The Small Business Financial Resource Guide

What is the Small Business Financial Resource Guide?

This website is designed to guide you through the complex maze of financial programs and direct your business to the right type of financing.

The guide's name says it all; it is guide to the many resources and types of financing that your business will need. Information on financing is readily available from many sources. Sources in both the public and private sectors. Federal, state, and local governments make up the public sector. Private sector parties include financial institutions, banks (lenders), non-bank lenders, businesses and associations working directly with small business.

The first section of this site provides an introduction to business planning and financial success, including why businesses fail and how to use your business plan to get a loan. This section also provides a description of the financial landscape, explaining what types of loans are available, who is involved, and how financial institutions work with the government to increase the flow of capital to small businesses.

The second section discusses how to obtain business financing, loan documentation preparation, understanding the financial statements and the most common financial ratio analysis required with typical loan applications, and checklists of documents required when you present your loan requests. There are also private-sector resources, state and federal government resources, and quasi-government resources that can provide help in certain areas, Also discussed is what happens after the loan is approved: what must be done to receive the money or close the loan.

The third section points businesses to specific federal government resources for financial assistance. Selected sources of federal financing for short and long-term needs (including special opportunities for women and minorities) are described.

The forth is a state-by-state directory of programs and assistance funded or delivered primarily at the state and local level. For the convenience of users of this site, certain federal contracts, such as U.S. Small Business administration (SBA), U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) district offices, and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) state offices are listed in this section.

The fifth section provides an overview of private-sector financial assistance resources for small businesses, including venture capital, development companies, and small business investment companies. Next-step resources such as business and trade associations and on-line resources are also described.

Finally, a glossary of common financial terms, many of which are used on this site, is included to provide a quick reference for important terms and concepts.

Federal Government Resources

Every business person knows that the federal government has an enornous impact on business. What many do not know is that the government provides a variety of programs to assist businesses: grants, credit assistance, procurement opportunities, technical assistance, management assistance, technology transfer programs and more. A large number of these services and programs, while aimed at the business community in general, are available and often targeted to small businesses. The Small Business Fincial Resource Guide introduces you to the resources of the federal government and puts you in touch with the prpgrams and services that interface with small businesses.

Note: Offices of members of Congress can direct small businesses to sources of federal assistance and information. To contact your representative's office, call (202) 224-3121 or consult your local phone directory fot the number for the representative's district office.

State Government Resources

State governments are very much involved in small business assistance and have the added advantage of being much closer to home. They are strongly interested in economic development and look to small businesses to provide the growth needed for a healthly state economy. Section four of this site describes the types of assistance available to small businesses at the state level, with listings of specific state-by-state financial assistance organizations.

Private Sector Resources

Virtually all funding for small businesses comes from the private sector. A description of the most common sources of financing is contained in the section on Business Planning and Financial Success, and the section on Private-Sector and Online Sources of Financial Assistance includes additional information about specific types of funding sources created especially for small businesses. This section also contains resources to obtain additional information and assistance in the area of small business financing, including associations and online services.

The Government Definition of a "Small Business"

There is a big size difference between a major corporation such as Wal-Mart and the convenience store on the corner. But where does your business fit in? Is it "small", and if so, what happens when your business grows? When does it cease to be small?

Size designation is important when you begin to deal with the federal and state governments. Because many of the financial programs and services they offer are targeted specifically toward "small" businesses, a definition of the possible participants is necessary.

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) has taken the lead in defining what constitutes a small business in the eyes of the federal government, and the SBA's definition is the most widely used.

This body of definitions is called "size standards" and can be found in Title 13 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 121. Small business is defined using size guidelines for the different categories of business enterprises as determined by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code. Categories include agriculture production, communications, manufacturing, mining, construction, retail, services, transportation and warehousing, and wholesale. Industry subcategories are included under each of these headings.

Size usually is determined by the amount of average gross annual receipts over a three-year period. For example, service businesses generally have a size standard of 5 million dollars for loans, meaning that a business is "small" and therefore eligible for loans if its average gross annual receipts for the past three years are under 5 million dollars. However, certain industries have a higher maximum, ranging up to 25 million dollars for certain services. In addition, the number of employees is used as a size standard for many industries. A mining firm is considered "small" if it has fewer than 500 employees, while wholesalers have a limit of 100 employees and firms in certain manufacturing industries can have up to 1,500 employees. Also, different standards sometimes are used to qualify for different programs, such as, surety bonds. The following are general guidelines on size standards for various industries:


General Construction
Special Trade Construction

Size Limit (Cannot Exceed)

500 to 1,500 employees
100 employees
$2.5 to $21.5 million in receipts
$5.0 to $21.0 million in receipts
$13.5 to $17.0 million in receipts
$7.0 million in receipts
$0.5 to $9.0 million in receipts
500 employees*
Standards vary widely by specific business type

* Certain mining-related services use three-year average annual receipts of $5.0 million as the size standard.

Because the body of definitions is complex and constantly changing, expert advice is essential to determine whether your business is "small". For more information or to obtain a copy of the size standards tables, contact the Office of Size Standards, Small Business administration at (202) 205-6618, or contact any SBA district office (see section on State-Specific Resources). Tables are also available online via SBA Online at

While the size standards of the Small Business Administration are the most widely used, state governments and private-sector organizations, including regional and local economic development corporations, may set their own standards. Businesses should contact these organizations to see whether they qualify as a small business and whether this standing will affect their eligibility for specific financial assistance programs.

Minority Businesses

There are many special opportunities for minority businesses, most notably the special loan assistance and 8(a) procurement contracts with the federal government.

The SBA defines "minorities" as those who are socially and economically disadvantaged. The regulations governing the practical application of that definition are complicated and various criteria are used. The regulations are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 13, Part 124.

Social disadvantage has to do with membership in one of several different racial or ethnic categories as defined by regulation. Social disadvantage can also be determined on a case-by-case basis for those who feel they are socially disadvantaged. Economic disadvantage has to do with the barrier that social disadvantage has placed in the way of an individual's participation in business and employment.

To find out if you qualify, contact the SBA district office nearest you (see State-Specific Resources) and ask for the minority business representative. The Minority Business Development Agency of the Department of Commerce may also be of assistance in this area (see section on Minority Business Development Agency).

State government representatives might be helpful as well, although different regulations may be applicable for state-level programs and services. Contact your state business development office, listed in State-Specific Resources.