience showing him or her the way instead of learning on the fly.

Once I began the biking leg I realized the pack of bikers I had to draft on had shrunk because instead of starting together, bikers began at different times following the swimming leg. I found I had to work harder to find enough bikers on which to draft and not let go. In some places I peddled by myself without a pack. I had no idea how to use what I learned in training.

An entrepreneur also faces uncertainties when conditions change unexpectedly. Just as the triathlete faces the lack of a pack on which to draft, the entrepreneur experiences unknown conditions through which to navigate by taking action. The entrepreneur at times feels alone without any support. The entrepreneur must work harder to find a solution just like the triathlete does without a pack. Imagine how the entrepreneur can improve by having some experience with change and how to adapt to it. Good entrepreneurs must learn to manage change just like a new triathlete.

As I approached the final leg I faced another transition from the bike to the run. The transition mainly entailed dismounting the bike and changing shoes. Again, I found experienced triathletes practiced the transition to cut down their time. The experienced triathlete made the transition so smooth it took very little time. Zaleski (2011) found entrepreneurs with experience have a competitive advantage.

The entrepreneur has to learn every facet of a business and gets better with practice, just like the seasoned triathlete. Entrepreneurs make running the business smooth through developing the right processes and checking them for problems. Although the triathlete measures the transition with time, the entrepreneur uses specific metrics to measure efficiency of different processes to develop a good working model. Blanchflower (2004) found entrepreneurs improve the chance of success by having a higher educational level. However, one does not need a traditional education to learn what the entrepreneur needs to succeed. Entrepreneurs learn on the fly.

As I started the run, I reaffirmed the running leg is my strength because I already had experience as a runner. I settled into a nice rhythm and looked for other runners to pace. Again, I found the field of runners much more spread out because of not starting all at once. However, I did find many people running on empty I could easily pass. I gained speed as I approached the finish because a 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) running leg is much shorter than a 26-mile marathon. I had the long-distance conditioning in my favor. Whatever time I lost in the swim and bike, I made up for in the run. I finished in a good time, but still could improve by learning from my experience.

The entrepreneur is similar to the triathlete because both gain from experience and learn along the way. Both the entrepreneur and the triathlete learn to pace themselves and deal with unknown conditions. Action is critical to both the entrepreneur’s and triathlete’s success, and both strive to achieve fitness.

Do you have the tenacity of the entrepreneur? Act now if you do and learn more.

References

Blanchflower, D. G. (2004). Self-Employment: More may not be better. (10286). National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w10286.

Zaleski, P. A. (2011). Start-ups and external equity: The role of entrepreneurial experience. Business Economics, 46(1), 43-50. doi: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/be/index.html

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Distinguishing the Forest from the Trees


Small businesses have several tools to use in planning to work toward its goals and broader mission. A business must both look at the forest and the trees in working toward its goals and mission. The business must both look at the big picture as well as specific measures it can use to reach the mission and improve performance. A business looking at the big picture has to decide where it fits in the economy by filling gaps and developing a business model. To reach the forest, one must navigate through the trees to see a path to bring the big picture into focus.

Humanistic management tools like six sigma statistical measures to improve work routines and customer service leading to competitive advantage. For example, leaders in the past did not view human resource management as an executive role, but with statistical methods have ramped up human resource management to a more prominent position. Executives before taking advantage of this innovation looked at human resources as a more of an administrative task processing employee records, planning and scheduling training, and aiding in employee selection. The ability to add value to the organization has lifted human resource management to a new level (Fazzari & Levitt, 2008). Six sigma is a project-driven approach designed to improve processes and products by continually reducing defects allowing an organization to improve strategic planning efforts through heightened coaching and mentoring (Hekmatpanah, Sadroddin, Shahbaz, Mokhtari, & Fadavinia, 2008).

Although six sigma offers statistic tools to improve strategic planning, strategic planning is the center of quality control. Strategic planning helps management by supplying factual information affecting decision-making and promoting critical thinking and risk analysis  (Burge, 2008). Strategic planning assesses the big picture, whereas humanistic tools focus on specific parts of an organization’s systems and processes. Strategic planning highlights gathering business intelligence related to the overall vision to improve operational and financial performance (Glaser & Stone, 2008).

Baldvinsdottir, Burns, Norreklit, and Scapens (2009) asserted that balanced scorecard theory provides management accountants with innovative promising quick fixes to business problems. Baldvinsdottir et al. argued that balanced scorecard offers a well-rounded view rather than a narrow focus to business problems. This approach highlights the right performance signals to help move an organization toward achieving competitive advantage. Balanced scorecard is useful in promoting group productivity by filtering out poor ideas and carrying through worthy ideas (Hughes, Caldwell, Paulson Gjerde, & Rouse, 2005).

Both strategic planning to identify the big picture, and humanistic techniques like balanced scorecard and six sigma help in clearing the path for a company to work towards its mission. These two procedures work in harmony with one another and are not exclusive of each other. The trees are part of the larger forest and develop a path toward planned growth.

How do you distinguish the forest from the trees in your organization? Please leave a comment. Learn more.

References

Baldvinsdottir, G., Burns, J., Norreklit, H., & Scapens, R. (2009). The management accountant’s role. Financial Management (14719185), 33-34. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=44479842&site=ehost-live

Burge, R. (2008). Quality’s center point. Industrial Engineer: IE, 40(6), 42-46. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=31962040&site=ehost-live

Fazzari, A. J., & Levitt, K. (2008). Human resources as a strategic partner: Sitting at the table with Six Sigma. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 19(2), 171-180. doi: 10.1002/hrdq.1233

Glaser, J., & Stone, J. (2008). effective use of business intelligence. hfm (Healthcare Financial Management), 62(2), 68. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=29363737&site=ehost-live

Hekmatpanah, M., Sadroddin, M., Shahbaz, S., Mokhtari, F., & Fadavinia, F. (2008). Six Sigma process and its impact on the organizational productivity. Proceedings of World Academy of Science: Engineering & Technology, 45, 375-379. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=35136399&site=ehost-live

Hughes, S. B., Caldwell, C. B., Paulson Gjerde, K. A., & Rouse, P. J. (2005). How groups produce higher-quality balanced scorecards than individuals. Management Accounting Quarterly, 6(4), 34-44. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=18733218&site=ehost-live

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Balancing Linear and Nonlinear Thinking in an Entrepreneurial Setting


Imagine how entrepreneurs differ in their thinking from people running larger businesses. Linear thinking means a person thinks sequentially. Nonlinear thinking is different because no order exists in how a person thinks. I remember a situation I had highlighting the difference in these ways of thinking. Entrepreneurs embrace a more balanced approach employing both linear and nonlinear thinking skills.

To explain, I remember when I went to residency training for my doctoral work when an professor placed us in teams for a project. I had one member of my team with a military background. Although I found my previous experience with military people positive, I had a different experience with this particular person.

In my experience as an educator I taught several classes at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California and always found the people in my classes ready and willing to learn. I believe the military training these people received made them disciplined and develop good study habits. I found military students usually completed and turned their work in on time.

The gentleman in my residency class, who I shall call Mr. Roboto, gave me a different experience. Although Mr. Roboto eagerly wanted to take on the project, he quickly assumed the leadership, and dictated terms of the project. The suggestions from other people on the team he quickly dismissed in favor of his own ideas. Reflecting on this experience, I found this person’s approach highlighted linear thinking. Everything Mr. Roboto did expressed the “my way or the highway” approach and gave me a new appreciation of military thinking.

As a seasoned entrepreneur, I had a hard time dealing with Mr. Roboto because he dictated and never listened to anyone else on the team unless they agreed with him. Entrepreneurs often have more nonlinear thinking skills and thrive in a team setting, but Mr. Roboto put himself at the top of the chain of command and did not accept ideas from other team members. I found the approach Mr. Roboto took stifled creativity and more in line with the approach taken by a larger business.

In my studies, I found a better balance between linear and nonlinear skills is more desirable in my area of focus on entrepreneurship. Groves, Vance, and Choi (2011) found entrepreneurs have a greater balance between linear and nonlinear critical thinking skills and more education contributes to improving the balance.

My experience highlights some of the differences in how entrepreneurs think, organize a culture conducive to creativity, and lead. Entrepreneurs normally reject command and control settings and value more flexible organic settings. Mintzberg (1980) described entrepreneurs favoring adhocracy. Adhocracy relies on mutual adjustment in a decentralized, lively setting seeking harmonization. Masood, Dani, Burns, and Backhouse (2006) explained leadership in an adhocracy as visionary, innovative, and risk-oriented. Entrepreneurs collaborate and guide workers using continuous feedback loops.

A hierarchy culture stresses more formal setting and policies guiding what workers do. The hierarchy culture focuses on stability, predictability, and efficiency. Formal rules and policies are the glue holding the organization together (Masood et al., 2006). Mr. Roboto embodied the hierarchy culture, which clashed with the adhocracy culture I worked in as an entrepreneur. Mr. Roboto relied on command and control and avoidance of risk.  No wonder I had such a difficult time in this group.

Entrepreneurs balance linear and nonlinear thinking and a good education helps the entrepreneur employ the right thinking to the proper problem. Entrepreneurs avoid all or nothing thinking and value collaborating with a team. Are you a linear thinker or do you have what it takes to balance linear thinking with nonlinear thinking? Please  leave a comment. Learn more.

References

Groves, K., Vance, C., & Choi, D. (2011). Examining entrepreneurial cognition: An occupational analysis of balanced linear and nonlinear thinking and entrepreneurship success. Journal of Small Business Management, 49(3), 438-466. doi: 10.2307/259034.1999-08070-001 10.2307/259034 10.1287/orsc.9.5.543.

Masood, S., Dani, S., Burns, N., & Backhouse, C. (2006). Transformational leadership and organizational culture: The situational strength perspective. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers — Part B — Engineering Manufacture, 220(6), 941-949. doi: 10.1243/09544054JEM499

Mintzberg, H. (1980). Structure in 5’s: A synthesis of the research organization design Management Science, 26(3), 322-341. doi: 0825-1909/80/2603/0323^1.25

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Small Business Financing: Let’s Play Where’s Waldo


Finding financing for a small business is like playing Where’s Waldo. Where’s Waldo is a game in which a player looks for a funny guy in a red-striped shirt and stocking cap in a maze. Waldo blends into the crowd and is difficult to find.

Small businesses look to find a source of financing among a maze of potential financiers and hazards. Financing can include angel investors, venture capitalists, banks, and other sources of equity and debt. Ma and Gui (2010) classified direct small business financing in the United States into venture capital and securities financing. Ma and Gui explained indirect financing comes from commercial bank loans. Some commercial bank loans have a government guarantee from the Small Business Administration. Mezzanine financing is another hybrid source of financing valuable because a company can treat much of it as equity even though it combines features of debt and equity (Silbernagel, Vaitkunas, & Giddy, n. d.). The maze is difficult to navigate because the terms differ from one source to another. The small business should target equity financing whenever possible because debt financing is more risky. Micro financing and crowd funding are some new entries to the maze, but an old favorite is bootstrapping.

A person playing Where’s Waldo has to examine the maze with great scrutiny to find Waldo blending in to the crowd. Waldo is a friendly guy, but is crafty in making himself inconspicuous among the crowd. Waldo may have hidden motives in avoiding making himself obvious.

A small business needs to have an awareness of the hidden motives different financiers may have. Some financiers use convertible features to gain control of a company. The small business should have an awareness of these features to prevent a takeover. Small business founders work hard to find a working model for their business and should protect themselves from possible takeovers by reviewing the terms of the financing. Protecting a controlling interest in the firm is a critical role for a small business founder to keep control and avoid the board from firing him.

When one finds Waldo, the game is over and the player can start a new puzzle. A small business founder looking for the right financing locates it the search is over, but he must remember to make sure the terms allow for keeping control of the company.

What sources of financing have you considered? Want to learn more about small business financing and how to preserve a controlling interest? Learn more.

References

Ma, J., & Gui, J. (2010). Study on the small and middle enterprises financing mode in financial crisis. International Business Research, 3(1), 76-79. doi: 2225515451; 56706961; 137934; NBRS; INNNNBRS0000568443

Silbernagel, C., Vaitkunas, D., & Giddy, I. (n. d.). Mezzanine Finance, from http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~igiddy/articles/Mezzanine_Finance_Explained.pdf

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