Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

How Strategies and Interests Play in a Simple Online Business

A simple online business is a feasible idea for people who are looking to generate income using the most accessible means. An online business offers advantages that are undeniably lucrative for most people at these times.An online business is very appealing because of the following reasons:1. It allows you to work on your pace and manage your own time without worrying because you are the boss. Because you will not be burdened by a time schedule, balancing your activities will be easier to achieve.2. It is not limited to one activity and offers various opportunities with a diverse number of businesses to choose from. There are so many things that you can do with an online business. The strategies that you can employ in the business are not consisted of a single idea alone. Most of all, the opportunities in an online business is limitless. It goes as far as your imagination can take you.3. It allows you to save on overhead in such that it does not require too costly expenses and too many people to operate. You can set it up on your own and manage it on your own. You will not spend too much on overhead because one person can do the job with the right orientation and mindset.4. It gives you the option to choose based on your interests and your strengths. If you are good at sales, then you can do retailing. If you are good at writing, then you can try working as a web content writer. An online business allows you to choose an industry that is well within your capabilities.The most common ideas for a simple online business include affiliate marketing, web content writing, and online retailing.In affiliate marketing, the promotion of the products and services of another company is the main source of the income generation tactic that you will use. By advertising for these companies in your website, you will be paid a commission on the traffic that you will be able to refer to their site.If you have a talent for writing, you can try to work as a web content writer. Although it does not pay as much as the other online businesses that you can find, still you can enjoy the reward of being able to do what you choose to do.Online retailing is the process of purchasing products and services using the Internet. By setting up a customer friendly site with the proper tools for easy shopping, an online retailing business can work best for you.In a simple online business, it is relevant to choose based on the advantages that the business can give you. It is also imperative that you choose what appeals to your interest in order to achieve positive results in terms of income and operation.No matter how simple an online business may be, paying enough attention to your interest and its advantages is the best means to employ in choosing the right online business for you.

Establishing Business Credit – The Seven Steps to Success

Business versus Personal Credit:Personal – Personal credit building starts when an individual provides their social security number and applies for their first credit card. At that point a credit profile is started with the personal credit reporting agencies in the region of the country in which they reside. This profile, also commonly known as a “credit report”, is built with every credit inquiry, credit application submitted, change of address and job change. The information contained in the report is usually reported to the credit bureaus by those businesses issuing credit. Eventually, the credit report is viewed as a statement or report of an individual’s ability to pay back a debt, and is the key tool to access and grant credit.Business – When a business issues another business credit, it is referred to as trade credit (credit from vendors or suppliers). Trade, or business, credit is the single largest source of lending in the world, but it typically not reported to the business credit agencies by most small businesses. The data regarding trade credit transactions must be submitted and then is accumulated by the business credit bureaus to create a business credit report using the business name, address and federal tax identification number (FIN). The credit bureaus use this data to generate a historical report about a company’s business credit transactions and payment history. Typically, the businesses issuing credit rely on the business credit report to determine the credit they are willing to grant and the amount of the credit limit. Additionally, many businesses (suppliers/vendors) will submit credit reference applications to the key suppliers of the business as a method to obtain payment patterns as part of the credit granting process.The major credit bureaus are:Dun & Bradstreet
Business Credit USA
Corporate Experian
Small Business Equifax
TransUnion (Personal)The information provided to the business credit bureaus (primarily D&B) is sent in voluntarily, as businesses are not required to report. Therefore, credit bureaus may never receive any information about the business transactions on credit and a business could go for years accumulating business history without being reported to the credit bureaus and establishing a positive business history of sound credit practices.Establishing Business Credit History:Business credit scores range on a scale from 0 to 100 with 75 or more considered an excellent rating. Personal credit scores, on the other hand, range from 300 to 850 with a score of 680 or higher considered excellent. With today’s tighter credit scrutiny the higher the credit score, the more likely an individual or business is to obtain credit and at more favorable terms (interest rate and contract length).While it is important to know that there are many factors http://www.myfico.com that affect a credit score; it’s based on more than just whether you pay your bills on time (still very important). The credit score will be affected by the amount of available credit you have on bank lines of credit and credit cards, the length of time you’ve had a credit profile, the number of inquiries made on your credit profile, paying the bills on time, bankruptcy, as well as other considerations.The typical American consumer credit report receives two to three credit inquiries per year and usually has 11 credit obligations – typically broken down as 7 credit cards and 4 installment loans. Business owners are not your typical consumer, because they carry both personal and business credit. This typically doubles the number of inquiries made to their personal credit profile and the number of credit obligations they carry at any given time, all of which negatively impact the personal credit score. Additionally, because business inquiries and personal inquiries are not separated on the personal credit report, the personal credit scores are negatively impacted. As mentioned earlier, using the personal credit history to get credit for their business, businesses are not able to build their business history/score, all of which could help attain critical business credit in the future.A critical mistake many business owners make is using their personal information to apply for business credit, leases and loans. This practice has the resultant impact of potentially lowering their personal credit score, while not building a business credit history and business credit score.A key to establishing credit for the business and a profile and score is to find companies (UPS, FEDEX, etc.) or your key supplier and vendors that will grant credit for your business without using your personal credit information and then report the payment experiences to the business credit bureaus. By reporting the information to the proper credit bureaus, those companies will help the business establish a business credit profile and score.The Seven Steps to Success:1. Company Legal Structure – The business must be a legal entity unto itself in order to establish business credit. Therefore, it is recommended to form a corporation (C Corp) or LLC (discuss with your CPA the advantage/disadvantages of a C Corp versus LLC) as opposed to structuring your business as a sole proprietorship or partnership. Formation of a sole proprietorship or partnership, dictates that personal credit information could be included on the business credit report. Additionally, as a sole proprietor or partner in a partnership, you are personally liable for the debts of the business and all your personal assets are at risk in the event of litigation.Corporations and LLC’s, on the other hand, provide the business owners liability protection, and can build a business credit profile that’s separate from the personal credit profile. Therefore, apply for credit under your business’s name and find businesses will to grant credit without a personal credit check or guarantee.2. Register with Business Credit Agencies – The best known business credit bureau is Dun & Bradstreet. Dun & Bradstreet has a process on their web site to establish a D-U-N-S number (a specific 9 digit number related to your business) and instructions how to establish a business credit rating. It is strongly recommended that you contact D&B and follow their process to establish business credit. The following is from the D&B web site:How do I get started with D&B? With our unsurpassed global data collection system, D&B continually gathers the data that initiates the creation of business credit profiles on new companies. Many kinds of activities can trigger a profile on a new company, such as incorporating your business, applying for a loan, getting a business telephone number, taking out a lease on office space – even just when another company seeks information from D&B about your business. Still, a new business may not have a complete business credit profile. Getting a D-U-N-S Number from D&B – the worldwide standard for business classification systems – is an essential part of helping you establish your business credit profile and will ensure that when a company looks you up in the D&B database they will find you. In some cases, a D&B D-U-N-S Number is so a requirement for doing business some entities, such as the US government.You should make sure you have a D&B business credit profile if:You are planning to obtain a business loan
You need to purchase or lease equipment
Your cash flow is tight
You want to ensure you are getting a fair deal from lenders compared to your competition
You want to pay net 30 days instead of COD (Cash On Delivery)
You are paying interest at prime plus 1, or even higher
You plan to do business with entities that require a D-U-N-S Number, e.g. the US GovernmentThese issues and dozens other like them can be addressed by having a strong business credit profile. A good rating provides you with the financial freedom to take the steps you need to grow, and is a straightforward, unbiased method for other companies to assess your level of risk when considering taking you on as a creditor. A poor credit rating is a certain barrier to growth and success, preventing you from getting adequate funding on fair terms.Communicating directly with D&B will help establish your business credit in less time. If you are a new company, D&B can help you build a complete business credit profile from the ground up; if you have been in operation for a while, you will want to improve and/or protect your business credit profile. Find out more about how to establish, monitor, improve, or protect your business credit.3. Credit Market Requirements – Businesses must meet all the requirements of the credit market in order to have a higher probability of credit approval, as not being in compliance with the credit market can “send up signal flares” with both credit bureaus and potential grantors of credit.Some of the “signal flares” include:not having a business license,
not being registered with the Secretary of State for a certificate of good standing,
operating under your social security number rather than a FIN or EIN,
not having a phone line (land line) that is listed in the phone directory in the exact business legal name,
no web site, or
not having a business email address (not AOL or gmail, but a specific URL for your company).4. Small Business Credit Lines – Investigate and locate a minimum of five businesses (vendors/suppliers) willing to grant a small business credit without personal guarantees and will report the payment experiences to the business credit bureaus. This will assist your business to establish a credit report and build a financial credit foundation for the company. Find companies willing to grant credit that report to the credit bureaus such as marketingoncredit.com, UPS, FEDEX5. Business Credit Cards – Obtain three business credit cards (Sam’s Club Discover Business card), that are not linked to you personally and that report the business credit to the reporting agencies. Then be sure to always pay your bills on time!6. Financial Statements, Business Plans and Loan Packages – These documents are often required by many credit grantors as part of their loan application process. CxO To GO is a national professional services firm that has assisted many business with their financial statement preparation and business plans. Additionally, CxO To Go has packages such as PowerPlan and PowerPlan2 for business plans, PowerPuncher for executive summaries, CFOCast for financial projections and BankSell for bank proposals so lenders and bankers will take action. It is important to note that 61% of all businesses are turned down for a loan due to a poor loan package, however with BankSell the lender loan package gets results and moves the applicant to the top of the list for review and credit committee approval.7. Debt management – Be a smart money manager and manage the debt levels to ensure they are not too burdensome and can be paid back with current cash flow. Do not incur debt that will over leverage the company and cause missed or late payments.