Veterans Business Resources

a portal for all Veterans and SDV Small Business Owners

Financing a Business in Difficult Times

As a child, growing up in central Alabama, I can recall asking my father for money. I always knew he would want to know what I would be using the money for. His simple question caused me to think and have a lot of anxiety about my answer. My stomach would turn in knots.

That same simple concept is true today in commercial lending. If you ask for money, the lender will want to be able to ask why you need it. This can be insulting to some and a challenging to others.  At the SBDC we believe that when a lender asks a borrower about how he or she will use the money, they are doing it because, like my father, prudent judgment requires it. But we further think that borrowers need to understand that this question or set of questions are for their own good. Yes, I know it is difficult but it is not impossible to explain why a business would need to borrow funds.

So we embark on the dreaded and feared “business plan”. I think, in over twenty years of small business consulting, the business plan is the most under rated and misunderstood instrument known to mankind. I know that the business plan documents we review here at the SBDC vary widely in size and concept. Go figure.

We think that step one is to learn the language. Then understand what a lender is asking of you. Understand why the lender asks for certain documents and be able to anticipate questions. So often, borrowers are miffed that they need to, for example, present personal tax returns, to apply for a loan. They seem surprised that personal credit is reviewed for a business loan. And on and on it goes. Let us be clear, we are in difficult times when it comes to borrowing and lending so we as borrowers need to be squeaky clean. Frankly, these tough questions were asked in good times. It just maybe that now it has to be documented.

Therefore we should remember our “C’s of borrowing”. Cash – a must have for start ups, (your equity). For existing businesses you need to show equity in lieu of cash and hope that it is good enough. Credit– always check all three credit bureaus. Once per year federal law requires all three bureaus to give you one free copy of your credit file. (www.annualcreditreport.com). Collateral – can you offer something of value to secure the loan? Conditions – can you find and give good current information about your industry? And finally, Character – in which some lenders say your credit report reflects your character. For the purpose of SBA are you on parole or probation?

Support Your Plan. Give facts not guesses. Make sure to site creditable sources in your proposal. (No matter how much you like your brother-in-law, he may not be a recognized, creditable source for your industry). Have good, reasonable, supportable numbers in your financial statements, (projections). It is not the first rodeo for the lenders, who may review your plan.  They can smell a rat, miles away.

Lastly, know where to go to seek help. The SBDC provides that help. Another set of eyes and the experience helps more than you think. I am biased.
 

David L. Edmonds, Director
Tarrant County College
Small Business Development Center
Major, U.S. Air Force Reserve, Retired

email: david.edmonds@tccd.edu
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More on Teaming

Due to the number of request to talk more about TEAMING, the following is submitted for your consideration.  To gain a proper understanding of TEAMING, we must first look at its root, TEAM.  TEAM is defined as a group on the same side, as in a game.  A group organized to work together; in this case, a group of Veterans.  In the earlier entry about T.E.A.M., I spoke of essentials necessary to make it work.  Those essentials; integrity, character and honor are routinely accepted as SOP for service members, especially toward each other.  That said; there still needs to be a document that binds and formalizes our verbal and handshake agreements.  That document is called the Teaming Agreement.   

The Teaming Agreement is a commonly used marketing tool whereby a prime contractor and subcontractor agree to combine resources to bid on a major government procurement.  Typically, this agreement includes the actual bid of the subcontractor as an exhibit. The prime then may submit that bid as an exhibit to its own bid for the government work.  In most cases, the prime is bound to use the subcontractor for the work once the bid is accepted, and the parties will follow the teaming agreement closely when finalizing the subcontract between the parties. 

Benefit: 

Why enter into a teaming arrangement?  A competent, smaller business may obtain access to government business that would otherwise be denied to it by teaming with the larger prime in bidding for government work.  The prime contractor, on the other hand, can achieve greater control over its costs and more certainty through a pre-bid teaming agreement with a potential subcontractor.

A teaming agreement is not considered a “government” contract, but a private one between two or more parties and is governed by contract law and/or the Uniform Commercial Code, as applicable.  No government acquisition regulations (“FARs” or “DFARs”) must be referenced in the agreement—those are usually negotiated and included within the subcontract. 

Under the FARS/DFARS, the federal government must recognize the validity of a contractor teaming arrangement “provided that the arrangements are identified and company relationships are fully disclosed in an offer or, for arrangements entered into after submission of an offer, before the arrangement becomes effective.”  FAR Subpart 9.601.  Full disclosure of the teaming arrangement, in other words, must be part of the prime’s bid.  Conversely, the prime must seek at least three competitive bids for any work to be done by a subcontractor unless the government has already approved the subcontractor’s bid as part of the prime’s original bid. The teaming agreement thus eliminates this requirement for the prime after it is awarded the prime contract.  It may often prove helpful for the subcontractor to include this requirement as an obligation in the teaming agreement, as well as in the bid.  It can also prove advantageous to the subcontractor to have a copy of the teaming agreement itself divulged within the bid to the government.  

A teaming agreement serves as a temporary bridge to a final contract. That is, the successful teaming agreement will always be superseded by a fully negotiated subcontract after the government accepts the prime contractor’s bid.  The final contract is with a third party–the government; all provisions necessary to govern the legal relationship between the parties must be included–brevity is not recommended; and a teaming agreement is always binding on both parties. 

Drafting Considerations: 

The following are some important business provisions to be addressed in any teaming agreement:

  • Exclusivity; May either party retain a right to change its mind and do business with another prime or subcontractor once the government has chosen the winning bidder?
  • Should the agreement oblige the prime to award a subcontract to the subcontractor, or may the subcontractor merely rely on the implied covenant that the parties must negotiate in good faith—case law supports the proposition that an agreement to negotiate in good faith does not require that a final agreement actually be achieved but only that the parties work to reach an agreement “actively and in good faith?”
  • To what extent should the parties’ confidentiality and data rights be protected?
  • When and how shall termination occur?
  • Ought the subcontractor to be allowed to participate in negotiations with the government customer concerning the contribution of the subcontractor to the teaming?
  • Lastly, should the prime agree in advance to compensate the subcontractor if the government disapproves the subcontract for any reason? 

Inevitably, of course, there will be many other business and legal considerations that need to be considered and accounted for in the teaming agreement. Each individual situation is different and may require expert business and legal assistance to ensure that your company’s business objectives will be met and its legal rights fully protected.

There are a number of Veteran Small Business owners out here that have already broken the code and figured out how Government Contracting works and how to make it work.  Those wise and tenacious Veteran Small Business owners are being asked to “each one, teach one.”  Working together, our community can make it happen and together realize the true meaning and power of T.E.A.M.

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