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Do All Small Business Loans Require a Personal Guarantee?

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The decision to sign a personal guarantee for a business loan will depend on various factors affecting the SMB. The answer might surprise you.

June 11, 2024
Author: NCH

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Running a business requires additional capital, so many small business owners resort to getting loans to keep their businesses afloat. However, obtaining a business loan usually comes with its own fair share of challenges, including the requirement of a personal guarantee. 

Understanding Personal Guarantees

A personal guarantee is a legal commitment by a business owner to repay a business loan with personal assets if the business cannot fulfill its repayment obligations. This means that if the business defaults on the loan, the lender has the right to seize personal assets such as homes, cars, or personal savings accounts to recover the outstanding debt.

From the lender’s perspective, a personal guarantee reduces the risk of lending to small businesses, which are inherently more volatile and prone to failure than larger, more established enterprises. By holding the business owner personally accountable for the loan, lenders can mitigate some of this risk and increase the likelihood of repayment.

Pros and Cons of a Personal Guarantee


  • Increased Access to Credit: Lenders view personal guarantees as a way to reduce risk, making them more likely to approve a loan application.
  • Potential for Better Loan Terms: Personal guarantees can lead to more favorable loan terms, including lower interest rates and higher loan amounts.
  • Demonstrates Commitment: Signing a personal guarantee shows a business owner’s commitment to the success of their business, which can foster trust with lenders.


  • Personal Financial Liability: The most significant risk is the potential loss of personal assets if the business defaults on the loan.
  • Impact on Personal Credit: Defaulting a guaranteed loan can severely affect the guarantor’s credit score.
  • Long-Term Financial Strain: Personal guarantees can lead to long-term financial obligations, impacting the guarantor’s ability to obtain personal credit or loans later on.

Factors to Consider Before Signing a Personal Guarantee

Personal Liability 

As mentioned earlier, a personal guarantee means you are liable for the loan if the business defaults. This can put your personal assets, such as your home, savings, and investments, at risk. It’s always important to assess whether you can afford this risk and what the worst-case scenario could mean for your financial status.

Credit Score 

A personal guarantee can affect your personal credit score. If the business fails to repay the loan, the lender can report the delinquency on your personal credit report. This can lower your credit score, making it more difficult to obtain personal loans or lines of credit in the future. Understanding how this risk aligns with your long-term credit health is vital.

Loan Terms and Conditions

Carefully review the interest rate, repayment schedule, and any fees associated with late payments or defaults. Ensure that the loan terms are manageable and that you fully understand the obligations you are committing to. This also includes the scope of the personal guarantee—whether it is limited or unlimited—which dictates the extent of your liability.

Steps to Take Before Getting a Personal Guarantee

  1. Consult with Legal and Financial Advisors: Seek advice from financial advisors, accountants, and attorneys. They can help you understand the implications of the guarantee and ensure that the terms are fair and reasonable.
  2. Negotiate Terms: Where possible, negotiate the terms of the guarantee. This might include seeking a limited guarantee rather than an unlimited one or negotiating a cap on the amount you are personally liable for.
  3. Document and Understand Your Obligations: Carefully document and understand all obligations related to the personal guarantee. This includes keeping copies of all loan agreements and guarantee documents and staying informed about the loan’s status.
  4. Maintain Financial Discipline: Prioritize loan repayments and manage your finances prudently to avoid defaulting on the loan. Regularly reviewing the business’ financial performance and adjusting strategies as needed can help mitigate risks.
  5. Plan for the Worst-Case Scenario: Have a contingency plan in place. Understand what steps you will take if the business fails and you are called upon to fulfill the guarantee. This includes having legal and financial strategies ready to protect your personal assets.

Alternatives to Personal Guarantees

Secured Business Loans

These loans require business assets as collateral, which can reduce or eliminate the need for a personal guarantee. Common types of collateral include real estate, equipment, and inventory. Secured loans offer lower interest rates and more favorable terms due to less risk for lenders.

Equity Financing

Equity financing involves raising capital by selling shares of the business to investors. This method does not require repayment and eliminates the need for personal guarantees. However, it results in a dilution of ownership and may require giving up some control over the business.

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Trade Credit

Trade credit is an arrangement where suppliers allow businesses to purchase goods or services on credit, with payment due at a later date. Building strong relationships with suppliers and maintaining good credit terms can help manage cash flow without needing personal guarantees. 

Government-Backed Loans

Loans like those offered by the SBA come with more favorable terms and lower personal guarantee requirements. These loans are designed to support small businesses and can provide necessary capital without the significant personal risk associated with traditional loans.

Main Takeaway

A personal guarantee for a business loan entails careful consideration. While these may be necessary to secure financing for some businesses, they also come with significant risks for the business owner’s finances. Take time to assess the viability of your business, understand your financial situation, and thoroughly review loan terms before committing to one.

If you are unsure whether to get a personal guarantee, our experts at NCH can provide personalized guidance and support. For more than 30 years, we have been helping business owners like you understand the implications of personal guarantees, explore alternative financing options, and develop a financial strategy that aligns with your goals. 

Visit our website or call us at 1-800-508-1729 to schedule your complimentary consultation!

DISCLAIMER: The above material has been prepared for informational purposes only, containing opinions of the provider and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. Please consider consulting tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

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