Friday, December 19, 2014

Financing Small Business projects

A short article on small business financing caught my attention today. A study conducted in Spain, you can find it here, attempted to test the hypothesis that small business with a lower risk profile will self-select financing options that trade collateral for a lower interest rate while business with a higher default risk will self-select for financing options that have a high interest rate but no collateral. The study is very interesting, and although definitely on the academic side, it poses serious questions for young entrepreneurs.

1. If I believe my idea is sound and profitable (almost everyone does) do I raise the necessary collateral to have access to a lower interest in a loan?

2. Instead of using the collateral in the loan should I invest the money in my company?

3. If I have no collateral, is my business ever going to receive funding?

Financing for small business is a touchy subject. The link between collateral and riskiness of the business can be argued both way. The bank might be trying to diminish its risk by asking for a higher collateral. On the other hand the higher collateral might be the result of conditions within the bank itself or macro-economic conditions outside of the control of the small business. My advice to small business owners is to carefully evaluate the need for financing to begin with. Everyone will push financing, from small banks to venture capitalists, but they have their own interests. The bank needs a client, the venture capitalist wants a piece of your company if successful. If you don't have a plan as to what you are going to do with that money, detailed plan, then seriously reconsidered asking for it to begin with. Slow, steady, internally financed growth expansion might be a better option.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Intangible Assets Valuation

I read an interesting article on Intangible Assets valuations today. The article was published in the Engineering Management Journal, (you have to pay to get access).  The authors explain how they develop a tool to help SMEs in Italy asses the value of their intangible assets. You can read the article for the full story and methodology but what interested me is that they defined intangible assets as:

Human Capital(i.e. the skills of the employees)
Internal Structural Capital( i.e organizational knowledge that belongs to the Company)
Relational Capital (the relationship between companies)

Placing a value on this can be quite difficult but essential for SMEs as it is usually these assets that are the most valuable for small businesses that do not have huge financial assets. I am curious about the small business owners themselves. How many small business have you encountered that have even attempted to place a value on this, should this be taken into consideration when looking at financing options? If so by whom the bank or the small business owner?

Relational Capital in particular is interesting. Its the "Who do you know?" concept. A business might be small but if the owners are well connected, say with city hall or the city procurement officer, this is a huge asset with potential value. I understand that the ethical considerations are there but to believe that a small business owner will not exploit such a relationship is naive at best.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Market Research Lessons from the Czech Republic

I read a good article today in the International Journal of Management Cases, you can find the complete article here . If you want to read about the methodology and actual research study more in depth please visit the site. The authors basically surveyed Czech Republic small businesses to determine what did they consider to be barriers to exporting and what are the actual barriers to exporting based on data. They found that many small business believe that the following are their main barriers:

1. Lack of language skills
2. Lack of experience with foreign markets
3. High costs of promotion
4. Lack of public support
5. Lack of information about foreign markets

The findings suggest that the main barrier to exporting is actually:

1. Lack of information or experience in foreign markets.

Those companies that either searched for information about foreign markets or had key employees with experience in foreign markets actually had decent volumes of export sales (as a ratio of total sales). Although the first list is intuitive and i think almost every business owner that has not exported will list the same reasons, I wonder if small business owners in the US have the exact same concerns?