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Where’s the capital? What’s the best commercial loan? SBA 504 Expert tells all!
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Sara Clarke, a charming business reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, recently contacted me for a brief interview, which appeared in yesterday’s (September 28th) “Central Florida Business” section. Among other things, I got to share my views on how the recession has affected business owners and how they can capitalize on the smartest financing available to them. Our SmartChoice Commercial Loan (aka the SBA 504 loan) allows brilliant business owners to take advantage of discounted assets that exist . . . even today. I think you’ll get something out of the following Q&A, and please share it with a colleague or friend who ought to read what someone “in the trenches” thinks about all this, for a change . . .

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Central Florida Business: Can you describe what your business does?

We finance commercial property for business owners and entrepreneurs all around the country.

CFB: When you’re talking to business owners and entrepreneurs, what do you hear most often from them now?

Everybody seems to be working twice as hard to get half the results they did a couple of years ago.

CFB: I’m hearing from small-business owners that they just want to know ‘How do I get a loan?’ and ‘Where’s the money?’ What’s your response?

It’s no secret that it’s pretty tough right now to find lenders, commercial lenders that are willing to lend to the small-business community. We are one of them, but we only do it when it involves commercial property, and obviously right now is a great time — believe it or not — to buy commercial property.

But a lot of business owners need access to capital . . . and that’s very difficult. I always tell them to work with specialists, not generalists. I tell them to look into community banks, and non-bank lenders. They’re going to have to put together a much more comprehensive, much more thorough loan request than they ever have in the past. And they need to be prepared — their expectations need to probably be lowered somewhat as well.

CFB: I’ve heard that you’ve gone undercover to shop for small-business loans.

Notoriously, about 15 months ago, I actually donned one of those little spy video things, where, you know, they’re in the button or whatever in your shirt? And I went into five banks. What was appalling were the answers I got and the fashion I got them in . . . anything and everything that could go wrong in a sales call is basically what they did. It’s mind-blowing, and it was very frustrating. Some people are irritated with me that I did that. On the other hand, I think it exposes a major problem.

CFB: What is the best loan for those owners who want to acquire commercial property?

I’m a little biased, but my opinion is it’s definitely the SBA 504 loan, or what we’ve re-branded as the SmartChoice Commercial Loan. And there’s a reason for that. Typically it’s 90 percent loan-to-cost financing, which means it’s the smartest capital utilization for a business owner. They’re able to hang on to more of their precious capital, as opposed to putting it into the project and lessening the risk for the bank.

CFB: What made you get into lending?

[Over the course of my career, I] just fell in love with working with small-business owners. I consider myself one, I really relate to it, I’m kind of a serial entrepreneur, I have a lot of different businesses that I run and it’s just one of those things. I think the small-business community doesn’t quite get the representation the numbers of them would warrant. Everybody’s “for” small business, but when the rubber meets the road, a lot of times it’s just rhetoric.

CFB: You recently launched a men’s barber shop — why and what is that business?

It’s Kennedy’s All-American Barber Club. The bottom line is, I’d been a member [of Carrs Barber Club] for a couple years, was one day getting a haircut and a shave — and this is the old-fashioned straight-razor shave that we see in movies and on TV — and my barber started talking about some of the problems that they were having. My antennae went up and I said, “Tell me more.” By the time he was done I said, “Well, who do I need to speak with about possibly buying it?” To me, it’s the classic entrepreneurial story. It’s an unexploited niche in the marketplace, it’s an innovative idea, and we’re running with it.

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If you want to read more about Smarter Financing via our SmartChoice Commercial Loan, just head over www.TheSmartChoiceLoan.com. And if you think Kennedy’s is an interesting concept, you can read all about it (and watch some videos, too) at www.KennedysBarberClub.com.

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