September 28, 2023 By Caitlin Rose

A business plan may be a helpful roadmap for your business’s future. A business plan generally helps communicate your goals and objectives to others, including lenders. But what if you don’t have a business plan? Is it still possible to secure funding?

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The short answer is yes; no business plan loans and other funding options do exist, but there are pros and cons. Read on to learn more about securing funding without a business plan and why you may want to consider drafting a business plan.

What is a business plan?

So what is a business plan anyway? A business plan is a comprehensive document outlining the goals, strategies and financial projections of your business. It may act as a roadmap, helping you analyze your plans for marketing, sales, and working capital needs. 

Many entrepreneurs put together a business plan when seeking funding from a bank, credit union, or other type of lender. Some lenders will not invest in your company unless you have a business plan that outlines your steps to success. 

A strong business plan should generally include the following elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Target audience
  • Market analysis
  • Organization and management
  • Services or products
  • Marketing and sales
  • Break-even analysis
  • Financial plan
  • Operations
  • Competitive analysis
  • Objectives

If you need help preparing a business plan, there are free or low-cost resources available. Check out your local SBDC office for assistance or our article on how to write a business plan

Why lenders like business plans

A business plan may help show your commitment to growing your business, and your likelihood of future success. A well-prepared business plan shows lenders the potential success of your business and that you have done your research on the market, competitors, challenges and opportunities your business may face. It may increase your credibility as a borrower because it shows that you have invested the time and effort into your business, now and in the future. 

Some financial institutions or other lenders will not invest in your company without a business plan. SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, states that banks want to mitigate their risk of default, and private investors, such as Angel investors, want a realistic forecast for when they will get a return on their investment. They want to make sure that your business has a solid foundation and realistic chance of success. 

A business plan includes financial projections, showcasing the expected revenue, expenses, and profitability of the business over a specific period of time. This information may help lenders assess the borrower’s ability to generate enough income to cover loan repayments. Financial projections also help lenders evaluate the business’s ability to manage cash flow for long-term profitability. 

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Funding without a business plan

It is possible to get a business loan without a business plan. However, it may be more challenging and come with additional risks or costs. 

Traditional lenders like the Small Business Administration (SBA), banks, or credit unions typically require full business plans, but alternative lenders may offer loans without a formal business plan. SmartBiz® does not require a business plan when you apply for an SBA loan or a bank term loan through one of our marketplace partners. 

However, to make up for increased risk, alternative lenders may have other requirements or may charge higher interest rates. They may consider factors like revenue, personal and/or business credit scores, and time in business rather than requiring a comprehensive business plan. If you have low revenue or bad credit, it may be more difficult to get one of these loans. 

A business plan may increase your chances of getting a loan with better terms and conditions, as well as set you up for success navigating the challenges and opportunities of running your business. 

Alternative funding options

There may be alternative funding options beyond traditional bank loans, often from online lenders. Alternative funding options include:

  • Business cash advance (BCA) or merchant cash advance (MCA): With a BCA/MCA, a company gives you an upfront sum of cash that you repay using a percentage of your daily debit and credit card sales, plus a fee, rather than a traditional loan with fixed monthly payments. This type of financing may be very expensive and typically should not be a first resort for funding.
  • Equipment financing: A type of business financing that specifically focuses on acquiring or leasing equipment needed for operations. Businesses may get the necessary equipment without having to pay the full purchase price upfront. Rather, the equipment is financed through a loan or lease, which is repaid over time with interest or lease payments. It can be a flexible and accessible way to get the equipment needed to operate and grow but it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions.
  • Invoice financing: A type of financing option where a business sells its outstanding invoices to a third-party financial company, known as a factoring company. The factoring company advances a percentage of the invoice value to the business upfront, typically around 80 to 90 percent, and assumes responsibility for collecting payment from the customers. Carefully evaluate the costs and terms before making a decision.
  • Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding platforms enable businesses to raise funds online by collecting small contributions from a large number of individuals. There are different types of crowdfunding, including donation-based, reward-based, equity, and debt. Check out this list of the best  crowdfunding platforms of 2023
  • Grants: Certain organizations, government agencies, and foundations offer business grants to support specific industries or purposes. Businesses typically don’t have to pay back grant funds, but the application process may be highly competitive. 

Business credit cards and microloans may be other alternative financing options to look into. 

Final thoughts

Having a business plan doesn’t guarantee loan approval and isn’t always a hard requirement. However, a well-prepared business plan that demonstrates your commitment, understanding, and preparedness for the challenges and opportunities ahead may increase your chances of securing financing and obtaining favorable loan terms. Alternative funding sources exist but be sure to do your research on costs and risks. 

SmartBiz does not require a business plan when you apply for an SBA loan or a bank term loan through one of our marketplace partners. Find out if you pre-qualify in five minutes with our streamlined, online application.

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