If you’ve made it this far then you’re either already at the helm of a successful team or you’re confident that you will eventually grow your business to the point where you need to make some smart quarterback calls.
Expanding a business can be tricky. Some of it is knowing when the timing is right, but often growth is unexpected, driven by sales and the need to satisfy rapidly changing customer needs.
This can lead to some tough calls. To help you call the right play, we’ve included some of the main topics that come up with business growth, planned or unplanned.
MO’ MONEY, MO’ MONEY!
This is the sequel to our earlier discussion where you considered sources for financing your business in the startup phase. Many of these strategies still apply, but you want to be careful not to trade money to grow for unmanageable debt. Of course, there’s no such thing as money without strings, so be aware of this before diving in.
Following are some sources for funds to fuel growth.
- U.S. Small Business Administration
- Small Business Development Center
- Washington Department of Commerce
- Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises
- Washington Department of Financial Institutions
- Washington Economic Development Finance Authority
- Bond financing assistance for construction projects
A Loan Again, Naturally.
You may also want to consider loans. SBA loans are actually made through commercial banks and credit unions, not the Small Business Administration, and are guaranteed by the U.S. government. The Department of Agriculture also makes loans that are guaranteed in this fashion.
The five Cs of credit that you had to consider when you opened your business are the same for a business loan to expand or grow. If your business is established, you’ll typically have to show equity in the business equals at least 25% of the loan amount you’re seeking or that you can bring in additional cash so “equity plus cash” will total at least 25%.
Some loan possibilities include standard commercial loans from banks or credit unions, SBA 7a loans, which can be used for any business purpose, SBA microloans which are up to $50,000, and SBA 504 loans, which can be used for real estate and major equipment purchases.
The Washington State Department of Commerce was awarded more than $163 million by the U.S. Treasury to reinvigorate its highly successful Small Business Credit Initiative. Rolled out over the next eight years (2023-2030), the initiative will offer five new financing options through state lending institutions:
- Commercial Real Estate Loan Program: Provides subsidized owner-occupied commercial real estate loans that could be used for tenant improvements, construction, purchase or refinance.
- Loan Participation Program (Micro and Small Business Loan Fund): Assists small businesses with obtaining financing through participating lenders and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).
- Revenue-Based Program: Provides a revenue-based debt product that focuses on underbanked communities around the state to provide upfront capital for businesses beyond the traditional debt-based loan products. This program is also a Sharia Compliant financing tool.
- Collateral Support Program: Provides small business loans to companies that have trouble qualifying for short-term loans through collateral support. The program is designed to complement the Small Business Administration’s 504 loan program by providing short-term loans before the permanent financing is in place.
- Washington State Venture Capital Program: Provides capital commitments to new venture capital funds with diverse investment teams that are focused on investing in underserved startups or targeted investment objectives such as social equity, climate tech innovations, information technology, A.I. and machine learning.
Of course, you can always go the investment capital route. This would mean getting investors for your business who want to put in money in exchange for a piece of the action, a seat on the board or favorable terms on their investment. This is a highly regulated way to fund your growth, but it is a fairly common one. Remember, however, that you may have to surrender some control over your company in exchange for investment funds (think Shark Tank). We already covered the basics of this earlier, explaining the difference between angel investors and venture capitalists, the latter being more likely to invest in a mature company.
Need More Ideas?
The Washington State Department of Commerce has put together a great resource for other strategies for accessing capital, from the traditional to the cutting edge. Startup Wisdom: 27 Strategies for Raising Business Capital is free to read and download.
ADDING PLAYERS TO YOUR TEAM
It’s can be exhilerating to wear all the hats in the startup phase, but eventually you come to the point where you need some additional players on your team.
Having the right employees is critical to your success and there are lots of resources out there to help you in your planning.
If you noted on your Business License Application that you would be hiring employees, this information was forwarded automatically to the Employment Security Department so a state unemployment tax account could be set up for your business. The Department of Labor & Industries was also notified during the application process so a workers’ compensation account could be set up.
If you didn’t say you were hiring employees but are planning to do so now, you need to remember to refile your Business License Application so that the Department of Employment Security and Department of Labor & Industries can set up your employer/employee accounts. Reports need to be filed quarterly with the state as well as the IRS if you have employees.
Every new employee is required to complete the federal I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form within three days of hire as well as an IRS W-4 Form. Every new hire or rehire needs to be reported to the Department of Social and Health Services New Hire Reporting Program within 20 days of the hire date.
If you have employees working for you on-site, you need to create a safety plan. To find out more about that, visit this page.
Adding independent contractors to the team needs careful consideration. The definitions are pretty strict so you need to make sure these workers are truly independent contractors. This means that they are 1) in business for themselves, 2) licensed, 3) actively market their services to prospective clients other than you, 4) have multiple clients or customers, 5) perform work that is outside your normal business activities, and 6) direct their own work with little to no supervision.
If you want to test the waters for adding capacity without adding staff, you may want to check into places like Upwork or Guru where you can hire people on a per-project basis or for a fixed amount of time. Many entrepreneurs tap into these resources to grow without adding overhead.
To learn more about your obligations and responsibilities as an employer, visit the Employment Security website.
PERKS OF THE JOB
As you add players to the team you’ll undoubtedly want to think about offering benefits, too. This can range from vacations and sick leave to disability insurance and retirement plans. Some of these are required by law; others just make good business sense.
All employers in Washington must provide their employees with paid sick leave at the rate of at least one hour of leave for every 40 hours worked and allow up to 40 hours to accrue from year to year.
Family and Medical Leave
Washington employees are eligible for paid family and medical leave. State law allows 12 to 18 weeks of leave to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious illness, perform military-related duties or recover from a serious health condition. There are federal rules regarding unpaid leave as well and we’ll leave it to you to sort out how this affects your business. If you have fewer than 50 employees, you’re exempt from paying the employer portion of the premium. However, you must still withhold and report the employee’s contribution or cover it for them. You can learn more about your obligations and what is covered here.
Washington State offers employers and employees affordable retirement savings plans through the Retirement Marketplace. A range of IRA and 401(k) type plans are available and employers can either set up a program for their employees or offer employees the chance to sign up for an individual retirement plan on their own. There is no paperwork for employers to fill out and no administrative fees.
The program is voluntarily and the plans are verified and approved by the Department of Financial Institutions and/or the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. The plans themselves are offered through private retirement plan providers and are completely portable.
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