Alternative Sources of Business Growth Finance

Talk to any business owner or read the business section of any newspaper and you’re likely to come across stories of struggles to access sufficient finance to grow or maintain their business. But we are beginning to witness a change in how business owners access finance with many now actively seeking out alternative sources.

A survey carried out by the UK’s Forum of Private Business found that 26% of businesses were hunting out alternative financial products, with 21% seeking them outside of the traditional main High Street lenders. In fact, in another survey undertaken by the Federation of Small Businesses, it was discovered that only 35% of respondents used a traditional overdraft facility in 2011.

So, if banks are continually reluctant to lend to all but the lowest risk businesses, how can the remainder of the UK’s business population finance growth? Here are some of the increasingly popular alternative sources of finance to investigate.

Better Management of Working Capital

This may appear to be an odd source of finance but very often businesses are sitting on undiscovered cash reserves which can be used to finance growth. A report issued by Deloitte in 2011 revealed that the UK’s largest businesses were sitting on £60 billion of unproductive working capital. Inefficiencies in how working capital (debtors, stock and creditors) is handled can unnecessarily tie up your cash. Cash can be unlocked and released back in to the system thereby allowing self-financed growth plans by taking a close look at credit procedures, how credit terms are granted and how outstanding payments are chased.

Ensuring that stock is kept at an optimum level via better inventory management is another area where cash can be released to support and finance growth. Take a good look at your inventory management process and identify areas where cash is trapped.

Good management of working capital is not just about better control of debtors and stock, it is also about maximising the terms given by creditors. Are you too eager to maintain a first class relationship with your suppliers by paying well before the due date? You can positively impact your cash position by taking full advantage of terms offered by your suppliers. Have you fully leveraged your position by seeking an extensive of terms from say 30 days to 45 days?

Being more efficient in how working capital is managed can release sufficient funds to self-finance growth plans.

Personal Resources

With traditional avenues of funding being more difficult to access business owners are now looking to their personal resources to fund growth. Whether it be drawing on cash savings, using personal credit cards or taking additional mortgages on residential properties, such sources are an instant solution. A survey by the Federation of Small Businesses found that 33% of respondents had utilised their savings to fund growth. As well as being more immediately accessible using personal resources is often a cheaper source of finance.

Family and Friends

Sometimes referred to as the three F’s – family, friends and fools – this can appear to be a less stressful way of raising finance. In some ways it can but it can also be a journey fraught with danger. Tapping into their personal network business owners source finance by either seeking a loan and offering to pay an interest rate higher than that on offer on a High Street savings account, or offering a slice of equity in the business in return for investment.

Raising finance in this way can be relatively easy because the request and fulfilment is very much based on personal trust. Typically a Business Plan would be presented highlighting both the investment opportunity and the risks but at the end of the day success is down to the depth of the relationship and level of trust.

The danger in raising funds this way is that the nature of the relationship will change from that of a personal nature to a business transaction. Failure to regularly pay as per agreed terms, or even total failure to pay, can irreparably damage the relationship so tread with care.

Asset Finance

The Asset Finance industry is based on the concept of either preserving cash or speeding up access to it. Asset finance, which consists of invoice discounting, factoring and funding of asset purchases, has been available as a source of finance for many years, yet it’s only now gaining more recognition. Figures released by the Asset Based Finance Association, a trade association representing the industry, show that to the third quarter of 2011 the amount financed by the Association’s members increased by 9% compared to the same period in the previous year. Whilst the increase may not seem significant it is against the backdrop of a fall in traditional bank lending.

In a world where ‘cash is king’ asset financiers help preserve cash by financing the purchase of assets such as vehicles, machinery and equipment. Because the financier is looking to the underlying asset as security there is usually no requirement for additional collateral. According to the Asset Finance and Leasing Association one in three UK businesses that have external finance now utilise asset finance.

Asset financiers can help speed up the flow of cash within a business by allowing quicker access to cash tied up in the debtor book. An invoice discounting and factoring facility gives businesses the ability to immediately access up to 80% of an invoice instead of waiting for the agreed credit terms to run their course. Such finance facilities will speed up the velocity of cash within the business thereby allowing the business to fund a high rate of growth.

New players such as Market Invoice are entering the market to allow businesses to raise finance against selected invoices. Tapping into high net worth individuals and funds Market Invoice acts as an auction house with funders ‘bidding’ to advance against certain invoices.

Crowfunding and Peer-to-Peer

A relatively new phenomenon is the concept of raising finance by tapping into the power of the crowd. The historically low rates of interest payable on savings have led to depositors seeking out new ways to increase their returns. With business owners struggling to raise the funding they need it’s only natural that a market would be created to bring these two parties together.

CrowdCube entered the market in 2010 to match private investors seeking to be Dragons with those businesses looking to raise capital. Once a business passes the initial review stage their proposal is posted on the site and potential investors indicate the level of investment they wish to make with the minimum amount being as low as £10.

Businesses looking for a more traditional loan should consider Funding Circle. Established in 2010 Funding Circle also matches individual investors looking for a better return with those businesses seeking additional finance. Businesses can apply for funding between £5,000 and £250,000 for a period of 1, 3 or 5 years. As a minimum the business has to have submitted two years Accounts with Companies House and be assessed in order to arrive at a risk rating which guides potential investors.

As the crowd sourcing concept matures we are likely to see more players enter this market to capitalise on the need for better investor returns and easier access to business finance.

There is More Than One Way to Fund Growth

Accessing finance to fund growth plans does not have to be difficult if you are prepared to seek out alternative providers. Funding growth is now no longer the exclusive preserve of the traditional High Street bank and it’s now down to business owners to seek out the alternative routes.

Sources of Business Finance

Sources of business finance can be studied under the following heads:

(1) Short Term Finance:

Short-term finance is needed to fulfill the current needs of business. The current needs may include payment of taxes, salaries or wages, repair expenses, payment to creditor etc. The need for short term finance arises because sales revenues and purchase payments are not perfectly same at all the time. Sometimes sales can be low as compared to purchases. Further sales may be on credit while purchases are on cash. So short term finance is needed to match these disequilibrium.

Sources of short term finance are as follows:

(i) Bank Overdraft: Bank overdraft is very widely used source of business finance. Under this client can draw certain sum of money over and above his original account balance. Thus it is easier for the businessman to meet short term unexpected expenses.

(ii) Bill Discounting: Bills of exchange can be discounted at the banks. This provides cash to the holder of the bill which can be used to finance immediate needs.

(iii) Advances from Customers: Advances are primarily demanded and received for the confirmation of orders However, these are also used as source of financing the operations necessary to execute the job order.

(iv) Installment Purchases: Purchasing on installment gives more time to make payments. The deferred payments are used as a source of financing small expenses which are to be paid immediately.

(v) Bill of Lading: Bill of lading and other export and import documents are used as a guarantee to take loan from banks and that loan amount can be used as finance for a short time period.

(vi) Financial Institutions: Different financial institutions also help businessmen to get out of financial difficulties by providing short-term loans. Certain co-operative societies can arrange short term financial assistance for businessmen.

(vii) Trade Credit: It is the usual practice of the businessmen to buy raw material, store and spares on credit. Such transactions result in increasing accounts payable of the business which are to be paid after a certain time period. Goods are sold on cash and payment is made after 30, 60, or 90 days. This allows some freedom to businessmen in meeting financial difficulties.

(2) Medium Term Finance:

This finance is required to meet the medium term (1-5 years) requirements of the business. Such finances are basically required for the balancing, modernization and replacement of machinery and plant. These are also needed for re-engineering of the organization. They aid the management in completing medium term capital projects within planned time. Following are the sources of medium term finance:

(i) Commercial Banks: Commercial banks are the major source of medium term finance. They provide loans for different time-period against appropriate securities. At the termination of terms the loan can be re-negotiated, if required.

(ii) Hire Purchase: Hire purchase means buying on installments. It allows the business house to have the required goods with payments to be made in future in agreed installment. Needless to say that some interest is always charged on outstanding amount.

(iii) Financial Institutions: Several financial institutions such as SME Bank, Industrial Development Bank, etc., also provide medium and long-term finances. Besides providing finance they also provide technical and managerial assistance on different matters.

(iv) Debentures and TFCs: Debentures and TFCs (Terms Finance Certificates) are also used as a source of medium term finances. Debentures is an acknowledgement of loan from the company. It can be of any duration as agreed among the parties. The debenture holder enjoys return at a fixed rate of interest. Under Islamic mode of financing debentures has been replaced by TFCs.

(v) Insurance Companies: Insurance companies have a large pool of funds contributed by their policy holders. Insurance companies grant loans and make investments out of this pool. Such loans are the source of medium term financing for various businesses.

(3) Long Term Finance:

Long term finances are those that are required on permanent basis or for more than five years tenure. They are basically desired to meet structural changes in business or for heavy modernization expenses. These are also needed to initiate a new business plan or for a long term developmental projects. Following are its sources:

(i) Equity Shares: This method is most widely used all over the world to raise long term finance. Equity shares are subscribed by public to generate the capital base of a large scale business. The equity share holders shares the profit and loss of the business. This method is safe and secured, in a sense that amount once received is only paid back at the time of wounding up of the company.

(ii) Retained Earnings: Retained earnings are the reserves which are generated from the excess profits. In times of need they can be used to finance the business project. This is also called ploughing back of profits.

(iii) Leasing: Leasing is also a source of long term finance. With the help of leasing, new equipment can be acquired without any heavy outflow of cash.

(iv) Financial Institutions: Different financial institutions such as former PICIC also provide long term loans to business houses.

(v) Debentures: Debentures and Participation Term Certificates are also used as a source of long term financing.

Conclusion:

These are various sources of finance. In fact there is no hard and fast rule to differentiate among short and medium term sources or medium and long term sources. A source for example commercial bank can provide both a short term or a long term loan according to the needs of client. However, all these sources are frequently used in the modern business world for raising finances.

Alternative Financing for Wholesale Produce Distributors

Equipment Financing/Leasing

One avenue is equipment financing/leasing. Equipment lessors help small and medium size businesses obtain equipment financing and equipment leasing when it is not available to them through their local community bank.

The goal for a distributor of wholesale produce is to find a leasing company that can help with all of their financing needs. Some financiers look at companies with good credit while some look at companies with bad credit. Some financiers look strictly at companies with very high revenue (10 million or more). Other financiers focus on small ticket transaction with equipment costs below $100,000.

Financiers can finance equipment costing as low as 1000.00 and up to 1 million. Businesses should look for competitive lease rates and shop for equipment lines of credit, sale-leasebacks & credit application programs. Take the opportunity to get a lease quote the next time you’re in the market.

Merchant Cash Advance

It is not very typical of wholesale distributors of produce to accept debit or credit from their merchants even though it is an option. However, their merchants need money to buy the produce. Merchants can do merchant cash advances to buy your produce, which will increase your sales.

Factoring/Accounts Receivable Financing & Purchase Order Financing

One thing is certain when it comes to factoring or purchase order financing for wholesale distributors of produce: The simpler the transaction is the better because PACA comes into play. Each individual deal is looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Is PACA a Problem? Answer: The process has to be unraveled to the grower.

Factors and P.O. financers do not lend on inventory. Let’s assume that a distributor of produce is selling to a couple local supermarkets. The accounts receivable usually turns very quickly because produce is a perishable item. However, it depends on where the produce distributor is actually sourcing. If the sourcing is done with a larger distributor there probably won’t be an issue for accounts receivable financing and/or purchase order financing. However, if the sourcing is done through the growers directly, the financing has to be done more carefully.

An even better scenario is when a value-add is involved. Example: Somebody is buying green, red and yellow bell peppers from a variety of growers. They’re packaging these items up and then selling them as packaged items. Sometimes that value added process of packaging it, bulking it and then selling it will be enough for the factor or P.O. financer to look at favorably. The distributor has provided enough value-add or altered the product enough where PACA does not necessarily apply.

Another example might be a distributor of produce taking the product and cutting it up and then packaging it and then distributing it. There could be potential here because the distributor could be selling the product to large supermarket chains – so in other words the debtors could very well be very good. How they source the product will have an impact and what they do with the product after they source it will have an impact. This is the part that the factor or P.O. financer will never know until they look at the deal and this is why individual cases are touch and go.

What can be done under a purchase order program?

P.O. financers like to finance finished goods being dropped shipped to an end customer. They are better at providing financing when there is a single customer and a single supplier.

Let’s say a produce distributor has a bunch of orders and sometimes there are problems financing the product. The P.O. Financer will want someone who has a big order (at least $50,000.00 or more) from a major supermarket. The P.O. financer will want to hear something like this from the produce distributor: ” I buy all the product I need from one grower all at once that I can have hauled over to the supermarket and I don’t ever touch the product. I am not going to take it into my warehouse and I am not going to do anything to it like wash it or package it. The only thing I do is to obtain the order from the supermarket and I place the order with my grower and my grower drop ships it over to the supermarket. “

This is the ideal scenario for a P.O. financer. There is one supplier and one buyer and the distributor never touches the inventory. It is an automatic deal killer (for P.O. financing and not factoring) when the distributor touches the inventory. The P.O. financer will have paid the grower for the goods so the P.O. financer knows for sure the grower got paid and then the invoice is created. When this happens the P.O. financer might do the factoring as well or there might be another lender in place (either another factor or an asset-based lender). P.O. financing always comes with an exit strategy and it is always another lender or the company that did the P.O. financing who can then come in and factor the receivables.

The exit strategy is simple: When the goods are delivered the invoice is created and then someone has to pay back the purchase order facility. It is a little easier when the same company does the P.O. financing and the factoring because an inter-creditor agreement does not have to be made.

Sometimes P.O. financing can’t be done but factoring can be.

Let’s say the distributor buys from different growers and is carrying a bunch of different products. The distributor is going to warehouse it and deliver it based on the need for their clients. This would be ineligible for P.O. financing but not for factoring (P.O. Finance companies never want to finance goods that are going to be placed into their warehouse to build up inventory). The factor will consider that the distributor is buying the goods from different growers. Factors know that if growers don’t get paid it is like a mechanics lien for a contractor. A lien can be put on the receivable all the way up to the end buyer so anyone caught in the middle does not have any rights or claims.

The idea is to make sure that the suppliers are being paid because PACA was created to protect the farmers/growers in the United States. Further, if the supplier is not the end grower then the financer will not have any way to know if the end grower gets paid.

Example: A fresh fruit distributor is buying a big inventory. Some of the inventory is converted into fruit cups/cocktails. They’re cutting up and packaging the fruit as fruit juice and family packs and selling the product to a large supermarket. In other words they have almost altered the product completely. Factoring can be considered for this type of scenario. The product has been altered but it is still fresh fruit and the distributor has provided a value-add.

Financing Inventory and Using Purchase Order Finance

It’s time. We’re talking about purchase order finance in Canada, how P O finance works, and how financing inventory and contracts under those purchase orders really works in Canada. And yes, as we said, its time… to get creative with your financing challenges, and we’ll demonstrate how.

And as a starter, being second never really counts, so Canadian business needs to be aware that your competitors are utilizing creative financing and inventory options for the growth and sales and profits, so why shouldn’t your firm?

Canadian business owners and financial managers know that you can have all the new orders and contracts in the world, but if you can’t finance them properly then you’re generally fighting a losing battle to your competitors.

The reason purchase order financing is rising in popularity generally stems from the fact that traditional financing via Canadian banks for inventory and purchase orders is exceptionally, in our opinion, difficult to finance. Where the banks say no is where purchase order financing begins!

It’s important for us to clarify to clients that P O finance is a general concept that might in fact include the financing of the order or contract, the inventory that might be required to fulfill the contract, and the receivable that is generated out of that sale. So it’s clearly an all encompassing strategy.

The additional beauty of P O finance is simply that it gets creative, unlike many traditional types of financing that are routine and formulaic.

It’s all about sitting down with your P O financing partner and discussing how unique your particular needs are. Typically when we sit down with clients this type of financing revolves around the requirements of the supplier, as well as your firm’s customer, and how both of these requirements can be met with timelines and financial guidelines that make sense for all parties.

The key elements of a successful P O finance transaction are a solid non cancelable order, a qualified customer from a credit worth perspective, and specific identification around who pays who and when. It’s as simple as that.

So how does all this work, asks our clients.Lets keep it simple so we can clearly demonstrate the power of this type of financing. Your firm receives an order. The P O financing firm pays your supplier via a cash or letter of credit – with your firm then receiving the goods and fulfilling the order and contract. The P O finance firm takes title to the rights in the purchase order, the inventory they have purchased on your behalf, and the receivable that is generated out of the sale. It’s as simple as that. When you customer pays per the terms of your contract with them the transaction is closed and the purchase order finance firm is paid in full, less their financing charge which is typically in the 2.5-3% per month range in Canada.

In certain cases financing inventory can be arranged purely on a separate basis, but as we have noted, the total sale cycle often relies on the order, the inventory and the receivable being collateralized to make this financing work.

Speak to a credible, trusted and experienced Canadian business financing advisor as to how this type of financing can benefit your firm.