A healthy cash flow is the life blood of a business. The reality is that most businesses experience cash flow problems from time to time, which could be caused by a structural problem in your supply chain, inadequate debtor controls, poor pricing structures, bad planning, too much capital being tied up in stock or possibly the impact of unplanned growth on your existing resources.
Whatever the reason, the good news is that there are more than 150 different working capital funds available for SMEs in South Africa. Working capital loans are short-term loans that are designed to provide financial bridging to address cash flow needs.
The more you understand about how these funds work, the better you will be able to identify the most appropriate option for your specific needs.
Overdrafts and credit cards
Overdrafts and credit card facilities are a good option for relatively small, short-term cash flow problems. Most banks are willing to provide profitable businesses with overdrafts and credit facilities and you will only be charged interest on the money you use. Some banks charge a small monthly fee for these facilities even if you don’t use them, but this is a small price to pay for the convenience of being able to meet financial obligations.
Related: Equity Crowdfunding In SA Explained
Also known as getting upfront cash to fund the work for an approved contract. If the reason for the cash flow problem is high sales volumes that result in a temporary cash flow issue, contract finance can be a good option. Contract financiers want to know that your client is reputable and has a good payment history. They’ll also want assurance that you have the knowledge and experience to fulfil the terms of the contract.
First prize is contract finance that enables you to control both the finance and the contract work although in some cases the lender will insist on controlling the finance and may even want involvement in managing the project. Most contract financiers charge an interest rate linked to prime and you will also be charged for drawing up cession documents if this is relevant.
Debtor finance or invoice financing
Also known as getting cash while waiting for customers to pay invoices. If the cash crunch is caused by customers who will take a long time to pay you, debtor finance can be useful. In this case, unlike contract finance where the finance is provided prior to the work being completed, debtor finance requires that the work has already been done and that the customer has been invoiced. As with contract finance, the credibility and credit history of the client is key to lenders as they rely on their ability to pay your invoice.
On average you can raise between 75% and 80% of the value of the invoice within a day or two of sending the invoice to your customer. There is usually an administrative fee to be paid plus interest on the loan — it can be an expensive way of getting finance but it is better than waiting 90 or 120 days for your customer to pay you if you have cash flow constraints. Debtor financiers offer two options — invoice discounting and factoring. Factoring is when your client pays the lender who then returns the outstanding portion of the invoice to you (less their fees).
Invoice discounting is where the customer pays you and you pay the lender i.e. the client does not know that you have borrowed against their invoice. There are usually big penalty costs for late payments. Be aware that if the client does not pay by the specified date agreed with the lender, you will incur additional penalty costs.
For businesses that operate in the retail sector and generate their revenue from debit or credit cards or EFTs there are lenders who provide loans that are repaid by deducting a small percentage of daily sales. You will need to generate a regular income of at least R30 000 monthly to qualify for this type of finance. The useful aspect is that repayments vary according to income generated. During busier months, you’ll pay more, and less during quiet periods.
Term loans are another popular way of raising finance to cover cash flow gaps. The money is loaned for a fixed period and you agree to repay at regular intervals. Interest charges are usually linked to prime and the rate is linked to your risk profile. The duration of term loans varies according to the business’s needs and lender’s terms.
You will be expected to provide collateral to raise a term loan. Lenders will also check your credit rating and financial statements, business plan and possibly the order book before they agree to lend you money.
What working capital funders expect
The key to obtaining working capital funding is understanding the lenders’ risk. To minimise their risks, lenders will require security for the loan. Providing collateral is often difficult for entrepreneurs who do not own property or have assets or investments that can be ceded to the lender for the duration of the loan.
Lenders will ask you for a list of personal assets and liabilities and based on this information, they may ask you to sign personal surety for the loan. If you do not own sufficient assets, you’ll need to find someone who does who is willing to stand surety for your loan. This means that if the business fails to repay the loan, the lender will approach the person who signed surety, to settle the debt.
For terms loans, retail finance, overdrafts and credit cards, the lender will focus on the financial strength of your business and its trading history. They usually only consider companies that have been in operation for at least a year and can show that the business is profitable, has a regular income and achieves good credit scores. For contract finance and debtor finance, lenders focus on the quality of your client and may fund working capital advances to businesses that are not yet profitable.
Working Capital Loans
Working capital loans are short-term loans that are designed to provide financial bridging to address cash flow needs. The more you understand about how these funds work, the better you will be able to identify the most appropriate option for your specific needs.
Finfind is SA’s leading access to finance solutions for SMEs. This revolutionary online platform links finance seekers with matching lenders, providing easy access to over 200 lenders and over 350 loan options. Finfind is supported by USAID and sponsored by the Department of Small Business Development.
Go to www.finfindeasy.co.za to find the business finance you need. It’s free and easy to use.
What Can A Business Loan Be Used For?
Read on below for what you can use these loans for.
Sometimes in the business world, you might need a financial helping hand. This is especially true if you are starting out as a business owner or building your business from where it already is. This is where business finance can be highly useful because you can use it for any number of issues that your business might be facing.
When you apply for any business loans you should know what you want to use the money for. For example, asset financing is used to lease, hire or purchase new equipment or vehicles for your business.
Small business loans can be used to boost your business funds or for purchasing new premises. Interested in applying for business finance? Read on below for what you can use these loans for.
You can purchase inventory
If you sell products, the chances are that your cash flow can often be dictated by having to restock your shelves. But if you have a business loan, you can purchase more inventory to replenish your stock and stay in operation throughout the year.
Purchasing new inventory during seasonal dips, such as selling out of items during the festive season, can become expensive. This is where finance can come in handy. You can have the funds deposited into your company bank account and use it solely for restocking your shelves, allowing better management of accounts during these trying times. It is not a long term solution, however, to use a loan to purchase inventory can be helpful for small businesses just starting out.
You can upgrade equipment
Having outdated equipment will put you at a significant disadvantage to your competitors. This can be remedied by taking out business asset finance in order to upgrade your current equipment. You can lease, hire or even purchase everything you need to maintain your original business plan.
For example, a transport or logistics company can use this finance to improve their fleet, to upgrade their current trucks, or to provide new technology to drivers to help them navigate the South African roads. If you are a boutique design agency, you can use your loan to purchase new computers with the latest software so that your staff is always on the cutting edge of all trends. On your loan application, be sure to list what you plan on using the money for so that you have accurate estimations of your interest rates.
Keep your office operational
Keeping your office operational means that you need to pay for day-to-day expenses. This can include anything from replacing an old coffee machine so your staff stays caffeinated to paying the utility bills so that your office does not go dark when you need electricity the most.
This could be seen as starting capital for small business owners, which you can then supplement with more income or repay once your business starts to earn more and become successful. You could create a list of all of your needs, such as paying lights and water bills or fixing kitchen equipment and look for those that you need to focus on the most. For example, your staff could bring their own lunches into the office in case you need to replace the fridge or you could strike a deal with a nearby coffee shop to save yourself from spending unnecessarily on expensive coffee equipment.
You can boost your marketing budget
Marketing is not easy to understand for everyone. While you might have a brilliant business mind, your aptitude for selling and marketing your company might not be your strong suit. This can be helped by investing a business loan into a marketing company for your strategy, which can help build awareness about your business and make it a success.
You will have improved brand visibility and can reach customers in new and exciting ways. And you will also see a significant return on investment when reports and analytics come in showing your business’s performance. Marketing is an integral part of building a flourishing business, so using your loan for this purpose would not be a waste. Be sure to speak to your lender about whether this is an acceptable use of your business finance and what the interest rates would be.
A business loan can be a sound investment, especially if you consider what it can be used for. You could look into purchasing new inventory for your shelves during a busy shopping period, or upgrade your machinery for your next big project. You can use the money to keep your day-to-day expenses from becoming overwhelming or boost your marketing budget so you can reach customers and build your business.
Does Your Business Really Need Funding?
Strategy, risks, and opportunities.
Businesses need capital to grow, and most small enterprises rely on external funding to meet this requirement. While accessing funding can be challenging for entrepreneurs, taking on the financial commitments of a loan should never be taken lightly. Many small businesses fail because repayment conditions are so onerous they impact cash flow, and business owners end up blacklisted, which dampens their future prospects.
First, ask yourself some hard questions
Before you decide to apply for that loan, cash advance or capital injection, make sure that your business really needs funding. Critically evaluate your business. Consider that you’ll ultimately need to give something back for that funding – an equity stake, or interest payments.
Determine how much the extra funding is worth to you, and what would happen to your business if you couldn’t get it.
Define your goals
The type of funding you need (and how you validate it in the application) is dependent on your short- and long-term goals. If you’re not currently on track to achieving your business objectives, determine what stumbling blocks or pain points are holding you back. Ultimately, you should be certain that the capital will help you achieve your objectives.
Evaluate your financial pain points
Next, determine which of the identified obstacles can be overcome with extra money. While most could, a loan may not be the answer. Entrepreneurs often use financing to temporarily plug holes, instead of fixing them. Without addressing the root cause of the issue, the business will continue to struggle, while also dealing with the extra debt.
It is also important to consider the nature of your requirements, and the impact this will have on finances. For instance, using a loan to hire more staff requires upfront funds before additional revenue can be generated. The same applies to sales and marketing initiatives.
Expanding your footprint as part of a strategic plan to grow your business also requires funding, but these are usually long-term loans that take more time to pay back. A thorough evaluation is needed to determine the potential return on investment and compare it to other opportunities.
Evaluate if the strategic benefits will outweigh the mid-term cash flow risks.
Consider your options
Before making any financial commitment, first look for ways to optimise your operation to realise cost efficiencies within the business that can free up working capital to fund the fix.
If you determine that funding will address your pain points, by boosting inventory ahead of a seasonal spike, for example, consider vendor financing or supplier credit options before securing financing from a bank.
If you need to expand the business, look for ways to lower the associated costs. For example, franchising a new location to a competent partner can relieve you of some of the financial burden. A product-based business could perhaps generate extra income by selling via online channels, or through distributors or other retailers instead of a new store.
However, should you choose to proceed, before you sign any loan or credit agreement, make sure you consider all possible scenarios:
- How long will it take before your investment starts covering the costs of your loan?
- How will you manage repayments if your forecasted growth doesn’t materialise?
- How can you pivot to reallocate resources if your plan is not working out as initially intended?
The bottom line
Before you start looking for funding for your business, critically evaluate if your business really needs it. If you decide capital is necessary to reach your goals, and you’re willing to take on the responsibility, carefully consider the type of funding that is best for your particular type of business and your specific needs.
How Investors Choose Who To Invest In
Why entrepreneurs tend to focus on the wrong things when pitching to investors, and what investors are really evaluating instead.
The hypothesis of my book Lose the Business Plan was that great businesses are not determined by Excel spreadsheets and the all too predictable J-curve, but rather by the entrepreneur or entrepreneurial team and their ability to see opportunity, navigate obstacles and make things happen.
The truth is that entrepreneurs focus on the wrong side of the coin when meeting with an investor. They focus on the deep detail of the business plan and concentrate on justifying assumptions, predicting and overcoming objections, and emphasising market potential. Yet it’s my experience that the real decision on whether or not to invest in a company is more heavily weighted towards the entrepreneur or team rather than the business plan itself.
Once the ‘numbers’ stack (in other words, the business model makes sense) and the risks have been considered and appropriately mitigated, then the real decision-making can begin. The final decision comes down to four important characteristics of the entrepreneur himself or herself.
1. Is she honest?
You may have the best business plan in the world and you may have mitigated every possible risk but, if you are not someone the investor can trust, no deal will be made. I find that entrepreneurs often underestimate the importance of their reputations and, in today’s connected world, it’s so quick and easy to reference someone’s character.
Entrepreneurs who think about the short game and make morally questionable decisions for the prospect of quick profits generally find themselves in an ever-diminishing circle of people who will do deals with them. Your reputation is everything and you should guard it at all costs.
2. Does she work hard?
I am still not resolved around the cliché that you should work smart and not hard. (Perhaps I missed the memo or was asleep during the lecture that demonstrated how this is possible.)
In a world that is changing at an astonishing rate, in an economy that is becoming more and more competitive and in a business environment that is becoming ever more complex, it’s hard work to remain relevant and ahead of the curve for any extended period of time. Every quarter sees a new trajectory that needs to be investigated and navigated. In my opinion, this requires not just smart work but hard work, too.
It’s certainly true that investors like to invest in entrepreneurs who will take their investment seriously, who take their businesses seriously, and who are on top of their games.
3. Is she smart?
Smart does not always mean book smart but it definitely means street smart. It means having the ability to read a room, to see an opportunity, to learn new skills quickly and also being able to apply new learning’s to the business.
Investors look for investees who show agility when adapting to feedback from the market, from their competitors, from their staff and more.
4. Is she ambitious?
Investors do not like investing in ‘mom and pop’ operations. They seek the highest return on investment and that comes from businesses that can scale profitably. Scale is always relative to the investor’s perspective and not your own.
An investor with a couple of hundred thousand rand to invest will have very different expectations of the size of business he or she would like to invest in compared to another investor who has tens of millions of dollars. It’s important for the entrepreneur to authentically resonate with the level of ambition of their prospective investor, and be able to express that ambition through a coherent and cogent vision, as well as a plan to achieve that vision.
Remember, no one starts out as the ideal investee. It’s something that is built up over time and requires constant maintenance and curatorship. It’s essential to continually work on your reputation, to ensure that you are up to date with your industry, and to reassess your level of competence in your market. This is the only way to make sure you become and remain an ideal investee to a potential investor.
Read next: The Investor Sourcing Guide
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