USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program – Noteworthy Revisions For Community Banks

The Business and Industry (B&I) loan program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA or Agency) guarantees loans by qualified lenders to benefit rural businesses. For eligible projects, community banks can obtain an 80% guarantee for loans up to $5 million, a 70% guarantee for loans between $5 million and $10 million and a 60% guarantee for loans between $10 million and $25 million. The B&I guaranteed loan program allows lenders to expand their loan portfolio, obtain a deficiency guarantee, increase earnings by participating in the secondary market, make loans in smaller communities with traditionally lower collateral values and extend loans above their legal lending limits.

For each loan, lenders submit a detailed guarantee application to the Agency office in the state where the project is located. Approval or denial decisions generally take several weeks. Projects eligible for B&I financing include business acquisitions, commercial real estate purchases, startup costs and working capital, machinery and equipment purchases and some refinances.

On December 17, 2008, the USDA published a new interim rule pertaining to the B&I loan program in the Federal Register. Effective October 1, 2009, the new rule is designed to streamline the application, accelerate the guarantee approval process and expand the types of eligible projects. The Agency ultimately decided to abandon the new rule and instead focus on working within the existing regulatory framework to improve the B&I loan program.

Under the previous rule, the B&I loan program required lenders to compile burdensome applications and to deal with lengthy approval timelines and limited loan features. For example, a common lender complaint has been the laborious guarantee application process. For every loan under the previous regulations, B&I lenders had to submit to the local Agency all of their underwriting and loan approval documents, at least three B&I application forms, the draft loan agreement, copies of loan origination and servicing policies and procedures, and details concerning lending history, experience and their relationship with regulators. The Agency also awarded guarantees on a “priority scoring” basis, which gave loans in particularly rural areas with compelling purposes priority over otherwise eligible loans that earned a lower “score”. An approval or denial decision for lower scoring loans could take months from the application submission.

The USDA aims to reduce these drawbacks with the revised rule. The new rule attempts to streamline the original application process. Lenders must apply to participate in the guaranteed loan program by submitting background information such as descriptions of lending history and experience, policy and procedures and documentation concerning regulatory compliance (7 CFR 5001.9). Although lenders had to submit this information under the old rule, they are now permitted to submit summaries instead of copies of their policies and procedures (§5001.9(a)(1)). Once approved by the agency, lenders will no longer have to submit this background information when applying for loan guarantees (§5001.9(b)(4)). The revised rule also reduces the number of guarantee application forms (§ 5001.12(a)) and eliminates the draft loan agreement (§5001.34). In addition to simplifying the application process, the new rule endeavors to reduce the guarantee approval timeline.

Two changes aim to accelerate the guarantee approval process. The Agency has eliminated its “priority scoring” system in favor of a simpler first-come-first-serve approach (§5001.103(f)(1)). Additionally, the Agency has created a preferred lender program (PLP) (§5001.9(d)). The benefits of obtaining PLP status include a ten day approval or denial decision (§5001.11(c)), a smaller guarantee application package (§5001.12(b)) and the opportunity to obtain preferred status in more than one state with a single PLP application (§5001.9(d)(2)). In addition to streamlining the application process, the Agency has introduced some new loan features to the B&I loan program.

B&I guarantees may now be issued for additional uses and purposes. Under the previous regulations, lines of credit were ineligible. Lines of credit are now eligible when used for annual operating/business expenses, debts advanced for the current operating cycle, scheduled non-delinquent term borrower debt or closing costs (§5001.103(b)(2)(xix)). Projects involving leasehold improvements and the purchase of mixed use commercial and residential buildings are also now eligible for B&I guarantees (§5001.103(b)(2)(xviii, xx)). Another new feature removes the prohibition that interest rates change no more often than quarterly, and allows lenders to set a variable rate that adjusts as often as daily (§5001.31(a)). These new features allow lenders to obtain a valuable B&I guarantee for projects that previously were ineligible.

Although these features are now available to lenders, some revisions to the rule are less clear and useful tools have been eliminated. For example, the Agency has replaced the proposed cash equity criterion with a debt-to-tangible net worth ratio criterion (§5001.6(c)), but has failed to define this calculation other than referring to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Additionally, the rule eliminates the Agency’s limited authority to issue 90% guarantees. Again, the Agency ultimately decided to abandon the new rule and instead focus on working within the existing regulatory framework to improve the B&I loan program.

Best Ideas For a Good Business – Service People

The best ideas for a good business lie in the service industry. People need to be served in some way and you need to make sure you can do that if you want to be profitable. You can’t be profitable unless you do something that people need.

So what are some good business ideas in the service industry? Well, there is customer service. That is an industry that is quite profitable because people need things. People need questions answered and needs met.

You can actually do a customer service job from your home. Call centers all around are now routing calls to people who work out of their homes. Whether it is answering general questions to solve a problem or technical support, the job is there.

You can also try providing support for products that you know about. No, you don’t have to work for the company, but you can say something such as “I am an expert with this program and can help you. For $10 an hour, I can help you do things with this program that you never thought was possible.” That is a great line to use on your website.

So if you need to start a good business, the world is your playground. Look at what you feel you can do best and capitalize on that. If you don’t, then you have a talent that is going to waste. Go ahead and let the world benefit from that talent. You’ll agree that it was the wisest move you could ever make.

7 Best Bookkeeping Business Services

If you’re a small business owner considering outsourcing your bookkeeping, keep in mind that bookkeeping business services include much more than just keeping track of your finances. If you hook up with a true professional service they can become much more than an accounting service, they can become important partners helping you optimize not only your cash flow but planning your financial strategies. Here’s a short list of benefits and services you can expect from a full service bookkeeper.

1. Time

Actually this may be the most productive benefit of all the services an outsourced bookkeeper can provide. By taking over the responsibility of accounting, the bookkeeper service effectively gives you more time to do what you do best and that’s run the business. Accounting is an absolutely necessary part of a business but it is not a profit center and it plays no part in driving sales and revenue. Any time you devote to that function is time taken from engaging in an activity that can generate sales or profit.

2. Financial forecasting

Using your firm’s financial history an experienced bookkeeping service can develop financial models that will allow you to play “what if” games that can predict your financial performance in the future. For example a business owner can ask what if sales increase 8% in the next quarter or what if the marketing budget is increased by 10% what kind of sales can be expected. This is a complex model that requires the knowledge of experts and would not be readily available to the owner unless he outsourced the function.

3. Tax planning

Running your business to take advantage of opportunity to minimize tax liability can be the difference between taking a loss and making a profit. The same goes for licensing and other local fees. A knowledgeable service will not only prepare your returns but show you ways to reduce your tax bill.

4. Real time reporting

Gone are the days of receiving monthly reports from your accounting service. In today’s business environment you need to know where you are financially right now and that’s what a professional bookkeeping service can provide. Thanks to ASP technology you can log onto your account using an ultra secure server and access all of your reports at any time and from any where you have an internet connection.

5. Customized reports

Your bookkeeping service will work with you to build reports that make sense for your particular business. Profit and loss statements, sales reports, receivables reports, all can be designed so they present the information in a way that you can best evaluate your position.

6. Assistance with lenders

A sign of just how tough and competitive the economic times are is the expansion of bookkeeping business services into areas that they previously did not participate in. Assistance with loan applications or even introductions to lenders is an example of the “new” services being offered by many firms. Loan applications can be intimidating and confusing to many business owners and the accounting service can offer valuable assistance in insuring that the right, and best, financial information is included in the application.

7. QuickBooks Consulting

Even if you don’t hire a bookkeeping service and you use QuickBooks in house to do your bookkeeping, you may find that the service can help you do it better. QuickBooks has added so many features and has become so much more than an accounting platform that it has created an entirely new support industry. If a QuickBooks customer wants optimal performance from his system, it’s likely he or she will need the advice of a certified QuickBooks consultant and the bookkeeping service is a ready, qualified resource.

A combination of rapidly improving technology along with an increasingly competitive market has caused bookkeeping business services to evolve into something greater than the traditional accounting services. Smart businesses will take advantage of these services to remain competitive and optimize earnings.

Starting a Home Business Service – Tips

With so many people having lost their jobs in recent months, home businesses in the service industry has become a rapidly growing trend. As regular 9 to 5 positions are becoming harder to find, having a home business service is increasing in popularity. It is becoming more and more attractive as the start up cost and overhead is very low when compared to a brick and mortar service business.

If you have been thinking about using your talent to start a home business service, and you feel that you are ready to commit to providing a home business service, then read these tips to help you get started.in the right direction.

First I would like to clarify what a home business service actually is.

A home business service is performing a service or task that will help other people with tasks they either don’t want to perform or are unable to perform on their own. A service business supplies the solution to a need and can include anything from walking a dog to figuring out a clients taxes. Virtual assistants have become a very popular service that is provided from home.

I’m not going to cover the benefits of having a home business as it is already common knowledge, I am sure that you already know what your reasons are for wanting to work from home and why.

Getting Started:

1. Set Up a Home Office

Getting a home office set up for your home business service is one of the first things that needs to be done. Getting a business phone is an important part of selling a service as you will need to be able to communicate with clients. If this is out of the question because of your budget, at the moment, get a business line added to your home phone as soon as you can.

You will need a separate office space from the rest of the house, especially if you are planning to have clients come to your home.

2. You Will Need a Website

You not only need a computer, which I assume you already have since you are reading this article, but you will also need a website. A website will be the gateway for your business in your local area. It is imperative to develop an online presence for your business. The Yellow Pages are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and the cost of running an ad in the Yellow Pages is often beyond many entrepreneurs financial means while in the start up process.

Having a website is much more effective than the Yellow Pages as you can get it up and listed in days, while you have to wait for the next publication of the Yellow Pages to be printed. Also, more and more people are going online to find local services and businesses than are looking in the Yellow Pages. Finding a listing on the web is faster and more current that the phone book.

3. Research Your County Laws

You will need to know the legalities for registering your home business service and for any zoning restrictions that may be applicable for a home business in your neighborhood.. Every county in every state has different laws and ordinances. The county clerk may be able to help you with this information or will at least be able to direct you to the right place to get it.

4. Get a Business License

You can usually pick one up at either the county court house or the county clerk’s office.. The license won’t cost you anything, but once your business is started it will be subjected to a different tax structure.

I am not a tax attorney and cannot offer any advice on the tax exemptions for your state or with the Federal government. What I can tell you, is that you will be allowed more exemptions that you are getting now for using your home for your business. You can get more information online at http://www.irs.org.

5. Set Up a Business Plan and Set Goals

Having a home business service can develop into a very lucrative business. Be sure to have a definite business plan strategy worked out that is measurable and that you can use as a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly guide. Remember to set goals that can be achieved. Set your beginning goals in small time frame increments. Cross them off your list when you have achieved them and then add bigger goals to strive for.

6. Advertise Offline and Online

Get some business cards made to hand out to everyone in your neighborhood that you come in contact with. You never know when the service you are providing will be needed in the community. You can get business cards free online at Vista Print.com. You only pay the shipping which is about $6.00

Print fliers with details of the service you are providing and remember to Include your website URL and your home phone number. Pay a high school kid in the neighborhood to pass them out for you.

Put fliers and business cards up on bulletin boards at grocery stores, liquor stores, apartment buildings, laundromats, the post office, and any other place you can think of that will allow advertising.

Offer a free gift with your home business service. Vista Print often has promotions for free advertising venues such as tote bags, post cards, refrigerator magnets, etc.

Place small ads in local newspaper and free press newspapers. Place ads on web sites such as Craig’s List, eBay, and USFreeAds. Be sure to list your home business service with Google Local Directory so that you will be placed on their Goggle business map for your area.

Use viral marketing, email marketing and article marketing online to get people to your website. Submit a press release about your new business both off line and online. There are several free sites you can submit to. Do a Google search to find them. Until you begin receiving clients, spend all of your scheduled work time marketing your home business service both online and offline.

Once you start receiving clients it can be very difficult to manage your work time, your marketing time and your family time. Plan accordingly. Schedule business tasks that need to be done daily between time spent with clients. Set a limit as to when the work day will end in order to spend time with the family. I hope these few tips will give you a place to start in getting your home business service off the ground and running.