When the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a £330bn package of financial support in March to help the UK economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic, business owners were able to apply for funding via a dizzying number of schemes.

But although some of the initiatives have been widely praised – not least the government’s furlough scheme, which is due to end in October after contributing to the wages of more than 9.5 million employees over seven months – there are still traces of stigma surrounding the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which closes for applications on 30 September.

The initiative, which aims to help companies that have suffered disruption to their cash flow as a result of Covid-19, provides loans of up to £5m through more than 40 accredited lenders, which include BOOST&Co’s partner, Growth Lending.

CBILS can help your business grow

This funding may be used to support growth strategies, including mergers and acquisitions, but there remains a misperception in the market – not only among business owners, but also shared by advisors, accountants and corporate finance teams – that these loans are aimed solely at firms that are struggling to survive, and not at those that are ready to thrive.

“There is a feeling that CBILS is available to offset any under-performance or losses brought on by Covid-19 – which it is – but the government is clear that the initiative was designed to support businesses and to drive economic recovery as a whole,” says Ryan Sorby, Manchester-based principal at BOOST&Co. “If that means making an acquisition or investing in people, for the benefit of both your company and the UK, then that’s absolutely what the scheme can be used for.”

All of the accredited CBILS lenders must adhere to the initiative’s guidelines, but these are flexible enough to permit ambitious firms to borrow money to support their plans for growth. “Business owners may have discounted CBILS because they thought the scheme was only intended to cover the immediate impact of Covid-19, but it does provide a huge opportunity for companies that still want to grow,” Sorby says.

Smaller lenders are more flexible

The appetite for lending will vary between providers, so companies may benefit from applying for funding from an alternative lender such as Growth Lending, which specialises in working with innovative, fast-growing SMEs. Smaller lenders also offer more flexibility than traditional banks, which were criticised after the launch of CBILS for being initially slow to lend.

“If businesses are seeking loans to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, plus additional funding to continue to implement their growth strategies, they need a larger amount than mainstream lenders have been willing to provide,” Sorby says. “Those lenders have a role, but we can provide a level of funding that helps SMEs to deliver fantastic plans for growth.”

It is only natural that entrepreneurs may feel reluctant to apply for support, given that a request for help is an admission that their company’s performance has fallen short of expectations, albeit through no fault of their own. “I think there’s an element of this, where business owners think: ‘If I take a CBILS loan, it’s only because I’ve been hurt,’ when actually, you may be able to use the funding to recover and then to grow,” Sorby says.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

In a recent interview with BOOST&Co, James Sutcliffe, who created The Founding Network to connect business owners and encourage SMEs to share their expertise, noted that “people don’t like to be seen to ask for help”, but observed that “when one founder makes use of a government scheme and talks about how it is working for their firm, others are more likely to be receptive to it”.

It is therefore important to clarify the range of benefits that CBILS can bring, particularly given that the sheer number of initiatives has created confusion in the market, with some business owners unsure which scheme would work best for their firm. (In this article, our Bristol-based principal Sinead Johnson deciphers the jargon and decodes the differences between CBILS, the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.)

So, if your company needs funding, consider CBILS before the scheme closes for applications on 30 September. These loans offer valuable support for businesses in almost all sectors, and Growth Lending provides flexible funding in the form of term debt, invoice finance and revolving credit facilities. Whatever you need to fund, from working capital to acquisitions, we can help to support your company not just during Covid-19, but well into the future, too.

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