The world of commercial finance is complicated. It is suggested that all businesses consult with their trusted advisers (CPA, Attorney, or Partner) before entering into any financing transaction that will have long term effects on their business.
Financial Myth No. 1:
Finance companies that promise funding in 24-48 hours are the best choice.
FINANCIAL FACT: Unless you are desperate for funding, you should take time to compare alternatives, read the proposed contracts, and consult with your advisors. It is recommended that you read the proposed contract before you agree to terms, and carefully consider the risks regarding following matters:
1. Percentage to be advanced: This may range from 60% to 90% of the face value of an invoice. Will the percentage to be advanced be sufficient to help you grow profitably?
2. Your obligation to work with the finance company: Are you required to sell 100% of your accounts receivable every month, or are you permitted to sell at your discretion? Are there monthly minimum charges and if so, would you be likely to use the services of the commercial finance company to this degree every month?
3. Will you be more profitable if you use the finance companies services? In other words, can you afford to pay the commercial financing fees in order to grow your business?
4. Which source is better for you: a small commercial finance company, a large commercial finance company, or the asset based lending department of a bank? With the small companies, you are more likely to work with the decision makers and their usually is more flexibility and discretion. With the large companies, you can accomplish larger transactions and this may be of great significance especially if your business is international. Banks may be an excellent choice if your accounting is perfect and you are good at dealing with strict requirements. Banks are regulated institutions with safety and soundness requirements which generally make banks more conservative than private lenders. GFS works with all three types of lenders.
5. Choice of law: If you are in California, and any dispute must be litigated in New York can you afford the risk that you might have to travel to protect your interests? Where are disagreements or disputes to be decided? Is there binding arbitration?
6. Penalties for early termination: Some yearly contracts provide that if you want to leave the commercial finance company, you are liable for “the greater of Two percent (2.00%) of the Maximum Credit Line, or the number of months remaining in the agreement multiplied by the Monthly Minimum Fee”. Is the termination fee risk affordable?
7. Penalty interest if you client fails to pay on time: Some lenders provide that if a client defaults, you can substitute another invoice and not be charged a penalty. Other lenders may require that if a client fails to pay an invoice within 90 days, you are charged 20% of the invoice face amount plus 7.5% per month until payment is made. What does the commercial financing agreement require when your client does not pay on time?
“Economical with the truth” If someone is economical with the truth, they leave out information in order to create a false picture of a situation, without actually lying.
Financial Myth No. 2:
Finance companies that promise lower rates are the better choice. For instance, Co. “A” offers 3% per month; Co. “B” offers 3.25% per month. Co. “A” is the best choice.
FINANCIAL FACT: Contract terms and conditions determine your actual costs based on when your clients pay. This requires analysis. It is recommended that you carefully consider the contract terms regarding how interest is charged and your experience regarding how your customers typically pay to project the true costs of financing. Here are several examples:
1. You sell an invoice with a face value of $100.00. Assume the contract charges are 3% for 30 days, with an 80% advance to you and your customer pays the commercial finance company the full amount due on the 30th day. You take an $80.00 advance on day 1 and your customer pays the commercial finance company $100.00 on the 30th day:
Suppose Lender “A” charges 1% for every 10 days period. Assume “Payment date” is defined in the commercial finance contract as the date the finance company receives payment from your customer pays plus ten (10) banking days. Ten banking days are two calendar weeks. You will be charged for 44 days. One percent for the first 10 days, plus 4 percent for the next 34 days equals a charge of 5%. Your cost = $5.00.
Suppose Lender “B” charges 1.5% every 15 day period. Assume “Payment date” is defined in the commercial finance contract as the date the finance company receives payment from your customer plus three business days for check clearance. You will be charged for 33 days. You will be charged 4.5%. Your cost = $4.50.
Suppose Lender “C” defines “Payment date” as the day they receive the check or wire funds transfer. This commercial finance company stops the interest clock on the day they receive payment from your customer. You will be charged 3%. Your cost = $3.00.
Suppose Lender “D” defines “Payment date” as the day they receive funds and charges daily interest only on the actual funds advanced, also know as per diem interest. Since you are being charged 3% on $80.00 your cost = $2.40.
2. In every contract the definition of “Payment date” and method of interest calculation are critical to anticipate your actual costs of financing. All of the above methods of calculation, except Lender “A”, may be reasonable on account of the risks inherent in the transaction. Gregg Financial Services works to obtain the most competitive rates and terms for our client’s initial funding; and GFS works to reduce commercial finance costs as you grow.
3. If you customers typically pay in 60-90 days, a contract that requires a minimum interest charge for 60 days is not unreasonable. This condition may be a required for medical accounts receivable financing.
4. Consider whether the commercial finance company’s contract requires you to sell every invoice (100% of all invoices) on the day you issue them, or may you sell individual invoices up to 59 days past due, according to your needs? There are tradeoffs: lower price vs. flexibility. It is very much a question of assessing your commercial financing requirements and your gross margins to pay for financing costs.
“Easier said than done” If something is easier said than done, it is much more difficult than is sounds. It is often used when someone advises you to do something difficult and tries to make it sound easy.
Financial Myth No. 3:
You can determine the best finance company to work with by simply by comparing several different websites.
FINANCIAL FACT: Websites are advertising. Knowledge of the lender, their reputation and business practices are essential to choose wisely.
KEY POINTS TO CONSIDER: When assessing the most appropriate commercial financing company to use, make sure:
- the provider is a reputable company
- your contract corresponds with any verbal or written quotations
- you are aware of any financial penalties if you wish to end the agreement early
- the financing credit limits are sufficient for your initial needs
- you have read the contract carefully before signing it, checking the amount of financing and notice periods
- you understand all terms and conditions, and the costs you will have to pay
Commercial Finance Brokers work with many dedicated commercial finance companies and banks across several businesses of all sizes. There are many areas of specialization, such as purchase order financing, accounts receivable financing, inventory financing and SBA financing. Most commercial finance companies limit their services to one or two of these categories.
A commercial finance broker will assess different companies and match you with one that best fits for your business needs. They also keep a close watch on commercial finance companies that may charge non-competitive fees and will not match you with them.
In addition to comparing rates, there are many points to consider when choosing services. To anticipate problems with customers that inevitably arise, find out what level of customer service they offer to help resolve problems. Do they provide telephone support and in-person meetings, e-mail help and live chat, or a combination of services?
Choose the commercial finance company that offers multiple ways to reliably address concerns or answers questions. Consider differences in where you are located and the time zone where the commercial finance company is located. How will this affect cut off times for funding? How will this affect your ability to reach your key finance representatives? You may want to ask for a list of references before you do business with them.
Make sure to ask such questions as:
- Were they able to quickly process your funding requests?
- Was the approval process simple? How long did it take?
- Was the company easily accessible through phone and email?
- How long did it take before you received funds?
- If you had a problem with your account, what did they do to resolve it?
- How did your clients react to working with the commercial finance company? Did they handle them appropriately?
- Would you recommend this company?
“Face Value” If you take something at face value, you accept the appearance rather than looking deeper into the matter.
Financial Myth No. 4:
A non-recourse contract means you do not have to pay the finance you to pay unless your company if there is a default.
FINANCIAL FACT: Most contracts require you to pay unless your client files bankruptcy or goes out of business. There are two general types of factoring: recourse and non-recourse.
Recourse factoring is the most common. With recourse factoring, the commercial finance company generally will fund every invoice you submit, but will require a refund plus their fees for invoices that are not paid within a specific period of time, usually 90 days.
Non-recourse factoring may free your company of any responsibility for non-paying accounts, if, and only if, it is truly “non-recourse” without conditions. The commercial finance company with a non-recourse contract will have more stringent policies for the invoices they will accept. In a non-recourse contract the commercial finance company agrees to purchase the invoice from you and takes some or full responsibility for its payment. It depends on the contract terms. Credit insurance may be required. This is an additional expense.
Non-recourse factoring generally is defined in commercial finance contracts to mean: if the customer does not pay in limited situations, it’s not your problem. For example, should the customer declare bankruptcy or go out of business you are not responsible to pay back the commercial finance company for the advance on certain invoices. But, if there is a warranty issue, if anything at all is wrong with your product or service, you may be held responsible for the advance you received. And the commercial finance company can assert a breach of the many warranties and representations in your contract as a defense to accepting responsibility for a loss due to non-payment in a non-recourse agreement.
There are also commercial finance companies that will provide a mix of the two. These companies will promise to assume the risk of your invoices but require you to swap in a replacement of equal or greater value for slow-paying or defaulted accounts. This is not a true “non-recourse” contract in the literal sense of the idea because you are required to substitute non-performing invoices with new invoices that are likely to perform.
On the surface, non-recourse sounds better than recourse. But if the fees for the non-recourse factoring are significantly higher than full recourse, is the added cost to transfer the risk of payment default worth the expense? How many of your customers will file bankruptcy or go out of business? Over a period of time it may cost you more of your potential profits to transfer some payment risk to the commercial finance company.
Most commercial finance companies offering full non-recourse factoring conduct extensive credit checks on the customer before they will pay an advance on an invoice. This is a benefit to all concerned. When it is predictable that an invoice will get paid by a creditworthy customer, the invoice will be purchased. This credit quality check is of benefit to you because you do not want to knowingly sell your products or services to businesses that are not likely to pay.
On the other hand, there may be companies you would prefer to do businesses with that do not meet the creditworthiness standards for non-recourse factoring. There may be compelling business reasons to choose recourse vs. non-recourse factoring.
“Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.” If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves, meaning that if someone takes care not to waste small amounts of money, they will accumulate capital.
“Hook, line and sinker” If somebody accepts or believes something hook, line and sinker, they accept it completely.
Financial Myth No. 5:
Startup companies with a new hot product need venture capital to grow rapidly.
FINANCIAL FACT: You can grow exponentially with purchase order financing, factoring, and inventory financing from a commercial finance company. In general, more products you sell, the higher your revenues and profits. The more orders you have, the more you can sell, provided you can pay your suppliers upon delivery.
Purchase order financing is like inventory financing for goods in transit to your customer. Commercial finance companies provide purchase order financing to pay your suppliers, enabling you to close the sale and deliver your orders to your customers. This often involves a letter of credit using the commercial finance company’s credit to guarantee payments to the factory producing the product, especially if the manufacturing facility is not located in the US. When the goods are accepted by your customer, an account receivable is created. An invoice factor, or commercial finance company that purchases accounts receivable, pays for the purchase order financing. You are paid the profit when your customer pays.
The commercial financing structure may follow these steps:
- Letter of credit (to guarantee manufacturer payment for goods);
- Purchase Order Financing (pays manufacturer/supplier);
- Accounts Receivable Financing (pays Purchase Order Financing);
- Inventory Financing;
- Customer pays;
- Factor is paid;
- You are paid profits from your sales after financing costs are paid
Commercial Finance Brokers help you determine what financing is available according to your circumstances, at competitive rates.
“Play hardball” If someone plays hardball, they are very aggressive in trying to achieve their aim.
Original publication date: November 2007
Recommended Books on Financing Options for Business:
- How to Get the Financing for Your New Small Business: Innovative Solutions from the Experts Who Do It Every Day
- The Handbook of Financing Growth: Strategies, Capital Structure, and M&A Transactions (Wiley Finance)
- Unlimited Business Financing: Learn How To Obtain $250,000 Or More In Business Funding Without Harming Your Personal Credit
- Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need
- Entrepreneurial Finance: Finance and Business Strategies for the Serious Entrepreneur
- Financing Your Small Business: From SBA Loans and Credit Cards to Common Stock and Partnership Interests (Quick Start Your Business)
About the Author:
- 5 Key Benefits of Invoice Financing for Your Small Business
- What is Factoring?
- Evaluating Financing Options for Your Business: Myths and Facts (Part 2)
- Pros and Cons of Financing a Business
- Importance of Contracts for Your Service Business
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