Lessons, musings and advice from the author of ‘The Life I Won’
The last few weeks have taught me something that I was completely oblivious to, we are living in a society gripped with fear.
‘Mandy, where have you been?’ I hear you cry.
Obviously, I know that on the back of COVID we are on the brink of a mental health crisis and that there are lots of jobs that employers can’t fill due to a reluctance to get back to ‘proper’ life, but I was completely unaware that the fear had brought the financial institutions to a grinding halt.
Entrepreneurs are caught up in the worst of it all with rising prices for goods and services and a lack of lending and grant funding without having to jump through hoops several hundred times.
So, for this blog I thought I would air my dirty laundry and share the battle that is raging behind the scenes for me, and I am sure 1000’s of others in the entrepreneurial space right now.
Most of you will know that I sold my dream home in March of this year with big plans to march over the border to take root in Scotland and commence my castle journey, albeit on a smaller scale. I found my perfect practice run in a 7-bedroomed property in Dalbeattie in dire need of renovation. Not a problem I thought, I have £300k in cash to play with after I had invested some in pensions and savings and paid all the costs associated with temporary living like rent, storage, legal fees etc. To date I have spent every penny of the budget on the house and the renovations so far and I am still £100k short of finishing it.
No problem, I thought… I will borrow that money from the bank because it will be cheaper than taking it out of pensions and savings due to tax and penalties. Easy peasy!
Here is what I have discovered and what you need to know if you are considering any biggish projects right now.
Initially my bank stated that they would be able to lend me the money if I had a shortfall. Within weeks they had retracted that offer and made a statement that they are not lending to new businesses. Even though I have an asset in the house (minimising their risk), I am mortgage and debt free (minimising their risk) and, in the words of the lending manager, a robust and realistic business plan with well thought out cautious cash flow projections, they still can’t lend me the money. I had not anticipated this, and it threw me. It also forced me to do what entrepreneurs do best, think outside the box. Next step, a commercial loan or mortgage.
So many lenders have tightened up their lending criteria post COVID meaning that to borrow money to build your business, you need to first have a business. This means start-ups are struggling to find funding to get started. Lenders are being more diligent when it comes to affordability with lending, meaning you need to prove every penny. This can all feel a bit stressful and overwhelming when you are keen to get started.
Just like the traditional lenders the governments support in terms of grants and local pots of money is becoming more difficult to access. Stringent application processes requiring reams of paperwork to support applications is deterring all but the hardy entrepreneurs from having a go.
So, if this is you right now, I know how frustrated you might feel. But all is not lost.
There are lots of places that you can go for help, and you need to work smarter not harder to get where you want to be.
I wanted to share some of this insight with you to help you to keep going.
All of this can feel like really hard work, and it is so easy to throw in the towel when things get difficult. The number one skill you need to develop as an entrepreneur is steely determination. There is always a way, your job is to find it. Here are some of my top tips based on my own journey even though some were not applicable to me this time, I have used them in the past.
When faced with finding funding your first port of call is government help. Google is your friend, so I started with government grants and start-up support. There are two really great sites: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ for start-ups and http://www.govgrantshub.uk/government-grants/
Don’t just browse, call them and they will then point you elsewhere if you can’t find something to fit your needs.
Your next port of call is your local council website; look for services such as Business Gateway, Enterprise Schemes and local funding pots that fit your needs.
A really great place to check out and join is the Federation of Small Businesses, it is not expensive to join but the services they offer cover all areas of business that you may need now and in the future, including help with finding finance and funding for your business.
The National Lottery have lots of opportunities to apply for grant funding, particularly if you are going to make an impact in your local community.
Finally, if you don’t already have one, I would recommend finding yourself a good financial adviser. Ask for recommendations from friends and family because the best FA’s will be referred via word of mouth.
Add to all this contacting a few independent local and online finance specialists and you are starting to pull in enough resources to find that elusive solution you seek.
I am going to wrap up this blog with a reminder that how you do anything is how you do everything so if you can find this level of determination in you in a situation like this, you can solve any problem that comes your way. The most successful people don’t take no for an answer and keep going no matter what. When you believe with every fibre of your being that what you have is going to be great and make money, you need to fight for it.
Imagine if Sir Richard Branson had given up at the first hurdle when he was told no? In fact, he famously went to bank after bank and lender after lender until somebody said yes.
Be THAT persistent and you will be sure to succeed!