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.
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.
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.
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