Starting a business is a huge undertaking. There are thousands of things to consider before taking the leap, many of which come into play long before you're ready to apply for a loan. We've gathered a list of five essentials to keep you on the track to success.

Choose the right kind of business for you. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don't take this into consideration. If you want to start a business, make sure it encompasses something you truly care about. That way, when the going gets tough, you can remind yourself why you started on this road in the first place. It's also important to think about how you and other members of your team operate as individuals. Choose a path that makes sense for you, something you can and want to continue doing for years, maybe even the rest of your life.

Write a watertight business plan. This is essential to being granted a loan. Be thorough - make financial projections, as well as cash flow, profit, and loss estimates. Be creative, but direct in your approach. Sell yourself, but try to be realistic and honest. Learn how to present your business's story when applying for loans. When you appear prepared and passionate, you're much more likely to get a favorable response.

Establish credit. When being considered for a new business loan, it's important that you have strong credit scores - both business and personal. If you have bad or no credit, start working to establish credit immediately. This is a good idea for anyone, but for potential business owners, it's nonnegotiable. It's also a good idea to gather both business and personal financial statements; this documentation is often required with your loan application, some even ask for years of information.

Know what you need. Before applying for a loan, familiarize yourself with the options. When you meet with a lender, you'll want to have a very clear idea of how much capital you'll need and what kind of loan you feel comfortable taking. Research interest rates and terms for several different types of loans before settling on the loan for you, then make an outline of how exactly the loan will be used.

Small businesses and small banks go well together. You've come to the right place for a new business loan. Large banks can be reluctant to give smaller business loans, but here at Columbia Bank, we know every great business has to start somewhere. We'll be by your side every step of the way.

When you feel you are ready to apply for a new business loan, consult this helpful checklist from the Small Business Administration. You can also visit your nearest Columbia Bank branch or contact a customer service representative with any questions you might have: (800) 522-4167, Monday-Friday 7:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. (EST) and Saturday 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. (EST).