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When it comes to running a business, debt can be both a blessing and a curse. Used strategically, borrowing money can help grow your company faster through investments in equipment, inventory, marketing, etc. But take on too much debt and you risk overextending yourself financially, making it harder to weather any storms that come along.
So how much debt is too much when you’re running a business? Unfortunately there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. “It really depends on the individual business, their profit margins, growth plans, and overall risk tolerance,” explains John Smith, a certified public accountant (CPA) in Phoenix. “But there are some general guidelines business owners can use to assess if their debt levels are getting out of hand.”
Here are some red flags to watch out for, according to finance pros:
Though every business is different, most finance experts agree if your debt-to-income ratio stays below 50%, you should be in decent shape.
“We usually want to see small businesses keep their total debts at less than half of annual profits or gross revenues,” says Samantha Rhodes, a small business finance coach out of NYC. “Up to 80% can work but is riskier, and over 90% is very dangerous territory.”
To calculate your business’ debt-to-income ratio, simply divide your total debts by your annual pre-tax profits. For example:
So for this fictional company, their debt load equaling 50% of profits falls within advisable ranges.
If your debt ratio is too high or the warning signs above sound all too familiar, here are some tips from accountants to turn things around:
Bringing in a professional accountant to assess your specific situation is also wise. They can review your financial statements and provide guidance on reasonable debt targets for your business’ size, industry, stage of growth, and goals.
Why is it so critical to keep business debts under control? Here are some repercussions finance experts see when companies take on excessive loans and liabilities:
So while some debt is often unavoidable (and beneficial) in running a business, overdoing it can set you on the path towards financial disaster. That’s why keeping a close eye on your debt-to-income ratio and heeding the warning signs above is so critical.
To summarize expert advice on prudent debt limits:
“Debt can be friend or foe depending how you manage it,” Smith says. “The key is borrowing strategically, not excessively, to foster sustainable long-term growth for your company.”
What debt metrics or guidelines do you follow for your business finances? Share your top tips in the comments!
How to Tell if Your Small Business Has Too Much Debt – Reddit thread with business owners discussing excessive debt warning signs
How Much Debt Should a Small Business Have? – Quora post with finance pros weighing in ideal debt ranges
What is Considered Too Much Debt for a Small Business? – Avvo article exploring impacts of excessive small business debt
What’s a Safe Debt-to-Income Ratio for a Small Business? – Overview from LawInfo on prudent debt guidelines and ratios
How Much Debt Should Your Business Have? – FindLaw analysis on ideal debt loads and warning signs of too much
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