The current state of the economy has left companies of all types and sizes in need of cash to keep their doors open, to maintain and to grow. Unfortunately, securing a loan can be tough; and while there are other options, in all cases, you need to be prepared.
If cash flow is tight, you are having difficulty making payroll and/or purchasing necessary materials or equipment to expand production and increase sales, there are three sources you may want to consider: a traditional bank loan, an asset-based loan or factoring. All can provide necessary cash; the difference is in how you qualify and how the repayment is structured. The key is determining what will work best for your business and then how to prepare to qualify for the optimal solution.
The traditional route
Bank loans are a good source of capital for mature businesses with a proven positive cash flow. The credit decision is based on historical cash flow of the business and the personal credit of the owner, since the bank is repaid with cash flow from the company.
To secure a bank loan, the lender will want to know the reason for the loan, the specific amount of money needed, the age of the business, the business’s assets, the number of employees and the legal structure. In addition, they will ask for the following:
- Financial statements: Income statements and balance sheets for the current year and the past three years, as well as tax returns for the company and its owner.
- Management profile: Prepare a short statement that is focused on each principal in the business, as well as the owner’s personal financial statements and those of the principal business owners.
- Market information: State clearly the products of the company as well as its markets. Name the competition, and explain the company’s plan to compete in the market and satisfy the needs of its customers.
When cash is low, assets high
Asset-based loans are a good source of capital for companies with little cash flow but a large amount of assets, both accounts receivable and inventory. Because this type of loan is tied to assets — if the company is unable to repay the loan — they risk losing their assets.
For asset-rich companies, the benefit of an asset-based loan is more funds may be available because it is not based strictly on the anticipated levels of cash flow. Additionally, the structure often requires fewer covenants, providing more flexibility for many borrowers.
To successfully qualify for an asset-based loan, the company will need to provide a potential lender:
- Financial statements and tax returns for the past three years
- Detailed reports of the accounts receivable, accounts payable and inventory
- Purpose of the loan and a business plan that documents the owner’s dedication, training and experience necessary to operate asuccessful business
- Investment of 25-50 percent of savings or personal equity into the business
Factoring in the equation
Companies faced with a cash-flow squeeze and slow-paying customers, selling invoices or accounts receivable to specialized companies called factors can be an optimal solution for securing cash needed to grow.
Factor loans can be a good source of capital for high growth or start-up companies. The factor advances most of the invoice amount, usually 70-90 percent, after reviewing the credit-worthiness of the billed customer. When the bill is paid, the factor remits the balance, minus a transaction (or factoring) fee.
Factoring can provide the most cash flow of the three options because the factor is looking at the credit worthiness of the company’s customers, not the company’s current and past financial performance.
To secure a factor loan, a company will need to provide:
- A detailed list of accounts receivable and accounts payable with samples of invoices
- Current and historical financial statements and tax returns for the previous year
- Business organization documents
Each of these loan sources bases the credit decision on different criteria. Understanding what information the lender looks at to base the decision will allow your company to prepare what the lender is looking for and, in turn, the lender will be able to make a faster credit decision.