A business line of credit is a pre-agreed amount of money that you can borrow when you need it and pay back when you don’t. As such, it’s a useful and popular tool that businesses of all sizes use to overcome cash flow gaps. But funds from a line of credit can also be used to grow the business in many ways, helping business owners accomplish more, faster.
That’s because you can use the money from a line of credit anyway you wish. Unlike a traditional bank loan that must be used for the specific purpose, with a line of credit you can draw funds whenever you want, use them however you want, and draw the exact amount you want. If you don’t need the money right away, don’t use it. You can repay the credit line at any point (as allowed by your credit agreement), unlike a term loan from a bank, which has a fixed monthly repayment schedule.
So, when opportunity knocks, here are just six ways you can put that money to work to take your business to new heights.
Form an Alliance with Another Business
Many freelancers or small businesses come together to work towards a common goal, without losing their individual brand identity.
Alliances are a great way to combine complementary skills and break into new markets, without the risk of going it totally alone. Companies participating in alliances report that as much as 18% of their revenue comes from their alliances.
Start with something as simple as co-sponsoring an event or workshop together, running a marketing campaign leveraging the power of both brands and your combined skills, or working on a small sales opportunity to get a feel for how well you work together. And, remember, they don’t have to be permanent; unlike with a formal partnership, if it isn’t working, you have the option of walking away.
Having a business line of credit on hand gives you the flexibility to take these baby steps and cover costs such as legal fees (NDAs, contracts, liability protection, etc.) and co-marketing when the need arises.
Bring Fresh Thinking to Your Business
Looking to streamline your operations or breathe new life into your sales strategy? If the old way of using invoice factoring companies are not working out, you may want to consider new options. A line of credit is a great way to help you realize new opportunities with the help of a consultant.
For example, if you have a critical selling season coming up but the same old approach is getting tired, hire a sales consultant to advise on new strategies and tactics. Or, if you’re a solopreneur looking for guidance in how to take your business to the next level, working with a career development coach can bring you fresh insights and helpful training.
Win a Government Contract
The U.S. federal government is the world’s biggest buyer of goods and services and sets aside contracts specifically for small businesses. Lucrative as it is, it takes money to win your first government contract. According to the SBA, some businesses spend between $80,000 and $130,000 to earn their first contract and two years to see any return on investment. For example, if you want to work with the Department of Defense, you must be able to invoice and receive payments electronically, which may require you to invest in new electronic systems. You’ll also need a skilled team of experts who knows how the process works. In an ideal situation, this team would include a proposals manager, contracts manager, experienced sales team and marketing support. While you’re at it, you may want to consider SBA loans to help accelerate your business.
These investments aside, you’ll also benefit from healthy cash flow. The government doesn’t always pay on net-30 terms, so a line of credit can be a good choice to help you make the necessary investments and be able to draw on those funds quickly, even as soon as the next business day.
Get a Marketing Edge
Small business marketing spend has remained consistent over the years, hovering at around 10% of overall budget. But one trends is emerging – a strong increase in digital channel investment. At least half of small businesses plan to increase spending on social media marketing, content marketing, and online lead generation, whereas print, radio, and other traditional channels are set to see a net decrease in total marketing investment.
Getting into specifics, 75% expect to increase their Google Adwords spend and 71% will bolster their Facebook investment. With more potential clients researching everything online before making a decision about who to work with, can you afford not to make an investment in your online marketing?
But where do you start? What’s the best approach? A marketing consultant can help you pull together a strategy that works for your budget, goals, and expected revenue returns, and a business line of credit is a great way to finance your campaign because you can draw on it at each stage of your campaign, as and when the costs come in, repay it at your convenience, and replenish the credit until you need it again.
Franchise your Business
Franchising is a great vehicle for expansion because the onus is on the franchisee to invest in opening locations and perform well, while you reap a share of the profits. Once you’ve made the initial outlay it’s down to your franchisees to bear the costs of establishing new outlets.
Franchising may be a low-cost way to expand, but it’s not “no-cost”. You’ll need the help of a franchise attorney to draw up a franchise agreement, work with a franchise consultant to develop training programs and marketing materials, and protect your intellectual property, among other steps. It may also take some time to see a return in that initial investment which raises the question of financial exposure.
While there is no set cost for franchising a business, each business is different, many of the costs can be borne with a business line of credit. Since the process of setting up a franchise network takes time, you can dip into a line of credit of say $100,000 and pay it off at your convenience. A business line of credit operates similarly to a credit card, with a revolving balance, but they tend to offer lower interest rates, and there are no fixed payments.
Win a Big Contract, Without Cash Flow Woes
Opportunities like large contracts don’t come along often, but they frequently require upfront investment in equipment, supplies, and employees, which can quickly erode cash flow. A line of credit is perfect for this kind of opportunity because it gives you the flexibility to spend only what you need and have access to those funds quickly.
Those you always have other options for small business funding, if you apply for a loan you must specify how you’ll use those funds and it can take some time for the funds to be approved. A line of credit is more flexible. Once you start working the contract, you can pay off the line of credit to replenish it and use it again when the next need arises.
Not All Lines of Credit Are Created Equal
There are literally hundreds of ways to use your business line of credit. From buying new software so you can scale your customer relationship management capabilities, to launching marketing campaigns that will take you into new markets. But not all lines of credit are created equal. Many banks and fintech companies in the U.S. rely solely on a small business owner’s personal credit score for underwriting. You may find this problematic if you’ve leveraged your credit to build a successful businesses, bruising it in the process.
Instead, look for a lender that considers more factors like your total business performance, alongside your credit. Other things to look out for include the ease of the application process and approval timeline. Today, neither of these steps should take more than a few hours. If they do, don’t be shy about looking for quicker, better options.