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.

In House Financing Programs Making A Comeback

In House Financing is making a comeback in the Canadian market. When I first entered the car business in 1995 there were very few options for people who had credit issues such as bankruptcy, written off accounts, judgements or collections to be able to obtain financing for a reliable vehicle. I was lucky enough to work for a dealership that had an in house leasing company and we were able to sell cars to these people before the sub prime lenders came on the scene.

Over the past several years there have been many companies come into the Canadian automotive financing market to fill the need for most of these customers. They are relatively large national and international financing companies. They have signed the majority of the dealerships across the country to refer business to them. In 2005 there were no fewer than 7 such companies doing business all across the country with many others doing business in certain markets in the country. At the time of writing this article in 2010 there are only 4 remaining and they have tightened up on their lending practices because there is less competition in the marketplace. Of note the 3 sub prime lenders that were doing business all across Canada that are no longer in the marketplace were international lenders with 2 or the 3 based in the United States. When the financial crisis occurred in America we lost them due to their parent companies consolidating their operations into the United States.

It has been this tightening up of lending practices that is beginning to make a need for In House Financing at the dealership level once again. Today there are more and more clients who have credit problems and are in need of special financing solutions as they no longer qualify for financing from the mainstream sub prime lenders.

Many car dealerships are growing tired and frustrated at spending a lot of time and money in advertising to get customers into their dealerships to sell them a car just to have the lenders turn their customer down. It has been this frustration that has led many of them to take another look at an old concept and begin financing these customers themselves. So slowly but surely there are In House Financing, In House Leasing and Buy Here Pay Here programs starting to pop up all across the country to service this new marketplace.

There is very little difference in the various financing programs from a consumer point of view. They all work basically the same way. You have to give them a down payment that the dealers require to offset the risk they are taking in financing these type of high risk clients. Most of the down payments range between $500 – $2000 and are either used as money down on the loan in the case of In House Finance and Buy Here Pay Here programs. The out of pocket money is used as a security deposit and first payment in most In House Leasing programs. The security deposit can be used to buy out the lease at the end of the term without having to come up with any money out of your pocket at that time. No matter what the money you give the dealership is called, by the end of the term it is used to pay down on your vehicle.

The other major difference in these programs is how the vehicle is registered by the Registry of Motor Vehicles in your province. With the In House Financing programs the vehicle is registered in your name on the registration and a chattel mortgage is placed on the vehicle at the Registry of Deeds in your province. The chatel mortgage make it possible to repossess your vehicle if you default on the loan the same way a bank or finance company can. With the In House Leasing programs the vehicle is registered in the name of the leasing company with you being registered as the plate owner of the vehicle. The Buy Here Pay Here programs are usually run by a smaller dealership and they sometimes register a chalet mortgage the same as the In House Financing Programs but often they get the customer to register the vehicle in their name and then return to the dealership with the ownership paper and sign it over to the dealership. This way if the customer defaults on the loan the dealer simply registers the vehicle back into their name and repossess it from the customer. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter which program you choose to use if you don’t make the payments they will repossess your car but if you make your payments you will not have any problems. Remember all of these dealerships are interested in you keeping your vehicle. They are usually understanding if you are going to be a couple days late with your payment as long as you let them know beforehand and make arrangements to get caught up right away.

These dealers live in the areas they work in and are usually very helpful and are willing to work with you. Most of these dealerships require that you place full coverage insurance on your vehicle but some of the smaller Buy Here Pay Here dealers will allow you to just have basic car insurance because the vehicles they sell are usually fairly inexpensive and full coverage insurance just doesn’t make sense.

The hardest thing about financing a vehicle through these dealers is usually finding them. With so many dealerships advertising Guaranteed Auto Approvals, Bad Credit – No Credit Car Financing and the like but most of them do not have any options for you if you are declined by the national finance companies. You end up spinning your wheels looking for a dealer who will work with you causing you to either give up or get frustrated and buy a cheap car privately with whatever money you can come up with.

To try to fill this problem with finding these dealerships there is a new website launching called [http://www.inhousefinancing.ca]. Its sole purpose is to connect people who need special in house financing options with dealerships in your area that provide in house financing. The majority of the dealerships on the website will have their own in house financing companies with some of the dealerships having the Go Plan program. The Go Plan is a special financing program through Carfinco is a national financing program that is very close to an in house program.

A word of caution about these programs. Remember that these programs are designed to help you re establish your credit and get you into a reliable vehicle at a reasonable payment. It would be extremely rare that one of these companies will finance a 2009 Chevy Silverado Diesel or 2010 Ford Mustang GT to you because their programs just are not designed for that. But if you are serious about buying a vehicle and re establishing your credit they are a good option for you.

The Facts of Financing

Your mother always warned, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” and those words of wisdom can be applied when financing a business. There are a number of methods that can aid buyers in financing a business. Buyers must recognize their available resources such as the seller, lenders, and investors.

As a child, we’re encouraged to “dream big” and told that nothing can stop us, but ourselves. As entrepreneurial adults, this idea of dreaming big is often a part of your everyday routine, but it is inevitable that at some point you’ll come crashing down from those heights into reality. The realization that financing your particular endeavor can instantly dampen even the most impassioned enterprising individual can get you down. To put it bluntly, “Don’t let it”.

Having a reality check on the difficulty of securing financing for a business can be the first step towards making your dream an actuality. There are numerous types of financing available, some more unorthodox or obscure. If you take the time and effort to research all avenues for funding you will be rewarded.

There are two main types of financing: debt financing and equity financing. It is important to you and the success of your business that you familiarize yourself with the types of financing in order to choose, seek, and finally, obtain the right form for your needs.

Debt financing involves borrowing money that will be repaid over a certain allotted time with a set interest rate tacked on. The time of such financing can be short term or long-term. In most cases, short term financing would include repayment within one year, while long-term financing would entail repayment in a time period that exceeds one year.

An advantage of this type of financing is the fact that the lender will not gain ownership in your business. You remain in control and your only obligation to them is to make regular and timely payments. In the case of small startups, a personal guarantee is often needed to facilitate the closing of the financing deal.

Equity financing, unlike debt financing, will involve giving the financing entity a share in the business. Some business owners dislike the idea of losing any amount of control. On a positive note, this type of financing does not incur debt. This kind of freedom from debt can give a greater sense of security in starting a new business. In addition, some entrepreneurs find great value in their equity financing partners, and see their presence as an asset.

The type of financing you will choose is based largely on the needs of your business and the kind of collateral, or available assets you have to offer. A substantial amount of debt financing can lead to poor credit and a shortage of funds in the future due to an inability to apply for more financing. A business that becomes overextended, offers little collateral, and is steeped in debt is not an appealing option for many investors.

As previously mentioned, there are other more unorthodox methods of obtaining funds that can certainly prove to be beneficial to your business. Some options can be found in your own circle of friends and family. One benefit of this type of financing is obtaining the money and a silent partner who will most likely not interfere with your business. It can also eliminate some of the red tape involved with more traditional forms of financing. This does not mean you can simply use a verbal agreement or “shake on it” to signify and bind the transaction. This is still a strategic business move and you must treat it as such which means proper documentation, clear terms, and mutual understanding of those terms.

Relationships can be ruined over inept efforts with this type of financing, so value your business and the other person by treating it with professionalism, attention to detail, and respect. Don’t become the black sheep at the next family reunion over some misunderstanding or your falling behind on payments.

A few other options that are largely unknown to those who haven’t done research include unsecured loans and micro-loans. Resources such as TheSnapLoan.com or Prosper.com offer loans based on cash flow, credit score, and debt-to-income ratio. Government grants are also a largely untapped resource that is made available to entrepreneurs. Simply researching the website Grants.gov can be extremely helpful in your search for funds.

Venture capital is another route that many entrepreneurs look to due to the amount of funding that can be procured. A venture capitalist will likely offer larger sums of money that can be of great assistance to your business, but they will also gain a certain portion of control and ownership. This type of funding however is usually scarce due to the assumption that many startups will inevitably fail. You will need to find someone willing to take the risk and who sees potential in your vision.

This type of person could also be found in a more palatable option known as the Angel investor. The Angel investor typically has a high net worth and like the venture capitalist, must believe in the product and the person behind the product. Their loan often converts to stock, preferred stock, or convertible bonds.