Thinking about applying for a direct loan? Read this first.

While applying for a direct loan is faster and requires less paperwork than applying for a traditional loan, it’s important to still be prepared. Noah Breslow, CEO of OnDeck, sat down with MSNBC to discuss a few best practices for small businesses looking to start the application process with a direct lender.

1. Presentation matters
Although the application process for direct lenders is largely online rather than in-person, taking the time to organize your paperwork is key. It’s important to have key items organized and ready, including your most recent bank statements and last year’s tax return.

2. Be honest
A widely known secret is that some businesses fudge their revenue projections before applying for a small business loan, in hopes that the extra boost will make a difference. However, that’s a huge mistake: direct lenders vet these figures, and are more likely to give financing support to a small, honest business than to a large one embellishing its figures.

3. Give your references a heads sup
Be sure to let everyone connected to your business and your application know that they may be receiving a call in the coming days. Lenders will call references like your landlords to check on rent or suppliers to check on your business’ payment behavior.

“It’s really important to give [your references] a heads-up,” Breslow explains. “Make them aware of what you’re doing.”

4. Cash flow is king
Your cash flow is an essential factor when applying for financing – so always be aware of its status before you send in an application. Your bank account is your best reference, in fact. Lenders will check your cash flow, withdrawal and deposit trends, and even bounced checks.

“It’s very, very important as a business owner to funnel all of your funds into that account, and to manage it in a tight way,” Breslow concluded.

By keeping these four tips in mind, small business owners will be a step ahead in completing the small business application process.