Alternative Financing

The Old-School Solution to Cash Flow Problems Hiding in Your Receivables

The Old-School Solution to Cash Flow Problems Hiding in Your Receivables
Image credit: Brent Moore | Flickr
Guest Writer
CEO of Bibby Financial Services, Americas
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every day we hear something about another new way for small businesses and entrepreneurs to “quickly access cash” for their companies. Download an app? Credit via your social media profile? Peer to peer loans? Crowd sourcing? Even traditional tech companies and payment processors are dipping their toes in the small business lending space by expanding their offerings to cash in on the nearly $1 trillion loaned to small businesses. The pool is fairly large considering any company with less than $10 million in sales is considered a small business.

When did this start? The first uptick in companies specializing in fast access to capital came pre-recession during the "credit crunch'' when banks tightened their wallets and made it harder than ever for businesses to obtain traditional business loans. The ability to access credit by selling future receivables, usually credit card, became an immensely popular form of funding for many businesses. It usually came with a hefty price tag.

A quick look at economic indicators today shows we are in a period of relative stability and moderate growth. However, many of today’s small businesses still need to step back, consider their business lifecycle and the appropriate non-bank options for access to working capital.

Related: 10 Cash-Flow Surprises That Could Kill Your Startup

Before you could tap and swipe your way to fast cash there was the original form of “funding” that successfully bridged the gap between banks and alternative lenders. Known as factoring, it is when an owner sells the business's accounts receivable to a third-party funding source to raise capital. What factoring lacks in tech appeal it makes up for in both stability and flexibility to take on business challenges across multiple industries.

How and when does it make sense to consider going “old school” by using factoring?

Where are you now and where do you want to be?

Factoring is not a solution for every business. Companies that invoice other businesses on terms -- including apparel, food and beverage, import and export providers, manufacturing, staffing, transportation and wholesale/distribution -- are often the best fit for factoring solutions.

Companies looking at factoring need to consider their current stage within their overall business lifecycle. If a company is pre-revenue their could be opportunity for funding from friends and family or a crowdfunding. However, once the first invoice is issued, factoring becomes a flexible, long-term funding solution that grows with the business, yet the business incurs no debt.

The top reasons to turn to factoring include tackling seasonality issues, managing payroll expenses, purchasing additional machinery and equipment, or supporting a transition to a new distribution model. Factoring is particularly effective for seasonality because it is extremely fast, unlike a bank loan that can take 90 days or longer. With factoring a business incurs no debt, or even a mark on the credit report.

A recent success story is a lifestyle fashion company that specializes in sustainably sourced luxury cashmere. Even though their revenue tended to be seasonal they overcame cash flow issues often associated with the fashion industry. Not feeling cash strapped made expanding their distribution model relatively painless.

Related: Applying for a Short Term Business Loan Online? These 4 Steps Can Protect Your Startup.

It’s not just about invoices anymore.

The factoring industry, like many of its counterparts, is evolving to better meet the needs of businesses today. The ability to “factor” an asset is no longer limited strictly to invoices, but can include financing from purchase orders and export receivables.

The hidden perks of factoring.

A lesser-known perk of turning over your receivables to a factoring provider is how it streamlines your operations. You shed back office functions such as collections, invoice management, credit and background checks for current and prospective customers, eliminating certain overhead costs and freeing resources to grow the business.

Market indicators show we are in a period of relative economic stability but it’s important for business owners to consider a “back to basics” approach for a flexible working capital solution that promotes sustainable growth and the flexibility needed to take their business to the next level. Factoring is a trend-proof option for companies that are unready, or unwilling, to take on bank debt.

Related: 10 Questions to Ask Before Applying for a Bank Loan

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