Navigating Uncharted Waters – Alternatives to Factoring Companies for Short-Term Capital

It is likely that at some stage in the life of your business, you have found yourself in need of short-term capital. 

Perhaps you were developing or launching a new product or service or had to staff up for a large contract, or your customers were slow to pay.  All of these can put pressure on your cash flow and capital requirements and typically drive companies to turn to conventional lenders – like banks.

However, this doesn’t work for every business. Some firms may not want to add additional debt to their balance sheets, or they may need short-term funding to cover current account spending unsuited to conventional bank loans. And, of course, it’s possible the bank may refuse the application. This is where a CEO may turn to a factoring company and invoice factoring.

Invoice factoring is a financing solution that enables companies to stabilize cash flow by unlocking the cash sitting in unpaid receivables. Invoices are treated as collateral, so the firm in need of capital sells an invoice to a factoring company. The factoring company then collects payment on the invoice and pays the issuing company between 70-90% of the value of the invoice.  

Why Factoring Companies May Not Be Your Best Option

I’ve had many issues with factoring companies and the use of this practice as a method for raising or dealing with short-term capital requirements and cash flow problems.

First, the amount deducted by the factoring company is, in my view, typically too high. You’re effectively eroding your margin and your profit. The cost is far higher than any conventional debt instrument.

The second issue is that having sold your accounts receivable to the factoring company, they usually approach your customer for payment before you do. The obvious problem is that this signals to your client you are experiencing cash flow problems. It looks bad, and it can potentially cause problems later on, allowing uncertainty and doubt to enter the minds of your clients as to your stability as a future supplier. For example, if you were a time-critical parts supplier, you could inadvertently be poisoning the well. 

For these reasons and more, I do not recommend this as a solution for any of the businesses I advise. 

A Short-Term Fix To A Long-Term Problem 

But what if you’ve been denied capital from a conventional lender?  This may speak to deeper issues facing your business that you will need to address whether you’re raising capital, considering an M&A transaction or seeking to sell your business.  For example, inconsistent earnings may be a symptom of failures in the sales or business development processes.

Failure to secure capital by conventional means may also be a sign that there are problems with your financial management systems, inadequate fiscal discipline or an inability to manage operations according to budget.  Or, as the owner, you just may be pulling too much money out of your business.

The Best Sources Of Capital Come From Within

But how else can you raise capital? One of my many business dictums is that the best sources of capital are from within; meaning, with some in-depth analyses, businesses can often find the capital they need from internal savings without the need for external sources.  

A solid plan for the execution of cost-cutting measures can reduce your need for short-term capital, improve cash flow and provide resources for investment. This isn’t about hacking at the drivers of growth in your business, like your marketing, budget or sales teams. One exercise we undertake for clients is cost rationalization. The starting point of the rationalization is your Transaction Service Agreements – the services your business is buying from third-party providers; for example, telecom services. We negotiate with your providers for better deals. In some cases, we’ve saved our clients hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars annually. You’d be surprised how many businesses never look at these areas for cost reductions.

For one business, as part of the assessment, we devised a plan to immediately eliminate all unnecessary expenditures and worked with senior management to implement controls that would require a higher-level authority to authorize future expenditures. We also implemented a detailed daily cash reporting and forecasting model, as well as a 12-month financial forecast. Ultimately, not only did we address the rationalization of certain costs, but we revised and enhanced the revenue model, eventually generating positive cash flow for the company.

Find The Right Lender And Develop A Relationship

Sometimes, you have a well-run business, but you’re still unable to raise capital from a conventional lender. This can be due to the failure to develop an in-depth relationship with a lender, or the inability to find a lender that properly understands your business. The last point is critical.

There are multiple sources of capital — commercial lenders, banks, private equity firms, etc. — all of whom have different levels of knowledge about industries and market segments. Lenders also have differing investment profiles of what or who they’re willing to invest in, as well as different lending profiles. Matching a company’s needs with the right source of capital is part of the art and science of business.  For example, local banks in Washington, D.C. cultivate a deep understanding of the government contractor business model.

Knowing your company’s financial strengths and weaknesses, understanding the preferences and proclivities of the lending industry, and avoiding factoring companies are vital to raising capital wisely and successfully.

About The Author

Tom Springer has over 20 years of experience providing strategic planning, business development, interim management and technical advisory services for private equity firms, portfolio companies and public and private enterprises. Tom is skilled at growing enterprise value by creating highly productive sales and service teams, developing new lines of business and fostering client relationships. He is known for solving complex business problems by aligning technology with business and operations.

You can contact Tom at [email protected].

About Schneider Downs M&A and Transaction Advisory Services

The Schneider Downs Transaction Advisory Services and Corporate Finance Teams provide the strategy, guidance and services organizations need to create value through all stages of a transaction, including due diligence and quality of earnings, mergers and acquisitions, exit and succession planning, capital raising and corporate finance.

Visit our dedicated M&A and Transaction Advisory Services page or contact the team directly at [email protected]

Schneider Downs Corporate Finance, LP is a registered broker/dealer. Member FINRA/SIPC.

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