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Strategies to Obtain a Working Capital Line of Credit for Small Businesses

by

Solomon Atamaya

MS, DeVry University, 2014

BS, Kaplan University, 2012

Doctoral Study Submitted in Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Business Administration

Walden University

December 2021

Abstract

Strategies to Obtain a Working Capital Line of Credit for Small Businesses

by

Solomon Atamaya

MS, DeVry University, 2014

BS, Kaplan University, 2012

Doctoral Study Submitted in Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Business Administration

Walden University

December 2021

Dedication

Acknowledgments

27

SNC Internal Information

SNC Internal Information

Table of Contents

List of Tables iv

List of Figures v

Section 1: Foundation of the Study 1

Background of the Problem 1

Problem Statement 2

Purpose Statement 2

Nature of the Study 3

Research Question 3

Interview Questions 4

Conceptual Framework 4

Operational Definitions 5

Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations 5

Assumptions 5

Limitations 6

Delimitations 6

Significance of the Study 7

Contribution to Effective Practice of Business 7

Contribution to Positive Social Change 7

Review of the Professional and Academic Literature 8

Application to the Applied Business Practice 9

Theory of Discouraged Borrowers 10

Alternative Theories for the Theory of Discouraged Borrowers 14

Small Businesses 15

Small Business Financing 21

Credit Strategies 23

Information Symmetry in the Lending Process 26

Audited Financial Statements 28

The State of the Economy at the Time of This Study 29

Transition 30

Section 2: The Project 31

Purpose Statement 31

Role of the Researcher 31

Participants 33

Research Method 35

Research Design 36

Population and Sampling 37

Ethical Research 38

Data Collection Instruments 40

Data Collection Technique 41

Data Organization Technique 44

Data Analysis 44

Reliability and Validity 46

Reliability 46

Validity 46

Transition and Summary 48

References 50

Appendix A: Informed Consent Form 72

Appendix B: Interview Protocol 75

List of TablesTable 1 . Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority Programs 22List of FiguresSNC Internal InformationSNC Internal InformationvSection 1: Foundation of the StudySmall businesses account for over 50% of all companies in the United States (U.S. Small Business Administration [SBA], 2018b), having a positive effect on gross domestic product (Klimczak et al., 2017). Small businesses are an integral part of the economies of both developed and underdeveloped countries (Karadag, 2015); however, small business owners struggle to stay in operation longer than 5 years (SBA, 2018a). In 2013, 406,353 start-up businesses opened; in the same year, however, 46% of businesses closed (SBA, 2018b). A manager’s ability to acquire working capital could affect business continuity and reduce the failure rate (Leroy et al., 2015). Therefore, all business leaders need to have plans to acquire working capital (Lampadarios, 2016). The purpose of this multiple case study is to explore strategies that small business owners use to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity.Background of the ProblemMore than 500,000 small businesses constitute 97% of businesses in Maryland and employ more than 1 million people (SBA, 2018b). In 2014, 4,074 new small businesses started in Maryland, and in the same year, 3,730 businesses closed, marking a large percentage of failed small businesses compared to those opened (SBA, 2018b). External funding is necessary for the sustainability and growth of small businesses (Neagu, 2016). Access to financial resources is essential for business leaders to pay for operating expenses, debts, inventory, and business growth. Many business leaders attribute business failures to external factors, whereas internal management capabilities and approaches significantly impact business sustainability (Eggers & Lin, 2015). Poor management skills and an inability to access finances are the main reasons for business failure (Lee, 2016). Accordingly, I will explore effective Maryland small business owners’ effective strategies to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity for 5 years or longer.Problem StatementInsufficient access to funds, including lines of credit, causes 29% of small businesses to fail within the first 5 years of operation (Shabat, 2019). Small business owners encounter challenges obtaining a working capital line of credit (U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, 2017). The general business problem is that some small business owners cannot access working capital lines of credit, which threatens business survival through liquidity shortages, lost customers, and falling profitability. The specific business problem is that some small business owners lack strategies to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity.Purpose StatementThe purpose of this qualitative multiple case study is to explore strategies that small business owners use to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity. The proposed study’s population is small business owners in Maryland who have obtained a working capital line of credit for business continuity. Information gleaned from this study will expand understanding of the economic, social, cultural, and structural issues small businesses face in securing working lines of credit. Among the implications for social change are that small business owners may be able to sustain operations, thus providing employment opportunities that could increase the standard of living and contribute to citizens’ well-being in the local communities. Another implication for social change is that sustaining small business operations will allow their customers to continue receiving the products and services they need, contributing to their quality of life and the sustainability of their household or business operations.Nature of the StudyThe three research methods are qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods (Yin, 2017). In a qualitative study, a researcher explores a phenomenon (Glaser & Strauss, 2017); in comparison, a quantitative researcher statistically measures the relationship between variables (Goertzen, 2017). A researcher employs both qualitative and quantitative approaches in mixed methods (Yin, 2017). Because I will not use numerical data to understand the research phenomenon in this study, neither the quantitative nor mixed methods approach is appropriate; therefore, I will use the qualitative methodology with a case study design.I considered narrative, ethnographic, phenomenological, and case study designs for this qualitative study. Using a narrative design, a researcher obtains individuals’ life stories in a storytelling format (Marshall & Rossman, 2016). The ethnographic design meets the needs for a cultural study of specific groups. In a phenomenological study, participants describe their lived experiences of a phenomenon (Hanson et al., 2011). A case study permits the researcher to capture a real-life phenomenon in a specific setting by asking how and why questions (Cronin, 2014). This type of qualitative design is ideal for the current study because my goal is to explore a research phenomenon in a real-life setting by asking how and why questions to identify common factors.Research QuestionWhat strategies do small business owners use to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity?Interview Questions1. What strategies did you use to obtain a working capital line of credit?2. What are the significant challenges you encountered in securing a working capital line of credit?3. How did you overcome the challenges you encountered in securing a working capital line of credit?4. What strategies did you use to develop a successful banking relationship to secure working capital?5. How, if at all, did you have to modify the initial strategies you used for obtaining a working capital line of credit?6. What else could you share that is pertinent to the procedures for obtaining credit for your business?Conceptual FrameworkThis study’s conceptual framework is the theory of discouraged borrowers (TDB), created in 2003 by Kon and Storey. According to TDB, some small business owners are discouraged from applying for bank financing for three primary reasons: asymmetric information, application costs, and market rates (Kon & Storey, 2003). The idea of credit rationing from banks is one component of business owners’ discouragement, which may prevent them from applying for bank loans (Kon & Storey, 2003). The TDB is applicable to the proposed study because it provides a framework appropriate to explore small business owners seeking to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity. The business environment is becoming faster paced because of economic shifts, globalization, and technological breakthroughs (Guillén et al., 2014). This rapidly changing environment means business leaders must adjust their behavior in adapting to new information and approaches to acquiring credit (Lichtenstein & Plowman, 2009). The TDB provides a conceptual framework to understand why some small business owners face difficulties in applying for and obtaining a working capital line of credit for business continuity beyond 5 years.Operational DefinitionsAdaptive leadership: A style of leadership that involves understanding the leadership process, strategizing, and adapting to change across all organizational levels (Reiman et al., 2015).Cash flow: Net income plus depreciation, amortization, and depletion equals cash flow (Deakin, 1972).Small business: An entity with fewer than 500 employees (SBA, 2018a).Working capital: The operating liquidity of a business, which is the difference between current assets and current liability (Nguyen et al., 2016).Working capital line of credit: A line of credit that provides flexible cash through short-term financing for business continuity and sustainability (Cowton & San-Jose, 2017).Assumptions, Limitations, and DelimitationsAssumptionsAssumptions are beliefs that a researcher cannot verify but presumes to be true (Marshall & Rossman, 2016). In this study, the first assumption is that a qualitative approach with a multiple case study design will be appropriate for answering the research question. Another assumption is that the participants will provide honest responses to the interview questions. If participants withhold information or misrepresent their experiences, my findings will not be accurate. I also assume that interviews with five small business owners and reviews of their company documents will be sufficient to achieve data saturation, without which I could not have confidence in my results.LimitationsLimitations stem from methodology and design issues beyond the researcher’s control (Yin, 2017). One limitation of this study is the use of qualitative methodology because qualitative findings are subjective and dependent upon the researcher’s interpretation (see Dennis, 2018). Accordingly, the risk of researcher bias is another limitation. Because of the small sample size and specific qualification criteria, the transferability of qualitative findings may be limited and, therefore, subject to the reader’s opinions regarding applicability to other populations or situations. Qualitative data analysis is another limitation because reliability and validity are dependent on the researcher’s determination of all relevant themes and achieving data saturation.DelimitationsDelimitations are the boundaries set by a researcher as criteria for participation (Theofanidis & Fountouki, 2019). The scope of the proposed study is limited to exploring the phenomenon of strategies small business owners have used to secure a working capital line of credit for business continuity. Delimitations for participation include owners of manufacturing and wholesale small businesses located in Maryland that employ 500 or fewer employees and have been in operation longer than 5 years. Outside the scope of the study are owners of newly created, nonregistered businesses not in operation 5 years or longer, not located in Maryland, or employing more than 500 people. There were no delimitations concerning participants’ gender, age, race, or immigration status.Significance of the StudySome small businesses fail because of insufficient access to working capital (Liu, 2015). Securing a line of credit may ensure business continuity and growth, resulting in continued and advancement opportunities for employees and a more thriving community. The findings of this study may be of value to businesses in several ways. First, small business owners can learn of the strategies used by other small business owners to successfully obtain a working capital line of credit, thus ensuring business continuity beyond 5 years. Contributions to positive social change may come from more small business owners maintaining their businesses’ operation, continuing to employ their workers, and economically benefiting the community.Contribution to Effective Practice of BusinessThe results of this study can contribute to business practice in at least two ways. First, small business owners may learn about and implement credit acquisition strategies that lead to increased business performance in the long term. Individuals considering opening small businesses may also find these results helpful when creating their business plans and forecasts. The research findings may be valuable to small business owners, banking officials, government agencies, and creditors in understanding the strategies small business leaders use to access credit.Contribution to Positive Social ChangeSmall business owners play an important role in facilitating the health of the local economy (Brown, 2018). The community can benefit from the results of this study in many ways. Considering that sustainability is a pathway to a significant competitive advantage, small business owners may be willing to participate in new programs in the community and invest more in their workforce’s well-being. The increase of small businesses operating in the community leads to job creation, poverty reduction, and the potential for a higher standard of living among citizens (Shibia & Barako, 2017). Employees’ families also benefit when individuals prosper in a healthy working environment with increased opportunities for employment.Review of the Professional and Academic LiteratureConducting the literature review on the research topic involved accessing various journals and seminal books through the Walden University Library website. Databases searched included ABI/INFORM Complete, ProQuest Central, Emerald Management, Business Source Complete, Academic Research Complete, and SAGE Premier. I also conducted searches through Google Scholar and AOSIS Open Journals. Google Scholar queries provided various interdisciplinary results, including conference proceedings, and AOSIS Open Journals searches returned peer-reviewed scholarly articles from a wide range of academic disciplines. A review of business journals and publications returned research specific to small businesses and small business owners. Government websites, including those of the SBA and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, provided valuable information on small businesses’ credit strategies and programs.In searching for relevant literature, I gave preference to peer-reviewed articles published between 2016 and 2021 to obtain current information and findings. Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory was a helpful tool to ensure the articles were peer reviewed. Keywords and combinations of keywords used for the search included small business, business lending, small business lending, small business financing, credit strategies, bank loans, sources of financing, working capital line of credit, small business and financial constraints, small business continuity, capital structure, information asymmetry, and the lending process, small businesses and audited financial statements, small business leadership, the theory of discouraged borrowers, and small business and discouraged borrower. The literature review search produced 142 sources, 137 (85%) of which were peer-reviewed articles published between 2016 and 2021.I compared and contrasted the work of different scholars to obtain varied perspectives on the research phenomenon. The first overarching concept, the likelihood of application for and approval of a working capital line of credit, emerged from discussions of the TDB in the context of small businesses. The discussion topics related to the second concept, small businesses, included small business sustainability, small business challenges, and government roles. The concept of small business financing emerged from literature on funding programs, sources of capital, and credit strategies, with a fourth concept of information symmetry in the lending process.Application to the Applied Business PracticeThe purpose of this qualitative multiple case study is to explore strategies that small business owners use to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity. The literature review begins with an in-depth exploration of the conceptual framework of the TDB and how researchers have used it in related studies. Other relevant topics discussed are small business financing, credit strategies, information symmetry in the lending process, and audited financial statements.Theory of Discouraged Borrowers (TDB)The TDB emerged in the early 21st century when Levenson and Willard (2000) explored how insufficient credit and credit rationing discouraged small business owners from applying for loans. As Levenson and Willard labeled them, the majority of discouraged applicants were founders of smaller, less-established businesses. Levenson and Willard examined U.S. small business owners who encountered credit rationing in their quest for external financing. They drew data from a national survey of businesses in 1987 and 1988—the first years for which direct data were available specific to business owners’ desire for credit—that indicated only a small percentage (2.14%) of small business owners had applied for and failed to procure financing, with an additional 2.17% obtaining financing after an initial rejection (Levenson & Willard, 2000). Comparatively, the percentage of small business owners discouraged from applying was 4.22% (Levenson & Willard, 2000).In 2003, another set of researchers, Kon and Storey, expanded on the idea of discouraged credit applicants to create the TDB. Kon and Storey (2003) described discouraged borrowersas business owners who, despite needing financing for their operations, do not apply for loans for fear that the bank will reject their application. Kon and Storey adopted the discouraged borrower approach to assess loan application success in response to the extensive literature on credit rationing, collateral, and asymmetry. Business owners feel discouraged from borrowing based on perceived high application costs combined with screening errors and public policies not conducive to small business lending. The greatest degree of borrower discouragement occurs when a bank has inadequate information on the applicant’s business (i.e., information asymmetry). Therefore, small business owners who have not successfully obtained a working capital line of credit might have felt discouraged from even applying.Han et al. (2009) explored the TDB specific to the factors leading a borrower to become dispirited. Following an analysis of data on financing for U.S. small businesses, the researchers indicated that small business owners with riskier businesses were often less likely to apply for bank financing. Han et al. also introduced the concept of information asymmetry in that, as bank transparency increased, the owners’ likelihood of applying for financing increased.Chandler (2010) drew parallels between discouraged borrowers and their relationships with banks. A critical component of the bank–business relationship is information symmetry, something discussed in later studies concerning small business owners’ ability to obtain working capital lines of credit for business sustainability and growth (e.g., Ata et al., 2015; Caporale & Gil-Alana, 2016; Moro et al., 2015; Njeru et al., 2013; Sahin et al., 2011). Information symmetry refers to transparency in the loan application process about small businesses’ credit history, balance sheets, business plans, and intended use of the financing (Yan et al., 2015); therefore, information symmetry affects the degree of trust between the parties.Tang et al. (2017) narrowed the TDB to look specifically at the trust component between a business owner and a loan manager and its effect on the business owners’ decision to apply for credit. Their findings showed the business owners’ degree of perceived trust with the lending agency strongly influenced their decision to apply for credit (i.e., the lower the trust, the greater the borrower’s discouragement). Despite the connection between trust and increased access to working capital lines of credit, the longevity of the owner–lender relationship had no bearing on borrower discouragement. An inverse relationship also emerged between the small business owner’s degree of experience and the subsequent discouragement in borrowing. Business owners with prior entrepreneurial experience had a greater degree of trust in lending institutions and were more inclined to apply for credit.Scholars have conducted extensive research on the difficulties small business owners face to obtain credit and ensure continuity (Freel et al., 2012). Less common, however, are studies of the discouraged borrowers who, rather than risk rejection, choose not to apply for credit. A literature review showed discouraged borrowers outnumbered rejected borrowers by 2 to 1 (Kon & Storey, 2003). Also indicated were four characteristics common among discouraged borrowers of business strategy: industry sector, the business owner’s prior experience, lLending relationship, and preexisting banking relationships (Freel et al., (2012). Findings showed that entrepreneurial and firm strategy factors are the primary differentiators between discouraged and rejected small business borrowers. (Kon & Storey, (2003). Most likely to be discouraged were owners of smaller or family-owned businesses and those who had previous entrepreneurial experience, offered knowledge-intensive services, or led limited liability partnerships or corporations. Freel et al. (2012) conducted an extensive study of small business owners’ need for bank financing specific to their discouragement from applying. The researchers used information from a large-scale survey of small business organizations that measured the attitudes and opinions of owners, including whether they had applied for a loan, received a loan, or felt discouraged from applying for a loan in the last 2 years. Freel et al.’s findings are directly applicable to the theoretical framework for the proposed research, as the percentage of small business owners with rejected credit applications was half of the rate of discouraged small business owners who had not applied. Comment by Natalie Casale: I fixed this citation, also.One component of Cole and Sokolyk’s (2016) study on small business owners who need and receive credit was the TDB. The four business groups studied were those without a need for financing, those with a need but who feel discouraged from borrowing, those with a need who apply and are approved, and those with a need who apply and do not receive the funds. Specific to the second category of borrowers, the researchers identified four primary components of discouragement: the smaller size of the business, the business’s profitability, the age of the owner, and any access to additional sources of financing (Cole & Sokolyk, 2016). Their findings showed that between 21% and 55% of business owners who had felt discouraged from applying for credit would have received approval. Similar to Freel et al. (2012), Cole and Sokolyk found the likelihood of discouraged borrowers to have received financing was significantly higher than the likelihood of denial.Some researchers have focused specifically on small business owners’ characteristics as the chief determinant of borrower discouragement. Singh (2014) studied discouraged borrowers with a focus on gender differences, among other factors. Singh’s general findings showed that business owners in the goods sector had a greater need for external financing than did those in the retail and wholesale sectors. In addition, primarily female-owned businesses had less need for outside funding. Singh also identified a parallel between reduced borrower discouragement and both relationship banking and 50-50 male–female business ownership.Jude and Adamou (2018) suggested that small business owners’ behaviors had the greatest influence on their decision to apply for bank loans and working capital lines of credit. In addition to control aversion and overconfidence, the researchers found discouragement heavily influenced whether a business owner would apply for bank financing. Bhusal and Wang (2019) attributed borrower discouragement to three determinants: the perceived cost of financing, the small business owner’s history with financing, and the would-be applicant’s fear of facing prejudice.Alternative Theories for the Theory of Discouraged BorrowersThe TDB (Kon & Storey, 2003) was the most applicable theory to the proposed study, with other concepts only peripherally related. The alternative theories I considered to the TDB were the credit theory of money and the theory of financial management.Credit Theory of MoneyThe earliest published credit theory was Innes’s (1914) credit theory of money. Innes’s assertion was that money was the only capital that mattered, which directly applies to small businesses needing a working capital line of credit. Innes identified a sub theory to explain a business owner’s satisfaction with the lending process and subsequent ability to repay the loan; however, the author did not address factors affecting business owners’ success in achieving loans. Because Innes’s credit theory of money pertained only to the lending and repayment of business loans and not the strategies used to obtain the loan, it was not appropriate for this study.Theory of Financial ManagementAng (1991, 1992) proposed a theory peripherally related to the focus of this study. Applied to small businesses, the theory of financial management centered on business failures due to a lack of financing options (Ang, 1991). Ang (1991) wavered in theoretical focus, first introducing the loosely termed theory of modern corporate finance, which applied to businesses of any size. Ultimately, Ang (1991, 1992) conceded that identifying a single theory specific to small businesses’ capital structure was not possible. Ang (1992) explored the difficulty faced by small business owners in securing funding for continued operation. After asserting that no single theory of finance fully addressed small businesses’ unique needs, Ang (1992) differentiated between large and small businesses, finding the latter’s success aligned closely with the business owner’s reputation and the relationships with lenders. The theory of financial management is related to restricted financing options and organizational failure for businesses of any size. The theory does not apply specifically to small business owners and the strategies used to obtain financing for continued operation, making it also not appropriate for this study.Analysis of Potential ThemesThematic analysis is a process to analyze qualitative data (Percy et al., 2015). The five stages of data analysis include collecting the data, separating the data into groups, regrouping the data into themes, assessing the information, and developing conclusions (Yin, 2017). After establishing a general strategy for data analysis, I will follow Yin’s (2017) five stages while also incorporating both Stake’s (1995) and Merriam’s (1998) notions of gaining impressions and observations from participants. Researchers in the analysis stage of qualitative research rely on theoretical propositions (Baškarada, 2014). Ongoing data separation and regrouping, or theming, will ensure a thorough investigation of the data (Rademaker et al., 2012). Percy et al. (2015) identified three types of thematic analysis: inductive analysis, theoretical analysis, and thematic analysis with a constant comparison. In a theoretical analysis, a researcher predetermines themes to examine during analysis but remains open to the possibilities of new themes emerging (Percy et al., 2015). A thematic analysis will be most appropriate for this case study because the themes help analyze the research as needed.Small BusinessesSmall businesses—defined as companies with fewer than 500 employees (SBA, 2018b)—are essential to the U.S. economy (Klimczak et al., 2017). In 2013, 28 million small businesses accounted for over 99.9% of all businesses in the United States (SBA, 2018b). Small businesses have a positive effect on gross domestic product (Klimczak et al., 2017), driving the economies of both developed and underdeveloped countries (Karadag, 2015).In the United States, small business leaders struggle to sustain their business longer than 5 years (SBA, 2018a). In 2013, 406,353 start-up businesses appeared, and 400,687 others dissolved, showing a narrow gap between the openings and closings of prior years. Businesses fail for many reasons, including an inability to access and manage finances (Lee, 2016). A lack of access to financing and mismanagement of working capital could result in business failure (Karadag, 2015; Lussier & Corman, 2015).Small Business SustainabilityBusiness leaders heading operations of any size must have strategies in place to remain sustainable. Relevant to the focus of this study, one key to sustainability is to develop ways to acquire financing for business growth and development (Eggers & Lin, 2015; Leroy et al., 2015). The relationship between management and business partners is a key component of guaranteeing a favorable business return (Fang et al., 2015). Other means of promoting business continuity include networking (Song, 2015), relationship-building (Fang et al., 2015), cost minimization (Banker et al., 2014), and differentiation (Mathooko & Ogutu, 2015). Building positive relationships with the right individuals and making the correct business decisions could lead to ongoing business sustainability and strategies for leaders to obtain a working capital line of credit and ensure business continuity (Bauman, 2015).Many small business leaders attribute business failures to external factors, despite internal management capabilities and approaches having much to do with business sustainability (Eggers & Lin, 2015). In a study of existing data on small business owners in the United States and China, Eggers and Lin (2015) identified one sustainability strategy to be exploring avenues to acquire financing for business continuity and growth. Pollack et al. (2015) found that small business owners who assembled a network of stakeholders, such as loan officers at traditional banks, were better prepared for positive sustainability outcomes. The findings of both studies are particularly applicable to the study, which will explore how small business owners acquire working capital lines of credit for business continuity. Small business owners must have strategies in place for their organizations to remain sustainable.Small Business CreditSmall business owners rely on external credit for sustainability. In 2016, 400 small business owners from 12 cities, including Richmond, Maryland, took part in the Small Business Credit interviews administered by the Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) of New York (2017). More than 50% of small business leaders reported encountering problems securing credit for business expansion. Business leaders’ challenges included paying for operating expenses, debts, and inventory without the aid of a small business line of credit. As such, small business owners need a strategy to obtain a line of credit for working capital to sustain their business.Small business leaders may use personal funds, take out additional loans, make late payments, downsize operations, cut staff, and negotiate with lenders, possibly failing to meet debt obligations (FRB of New York, 2017). Seventy percent of small business owners relied on personal funds, whereas those heading larger firms sought external financing; however, all leaders used retained business earnings as a primary source of funding. At the time of the Small Business Credit interviews, more than 70% of businesses held outstanding debt, with 20% owing more than $100,000. Moreover, 34% of companies had increased debt levels from the prior year, with 19% of leaders expecting their debt level to rise the following year. Business leaders looking for funds expressed needing to finance for business and operating expansion. About 45% of company leaders sought to finance; among these, 55% wanted $100,000 or less. Types of external funds pursued included a line of credit, credit card, equity investment, trade credit, leasing, and factoring, with 86% of leaders applying for business loans or lines of credit. Among the applicants who sought financing, 76% received some credit, and 40% received the full amount.A past working relationship may be a component of a successful application for financing. In general, small business owners pursued financing through lenders with whom they had a good relationship or from whom they expected to receive approval (Neagu, 2016). The applicants generally looked for loans from banks, credit unions, community development financial institutions, and online lenders (Neagu, 2016), finding the greatest satisfaction with small banks (FRB of New York, 2017).Means of bank financing are integral to understand as relevant to this study; however, not all small businesses seek financing. Business leaders give many reasons for not seeking funds, including already having enough financing, being debt-averse, and having a low credit score, the latter of which is a strong determinant of obtaining financing (FRB of New York, 2017). About 85% of business leaders relied on the credit score of the owner in securing funding. Leaders of businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenue tend to have lower credit scores. Business leaders who failed to acquire financing gave reasons such as high interest rate, unfavorable repayment plan, long approval wait time, complicated process, and lack of transparency, with the latter the primary concern. Participants also attributed credit denial to weak business performance, insufficient collateral, too much existing debt, and inadequate credit history.Small Businesses and Government RolesThe government also plays an essential role in lending to small and medium-sized enterprises. Many government officials realize access to financing is essential to small business sustainability (Moscalu, 2015). External funding is necessary for the sustainability and growth of small businesses, contributing significantly to economic development (Neagu, 2016). Financing availability is essential for small businesses’ viability and survival (Lussier & Corman, 2015). Small businesses need access to funds to compete in the international market (Osano & Languitone, 2016). However, banks are less likely to lend to small businesses because of high risk and insufficient collateral (Kamguia Wabo, 2015; Kozarevic et al., 2015).Government involvement can also mitigate financing constraints. To explore the financing challenges unique to small businesses, Brian and Shingirayi (2014) collected data from one-on-one interviews and questionnaire responses. Their findings showed that small businesses received insufficient funding from financial institutions, which hampered organizational growth. As a result, Brian and Shingirayi recommended creating a government-generated loan guarantee system and a formalized application process for small business owners to obtain funding. In addition, the authors noted the steps small business owners should take to improve their chances of securing funding, including maintaining accurate accounting records and networking with other entrepreneurs. These findings are relevant to the current study because government funding is one way for U.S. small business owners to secure working lines of credit for business continuity.Strategies in Acquiring a Line of CreditThe strategies small businesses use in acquiring a working capital line of credit is a common topic of recent scholarly inquiry (e.g., Godwin-Opara, 2016; Owusu, 2017; Smith, 2018; Wani, 2018; Wilkinson, 2017). In a multiple case study using resource-based theory as the conceptual framework, Godwin-Opara (2016) interviewed five machine shop owners in Kansas to determine how they sustained business operations for 2 years or more. Among the four themes identified was the need for accessible external financing. Business owners shared the importance of securing bank loans and lines of credit, which some participants noted to be easier processes with better repayment terms.Closely tied to the current study were studies by Nguyen (2017) and Smith (2018), each exploring strategies small business owners used to secure financing for ongoing business operations. In a highly relevant study, Nguyen interviewed six small business owners in Maryland to determine what strategies they used to overcome the challenges of sustaining business continuity beyond 5 years. Participants shared strategies such as creating long-term business plans, investing in their employees, remaining out of debt, adapting their approach depending on the market, and carefully accounting for expenditures and cash reserves (Nguyen, 2017). In a similar inquiry, Smith used pecking order theory to explore strategies used by small business owners in the southeast United States in securing working capital lines of credit for continued operations. Smith identified six themes regarding successful strategies the participants used from a review of company documents and data analysis from semistructured interviews with six business owners. Instead of bank financing, participants were more likely to have used personal funds, customer revenue streams, bootstrapping, and personal credit (Smith, 2018).Identifying the strategies used to secure financing could be less important than defining the characteristics of business leaders who succeed in obtaining working capital lines of credit. Themes from a multiple case study by Wani (2018) were more specific to the owners’ traits than their strategic actions. Wani noted the importance of strong entrepreneurial management and financial planning skills in achieving business continuity, identifying the absence of either skill as a challenge to continuity. Other strengths required of business owners to secure funds for continued operation were developing a capital strategy, preparing and adapting to change, and assuming responsibility for creating and maintaining accurate and transparent financial records (Wilkinson, 2017).Scholars have looked beyond bank financing to uncover other means for small business owners to sustain operations beyond 5 years (e.g., Brooks, 2019). Three small business owners participated in face-to-face, semistructured interviews to discuss strategies they used for business continuity. Data analysis indicated five themes, including sufficient start-up funding, access to private lenders, and business owners’ motivation and awareness.Small Business FinancingThe least-researched area of corporate financing is small business financing (Kumar & Rao, 2015). Four major gaps related to a company’s inability to obtain sufficient financing are demand, supply, knowledge (i.e., personal characteristics of the owner), and benevolence (i.e., reluctance of the financial institution to lend to small businesses; Kumar & Rao, 2015). Following is a discussion of available funding programs, means of obtaining financing, and factors affecting the decision to extend credit.Many commerce incentive loans are available to small businesses in Maryland. The 500,000 small businesses in Maryland constitute 97% of total businesses in the state and employ more than 1 million people (SBA, 2018b). In 2014, lending institutions issued over $1 billion in loans to small businesses (SBA, 2018b). According to the SBA (2018b), 4,074 new small businesses started in 2014, and 3,730 businesses exited. The Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (Maryland Department of Commerce, n.d.) helps small businesses that do not meet the established loan criteria of financial institutions through a range of funding programs.Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority ProgramsThe objectives of commerce incentive funds are to help business leaders create jobs, support the local economy, help disadvantaged small businesses, and promote start-up businesses (Maryland Department of Commerce, 2016). Maryland’s incentive-based loans exceeded $90 million in 2016. Other means of financial assistance to small businesses in the state are tax credits and grants. Small businesses in Maryland have a range of options to secure financing for business continuity; however, not all business owners are aware of these options. With an in-depth exploration of financing sources from governments, banks, and lending programs, this literature review shows funding may be more accessible than previously believed. This qualitative exploration of small business leaders’ experiences in obtaining working lines of credit may indicate the use of such programs.Credit StrategiesWhen lenders tighten access to credit because of information asymmetry, small business leaders need a workable strategy to ease loan constraints (Brinckmann & Kim, 2015). Strategically, visionary leaders understand the business needs, identify initiatives, and set directions for business growth (Simón-Moya & Revuelto-Taboada, 2015). The entrepreneurial nature of small business leaders is an ability to remain innovative by acquiring informed knowledge of an industry, understanding market needs of products and services, meeting the needs of customers and shareholders, becoming familiar with competitors, and making financial projections (Brinckmann & Kim, 2015). Therefore, leaders’ characteristics, capabilities, and skills are essential to the business’s success (Frid, 2015).The business strategy to secure a loan begins with a business plan. Many researchers have agreed that the lack of coherent strategy is the main impediment for small business leaders to access working capital for business growth and sustainability (Kariuki, 2015; Sandada et al., 2014). One component of a sound business strategy is a formalized business constraint plan, which includes setting goals, defining short- and long-term business objectives, identifying a business process, and utilizing human capital to achieve objectives (Brinckmann & Kim, 2015). In addition, a sound business plan includes strategies to mitigate the risk of capital constraints (Freeland & Keister, 2016). By carefully assessing the company’s current state and future outlook, small business leaders can improve their odds in acquiring the desired funds.Establishing trust with a lending institution often minimizes the collateral requirements in securing a working capital line of credit (Hirsch et al., 2016). Business leaders may want to have an independent auditor verify the company’s financial reports to establish credibility and demonstrate accountability and stewardship (Hayes et al., 2014). Using a professional accounting firm is strongly recommended because auditors must adhere to industry codes of conduct by assessing for and revealing irregularity or inconsistency in the financial reports. Loan officers ease the loan acquisition process when small business leaders present financial documents verified by professional auditors (Sette & Gobbi, 2015). The proven track record of successful banking over time builds trust and relationships with financial institutions, which will help small business owners obtain loans to finance their businesses.Perhaps the most critical factor driving the success of a small business in obtaining a working capital line of credit for business continuity is the relationship between business leader and banker. Using a qualitative case study approach with one-on-one, semistructured interviews and a review of archival data was appropriate to measure the success of four New York State small restaurant owners in securing capital funding (Brown, 2016). Similar to the proposed study, Brown (2016) explored financing strategies to sustain small businesses for 5 years or longer. Findings indicated that business owners who maintained a good relationship with financial institutions over an extended period were more successful in acquiring loans. Among the best practices for small businesses in obtaining credit were maintaining a bank balance above the minimum requirement, having few overdrafts, and keeping a favorable business transaction history.Various factors contribute to a small business being able to procure funding. Hirsch et al. (2016) examined the relationship between 103 German banks and small business borrowers to determine the likelihood of financing. The researchers administered questionnaires to bank credit risk officers and relationship managers to assess creditability, trust, and lending outcomes. Measurement of dimensions of trust produced findings of a negative association between habituation and interest rate and a positive association between interorganizational trust and collateral. Following quantitative analysis of the data with heteroscedasticity-robust Huber-White-Sandwich estimators of variance, Hirsch et al. identified interorganizational trust as the greatest influence on the amount of credit banks would extend because bank representatives were already familiar with the borrowing history of the business. In addition, the intentional trust of the bank in the business was more important than the relationship between individual bankers and small business owners concerning positive lending outcomes. The importance of bank–company relationships compared to banker–owner relationships may emerge as a contributing factor to the ability of small business leaders to secure working capital lines of credit for business continuity.The timing of the loan application also plays an important role in obtaining a line of credit. The economy fluctuates between growth and recession periods (Brown, 2016), during which the gross domestic product, interest rates, consumer spending habits, and unemployment rate vary (Camacho et al., 2015). Small businesses were more successful in acquiring loans during economic growth periods than in recessions, when obtaining small loans meant having working capital to improve financial situations (Brown, 2016). Findings showed the two participants who sought financing during periods of economic growth were successful, whereas the two who applied for credit during recessions or downward cycles did not receive funding (Brown, 2016). This knowledge may prove relevant in the present study because the economic conditions may have been favorable when participating small business leaders succeeded in obtaining financing, thus contributing to credit approval.Information Symmetry in the Lending ProcessBecause U.S. small businesses provide the most opportunities for private employment and new jobs (Frid et al., 2016), access to credit is critical for their sustainability and growth (Neagu, 2016). With $585 billion in outstanding loans to U.S. small businesses in 2013 (SBA, 2018b), traditional banking systems consider multiple factors in making financing decisions. The symmetry of information shared between loan providers and small business owners during the loan process is an integral component of financial institutions providing a line of credit to small businesses (Ata et al., 2015). Such information factors into a credit rationing mechanism, in which the credit history, morality, and liquidity of the small business or small business owner contribute to lending decisions.Information symmetry in the loan application process is an essential part of loan approval. Moro et al. (2015) examined over 800 loan applications of small businesses in Italy to assess the relationships between the information provided to loan managers and the decision to provide short-term credit. Small business–provided information ratings were according to four factors: quantity, quality, timeliness, and completeness. Loan managers completed a survey in which they rated the strength of loan applications for all participating small businesses. Additional data came from the financial reports of banks and the quarterly Bank Lending Interview conducted by the Italian Central Bank. Moro et al. found that information symmetry was positively related to loan access from financial institutions; in contrast, each decline in asymmetry increased the amount of short-term credit by 12%.Information asymmetry limits financial institutions from providing external financing because of a high transaction cost (Njeru et al., 2013). Should bank leaders decide to issue the loan, they will do so at a higher interest rate because of the information asymmetry risk (Caporale & Gil-Alana, 2016); therefore, small business owners need to have a good credit history to secure loans when they need working capital. Small businesses are more vulnerable to market conditions than are large corporations (Sahin et al., 2011). Financial institution lenders like to see the small business’s credit history, characteristics of projects funded by the loan, business plan, bank account statements, balance sheets, credit scores, and collateral to minimize the risk of default (Yan et al., 2015).Bank leaders are skeptical about lending to small businesses when small business leaders fail to give complete and correct information (i.e., information asymmetry; Ata et al., 2015), something the business owners interviewed in this study may have discovered. Small businesses providing incomplete information on the loan application or not using the funds as designated in the loan contract are moral hazards for banks. Therefore, Ata et al. (2015) suggested financial institutions utilize a credit-rationing mechanism to mitigate risks from information asymmetry. Credit rationing occurs when financial intuitions control the collateral and leverage requirements to reduce the loan default risk. To explore the concept of credit rationing, Ata et al. looked at 77 manufacturing firms that applied for a corporate loan in 2013. Logistic regression and discriminant analysis enabled an evaluation of lenders’ credit reasoning, with firms falling into either the credit-rationed and noncredit-rationed category. Based on credit reasoning, banks may charge high interest rates to minimize the risk associated with information asymmetry. Strong credit history and positive relationships with banks will help small business owners obtain a favorable interest rate on their loans, thus avoiding credit rationing. Because small business owners often invest their own money into the business, both personal and business credit and relationship history are important considerations. The interview questions in this proposed study may uncover experiences with credit rationing, poor credit history, and personal relationships with banks for both the businesses themselves as well as the individuals who own them.Audited Financial StatementsUnlike larger, publicly held organizations, small businesses have no requirement to produce audited financial statements (Allee & Yohn, 2009). Providing financial statements when applying for a loan or line of credit is one component of the information symmetry lenders like to see when considering loan requests (Yan et al., 2015). At a minimum, lenders are interested in the balance sheet and profit-and-loss statement of a small business, especially when prepared by a certified auditor (Allee & Yohn, 2009). Providing these formal statements can lead to more credit access, lower interest rates, or both. In addition, a small business leader who hires an auditor to prepare financial statements has a better awareness of the business and the ability to identify future cash flow or debt (Vander Bauwhede et al., 2015). With knowledge about audited financial statements, small business owners can better represent their companies when seeking a working capital line of credit for business continuity. Although not directly explored by the research question, I am interested to see what participants in this study have to say about the inclusion of financial statements in their credit applications.The State of the Economy at the Time of This StudyIn the second quarter of 2020, a new economic threat presented in the form of a global pandemic. Although the long-term impact of the COVID-19 epidemic is unknown, early responses are alternately encouraging and disheartening (DePietro, 2020; Dunkelberg, 2020). Positive impacts have included low-interest or interest-free lines of credit, higher lines of credit, waived late fees, and deferred payments. The U.S. government introduced financial assistance in the form of small business loans to pay employees’ salaries while businesses were inoperational, with many of the loans forgivable; however, the $370 billion Paycheck Protection Program ran out of funds after just 14 days (Ransom, 2020, para. 2), with only 20% of applications processed (Dunkelberg, 2020, para. 4). Congress approved the second round of small business loans of $310 billion, 40% of which was still available 2 weeks after launch (Green, 2020, para. 1). The pandemic’s impact on small businesses in 2020 and beyond is unknown (Kukura, 2020).The threat of COVID-19 and Need for CreditThe onset of COVID-19 has increased the demand for credit by SBEs. This clear from the rate at which SBEs consumed the financial assistance provided by the government. In 2020, the U.S. government introduced financial assistance in the form of small business loans to pay employees’ salaries while businesses were not operational, with many of the loans forgivable; however, the $370 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ran out of funds after just 14 days (Ransom, 2020, para. 2), with only 20% of applications processed (Dunkelberg, 2020, para. 4). Congress approved the second round of small business loans of $310 billion, 40% of which was still available 2 weeks after launch (Hayashi, 2020, para. 2).Sources of Credit for SBEsSources of credit for SBEs has continued to grow. However, banks still remain the most popular source of loans to SBEs. Other sources of credit for SBEs include government organizations, public and private banks, crowdfunding, online lenders, Non-bank financing institution, insurance companies and involve financing.Determinants of Credit AccessibilityFinancing decision is one of the vital decision for all firms regardless of the industry or size (Kuruppu & Azeez, 2016). However, these decisions are affected by available financial sources, accessibility of finance and preferences of owners. Accessibility to credit by SBEs is affected by various factors including geographical proximity, relationship between lenders and borrowers, credit worthiness, collateral, interest rates, credit information and the level of competition (Tran, 2021; Yoshino & Taghizadeh-Hesary, 2018; Ai & Thu, 2021; Maiti et al., 2021; Jiménez et al., 2017; Hirsch et al., 2018).Geographical ProximityGeographical proximity plays a critical role in determining the credit accessibility of SBEs (Tran, 2021). According to Tran (2021), geographical proximity between the lender and borrower are associated with access to credit: with closeness to lenders associated with increased access to credit. The improvement in credit accessibility with geographical proximity can be attributed to improved understanding between lenders and SBEs. According to Tran (2021), when lenders are close to the customers are likely to use softly available information to build the creditworthiness of the customers. In other words, the close geographical proximity between lenders and SBEs improves the scrutiny of SBEs, which in turn improves their access to credit (Tran, 2021). Moreover, close proximity improves the security of retrieving the credit as the lender can easily trace the borrowers. As a result, urban SMEs and SBEs are more likely to access debts that rural SBEs.Relationship between SBEs and LendersRelationship between lending institutions also plays a critical role in determining accessibility to credit. This was proven by a study by Hirsch et al. (2018). In their study, Hirsch et al. (2018) found that interorganizational trust improve access to credit by lowering the monitoring intensity by banks through habitualization. Establishing trust with a lending institution often minimizes the collateral requirements in securing a working capital line of credit (Hirsch et al., 2018). This implies that SBEs that are able to win the trust of lending institutions are able to access credit easily than those that are unable to build trust.In another study, Brown (2016) found that business owners that are able to maintain a good relationship with financial institutions for a prolonged period were more successful in acquiring loans. This was because maintaining a good relationship over a prolonged period helps business owners to build trust with lenders (Brown, 2016), which increases their chances of accessing credit (Hirsch et al., 2018). This finding indicate that SBEs that are able to maintain a good relationship with lending institutions are able to easily access credit than those that are unable to maintain a good relationship.Credit WorthinessMacmillan Dictionary defines credit worthiness as the degree to which an entity can be considered likely to pay debt or credit. In their study, Boushnak et al. (2018) found that credit bureau report, which determines credit worthiness of borrowers, play a critical role on credit decision by lenders. According to Yoshino and Taghizadeh-Hesary (2018), credit worthiness is usually presented in form of credit ratings. These ratings influence the ability of one to access credit as lenders use regard them as comprehensive evaluations of the borrower’s ability to meet their repayment obligations (Yoshino & Taghizadeh-Hesary, 2018). This implies that credit ratings help reduced the risk of lending to other entities. Therefore, SBEs ability to access credit is dependent on their credit worthiness.CollateralWhile giving out credit, lending institutions usually request for collateral (Ai & Thu, 2021). According to Ai and Thu (2021), collateral plays a critical role in accessing credit as it provides the lender with an insurance that the borrower would respect the lender’s contract. In other words, collateral offers lenders with protection in case of default by the borrower. Normally, collateral is in form of tangible items that are of higher value the borrower to speed up the loan security (Ai & Thu, 2021). Due to the role of collateral, firms that have valuable collateral are able to access credit more easily than those that do not have.Interest RateCambridge dictionary defines interest rates as the percentage amount that one pays for borrowing money or lending money for a specified period. It represents the benefits that a lender achieves as a result of lending money. Lending institutions charge a certain interest rates for lending (Maiti et al., 2020). If the interest rate is high, then the borrower will have to pay higher amount to the lender than when the interest rate is low (lee et al., 2017). As a result, a higher interest rate will discourage loan uptake while a lower interest rate will increase uptake (Lee et al., 2017). This explains why authorities use interest rate caps to control the rate of credit uptake within a given community (Ferrari et al., 2018).Level of CompetitionThe level of competition for credit services affects the accessibility of credit among SBEs. According to Jiménez et al. (2017), the laws of demand and supply affects the accessibility of credit among firms. This implies that when the number of players looking for credit facilities is high, then access to credit services would be difficult. Conversely, when the number of employers seeking credit facilities decreases, then it would be easier to access credit services. Moreover, it implies that the number of players offering credit services affects credit accessibility. Accordingly, the presence of high number of credit firms increase access to credit. In contrast, the presences of few credit firms decrease access to credit (Jiménez et al., 2017).Challenges accessing creditAccess to credit is critical for their sustainability and growth (Neagu, 2016). However, several challenges have been as responsible for preventing accessing to credit by SBEs (Antoine et al., 2021). Some of the challenges that SBEs face in accessing credit facilities include high inflation, high interest rate, inadequate financial literacy level, poor credit worthiness, lack of collateral, competition, asymmetric information problem, fear of rejection, timing of the loan application, instability of economy and poor infrastructure (Yoshino & Taghizadeh-Hesary, 2018; Mensah et al., 2015; Yoshino & Taghizadeh-Hesary, 2017; Katusiime, 2018; Cossiga, 2017; Veiga & McCahery, 2019; lee et al., 2017; Kusi & Opoku-Mensah, 2017).High Inflation RateHere, the term inflation refers to the general increase in prices of goods and reduction in purchasing power of individuals (Pettinger, 2018). According to Pettinger (2018), an increase in inflation negatively influences the economy as it reduces the value of money. This is because the rise in prices of good implies that a given amount of money will purchase lesser amount of products. The state of inflation in a given economy affects ability of firms to access credit (Katusiime, 2018). According to Katusiime (2018), changes in in inflation increases uncertainty in a given economy. As a result, firms are less likely to take risk and make investment decisions or allocate resources efficiently. The reduction in risk taking implies that business organizations are less likely to take credit. Moreover, credit facilities tend to reduce lending to SBEs as the uncertainty generated by high inflation implies that borrower are more likely to default on payments. On the other hand, low inflation rates lead to growth in lending to private sector. As a result, lending firms are likely to offer credit to SBEs.High Interest RateIn their study, Shaikh et al. (2017) found that high interest rate is the greatest obstacle to access to credit. According to Shaikh et al. (2017), high interest rate is the great obstacle to credit access because it erodes all the profits; hence, SBEs will not enjoy the advantage of having credit.The impacts of high interest rate on profit can also be seen through its impact on changes in credit (Katusiime, 2018). According to Katusiime (2018), lending to private sectors grows when the interest rates declines. This implies that a decline in interest rates improves the ease of access to credit by private firms including SBEs. An increase in interest rates discourage uptake of credit as they have negative impacts on cash flows of a firm (Lee et al., 2017); discouraging new investments, encouraging savings, dampening output and increasing inflation (Egilsson, 2020). Additionally, high interest rates affect funding costs, which is a critical factor of production (Egilsson, 2020). According to Egilsson (2020), higher interest discourages credit by making them costly. This is because an increase in interest rates means that business organizations have to pay more for credit. On the other hand, a low interest rates encourage uptake of credit as they have less impacts of cash flows of a given firm (lee et al., 2017). According to Lee et al. (2017), low interest on credit leads to an increase in uptake as firms are more likely to take risks. Therefore, a high interest will discourage SBEs from considering credit as a source financing.Instability of EconomyIn their study, Cowling et al. (2016) found that the state of economy was critical in determining access to credit. According to Cowling et al. (2016), lending institutions are more likely to deny credit to SMEs during periods of financial crisis. This is because of the financial risks that are associated with financial crisis (Cowling et al., 2016).In an economic system, economic stability is the natural state of the economy (Cossiga, 2017). According to Cossiga (2017), a stable economy is one in which the potential of the economy is maximized; tension in the price system is weak; and development in economy follows a tendentially growing line. Conversely, an unstable economy is one that is not in its natural state (Cossiga, 2017). An unstable economy is characterized by features such as weakened development potential; tension in the price systems; and cyclical (2017).Economic instability puts SBEs in financial constraints, which affect their growth and survival (Bakhtiari et al., 2020). According to Bakhtiari et al. (2020), compared to large firms, which are able to absorb cyclical fluctuation demand, small businesses are more vulnerable to swings in their revenue growth. Additionally, SBEs lack the competitive advantage in market presence and production; making it difficult for them to survive during financial constrains (Bakhtiari et al., 2020).Economic stability is associated with growth in lending to the private sector while instability is associated with decline in lending to private sector (Katusiime, 2018). One risk of economic instability is that it can lead to depression (Cossiga, 2017). According to Corporate Finance Institute (2019), economic depression occurs when the economy is in a state of financial turmoil. Economic depression is worse than recession, and results in drastic decrease in demand for goods and services (Corporate Finance Institute, 2019). As a result, business organizations are forced make budget cuts and at times out of business (Corporate Finance Institute, 2019).Economic instability is also associated with inflation, deflation, economy cyclical movement, recession and rising unemployment (Katusiime, 2018; Cossiga, 2017). Due to the uncertainty in the business environment due to economic instability, credit facilities are less likely to offer credit services (Katusiime, 2018). Moreover, the business organizations are less likely to take loans as their abilities to repay them are affected by the instability in the economy (Cossiga, 2017).Timing of loan applicationThe timing of the loan application also plays an important role in obtaining a line of credit. The economy fluctuates between growth and recession periods (Brown & Lee, 2016), during which the gross domestic product, interest rates, consumer spending habits, and unemployment rate vary (Eggers et al., 2021; Victor et al., 2021). Small businesses were more successful in acquiring loans during economic growth periods than in recessions, when obtaining small loans meant having working capital to improve financial situations (Brown & Lee, 2017). Findings showed the two participants who sought financing during periods of economic growth were successful, whereas the two who applied for credit during recessions or downward cycles did not receive funding (Brown & Lee, 2016). This knowledge may prove relevant in the present study because the economic conditions may have been favorable when participating small business leaders succeeded in obtaining financing, thus contributing to credit approval.Inadequate Financial Literacy LevelFinancial literacy is the ability and confidence of individual to use their financial knowledge and skills to make financial decision to improve their well-being (Mitchell & Abusheva, 2016; Quattara & Zhang, 2020). According to Quattara and Zhang (2020), financial literacy affects the financial behavior and economic decisions of individuals. Financial literacy influences financial behavior as it acts as an intrinsic motivator for individuals to seek information and act on what they know (Quattara & Zhang, 2020).When it comes to access to credit, financial literacy plays a critical role. According to Hussain et al. (2018), financial literacy helps mitigate information symmetry and collateral deficit in evaluation of credit applications. For SBEs, financial literacy is important for assessing financial needs and making rational financial decisions (Agyapong & Attram, 2019). Despite this, financial literacy is a challenge for most SBEs. This is because our education system has placed little focus on financial literacy (Mitchell & Abusheva, 2016). The low level of financial literacy has negative impacts on individuals’ awareness and understanding of financial services (Quattara & Zhang, 2020). As a result, the low literacy level of SBEs’ owners makes it hard for them to understand and explore credit as a source of financing their business operation.Fear of RejectionOne of the reason why SBEs do not access credit is because they fear rejection (Veiga & McCahery, 2020). One study that explored the role of fear in accessing credit by SBEs was carried out by Veiga and McCahery (2020). In their study, which was carried out between 2015 and 2017 in Brazil, Veiga and McCahery (2020) found that only 24% of SBEs applied for a loan whereas 76% did not manage to apply. According to Veiga and McCahery (2020), most of the small business enterprises did not apply for the loan due to possible rejection. Therefore, SBEs may failed to apply for credit due to fear of being rejected by lenders. Other factors influence the rejection of loan application including lack of supporting documents, lack of collateral, short-repayment period and low credit rating or worthiness (Egilsson, 2020; Ai & Thu, 2021; Yoshino & Taghizadeh-Hesary, 2018; lee et al., 2017).Information AsymmetryAccording to Kusi and Opoku-Mensah (2017), credit information sharing plays a critical role in access to credit. In a study on credit information sharing between 2006 and 2012, Kusi and Opoku-Mensah (2017) found that quality of credit information sharing influence the access to credit through reduction funding costs. This funding implies that when correct information is shared, the lending institutions can easily process credit. As a result, SBEs need to focus on sharing correct information to access credit. However, this is not the case as information asymmetry is rampant in the lending sector (Asongu et al., 2016).Information symmetry in the loan application process is an essential part of loan approval. Moro et al. (2015) examined over 800 loan applications of small businesses in Italy to assess the relationships between the information provided to loan managers and the decision to provide short-term credit. Small business–provided information ratings were according to four factors: quantity, quality, timeliness, and completeness. Loan managers completed a survey in which they rated the strength of loan applications for all participating small businesses. Additional data came from the financial reports of banks and the quarterly Bank Lending Interview conducted by the Italian Central Bank. Moro et al. found that information symmetry was positively related to loan access from financial institutions; in contrast, each decline in asymmetry increased the amount of short-term credit by 12%.Tupangiu (2017) explored the problems that information asymmetry generates between the bank and the borrower. According to Tupangiu (2017), the main problem that information asymmetry generates is adverse selection. Adverse selection occurs when loan borrowers have more information than the lending institutions (Tupangiu ,2017). As a result, the present themselves as good-quality borrowers, yet they are poor-quality borrowers: hence negatively influencing the creditworthiness of good-quality borrowers. Moreover, hiding of information by borrowers makes it difficult for lending institution to differentiated between good-quality borrowers and poor-quality borrowers; creating an ineffective credit allocation (Tupangiu, 2017).Strategies to Obtain Working Line Credit for SBEsSince credit is an important source of financing for SBEs, strategies for obtaining working line credit need to be developed. From the analysis of the determinant of accessibility credit and the challenges that SBEs face while trying to get credit, it is clear that several factors have to be address to obtain working line credit for SBEs. First, policies that address economic problems such as inflation, interest rates and financial literacy needs to be developed. A reduction in inflation rate would increase access to credit by SBEs as credit facilities will increase as lending to private sector will grow (Katusiime, 2018). Policies on the rate of interest would address the cost of obtaining credit by advocating for low interest rate for credit. These policies can be tailored to address the interest rate for specific sectors including the SBEs. Accordingly, a reduction in the cost of obtaining credit would help improve uptake of credit by SBEs (Egilsson, 2020). Policies on financial literacy need to focus on ways in which SBEs owners and managers can be empowered to understand financial issues relating to SBEs. With improved financial literacy, owners and managers of SBEs can easily maximize the available credit facilities.Another strategy would involve improving on available infrastructure and stabilizing the economy. A stable economy would lead to proliferation of credit institutions and reduction in uncertainties (Cossiga, 2017). The proliferation of the credit institutions would increase competition among lenders, which will in turn improve accessibility to credit facilities as lenders will come up with favorable terms for borrowing individuals (Katusiime, 2018). Alternatively, a stable economy would reduce the risk of undesirable economic events such as recession and depression (Cossiga, 2017). As a result, business owners are more likely to take risk including taking loans and investing in SBEs.Access to working line credit can also be improved through reducing information asymmetry. According Nguyen and Canh (2020), reducing information asymmetry helps moderate lender’s concerns about lending. One of the reason why large business organizations are able to reduce information asymmetry is through deployment of informational asymmetry reducers such as asset structure and firm size (Nguyen & Canh, 2020). Since SBEs do not have informational asymmetry reducers as large business organizations, new strategies have to be developed. One such strategy involves the government intervention. Accordingly, the government can help to reduce information asymmetry by coming up with policies that increase information transparency (Guliyeva &Rzayeva, 2018).TransitionOver half of all U.S. companies meet the definition of small businesses, employing fewer than 500 employees (SBA, 2018a); however, nearly half of those small businesses fail to operate beyond 5 years (Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, 2016). The specific business problem is that some small business owners lack strategies to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity. The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study is to explore strategies that small business owners use to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity. Kon and Storey’s (2003) TDB serves as the guiding conceptual framework to explore the perceptions of small business owners seeking to apply for working capital lines of credit to ensure business continuity. The literature review in Section 1 pertained to the research topic of small businesses, including opportunities and challenges, types of credit available to small business leaders, information symmetry in the lending process, and credit strategies.Section 2 includes a detailed analysis of the research method and design as well as support for why the selected method and design are suitable for the study. I also discuss participant selection, the role of the researcher, ethical considerations, and the data collection, organization, and analysis procedures. Concluding Section 2 is a discussion of the research reliability and validity. Section 3 will include a presentation of findings, with an assessment against those of previous scholarly studies. I will also discuss how my findings apply to professional practice, social change implications, and recommendations for action and further research. Section 3 will conclude with a reflection of my experiences in the DBA program.Section 2: The ProjectSection 2 includes the research method and design, justification of the number of participants, the role of the researcher, and adherence to ethical standards. Section 2 also contains information regarding the data collection, data organization, and data analysis approaches. A discussion regarding actions taken to ensure research reliability and validity will conclude this section.Purpose StatementThe purpose of this qualitative multiple case study is to explore strategies that small business owners use to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity. From an overarching population of small business owners in Maryland, I will interview five small business owners who achieved success in obtaining a working capital line of credit for business continuity. The implication for social change is that the findings of this proposed study might help small business owners to access a working capital line of credit to remain sustainable and grow beyond 5 years of operation. Continued business operation will lead to continued employment opportunities, which could increase the standard of living and well-being of citizens in local communities.Role of the ResearcherIn qualitative studies, a researcher serves as the instrument for data collection (Leedy & Ormrod, 2013). A qualitative researcher is responsible for all stages of the research process, from designing the study and the research questions to collecting, coding, and analyzing the data to draw findings (Fink, 2000). When interacting with the participants, a researcher listens, gets involved, and shows interest in participants’ opinions (Kumar & Cavallaro, 2017). I will take steps to reduce any personal influence I may have on the findings, including acknowledging and setting aside subjective perceptions and experiences. Additionally, during data analysis in a qualitative study, the researcher identifies and codes themes, finding the meanings that emerge from the dialog with participants (Yin, 2017).As a 20-year career credit union banker in the department of underwriting small business loans, I have personal experience and expertise on the topic and the research area. To reduce the likelihood of bias, I will continually strive to remain objective, not letting my professional position conflict with my role as a researcher, despite my relationships with banking and business associations and affiliations. I will remain open to all uncovered evidence and mitigate personal bias.Personal bias is a clear threat to research credibility. Henriques (2014) advocated for the researcher to recognize personal bias and subjectivity to avoid ignoring perceptions or preconceived notions of the problem. Mitigating bias and subjectivity involves the use of bracketing, or epoche, as part of the data collection, interpretation, and presentation process (Moustakas, 1994). As a transcendental approach, the Greek word epoche means to refrain from or set aside preconceptions or judgments of experience, knowledge, beliefs, or meanings, thus ensuring unbiased results (Onwuegbuzie et al., 2012). With my extensive understanding of the phenomenon under study, I must suspend prejudgment and remain objective to achieve trustworthy findings.Researchers must also adhere to specified ethical guidelines, such as those outlined in the Belmont Report (National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1979) and Ethics in Research with Human Participants (Sales & Folkman, 2000) published by the American Psychological Association.As the researcher in this study, I must maintain respect, beneficence, and justice for all participants. In addition, I must keep separate my professional role as a small business lending consultant and my researcher role of soliciting small business owners.Semistructured interviews are an appropriate means of qualitative data collection (Baškarada, 2014; Cronin, 2014; Stake, 1995). Due to the open-ended nature of the interview questions, I will have the opportunity to ask follow-up inquiries, as needed, to uncover all information needed to answer the research question. An interview protocol will guide each interview, ensuring consistency in asking the same interview questions of each participant in the same order. An interview protocol is a uniform way for a researcher to gather comparable data from participants (Devotta et al., 2016). During face-face data collection, a researcher can take notes to document participants’ nonverbal behaviors and make observations not captured by audio recording (Chongo et al., 2018). I will do my best to be neutral and watch my body language to avoid influencing the respondent. Furthermore, I will use bracketing to mitigate my assumptions, preventing them from infringing upon data collection, analysis, and interpretation. I will transcribe all recordings after each interview, subsequently importing files into NVivo software to assist with data manipulation and interpretation. According to Walden University protocol, I will store all digital data and papers for 5 years after this study before destroying them.ParticipantsTo be eligible for the proposed study, individuals must be small business owners of a manufacturing and wholesale small business located in Maryland that employs 500 or fewer employees and has been in operation longer than 5 years. In addition, participants must have successfully obtained a working capital line of credit for business continuity. Because of my professional experience as a credit union banker underwriting loans for small and medium-sized enterprises, I have contacts with small business owners whom I can ask to take part in my study. The first step in establishing a working relationship with prospective participants will be contacting them by telephone. I will discuss the general purpose of the study, including the participation process and implications for business practice. I will develop a rapport with participants, treating them with respect and offering to answer any questions they may have. Upon their confirmation of interest, I will schedule a brief preliminary meeting at a time and place convenient to the business leaders, in person or by telephone, to confirm they meet the criteria for participation. I will supply qualified participants with an informed consent form (see Appendix A), which we will review together. At this point, we will schedule a mutually convenient date, time, and location to meet for the semistructured interview. I anticipate interviews will occur at the participants’ place of business or in a private conference room at a local library.I will continue to call qualified individuals until I obtain five small business owners meeting the appropriate criteria who are willing to participate in my study. When we meet for the interview, I will provide an informed consent form (see Appendix A) to explain the research, present the risks and benefits of being in the study, and outline the expectations and requirements. Included in the consent form is a reminder that participation is voluntary, and individuals are free to leave the study at any time without consequence. By signing the informed consent form, the small business owners agree to the terms of participation and give their approval for me to audio record the interviews.Research MethodThe research method and design act as blueprints connecting the elements of research to the process of exploring questions and drawing conclusions (Leedy & Ormrod, 2013). Qualitative researchers seek to describe the experiences of participants as accurately as possible (Baškarada, 2014; Sandelowski, 1997; Yin, 2017) rather than using numbers to describe the phenomena of interest (Landrum & Garza, 2015; White et al., 2012). Qualitative methodology enables a researcher to understand a particular occurrence from the perspective of those who have experienced it (Baškarada, 2014; Sandelowski, 1997; Vaismoradi et al., 2013; Yin, 2017). Exhaustive qualitative research involves exploring the experiences of participants descriptively, through self-awareness or interactive interpretation, to frame a need for change or reform (Walker & Taylor, 2014). The basis of qualitative research is comparing and contrasting views under different realities (Bahari, 2012).I considered and rejected quantitative and mixed methods approaches for this study. Researchers use the quantitative method to produce generalizable findings and test the relationships and differences between variables and constructs (Landrum & Garza, 2015; Parry et al., 2014; Yin, 2017). Quantitative research involves analyzing identified variables to determine a correlation, significance, or relationship and then testing theories using hypotheses (Antonakis et al., 2014; Westerman, 2014). Quantitative researchers focus on analyzing statistical data and may fail to obtain information on participants’ experiences, mindsets, or strategies (Thamhain, 2014). The quantitative method did not align with the purpose of this study; therefore, I rejected that approach.A mixed methods approach enables integrating qualitative and quantitative data in a single study (Petticrew et al., 2013). Researchers using mixed methods gather distinct contributions from both the qualitative and quantitative research methodologies (Bryman & Bell, 2015; Fetters & Molina-Azorin, 2017; McCusker & Gunaydin, 2015). Because quantitative methodology does not align with the purpose of this study, mixed methods is also inappropriate. A qualitative approach is the most appropriate to explore in-depth the strategies small business owners use to obtain a line of credit to sustain their business beyond 5 years.Research DesignA case study design enables a researcher to frame one or more cases in real-life settings to holistically and deeply explore a phenomenon (Marshall & Rossman, 2016; Merriam, 1998; Yin, 2017). The justification for utilizing a case study instead of another design is that the case study allows the researcher to answer the central research question from the perspectives of individuals who have direct experience with the concept of study. A qualitative case study is an optimal approach because I will be exploring a phenomenon in a real-life context.Other qualitative research designs include ethnography, phenomenology, and narrative (Marshall & Rossman, 2016; Miles et al., 2014; Onwuegbuzie et al., 2012). Ethnographic researchers explore and analyze a problem contextualized through observations and interviews within a historical and cultural setting (Marshall & Rossman, 2016; Vesa & Vaara, 2014) to understand the values, language, and beliefs of a culture, group, or individual (Marshall & Rossman, 2016; Robinson, 2014). Phenomenology entails participants describing personal lived experiences, perspectives, or knowledge of a problem concretely without abstract generalization (Marshall & Rossman, 2016; Walker, 2012). In essence, phenomenology enables a researcher to explore the essence of participant experience via interview and observation (Kafle, 2013; Marshall & Rossman, 2016). Finally, narrative researchers collect data through observation, documentation, questionnaires, interviews, photos, or artifacts to contextualize participant experience (Marshall & Rossman, 2016; Petty et al., 2012). Narrative design creates an opportunity for the researcher to delve deeply into participants’ life experiences and contextualize understanding of the problem under study (Marshall & Rossman, 2016; Venkatesh et al., 2013). I will not be exploring cultures, seeking concrete descriptions of lived experiences, or contextualizing participant experiences. Accordingly, I rejected ethnography, phenomenology, and narrative designs in favor of the case study approach.Population and SamplingParticipants in this case study will be five small business owners in Maryland who obtained a working capital line of credit for business continuity beyond 5 years of operation. The two key considerations that guide sampling in qualitative research are appropriateness and adequacy to answer the research questions (O’Reilly & Parker, 2013). Purposive sampling is a nonprobability method allowing researchers to solicit participants based on their knowledge of and experience with the phenomenon under study (Barratt et al., 2015; Petty et al., 2012; Yin, 2017). A purposive sampling approach is the best way to explore the strategies used by small business owners to obtain a working capital line of credit within a changing business environment.In qualitative inquiry, the aim is not to acquire a fixed number of participants but to gather enough depth of information to fully describe the phenomenon (O’Reilly & Parker, 2013). Saturation is a systematic guideline to ensure researchers have collected all data necessary to understand the meaning participants give to their statements. Data saturation is evidence of rigor in qualitative research (Constantinou et al., 2017). Saturation occurs when continued data collection generates no new information (O’Reilly & Parker, 2013). I will be able to confirm saturation as I code and thematically analyze data from participant interviews and document reviews, finding no new information emerging as I approach the end of data analysis.To be eligible for this study, individuals must meet the following selection criteria: (a) own a small manufacturing and wholesale business in Maryland, (b) employ 500 or fewer people, (c) have been in business at least 5 years, and (d) have successfully obtained a working capital line of credit for business continuity. After our initial telephone call to discuss the study and gauge participants’ interest, I will arrange a brief, face-to-face preinterview to ensure individuals are appropriately qualified for this study. After this meeting, I will supply qualified participants with an informed consent form (see Appendix A), which we will review together. At this point, we will schedule a mutually convenient date, time, and location to meet for the semistructured interview. I anticipate interviews will occur at the participants’ place of business or in a private conference room at a local library.Ethical ResearchInformed consent is a necessary component of ethical research to ensure participants are fully aware of what the study entails, their rights to confidentiality and fair treatment, and the fact that participation is voluntary, allowing them to withdraw at any time. Before beginning each interview, I will again review the informed consent form (see Appendix A) with participants, answering any questions they may have. In addition to giving their signed permission to conduct the interview, participants will also be authorizing the audio recording of the interview. Should they choose to withdraw their participation, individuals may send an email to my Walden University address, listed on the informed consent form. No reason for the withdrawal is necessary. Upon receipt of such notification, I will immediately shred any material related to the withdrawn participant, delete any audio recordings, and remove any collected or analyzed data from consideration. There are no incentives to participate.I will adhere to the highest values in academic research regarding the ethical protection of participants. These include displaying respect, following through on commitments, and strictly complying with protocol and consents to ensure no stress or harm to participants (Rubin & Rubin, 2012). I will follow the principles of beneficence, justice, and respect for persons as dictated by the Belmont Report (National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1979). Respect for participants is providing transparency in the research process and objectives. During data collection, researchers should avoid relationships that could impair professional performance or harm participants, discuss potential risks and benefits of the research with participants, and share contacts to reach out with further questions (Ellis-Barton, 2016; Mondragon Barrios et al., 2017). I will maintain the highest ethical standards with particular emphasis on ensuring participants’ protection. Before applying for Walden University Institutional Review Board permission, I will complete the National Institute of Health Protection Human Research Participants course, which emphasizes ensuring participants’ protection.The means of archiving data is another ethical consideration. Data archiving is a process of securing, preserving, and storing research data and resources for a future audit, allowing others to verify findings or advance research (Corti, 2012). I will password-protect and store all data—including signed informed consent forms, electronic records, company documents, handwritten notes, and hard copies of transcripts and findings—on a thumb drive or in a folder, which I will retain in a secure, fireproof vault for 5 years. After this time, I will erase and destroy the files.Before each interview, I will again assure participants that their identities will remain confidential. I will use alphanumeric codes instead of names on all research data (e.g., P1, P2, etc.), including interview recordings, handwritten notes, transcripts, NVivo files, and research write-ups. I will scrub company names and other identifying information from public or participant-provided documents before review and note-taking. To further protect the identities of participants, no names will appear in the final dissertation.Data Collection InstrumentsIn qualitative studies, a researcher serves as the instrument for data collection (Leedy & Ormrod, 2013). Accordingly, my role as the researcher is that of data collection instrument, gathering information to better understand the strategies small business owners use to acquire a working capital line of credit. I will follow an interview protocol (see Appendix B) in conducting face-to-face, one-on-one semistructured interviews with open-ended questions. The use of an interview protocol ensures the researcher asks the same basic questions of all participants (Yin, 2017); open-ended questions provide an opportunity for follow-up questions or probing. The interview protocol in this study contains dialogue guides and standard queries that will be the same for all participants. To increase the reliability of data collection, I will use Yin’s (2017) protocol framework, which includes an overview, data collection procedures, data collection questions, and a guide for the case study report.As the data collection instrument, I will take steps to further enhance the reliability and validity of the semistructured interviews. After transcribing interviews, researchers often use transcript review to confirm understanding, allowing participants to review transcripts of their interviews to clarify their answers or provide additional information (Harvey, 2015). Member checking—allowing participants to confirm the accuracy of codes, themes, and study findings—is a quality control technique to enhance the accuracy, credibility, and validity of the data collection instrument and research findings (Cope, 2014; Harper & Cole, 2012; Harvey, 2015). I have elected to conduct member checking in lieu of an intrusive transcript review to enhance the reliability and validity of my study.Data Collection TechniqueSemistructured interviews and document reviews will be the two techniques used for data collection. Face-to-face, one-on-one semistructured interviews will occur at the participants’ place of business or in a private room at a local library, according to their preference. I will begin each interview with a review of the informed consent form (see Appendix A), which I will have participants sign after asking any questions they may have. Six open-ended questions comprise the interview protocol (see Appendix B), by which I will ensure each participant receives and responds to the same questions. The open-ended nature of inquiries allows me to ask any probing or follow-up questions necessary to obtain sufficient information to answer the research question.I will use conversational language and industry-specific jargon to create a relaxed environment and support follow-up questions. By signing the informed consent form, participants will allow me to audio record the interviews. Audio recording and subsequently transcribing interviews verbatim is vastly superior to relying solely on manually documented notes, which may not only be open to interpretation but distract the researcher from paying attention during interview sessions (Oltmann, 2016). Therefore, the present study will incorporate audio recording as the best way of ensuring accurate capture of participant responses, supplemented by handwritten nonverbal observations, such as expressions or gestures.Collecting data from semistructured interviews has both advantages and disadvantages. Using face-to-face, semistructured interviews lets researchers keep an open mind, enabling concepts and theories to emerge from the data through an inductive approach (Bryman & Bell, 2015). In-person interviews provide an advantage in enabling researchers to witness facial expressions and gestures, which may add meaning to the responses (Babbie, 2015; Brayda & Boyce, 2014; Rubin & Rubin, 2012). The flexibility of semistructured interviews allows a researcher to refocus the questions or prompt for more information, as needed, to obtain quality data sufficient to answer the research question (Baškarada, 2014; Oltmann, 2016). In addition, asking open-ended questions gives participants discretion in responding (Rubin & Rubin, 2012).A disadvantage of semistructured interviews is the potential to miss unexpected or surprising evidence (Baškarada, 2014). An inductive approach to theorizing and conceptualizing allows participants to answer interview questions less explicitly than they would in more structured research (Bryman & Bell, 2015).the common pitfalls that can threaten an effective interview, including misinterpreting or misunderstanding questions and answers (e.g., due to personal prejudices or convictions), asking leading or loaded questions, interjecting comments that could bias the response, listening only to what is easy to understand, and making assumptions based on prior responses (Baškarada, 2014).Additional data will come from a review of publicly available and participant-provided company documents. I will procure any online or government-filed documents upon securing the individuals’ agreement to participate in the study. During our initial qualifying meeting, I will ask each small business owner for any other documents that are not proprietary or confidential. The only documents I will save and print are those scrubbed of identifying information, including company, owner, and shareholder names. The information gleaned from these documents will allow me to expand upon the data offered by participants in their interviews.Researchers use member checking to improve the trustworthiness of their findings (Cope, 2014; Harper & Cole, 2012; Harvey, 2015), thus affirming the accuracy and credibility of the study (Thomas & Magilvy, 2011). I will schedule a second meeting with all five participants to perform member checking, reviewing my preliminary findings and themes for accuracy and completeness. The feedback I receive will reaffirm my interpretations or lead me to revisit some of my findings.Data Organization TechniqueWithout a case study database, commingling case study narratives with data interpretations could render inspecting raw data nearly impossible (Yin, 2017). Therefore, I will keep a separate and organized database with a compilation of data, research log, reflective journal, and field documents, which could provide for the inspection of raw data leading to researcher conclusions.I will import all interview transcripts into NVivo for easy storage and organization. I can use the program to create charts, graphs, word clouds, and other visual aids to assist in managing data and capturing emerging understandings. I will continue to maintain a research log, documenting step by step the processes of the study to provide a detailed audit trail for subsequent replication. I will also keep a reflective journal in which I write down my thoughts, impressions, and opinions; this will allow me to continue to check for personal bias and implement bracketing, as needed.Maintaining the safety, security, confidentiality, and accessibility of data is the foremost objective in data storage (Whitlock et al., 2010). All paper and electronic copies of my research, including emails, interviews, journals, field notes, audio recordings, and references, will remain securely stored in a fire-, water-, and theft-proof safe for 5 years. In accordance with Walden University guidelines, I will shred and delete all raw data after that period.Data AnalysisI will follow Yin’s (2017) five-step data analysis process of (a) collecting the data, (b) separating the data into groups, (c) regrouping the data into themes, (d) assessing the information, and (e) developing conclusions. I will read and reread each transcript, highlighting particularly relevant words or phrases and taking notes when such phrases appear across transcripts; this is a process known as coding (Saldaña, 2015; Suter, 2012; Yin, 2017). Case study data analysis consists of examining, categorizing, tabulating, testing, or otherwise recombining evidence to draw empirically based conclusions (Rademaker et al., 2012), all of which I will follow with this study.During analysis, I will divide data into manageable pieces to reconstruct and reflect a view of reality. The initial step will be reading interview transcripts, company documents, observational notes, and any other relevant documents as a means to formulate initial categories, themes, and relationships. I will use Microsoft Word for transcribing, highlighting, and commenting on all transcripts, later transferring passages to NVivo for sorting and coding. Throughout this process, I will conduct journaling, taking notes in the form of memos to record my interpretations of transcribed data.Pattern matching involves comparing predicted patterns or effects with empirically observed effects, allowing researchers to identify variances or gaps (Baškarada, 2014). As the best analysis method to match and analyze data, pattern matching is the most applicable technique for this case study. When I am confident I have identified all commonalities, I will import them into NVivo for ease in organization and sorting. Qualitative researchers use NVivo software to examine data for insight, coding, thematic analysis, and findings (Robins & Eisen, 2017), presenting results in various formats, including text, images, and mind maps (Woods et al., 2016). I will use NVivo 12 for identifying themes and interpreting the results.Triangulation in data analysis entails seeking common findings among multiple data sources, which is another means to enhance the trustworthiness of qualitative findings (Azulai & Rankin, 2012; Yin, 2017). In addition to company document review and member checking, I will corroborate the interview data and themes with multiple data sources, including prior literature reviewed for this study or published in the interim.Reliability and ValidityReliability and validity are critical to quantitative scientific rigor, ensuring researchers meet the highest standards of academic research (Noble & Smith, 2015). Both validity and reliability are components of trustworthiness (Miles et al., 2014). Reliability and validity are necessary for a quality study (Leung, 2015).ReliabilityIn a qualitative case study, dependability is the equivalent of quantitative reliability; in other words, if later researchers repeat the study using the same procedures, they will find the same results (Baškarada, 2014; Guba, 1981; Yin, 2017). To enable replication, I will maintain a detailed audit trail of study processes, which is one way researchers achieve dependability. According to Korstjens and Moser (2018), dependability means deriving the results from participants’ experiences and information and not researcher bias; to this end, I will practice bracketing and journaling. I will use two additional means of establishing dependability: member checking and data triangulation.ValidityValidity in research involves accuracy and the trustworthiness of data collection, analysis, and interpretation of the findings (Dennis, 2018). To ensure validity, qualitative researchers use credibility, transferability, and confirmability (Morse, 2015). Another technique to achieve credibility is data saturation (Birt et al., 2016), which occurs when participant-provided information is exhaustive enough such that no more themes emerge. I will take the following steps to ensure the validity of my findings.CredibilityOne component of accurate qualitative findings is credibility (Yin, 2017). Credibility refers to the level of objectivity and impartiality of research findings (Bradshaw et al., 2017), meaning they accurately reflect participants’ opinions and perspectives (Colorafi & Evans, 2016). I am responsible for maintaining the rigor of research and enhancing study credibility, which I may gain through prolonged engagement with participants. Additional ways I will ensure this study’s credibility will be member checking and data triangulation.TransferabilityTransferability is the extent to which a study’s findings are applicable to other contexts or settings (Pozzebon et al., 2014). As the researcher, I will take steps to boost the transferability of findings. One means of improving transferability is maintaining in-depth, detailed documentation of the steps undertaken in the study, from the initial recruitment to the presentation of findings (Merriam, 1998; Morse, 2015). With this audit trail, I will enable a future scholar to determine the applicability of my results to a similar population or situation.ConfirmabilityAnother component of research quality, confirmability is the truthfulness and correctness of a study’s findings with the absence of researcher bias (Elo et al., 2014; Nowell et al., 2017; Yin, 2017). I will follow procedures to ensure data accuracy and use triangulation to support findings from the interviews with multiple sources of data, including field notes, company document reviews, and observations. I will maintain an audit trail, providing a solid methodological reference for other researchers to assess confirmability. I will also practice reflexivity and bracketing by keeping a diary to ensure findings reflect the participants’ perceptions and not my own.Data SaturationSaturation occurs when continued data analysis reveals the same recurring themes with no new ideas emerging (Constantinou et al., 2017; O’Reilly & Parker, 2013). Failure to reach data saturation calls into question the quality, reliability, and validity of the research (Nelson & Squires, 2017). I anticipate that five participants will be sufficient to achieve data saturation. I will confirm saturation as I code and thematically analyze data from participant interviews and document reviews. I expect that, before I complete coding all five transcripts, I will reach a point when no new themes are emerging.Transition and SummaryThe purpose of this qualitative multiple case study is to explore strategies that small business owners use to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity. The implication for social change is that identifying the success factors may enable more small businesses to obtain financing and continue business operation for 5 years or longer. Further, ensuring business continuity means more individuals will remain employed, thus contributing to the local economy.As the researcher, I will serve as the data collection instrument, conducting one-on-one, semistructured interviews and reviewing company documents. I will implement bracketing to minimize the risk of bias. I will adhere to ethical guidelines in research to protect participants’ rights and maintain confidentiality by using alphanumeric identifiers instead of names. A critical step of data analysis is ensuring the reliability and validity of data; accordingly, I will take steps to increase the dependability, credibility, transferability, and confirmability of my study.Criteria met by the five participants in this study are owning a manufacturing and wholesale small business in Maryland, employing 500 or fewer people, being in business at least 5 years, and succeeding in obtaining a working capital line of credit for business continuity. Collected data will come from one-on-one semistructured interviews and company document reviews. Data analysis will begin with coding, conducting multiple reads of the material as I highlight common words and phrases. I will next import files, notes, and preliminary codes into NVivo for ease in organization, identifying themes common across interviews. Member checking will be a means to confirm my initial findings.Section 3 will present an analysis of data in accordance with the method and design. Next, I will provide data and study findings in the context of the conceptual framework. The section will include an overview of the study and the findings with interpretations, reflections, and conclusions applicable to professional business practices. In Section 3, I will also present the application to professional practice, implications for social change, recommendations for action, and suggestions for further research. 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ADBI Working Paper Series. https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/473006/adbi-wp907.pdfYin, R. K. (2017). Case study research: Design and methods (6th ed.). SAGE Publications.Appendix A: Informed Consent FormYou are invited to take part in a research study about how small business owners in Maryland have been successful in acquiring a working capital line of credit to sustain their businesses beyond 5 years. The researcher is inviting owners of manufacturing and wholesale small businesses located in Maryland who employ 500 or fewer employees and have been in business longer than 5 years to be in the study. This form is part of a process called “informed consent” to allow you to understand this study before deciding whether to take part.This study is being conducted by a researcher named Solomon Atamaya, who is a doctoral student at Walden University. You might already know the researcher as a credit union banker in the department of underwriting small business loans, but this study is separate from that role.Background Information:The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study is to explore the strategies that small business owners use to obtain a working capital line of credit for business continuity. Information from this study will expand understanding of the economic, social, cultural, and structural issues small businesses face in securing working lines of credit. Among the implications for social change are that more small business owners may be able to sustain operations, thus continuing to provide employment opportunities that could increase the standard of living and contribute to the well-being of citizens in the local communities.Procedures:If you agree to be in this study, you will be asked to:· take part in a face-to-face, pre-interview meeting;· participate in a 1-hour, face-to-face interview; and· review a copy of my preliminary findings to confirm the accuracy of my analysis.Here are some sample questions:· What strategies did you use to obtain a working capital line of credit?· What are the significant challenges you encountered in securing a working capital line of credit?· How did you overcome the challenges you encountered in securing a working capital line of credit?Voluntary Nature of the Study:This study is voluntary. You are free to accept or turn down the invitation. No one at Walden University will treat you differently if you decide not to be in the study. If you decide to be in the study now, you can still change your mind later. You may stop at any time.Risks and Benefits of Being in the Study:Being in this type of study involves some risk of the minor discomforts that can be encountered in daily life, such as those from recalling memories and events. Minor risks may include fatigue, stress, or becoming upset. Being in this study would not pose a risk to your safety or well-being.You will receive no direct benefits in participating; however, information you provide may help other small business owners in securing working lines of credit for business continuity. As a result, continued employment opportunities could increase the standard of living and improve the well-being of citizens in local communities. The research findings may be also be valuable to banking officials, government agencies, and creditors in understanding the challenges small business leaders face while trying to access credit.Payment:There is no payment for participating in this study.Privacy:Reports coming out of this study will not share the identities of individual participants. Details that might identify participants, such as the location of the study, also will not be shared. The researcher will not use your personal information for any purpose outside of this research project. Data will be kept secure on a password-protected thumb drive or folder retained in a secure, fireproof vault. Your confidentiality is assured, as no participant or company names will be used on any study material outside of this form; instead, I will use alphanumeric identifiers instead of names. Data will be kept secure for a period of at least 5 years, as required by the university.Contacts and Questions:You may ask any questions you have now. Or if you have questions later, you may contact the researcher via email at [email protected] If you want to talk privately about your rights as a participant, you can call the Research Participant Advocate at my university at 612-312-1210. Walden University’s approval number for this study is IRB will enter approval number here and it expires on IRB will enter expiration date.The researcher will give you a copy of this form to keep.Obtaining Your ConsentIf you feel you understand the study well enough to make a decision about it, please indicate your consent by signing below.Printed Name of ParticipantDate of consentParticipant’s SignatureResearcher’s SignaturePermission to Audio RecordI would like your permission to audio record our interview. This will best enable me to accurately capture your words and meaning. If you do not wish to be audio recorded, you may still participate in the study.If you consent to audio recording, please sign here:Appendix B: Interview ProtocolInterview protocolWhat you will doWhat you will say—scriptIntroduce the interview and set the stage—often over a meal or coffeeThank you for taking time out of your schedule to meet with me today; I know you are very busy. I have scheduled our interview for 1 hour; however, it may take less time depending on the extent of our discussion. I have six prepared questions for you, all of which will allow you to provide answers in as much depth as you like. I may also ask follow-up questions to explore further some of your experiences or perspectives.If at any time you become uncomfortable with a question or topic or wish to take a break, please just let me know. Do you have any questions before we begin? Great. I will now start the audio recorder.· Watch for nonverbal cues· Paraphrase as needed· Ask follow-up probing questions to get more in-depth1. What strategies did you use in obtaining a working capital line of credit?2. What are the significant challenges you encountered in securing a working capital line of credit?3. How did you overcome the challenges you encountered in securing a working capital line of credit?4. What strategies did you use in developing successful banking relationships to secure working capital?5. How, if at all, did you have to modify the initial strategies you used for obtaining a working capital line of credit?6. What else could you share that is pertinent to the procedures for obtaining credit for your business?What you will doWhat you will say—scriptSchedule follow-up member checking interviewI anticipate analyzing all data and identifying preliminary themes within 3 to 4 weeks. Can we schedule some time next month so you can review my findings and provide your informed opinions and feedback?Follow–up Member Checking Interview ProtocolIntroduce follow-up interview and set the stageThank you again for the generous allowance of your time for this process. As I mentioned when we last met, this meeting is an opportunity for you to review my preliminary findings and provide your informed opinions and feedback. I will again audio record our conversation to ensure I do not miss anything. Do you have any questions before we begin? Great; let’s get started.Share a copy of the succinct synthesis for each individual questionBring in probing questions related to other information that you may have found—note the information must be related so that you are probing and adhering to the IRB approval.Walk through each question, read the interpretation and ask:Did I miss anything? Or, What would you like to add?Script XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX1. What strategies did you use in obtaining a working capital line of credit?2. What are the significant challenges you encountered in securing a working capital line of credit?3. How did you overcome the challenges you encountered in securing a working capital line of credit?4. What strategies did you use in developing successful banking relationships to secure working capital?5. How, if at all, did you have to modify the initial strategies you used for obtaining a working capital line of credit?6. What else could you share that is pertinent to the procedures for obtaining credit for your business?SNC Internal InformationSNC Internal InformationSNC Internal Information

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