What would you do with a 'small loan' of £1 million? Colin Lawson, Equilibrium

In late 2015 Donald Trump courted controversy when he revealed he first started out in business with the help of $1 million from his father, which he described as a "small loan". We wanted to ask local business owners for their thoughts on the comments and what they would have done with such a loan when setting up their business. 

For the final instalment of the series, we speak to our very own Colin Lawson, founder and Managing Partner at Equilibrium.

 

If you were given a loan of £1 million when setting up the business, would you have done anything differently? 

Yes, and it may not have been for the better. Chances are I would have bought an existing firm, however I am not sure I would have had the knowledge, experience and wisdom to succeed. 

How did you start your business? What financial help, if any, did you receive?

I started from scratch - no clients, no experience, just self-belief. I had a family and a large mortgage, so I borrowed the first year's business and personal expenses, £40,000 in total, from my mum. My father had recently passed away, which created the capital and his death was also part of the motivation to start my own firm. He died in his early 50s so I figured I had no time to waste. 

Are you pleased you did things the way you did, or would you have preferred to have received a huge loan instead? 

I would not change a thing. When you build a firm gradually you learn many invaluable lessons. We are also lucky that we are in the service business so we don't need cash to buy stock etc. 

What are your opinions on Donald Trump's comments suggesting he considers a $1 million loan small? Would you agree that it is 'small', or would you consider it a significant advantage when trying to get ahead? 

He says so many ridiculous things, it's just one more to add to the long, long list! 

What size loan, if any, would you recommend prospective entrepreneurs and business owners seek when setting up a business? 

You must ensure that you have enough capital to let you build the business at a reasonable pace. By setting out on your own you will no doubt be an optimist, but make sure you are more pessimistic when doing your forecasts to ensure you have enough cash to see you through to positive cashflow and profitability. So, in short, borrow enough (maybe even too much) but then plan only to use a fraction of it. 

What advice would you give to other would-be entrepreneurs and business owners just starting out? What would you advise if they were presented with a loan of £1 million? 

Check on the interest rates, check on the penalties, check on the small print. If it's cheap, take it, you may not need it but no business ever went under from having too much access to capital.