Settle Your Small Business Taxes With a Peer-To-Peer Loan

Like the saying goes, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Unfortunately, small businesses know this saying all too well.

Unlike employees who look forward to their refund every April, small businesses loath the approaching spring, knowing they will have to pay Uncle Sam its share of their profits. Each year, small businesses struggling to turn a profit in an increasingly competitive business environment must pay taxes in order to keep their doors open.

With dwindling profit margins and tightened lending restrictions, however, many small business owners find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes time to pay the tax man. Although a business may have steady sales and revenue or thousands of dollars in inventory, banks and traditional lending institutions simply aren’t handing out small business loans like they were in year’s past, leaving small business owners with few funding options to pay their tax bill.

Thankfully, peer-to-peer lending, or social lending, has solved this growing dilemma. These modern social lending marketplaces have connected millions of borrowers with individual investors. Borrowers receive low-interest, fixed-rate loans that can be paid off in two to five years, while investors are able to benefit from decent returns in an economy with sinking bond and savings rates.

Thus, it’s a win-win situation for both small business owners in need of immediate funding and investors looking to make a small profit while helping others.

From Desperation to Exultation: One Man’s Venture into Peer-to-Peer Lending

John Mitchell is an Ohio-based small business owner who found himself in such a predicament just last year. As the owner of the only hardware store in a small town, John’s store flourished the first few years it was open.

After getting his inventory levels, pricing models, and management just right, he decided to expand his business by opening a second location in a neighboring town. John sunk all of his profits into opening his new store, which meant he was short on funds come tax time. However, knowing the success of his business, he thought he would simply get a small loan from the bank that housed his accounts and provided him with the initial loan he used to launch his business four years earlier.

Unfortunately, he witnessed first-hand the effect the recession has had on lending regulations as the banker he’s known for years denied his loan application. If he couldn’t get a loan there, where could he?

On the brink of despair, John took to the Internet to research loan options. After digging through forums and trying a few different searches, he ran across peer-to-peer lending. In less than a week after going through the quick and easy application process, he received a personal loan at a low rate for the amount he needed. A week later, John sent a check for the full amount to the IRS, and less than eight months later, he was able to pay off the loan with the profits from his new store!

If you are a small business owner who has found yourself in a similar circumstance, peer-to-peer lending can do the same for you as well, but how does peer-to-peer lending work?

How Peer-to-Peer Lending Works

A breakthrough product or service emerges every generation, and in the early 2000’s, the emerging breakthrough was social networking. From helping in the organization of overthrowing political regimes to staying in touch with friends and family members, social networking has had a profound effect on our daily lives. Now, it’s changing the small business financing landscape as well.

Peer-to-peer lending is a modern social networking solution for small businesses in search of a way of securing alternative funding. The goal of peer-to-peer lending sites, such as Prosper and Lending Club, is simply to connect individual investors with those in need of funding, and these sites are becoming an increasingly useful tool for small business owners who are unable to secure funding from traditional lenders.

Rather than jumping through endless hoops only to be denied by a bank, small businesses can receive funding via peer-to-peer lending in no time at all by following three simple steps:

Step 1: Create a Profile and Loan Listing

There are a myriad of peer-to-peer lending networks to choose from, so your first step is to research the best ones and create a profile and loan listing on the site you choose. The loan listing is essentially a cost-free ad that indicates the amount of money you need and your desired interest rate.

Step 2: Let the Bidding Process Begin

After your listing goes live, investors have the opportunity to begin bidding on your listing, providing you with the interest rate and loan amount they are willing to offer you. A major advantage of this bidding process is the fact that it can intensify as more and more lenders begin competing for your business.

When this happens, interest rates will begin dropping, potentially allowing you to obtain a much lower interest rate than you expected. It’s important to note, however, that your credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio plays a role in the lending decision process.

Step 3: Funding and Paying Back the Loan

Another benefit of borrowing from peer-to-peer lenders is that you can accept several bids to receive your requested loan amount. For instance, if you ask for $10,000 in your loan listing to pay your business taxes, you can acquire the amount from collecting $2,000 from five different borrowers.

This makes it much easier for borrowers to receive the money they need. However, instead of making five separate payments, you would only make one payment, because the peer-to-peer lending site is responsible for dispersing the money to lenders until loans are repaid in full. They simply charge a small fee for this service.

With increased lending regulations, banks are tightening their purse strings more than ever before, making it much more difficult for small businesses to receive the funding they need to expand their business or even pay their taxes. Thankfully, peer-to-peer lending has proven to be a worthy competitor in the small business lending marketplace. If you are a small business owner and find yourself unable to pay your taxes as April approaches, or backed taxes for that matter, a peer-to-peer loan is an ideal option.

Business Brokers – How to Choose the Right One

The vast majority of small businesses are sold without the assistance of business brokers.

But if you do decide the hire a broker, here are some suggestions on how to pick the right one and how to structure the agreement in your favor.

What Business Is The Broker Actually In?

In many states there is no training or certification needed to become a business broker. In other states, brokers are required to hold a real estate license.

In these states it’s common to find real estate agents that do business brokering as a side business. If you deal with a broker who is also a real estate agent, make sure that being a business broker is more than just his hobby.

You will pay a pretty penny for the broker’s expertise and experience – you should make sure they have that experience when it comes to selling businesses and not just experience selling houses.

Questions To Ask

If you hire a broker you will be working with them closely for months to come; they will have access to your most confidential business records; the amount of money you put in your pocket at closing will be influenced heavily by the quality of work they do.

Therefore, you absolutely must check them out.

Here are some questions you should ask any prospective broker before hiring him:

1. How long have you been a broker?
2. Have you ever owned a business?
3. How many businesses similar to mine have you helped sell?
4. Can I see a blank version of your Listing Agreement?
5. What percentage of you income comes from brokering and how much from real estate (If applicable)

Ask them to provide you with references from previous clients. Then, I suggest you do something very unusual: Actually call the broker’s references!
I know a lot of people ask for references just to see how the person will react when asked (and to see if they actuality have any). But you can learn a lot about the broker’s reliability and professionalism by talking to people who dealt with that broker when they were in the exact same spot you are in.

Business Broker Fees

There are two benefits a broker can provide the business seller. First, he can locate potential buyers while maintaining the seller’s confidentiality. And second, a broker will qualify these potential business buyers so the seller saves time by not having to deal with weak prospects.

The big negative of dealing with a business broker is his fee, which averages 10-12% of the sale price. This fee is charged to the seller.

There is also a minimum fee. A very small business will pay a flat amount, typically $8-$10,000, instead of the commission. For a business worth $50,000 this minimum fee actually works out to be a higher percentage than the 10-12% industry average. But as a matter of practice, brokers usually won’t be interested in your business unless the asking price is above $100,000.

These fees are the reason most business owners choose to sell their business themselves and rely on their lawyers and accountants for the professional assistance they need.

The Broker Agreement

If you decide to use a broker you’ll be asked to sign a broker agreement which will detail the his fees. If possible, have your agreement include the following clauses:

Timing of Payments – Have it written into the agreement that the broker’s fee will be paid at the time you receive the purchase price – not at the time the sale is closed. This way, if you finance part of the sale price over a number of years, you pay the business broker as you get the money, not all up front.

Length Of Agreement – Your listing agreement should be for a limited time. If the broker locates the buyer within that time he gets paid. Be careful of lengthy agreements that lock you in with one business broker for more than 6 months. If he doesn’t produce, you want to be able to try other options. A 6 month business broker agreement is the longest you should allow. However, because selling a business can be a lengthy process, 3 months is usually too little time for the broker to find the right buyer. Try to settle on something between 3 and 6 months. If after six months, you haven’t closed the deal but you think the broker has done a good job, you’re always free to extend the agreement. But you want to be free to decide on an extension 6 months from now, not today.

Broker’s Guarantee – Include a paragraph stating that if you find the buyer, you don’t have to pay the commission. Without this clause, the broker is usually paid no matter who locates the buyer. Before signing any listing agreement, it is best to have your attorney review it to make sure your interests are protected.

Choosing the Right Business Brokers

Whether you’re buying or selling a business, having a broker on your side can make the difference between a successful outcome and a nightmare. However, not all business brokers will be suitable for your specific situation. Use the tips below to choose the right broker for your needs.

Start by asking for referrals from your inner circle of business advisers and colleagues. Have any used a business broker in the past? Were they satisfied? Does the broker handle the type of transaction you have in mind?

You may need to widen your net to find a pool of qualified business brokers that specialize in brokering deals such as yours. Once you have several potential brokers, it’s time to get down to business and narrow the field down. Below are several key factors to consider:

– Is the individual or firm professional? Professionalism shows in numerous ways including personal appearance, the presentation of marketing materials, website, language, mannerisms, and expertise. Use both objectivity and your gut instinct. Remember, the broker you choose will be representing your business so make sure you’re fully comfortable with the person and firm you choose.

– Does the broker have experience working with businesses like yours? While it’s not necessary for the business broker to have specific experience in your exact niche, it’s helpful for the broker to understand the nature of your business and have experience brokering deals with similar characteristics. For example, if you run a family-owned microbrewery, a broker with a successful track record brokering deals for small wineries, family-owned specialty food manufacturers, or small brewpubs may not know the finer points of brewing beers but could be an excellent choice thanks to experience with similar businesses.

– What qualifications does the broker have? Look for licensing, education, certification, experience, and membership in professional associations.

– Is the broker well prepared? In other words, did the business broker do his or her research prior to your initial meeting? Brokers use comparable sales, business and industry reports, and other tools to price businesses. Your business broker should be able to support any suggested listing prices, which should be presented in writing, with documentation.

– If you are selling your business, find out how the broker intends to market your business. Brokers have many marketing tools available to market their business listings. However, some prefer to use specific marketing techniques over others. Make sure to ask the broker to present a detailed marketing plan.

– What type of businesses does the broker work with? For example, if your business has annual revenues in the $50 million range, you’ll need a special type of buyer making it important to choose a business broker capable of attracting those high net worth individuals and investors.

– Check references. No matter how professional, personable, experienced, qualified, and prepared potential broker appear, cover your bases by checking references. Ideally, the broker should give you references from businesses with similarities to yours.

Choosing the right broker to sell your business or help you find a business to buy is a process. Do your part to ensure a successful outcome by choosing wisely.

Is Going Direct Really Cheaper Than A Broker Or Price Comparison For Small Business Insurance?

The UK media is currently awash with advertising slogans from direct commercial insurance companies targeting small business owners in an attempt to make them switch their provider of business insurance.

‘Get 12 months cover for the price of ten’ and ‘You won’t find us on price comparison websites’ are typical of the slogans emanating from these companies, in a language more akin to the selling of car insurance than the traditional professional and almost stoic approach to the selling of business insurance cover.

In the current recession, price has become the determining factor in winning the war of market share for all goods and services and insurance is no exception. Prudent small businessmen and women are looking to cut costs in all areas of their business and the large direct insurance companies are well aware of this.

The large insurers are also aware that the UK market has over five million small businesses of which a fifth are sole traders, self-employed and people working from home, many of whom are familiar with purchasing their personal insurance direct with the provider, either by phone or on the Internet.

There are three types of provider in the current market for business insurance in the UK.

Intermediaries such as insurance brokers and agents, price comparison sites and direct commercial and business insurers.

Each has their own advantage and disadvantages, however whether one distribution channel is cheaper than another is often a subjective view from a particular trade, or dependent upon factors many of which cannot be quantified in price.

Direct Insurance companies claim to be able to offer cheaper polices because the cut out the costs of the middleman. It is certainly true that direct insurers do not have to pay an intermediary for the cost of the lead or introduction, however it is questionable whether this cost saving is actually reflected in the prices offered to the public.

Certainly there are economies of scale to be made by centralising the life-cycle of a policy from sales point to claim and renewal, however all those functions that are performed by an intermediary still have to be carried out in-house by the direct company and these have a cost.

Many large composite insurers often have distinct direct divisions with their own target market and premium rates. The same company may also have a broker or intermediary division or channel.

It is quite often the case that a large broker with a large book of business of, for example, small builders liability, will receive much more preferential rates then the same companies direct channel, because that insurance company wishes to retain that brokers clients.

Commercial Insurance brokers then are often able to offer preferential rates because they have more flexible schemes and arrangements than the direct channel.

One of the main benefits of using an insurance broker or intermediary in purchasing commercial insurance for small business, cannot be quantified in price and is worth the commission or fee that they may charge. That is advice, market and product information and knowledge, access to various markets such as Lloyds and some human help if the worst happens to a business and a claim is needed.

A commercial or business insurance broker is often able to negotiate far better claims settlements than if an individual were to deal direct with the insurer. The main reason for this is once again the insurer wishes to retain that brokers share of the total risk pool and will often pay out to a broker on an ex-gratia basis. This cost of this service is not quantifiable at the quote stage where small business cover may well just be valued for the price paid or the covers bought.

The third major way in which small business owners can purchase cover is by visiting a price comparison website. All the major UK comparison sites have recently begun to offer online cover aimed particularly at the small business sector, with under 50 employees. This is in direct competition with the direct insurers for television and media advertising space, aimed in particular at self-employed tradesmen and women who require business liability insurance and perhaps commercial van cover.

The comparison price proposition is that they can compare the market or at least a small section of it, to find the cheapest business insurance. They often do not provide any assistance in the purchasing decision-making process and the reality often is, that the cheapest commercial and small business insurance can be found in one of the other distribution channels.

It is therefore important that a small businessman shops around and takes some time to compare offerings including premiums, covers and services from all three sales channels. Prices tend to vary immensely by trade across the direct, broker and comparison markets and often it is a case of finding the provider or supplier who is the industry leader for a particular business type or trade in order to make large savings.