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How To Raise Working Capital Finance

There are more than 150 working capital funds available for SMEs in South Africa. Here’s what you need to know to access them.

Darlene Menzies

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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.

What’s available

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

Contract finance

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.

Retail Finance

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.

Terms Loans

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.

Related: The Truth About Venture Capital Funding

What working capital funders expect

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.


Resource

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.

Darlene Menziesis Chief Executive Officer – Finfind. The World Economic Forum named Darlene Menzies one of six Top Female Tech Breakthrough Entrepreneurs in Africa for 2017. She is a technology innovator and serial entrepreneur with 15 years’ corporate IT experience with ABSA Bank and ICT outsource giant BCX. Since leaving corporate employment in 2001, she has established several successful technology businesses and has firsthand experience in what it takes to start and grow a successful enterprise. She is a public speaker, a media spokesperson and recognised expert on the SME sector.

How to Guides

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.

Allon Raiz

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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.

Related: A Comprehensive List Of Angel Investors That Fund South African Start-Ups

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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Company Posts

Are You Struggling To Find Financing For Your SME? Try Alternative Finance

If you don’t qualify for traditional funding or if it isn’t the right fit for your SME why not explore alternative funding? We specialise in alternative financing options by providing in-depth and custom plans for you and your business needs.

Spartan SME Finance

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Alternative Finance is finance beyond the traditional – it is defined by the financiers’ area of specialisation – by what they specialise in, whom they serve, and how they provide their funding. It does not replace traditional finance but rather functions as a complementary and additional form of funding.

Alternative financiers are specialists – they focus on a particular need and on a specific audience. As a result their ‘how’ is customised to deal with their chosen target market and for this targets unique needs. This applies to the funder’s processes and to their level of flexibility around things such as collateral.

An example of this is that a SME may have an existing R1 million overdraft (their traditional finance) secured by R 1.5 million collateral but suddenly they need R5 million for some kind of contract or bridging finance – they need it fast and don’t have that extent of collateral.

The traditional funder cannot provide what they need, their process is too long and their flexibility is too low. An alternative financier providing bridging finance and specialising in SMEs is ideally positioned to fill this gap.

One of the most significant differences between a traditional funder and an alternative financier is in their process. In the case of the alternative financier, they have often chosen to deal exclusively with a particular customer base, for example SMEs. As a result, this funder has both an affinity and contextually relevant empathy in working with SMEs.

Not only do they speak the same language the funder also has an appreciation for the time and material constraints of the SME and has developed their processes to cater to this market. This applies most notably to the turnaround time of the funding need and to the assessment aspect – where flexibility around things such as collateral is vital in making the finance happen for the SME.

A traditional funder is unable to meet the deadline of a bridging finance need, submitted on an urgent basis, where the finance is needed as soon as 2-3 days from time of application. A specialised or alternative funder is able to do exactly this. A traditional funder is also unable to find creative methods in solving the SMEs lack of high-value collateral in applying for finance.

This SME has generally already used their high-value collateral for traditional credit facilities but now needs funding for growth or resolution of a temporary cash flow challenge. An alternative financier is able to look at such an application in a different way, and has most likely already established alternative ways to make this happen for the SME.

Related: 5 Key Questions To Answer For Raising Funding

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How to Guides

Ways To Raise Capital To Expand Your SME

John Whall shares some of his insights about raising capital, despite tough economic conditions.

John Whall

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Times are tough, we all know that. As revealed earlier this month by StatsSA, South Africa is in a recession. But as history tells us, recessions don’t last forever and as a business owner you need to stay focused and continue to look for ways to grow your business, because business growth means economic growth.

John Whall, CEO of Heartwood Properties has been in the business of commercial and industrial property development for many years. He has experienced more than one recession in his professional career. In order to expand, companies can raise capital in two main ways, through debt or equity. Debt involves borrowing money, while equity means to raise money by selling shares in the company.

Whall shares some of his insights about raising capital, despite tough economic conditions.

Debt Financing

Bank funded expansions are a very common option for many SMEs. The one thing you must consider is that it could limit you in terms of how much you can borrow based on your credit history and available assets. You will also be liable for repaying the full loan plus interest. Right now, interest rates remain the same, but it may increase in 2019. Debt if used correctly and not to aggressively is a great way for SMEs to grow and expand, however debt should always be used conservatively and the business owner must ensure that the cash generated by the business can easily repay both the interest and the capital to the bank.

Related: Seed Capital Funding For South African Start-Up Businesses

Government funding

The South African government supports a number of funding programmes to encourage the growth of small, medium and micro businesses in South Africa. You can contact Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), SEFA, NEF,  Khula Finance Enterprise.

Crowdfunding

Used in the startup phase mainly, this form of financing uses your network of friends, family or acquaintances. The Internet is used to spread the word about your campaign to reach larger amounts of people. Equity-based crowdfunding has become a popular alternative for startups who don’t want to be dependent on venture capital investors. This has proven to be very effective in developed markets.

Equity Financing

If you require more capital than you can raise or borrow yourself, and you want to avoid aggressive debt funding then you may want to consider equity funding. This can open up a number of avenues that will offer you capital to grow your business. Very popular amongst startups are angel investors and venture capitalists.

Angel investors are people (business owners) who contribute their time, expertise as well as their own personal finances and in return expect to own a share of your business and receive a share of any future profits.

The opposite are venture capitalists and private equity investors, who are investment companies or fund managers who provide very large sums of cash in return for part-ownership. These type of investors do usually have a say in the management of the business and also agree to a five to seven year exit plan for their investment. This type of funding suits a business who needs a once off equity investment, but does not continuously need to raise capital to grow the business. The election of the investment partner is critical for the business owner and their medium to long-term strategy for the business must be aligned.

Related: 3 Mistakes To Avoid When Running A Crowdfunding Campaign

Going public

Established businesses usually do a public listing to raise ongoing capital in hope of expanding. Not only does this help to strengthen their capital base but it makes acquisitions easier, ownership more liquid for shareholders and allows the business to continuously raise capital to grow. Up until two years ago, the only option for a company to list publicly was through the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), which required a minimum capital amount of R500 million for a primary listing.

In 2017, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) issued four new exchange licenses in South Africa, all of which are already operational, which is not only providing an alternative to the JSE but is also offering opportunities to smaller businesses and driving down the costs of listing and share trading.  One of these new exchanges is the 4 Africa Exchange (4AX) whom Heartwood Properties is listed with. They are the only exchange apart from the JSE which is licensed to trade across all asset classes, including both equity and debt as well as special-purpose vehicles and real estate investment trusts.

4AX is ideally suited for unlisted companies with a market capitalisation of up to R10 billion wishing to list. This, however, is not to say that this is a ceiling on the size of the company seeking a listing. The exchange has aimed to make the listing process more streamlined and timely while fully complying with its licence and the prevailing legal framework. Its listing requirements are less onerous and more cost effective than listing on the JSE, making it a viable alternative for smaller and medium sized companies. The other exchanges to consider include: ZAR X, A2X, and Equity Express Securities Exchange (ESSE).

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