Where Do You Get Financing For Your Small Business?

“It takes money to make money.” That saying is somewhat true. To create or expand your business empire you will need some funding to cover your expenses until your income comes in. That may take 2 months or 2 years, and it may require $200 or $200,000. The money can always be found, one way or another, but you need the right method for you.

Money comes from three sources, each with its own benefits, dangers, and costs. You will likely use two, if not all three of these types over the course of your enterprise — and you must understand each to evaluate which will work for you today, tomorrow, and 5 years from now.

#1 Method: Self Financing

When business owners have cash on hand, they typically look to their own bank account first as a simple form of financing. Self financing can be broken down two different ways, each with their own considerations. First, there are two types of self financing: lump-sum and bootstrapping. Second, self-financing can come from you, personally, or can come from your current business that finances another business, venture, service, or product line.

Lump-sum financing is when you have a fixed amount of money from the sale of a business or investment, an inheritance, personal savings, 401(k) cash-out (rarely a good idea) or other amount of cash that can be used to finance a business venture. The amount you have available is relatively fixed and can be viewed and tracked as a one-time investment.

Bootstrapping is constantly used by most small businesses, usually without conscious knowledge. Bootstrapping is where you pay for the new or expanding business through cash flow coming in from another source. The other source may be your day job, your spouse or partner’s job or business, a profitable business or product line, or passive investments (real estate, mutual funds, and bond).

Self-financing works when you need a small amount of money, when you have a large amount of money available, when you are comfortable with risk, or when you need money quickly. It also works when a profitable business can absorb investing in a new venture until the new venture takes off; assuming adequate cash flow projections and tracking has been done to ensure the new venture is not a never-ending profit leach.

#2 Method: Debt Financing

Debt financing is obtaining money that must be paid back to the lender, usually with interest. Similar to self-financing, debt financing may include both using your personal credit as well as the credit and security of the business to obtain a loan or line of credit.

Personal debt financing is readily available to most business owners. If you have a decent credit rating, you can obtain credit cards, a home equity line of credit, or a loan, without informing the bank about your business. You may obtain a loan from a family member or friend who knows about your business venture but who may not demand as rigorous standards as a formal bank.

Businesses may also obtain credit cards, lines of credit, and loans from banks and credit unions. Loans that are secured by the Small Business Administration (SBA) are available through banks providing lines of credit to small businesses that may not be able to obtain credit without the SBA guarantee. Alternative debt financing options such as Prosper.com enable individuals and businesses with lower credit ratings to obtain financing from diverse sources. But these private loans will typically be at interest rates higher than SBA loans.

#3 Method: Equity Financing

Equity financing is giving away ownership (equity) in your business, and potential future profits, in exchange for money (capital) today.

Investors can come in the form of silent partners, family, friends, or private investors who speculate in new companies. Angel Funding, wealthy individuals and groups who invest in small, high growth companies, typically buy stakes in companies for a few hundred thousand dollars. Venture Capital firms and Investment Banks typically are looking for companies where they will invest millions of dollars.

If you are planning to seek private investors, Angel Funding, Investment Banks, or Venture Capital, you will likely need more sophisticated financial reporting than is covered in this book. You will also need more lawyers and accountants.

How do you decide which type of financing to pursue?

Most likely, one type of financing is obviously not right for you now. You will probably use two or even all three types of financing for any one business, and your choice may change over the life of the business as you expand and add new ventures. You may be able to weed out certain choices because they are not available — you don’t have cash or another income source (self), you don’t have a good personal credit rating (debt), or your business has no exit plan (equity).

For each decision, you must track the benefits (Return on Investment), and the costs (interest, fees, and lost profits) of each type of financing. As your business grows, you may need to add or switch financing as prior financing methods become too expensive, are exhausted, or do not produce a sufficient return.

Financing

Financing is one of the most important functions of any enterprise. For carrying out any operation, finance is required. Thus, finance must be raised, allocated and controlled for the effective execution of any function. Finance function is superimposed on all other functions. That is, all the other functions in a business enterprise depend on the financing, and the success or failure of the firm, as such, depends on how effectively the finance function is undertaken.

Financing is an essential but distinct segment of the overall managerial function. It is closely related to various managerial functions such as production, personnel and distribution. The finance function comprises of determining and raising the necessary funds from appropriate sources, and their proper allocation and control with the aim of attaining the enterprise objective of wealth maximization. The wealth or the value of the firm is at the maximum when the return or profit is also at maximum. But with the increase in return, the risk also increases.

Financing function aims at reaching a trade-off between risk and return, and between profitability and liquidity, with the ultimate objective of maximizing the value of the firm. Some experts have defined financing as the task of providing the funds required by an enterprise on the terms most favorable to it, in light of the objectives of the business.

Money management, accounting, control and advisory are the four main functions of financing. Money management aims at ensuring that a sufficient amount of money is raised from appropriate sources at the right time and is invested in suitable projects which would increase the net returns and the value of the firm. Thus, money management consists of the raising of required funds, investing of funds and management of working capital.

Financial accounting consists of recording all business transactions and the preparation of final accounts, concerning the profit and loss accounts and the balance sheet. The profit and loss account shows the net results- either the profit earned or the loss suffered over a period. The balance sheet shows the financial position of the firm on a given time.

Financing Cash Flow Peaks And Valleys

For many businesses, financing cash flow for their business can be like riding a continuous roller coaster.

Sales are up, then they do down. Margins are good, then they flatten out. Cash flow can swing back and forth like an EKG graph of a heart attack.

So how do you go about financing cash flow for these types of businesses?

First, you need to accurately know and manage your monthly fixed costs. Regardless of what happens during the year, you need to be on top of what amount of funds will be required to cover off the recurring and scheduled operating costs that will occur whether you make a sale or not. Doing this monthly for a full twelve month cycle provides a basis for cash flow decision making.

Second, from where you are at right now, determine the amount of funds available in cash, owners outside capital that could be invested in the business, and other outside sources currently in place.

Third, project out your cash flow so that fixed costs, existing accounts payable and accounts receivable are realistically entered into the future weeks and months. If cash is always tight, make sure you do your cash flow on a weekly basis. There is too much variability over the course of a single month to project out only on a monthly basis.

Now you have a basis to assess financing your cash flow.

Financing cash flow is always going to be somewhat unique to each business due to industry, sector, business model, stage of business, business size, owner resources, and so on.

Each business must self assess its sources of financing cash flow, including but not limited to owner investment, trade or payable financing, government remittances, receivable discounts for early payment, deposits on sale, third party financing (line of credit, term loan, factoring, purchase order financing, inventory financing, asset based lending, or whatever else is relevant to you).

Ok, so now you have a cash flow bearing and a thorough understanding of your options available for financing cash flow in your specific business model.

Now what?

Now you are in a position to entertain future sales opportunities that fit into your cash flow.

Three points to clarify before we go further.

First, financing is not strictly about getting a loan from someone when your cash flow needs more money. Its a process of keeping your cash flow continuously positive at the lowest possible cost.

Second, you should only market and sell what you can cash flow. Marketers will measure the ROI of a marketing initiative. But if you can’t cash flow the business to complete the sale and collect the proceeds, there is no ROI to measure. If you have a business with fluctuating sales and margins, you can only enter into transactions that you can finance.

Third, marketing needs to focus on customers that you can sell to over and over again in order to maximize your marketing efforts and reduce the unpredictability of the annual sales cycle through regular repeat orders and sales.

Marketing works under the premise that if you are providing what the customer wants that the money side of the equation will take care of itself. In many businesses this indeed proves to be true. But in a business with fluctuating sales and margins, financing cash flow has to be another criteria built into sales and marketing activities.

Overtime, virtually any business has the potential to smooth out the peaks and valleys through a more robust marketing plan that better lines up with customer needs and the business’s financing limitations or parameters.

In addition to linking financing cash flow more closely to marketing and sales, the next most impactful action you can take is expanding your sources of financing.

Here are some potential strategies for expanding your sources for financing cash flow.

Strategy # 1: Develop strategic relationships with key suppliers that have the ability to extend greater financing in certain situations to take advantage of sales opportunities. This is accomplished with larger suppliers that 1) have the financial means to extend financing, 2) view you as a key customer and value your business, 3) have confidence in the business’s ability to forecast and manage cash flow.

Strategy # 2: Make sure where possible that your annual financial statements show a profit capable of servicing debt financing. Accountants may be good at saving you income tax dollars, but if they drive business profitability down to or close to zero through tax planning, they may also effectively destroying your ability to borrow money.

Strategy # 3: If possible, only transact with credit worthy customers. Credit worthy customers allow both the business and potential lenders to finance receivables which can increase the amount of external financing available to you.

Strategy # 4: Develop a liquidation pathway for your tangible assets. Equipment and inventory are easier to finance if lenders clearly understand how to liquidate the assets in the event of default. In some cases, businesses can get resale option agreements on certain equipment or inventory from prospective buyers assignable to a lender to be used as recourse against a lending facility for financing cash flow.

Strategy # 5: Joint venture a sales opportunity with another business to share the risk of a large sales opportunity that may be too risky for you to take on yourself.

Summary

The primary long term objective of a business with fluctuating cash flow and margins is to smooth out the peaks and valleys and create a scalable business with more of a predictable sales cycle.

This is best achieved with an approach that including the following steps.

Step #1. Micro Manage your fixed costs and cash flow and accurately project out the cash flow requirements of the business on a weekly basis.

Step #2. Take a detailed inventory of all the sources you have for financing cash flow.

Step #3. Incorporate your financing constraints into your marketing approach.

Step #4. If possible, only transact with credit worthy customers to reduce risk and increase financing options.

Step #5. Work towards expanding both your financing sources and available source limits for financing cash flow.

Business cycle stability and cash flow predictability is an evolutionary step for every business. The industries with longer sales cycles will tend to be the more difficult to tame due to a larger number of variables to manage.

A continuous focus on the process for improvement outlined will help create the desired results over time.

Business Finance – Strategic Planning

Whether you are starting up your business or expanding it you will need finance in order to do so. This is especially relevant to new businesses that are just starting up. There are numerous avenues that you can approach in order to gain this start up finance and there are many different forms of it open to you; choosing the right finance that will benefit your business most is the important thing.

There is a saying that states ‘it takes money to make money,’ this applies so much to new business ventures. For your business to become a success you will need a large amount of money to start off with that can be used to get your business set up. This money will be used to buy equipment, pay the rent on your business property, employ your staff and ensure that you have enough stock to get your business going as well as being used to pay the first few months of all your bills.

Two of the main reasons why many new businesses fail to get anywhere beyond the starting point are due to inadequate business capital and poor management skills, which is why raising money is so important in the early start-up stages of business.

Some ways in which people choose to fund their business idea is by using savings, but realistically not many of us have that sort of cash tucked away, which is why we require outside help. You could opt to borrow money from friends or family if they have the financial resources to help you or you could take out a credit card for the specific use of funding your business. All of the financial options that are open to you can be split into two sections, either debt finance or equity finance. Debt finance is classified as being money that is borrowed from varies different aspects. This is finance that is required to be paid back.

Some examples of debt finance include:

o Bank loans

o Credit cards

o Overdrafts

o Leasing

o Asset financing

All of these are the borrowing of money in one form or another and they will require monthly repayments that will have added interest. Most people however use their bank as the first call of gaining start up finance regardless of the fact they are going to end up paying more money back.

There are disadvantages and advantages of using a bank loan to fund a new business idea. However the disadvantages of having a bank loan to fund your business start up far out-weigh the advantages. The benefit of using a bank loan for business finance include being able to organise a repayment holiday meaning you only have to pay interest for a certain amount of time and you don’t have to turn over a share of your profit. The disadvantages however are that bank loans have strict terms and conditions and can cause cash flow problems if you are unable to keep up with your monthly repayments. Also bank loans are often secured against assets and you may be charged if you decide you want to repay your loan before the end of your loan term.
The other form of finance; equity finance, is often more overlooked than it should be when in fact equity finance could be just the answer that your business is looking for. The main forms of equity finance come from business angels and venture capitalists. Equity finance is money that is invested into your business in return for a share of the business. With equity finance the advantages out-weight the disadvantages and equity finance is a lot more helpful to small businesses than bank loans are.

Some of the advantages of equity finance include your investor being committed to your business and intended projects, they can bring valuable skills, contracts and experience to your business and they can assist you with strategy and decision making as well as often being prepared to follow up funding as your business grows. Two disadvantages of equity funding are your business may suffer as you are spending time securing your investor deal and the investor will own a share of your business.

The one thing that you must do when choosing your business start up finance is to use a finance option that is most suited to your business needs.

Finance – Need Of Everyone

Finance means to provide funds for business or it is a branch of economics which deals with study of money and other assets. In a Business management, finance is a most important characteristic as business and finance are interrelated. One can achieve its goal through the use of suited financial instruments. Financial planning is essential to ensure a secure future, both for the individual and an organization.

Personal finance

Personal finance may be required for education, insurance policies, and income tax management, investing, savings accounts. Personal loan is an effective source of personal finance. To avoid burden and life become enjoyable personal finance may be used as if getting it from a right source at minimum cost.

Business finance

Financial planning is essential in business finance to achieve its profit-making objectives. There are two main types of finance available to small business:

Debt Finance: lending money from banks, financial institutions etc. The borrower repays principal and interest.

Equity Finance: source of equity finance may be through a joint venture, private investors. It is a time consuming process.

State finances

Finance of states or public finance is finance of country, state, county or city. It is concerned with sources of revenue, budgeting process, expenditure spent for public works projects.

How to maintain your finance solutions

To maintain your finance then take up best finance solutions this will give you the advice to manage your finance in better way. In financial crises, applying for a loan is the best way to finance your needs. Nowadays E-finance is another option for finance as borrower gets wider option in choosing the best lender. Financial planning is important for your finance solutions

Looking To Buy A Gas Station? SBA Or Conventional Financing?

You’ve found some gas stations for sale and now you need financing. Many misconceptions exist about which is better for financing, SBA or conventional financing. Many people are under the misconception that SBA is somehow sub-standard financing or is expensive financing. Many people also assume that conventional loans are cheaper than a government backed business loan.

The good thing is that your calculator never lies. You can always figure out which one is the best by using cost of funds and return on investment calculations.

Conventional financing for gas stations and convenience stores frequently offers the advantage of an interest rate that is typically a little lower than SBA rates and normally the speed of approval and closing is usually a little quicker than that of SBA financing. There is also normally a little less paperwork involved in the process. With conventional financing, most of the time a borrower will approach a local or regional bank and the borrower will many times establish a depository relationship with the bank.

The disadvantages of conventional financing are that you normally can not finance working capital, inventory and frequently you can not finance the good will. The amortization periods are usually shorter also. These notes are normally due in five to ten years. This means at the end of the note you will need to refinance.

Again, your calculator will not lie to you.

SBA financing usually will do a higher loan to value (LTV) than conventional financing and frequently with SBA you can finance good will or business value where many conventional lenders will only finance the actual real estate and machinery/equipment value.

The disadvantages of SBA financing are the guarantee fee that you will be required to pay (which normally is 3.5% of the guaranteed portion of the loan, which is typically 75%) and it also can take longer for approval, but this typically is with banks and lenders that do not have a Preferred Lender status (PLP) but have to submit their transactions through local district offices. The interest rate you will pay will typically be higher than conventional financing.

Other options are available. Stated Income financing is frequently available for this asset class, but the Loan To Values (LTV) are typically lower. You normally can not do larger loans (greater than $1,000,000)also. Most stated incomes program advertise that they will do 65% financing, but in reality it is closer to 55% because they do not lend against good will and frequently will only lend a portion against machinery and equipment. It is typically faster with minimal paperwork compared to something fully underwritten, but you also will pay at least a few points higher in rates and fees to obtain this type of financing.

Private financing is also available for gas stations and convenience stores. Advantages are speed and minimal paperwork. Disadvantages are significantly higher rates, fees and lower LTV’s (typically 50-60% max).

What is best for you all depends on your hot button. If all you are looking at is rate, conventional may be the best deal, assuming you have a bank or lender that will do it conventionally. If you are looking at minimal out of pocket, SBA is probably your best bet. Cost of funds can go down if the Loan To Value is higher. The return on your investment also goes up if you are spending less money out of pocket. If payment is your hot button, you’ll have to evaluate both options to see which is best for you. Conventional financing usually will have a shorter amortization period than SBA and frequently will have a higher payment. If the pre-payment penalty is the most important, SBA may or may not be the best option for you. SBA has a three year pre-payment penalty, 1st year 5%, 2nd year 3% and 3rd year 1%. Conventional pre-payment penalties will vary from bank to bank and lender to lender. Also look to see if the conventional loan is assumable as it may be easier to sell a site if the loan is assumable. Most SBA loans are assumable if there is a qualified borrower. If speed is your hot button, stated income or private financing is the way to go, but you probably will have a significantly lower LTV and will pay higher fees.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, you can’t have it all, i.e. rate, fees, term, speed, pre-payment penalty. You can though most likely obtain a good loan if you are a qualified buyer. In all cases, presentation goes a long way to obtaining the best possible loan.

The Role of the Flexible Finance Director

Not all businesses have Finance Directors, and there is a common attitude that only large, enterprise level companies need them – and afford them. However, many growth businesses need help from a finance director before reaching enterprise level, understanding the role of a financial director can be the first step towards gaining the expertise of an individual that can literally make the difference between the success or failure of a business.

The primary functions of a financial director can be summed up in six points:

1. Finance Directors are responsible for managing the finance function of the business which would include overseeing such things as transaction recording, cash flow management, internal controls management and statutory reporting, finance department personnel management and development , external auditors and tax advisors.

2. The FD manages the financial and business planning of the business, including budgets, forecasts, strategic business reviews, financial strategy, cash and finance requirements and formal business plans that can be presented to third parties such as potential investors.

3. FDs manage relationships with important external interested parties including funders, bankers, outside investors, solicitors and corporate financiers as well as the aforementioned auditors and tax advisors

4. A finance director with a commercial business background is often able to contribute to and manage functions such as IT systems, legal, HR, property and other facilities. Special projects such as mergers and acquisitions and internal change management are also often handled by the finance director.

5. The FD will be the numbers interpreter and translator. A good Financial Director will not only produce good quality numbers using sound and robust systems and processes but will be able to describe what the numbers mean. Furthermore, this interpretation encompasses not only what has happened but what might happen in the future, using indicators and key metrics. The translation of numbers into facts on the ground is probably the main differentiator that a good Finance Director has over a good financial controller.

6. Finally, but crucially, the FD is perfectly placed to be the business number two to the MD, the ideal business partner, devil’s advocate, conscience, voice of sanity and where occasionally necessary, the brake. A good FD can talk finance to finance people as well as present finance issues affecting the day-to-day running of the business in a clear and concise way to the management team.

It might be logical to conclude that with all of these responsibilities, a Finance Director is a full time role required by bigger companies. However, more and more businesses are discovering that there is a crucial period in the life of a growing business where the skills and experience that can deliver the above services are required, but not on a full-time basis, and that a flexible Finance Director is a low risk, cost-effective bridge between using a bookkeeper/accountant combination and acquiring that first full-time FD.

What is a “flexible” Finance Director?

A flexible, or part-time FD does just about anything one would expect a permanent Finance Director to do, as long as it’s not illegal, unethical or immoral! Some clients have just a bookkeeper, others have a financial controller leading a finance team and the flexible finance director adapts to the resources of the client.

Generally, flexible Finance Directors work on an on-going basis with clients on projects of strategic value but are also happy to oversee the finance function in all its entirety.

Moreover, a flexible FD doesn’t go native as they are not working within the company full time. The main advantage this gives is the ability to retain an external perspective on issues. This can be very important when management teams in SMEs are often very overworked and do not have quality time to stand back from issues to see them in a fresh light.

Lastly, having a flexible FD model enables growing businesses to afford that critical expertise at a fraction of the cost of a full-time Finance Director.

Working Capital Management and Commercial Finance Consulting

Without adequate information about what should be done to obtain small business loans in the current extreme circumstances, most business borrowers are increasingly confused. Business finance consulting that provides practical advice about overcoming current lending difficulties will be helpful to business owners. Nevertheless, because of a chaotic commercial financing climate, effective working capital management advice has become a valuable and rare commodity. Even though they are clearly in demand, business financing experts are simply not easy to locate.

Some very helpful and effective business finance advice is available at no cost, and business owners should usually start any search for help by reviewing such free advice first. Two notable examples of sources available for free online are The Working Capital Journal and The Commercial Mortgages Guide. However, the normal complexity of small business loans combined with a chaotic commercial lending climate is likely to increase the necessity of individualized commercial finance consulting assistance from a commercial financing expert.

Such personalized business finance consulting help will not be as easy to find as might be expected. In many cases, commercial financing advisors are not willing to charge a fixed commercial finance consulting fee that requires them to spend more time and frequently offers them much less compensation than provided by lucrative loan fees that are often well over $5000. If small business owners can find a commercial loan expert willing to provide these professional consulting services for a reasonable fixed fee, a likely cost range will be $1500 to $3000 for a basic but thorough consulting effort.

One of the most important efforts that commercial borrowers should undertake with a qualified business finance consultant is to explore contingency financing options which might be necessary due to the current upheaval in financial markets. For many years I have advocated the importance of “always having a Plan B” for working capital financing and other business financing.

Now that many banks have routinely reduced or eliminated business lines of credit or recalled commercial loans, the true value of formulating contingency plans for small business loans and commercial real estate financing has become very apparent. When they are unprepared to do so, business owners will find it much more difficult to find alternative sources for financing. With a practical contingency financing plan, business owners will not be caught by surprise and will be ready to take quick action if their current commercial lender suddenly changes course and revokes existing commercial finance agreements.

Most small business owners have their own areas of special interest in addition to a “Plan B” scenario to investigate with the help of a candid business finance consulting effort. Regardless of the specific topic, it will usually be beneficial for a business borrower to have a straightforward discussion with a small business loan expert.

In some cases, these discussions can be thought of as “getting a second opinion” for new commercial financing or refinancing of existing debt. Business owners might not have previously seen the point in paying even a modest consulting fee to get such a second opinion, but recent events have changed that perspective in most cases. Now that many banks have made it so painfully clear that they can make really big mistakes when the right questions are not asked beforehand, more and more commercial borrowers readily understand that they might need someone else looking out for their best interests.

For tasks like those described above, how should small business owners find a business finance consultant to help? One suggestion is to include the power of the internet and conduct a search for “working capital finance expert” or “commercial financing and consulting”. Hopefully you will have a Plan B to help guide you if that approach is not sufficiently effective.