By Robert Berman, CEO, Cinium Financial
The headline had it half right: Small Business Disdains Government.
But the real story from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey forgot the other half. The more important half: How Government Disdains Small Business.
And we know that because most small businesses cannot do public work. They do not even bid on it because they do not have the credit to start most government jobs. Seems strange you would need credit to do something that makes money. But you do: Lots of it.
For all the talk about how public officials love small businesses because that is where the new jobs are, these same public officials spend trillions of dollars for jobs that most small contractors cannot do.
Let’s look at a small example: Your local city council wants to hire a painting contractor for a $300,000 job. Amid all the fanfare about the importance of small businesses and how great it will be to keep the dollars in the community, local officials are surprised when local contractors do not bid and the job goes to a larger, out of town rival.
To do the paint job, a contractor needs to pay for paint, vendors, workers’ comp, bonding, and many other expenses long before the first dollar rolls in.
A bond to make sure the contractor will complete the job also requires credit, and that often requires a big chunk of cash as collateral.
All of a sudden, in order to bid on a $300,000 job you need that much and more in credit.
And ever since the world changed in 2008, most do not have it.
Not if they look for it at the bank.
No matter how much your banker wants to lend you money, chances are he cannot. Here’s why: Even if the mythical painting contractor has a 30-year relationship with his banker, if the contractor came out of the financial tsunami with a few dings on his credit, the loan is automatically marked with a dark star.
When that happens, the banker has to treat the loan as if it were already bad. That means setting money aside that he would normally lend to someone with better credit.
For every one dollar they set aside for this contractor, that means they will be able to lend $4 less to another.
Small business owners figured this out a long time ago: If they want to get their first government job, they have to find the credit somewhere other than a bank.
Some small business owners are finding ways to get credit from financial companies that look past credit scores and look at their ability to finish the job on time and under budget.
But most public officials are not aware of these new ways of keeping small business owners in business. Not yet anyway.
The President recently said that the stimulus did not work as well as he wanted because some of the “shovel ready” jobs were not as shovel ready as he thought.
Now you know what he was talking about.