01/15/2013 06:43 pm ET Updated Mar 17, 2013

Denied Business Credit? Work on These Five Things


If your company recently applied for business credit and was rejected, it's not alone. A recent survey of banks and asset-based lenders found they had turned down more than a third of all businesses' applications for loans, according to Pepperdine University's 2013 Capital Markets Report.

Furthermore, many businesses wouldn't even attempt to seek funding because they believed their request would be rejected, according to a survey of privately held businesses in the same Pepperdine report.

What can you do if your business credit application was denied?

First, you should try to find out why. The Federal Trade Commission says you should submit a written request for the reasons within 60 days of the denial, and the creditor must give you the specifics in writing within 30 days of the request. Consider discussing any concerns you have with your lender, and you may be able to resolve the issues. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits creditors from denying a loan based on reasons that have nothing to do with your creditworthiness, according to the FTC.

In the Pepperdine study, banks and asset-based lenders only rarely cited a company's size or economic concerns as the reasons for declined loans. The top reasons instead were tied to the quality of the business's earnings or cash flow, or to the fact that a company had insufficient collateral.

So the next thing you can do if your business credit was denied is take a good look at your own business and how it rates on the financial metrics that can best predict default -- the exact scenario lenders want to avoid. One way to see how your firm stacks up against peers is through a business credit report.

Below are five financial metrics that Sageworks Inc., a financial information company, has identified as the best predictors of default, so if you've been denied credit, consider working to improve your company's measurements in these areas.

Cash to assets. This is a key measure of liquidity that provides an indication of how much flexibility a firm has to deploy cash or access liquid accounts in order to make good investments, according to Lawrence Litowitz, a partner at strategic advisory firm The SCA Group LLC. Managing your accounts receivable to ensure you're getting paid as quickly as possible and managing inventory to avoid tying up cash are two ways to improve this metric.

EBITDA to assets. Comparing EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, to a company's assets helps show how efficient the business is. Improving this metric often involves either raising revenues (without a similar increase in expenses) or cutting costs. Using customer suggestions and improved planning are a few ways to boost revenues. Review overhead expenses, such as telephone and equipment, or revisit vendor contracts to seek expense savings.

Debt service coverage ratio. This is measured by comparing EBITDA to a firm's current portion of long-term debt and interest expense, so boosting EBITDA with some of the suggestions above could yield improvement in the ratio. One effective way to tackle the debt and interest side of this ratio is to cut expenses and apply the savings toward paying principal on the debt.

Liabilities to assets. This ratio indicates how much of your assets are financed through debt, as opposed to through profits from the business, so improving this metric is all about reducing your debt. The Better Business Bureau recommends making the biggest debt payment possible each month, especially for credit cards, which typically carry high interest rates that otherwise accrue interest payable, another liability account.

Net income to sales. This is a fundamental measure of how profitable your business is. Cutting operating expenses can be a short-term way to boost this ratio, but it can also backfire, so tread carefully. For example, skimping on equipment maintenance could lead to more expensive repairs or replacements. Longer-term goals required to improve profitability involve lowering production costs and increasing higher-profit sales.

Running a successful business isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. In the same way, addressing issues that contributed to a credit denial may take months, or even years. But in the long run, the efforts should help you win not only a loan but also a better, more lucrative business.