Starting Your Business With Little Cash

As recent as ten years ago starting a business, any business, cost a lot of money. Cash outlay was thousands of dollars and there was no way to get around that. The barrier to entry into the world of small business was set high enough that not everyone could jump in. Times have changed. Now, with just a couple hundred dollars you can start your own business online.Besides business rent and equipment, usually a business owner’s biggest expense is marketing. Traditional marketing by mail or in person is expensive and has been largely replaced by online marketing tactics. Online you can reach hundreds or thousands of people quickly and without breaking the bank. Pay for finding visitors to your website using Pay Per Click (PPC) services, direct email marketing, banner ads, or through commissions to affiliates marketing your products for you. There are many ways to market online, nearly all of them better than traditional marketing practices.Ways to Save Cash as You Start Your Business1. Work at Home – Forget an office building for as long as you can. Online businesses, even the top bloggers in the world like Darren Rowse, still work out of their home offices. Think about the delicious tax deductions for working out of your home too.2. Rent Equipment – If you live in or near a major city you can likely rent out computer equipment you need for your business. Rented equipment is deductible on taxes and you are not responsible for it when it breaks on its own. You can have the latest made electronics at a great rate without spending the entire amount outright as you would buying it in a store.3. Learn the Basics about everything you have to do. Graphics, SEO, marketing, copyrighting, lead generation and growing your business are all things you should get up to speed on as fast as possible. If you are not already competent with the basics of these topics it would pay you over time to do so. Even if you are going to outsource work in these areas you still need to be able to talk intelligently about them. Start reading or watching video tutorials online.4. Work in the Cloud. Google Apps are a suite of applications that mimic Microsoft Office, and yet there is one major distinction. They are free. They are in the internet cloud and accessible from anywhere you can login. There is no need to take files with you on memory stick or send files via email – just login to your Google account and find them from where ever you are.5. Pay Per Click – Search engines, FaceBook, and other companies offer you a chance to pay for each click on an ad you run with the company. When someone clicks your ad they are taken to your website or landing page that talks about your product or service. Cost can be as little as 1 cent per click, or, if competition is high – a couple of dollars per click. Pay Per Click is an area of marketing every business should become educated about.6. Email Leads – Start collecting email addresses from visitors at your website from day one. Using Aweber.com or a similar service, start collecting visitors email addresses with an opt-in form so you can email them in the future with a permission-based email marketing program.7. Partnerships – find parallel businesses that offer something you do not and work with them in partnership to sell some of their products or services as they sell yours. Think about trading services business to business to help you save money. Online you can trade banners with another site so neither of you have to spend cash outright.Starting a business need not involve a lot of expenses that traditional business owners spend for granted. Spend time now to learn as many pieces of the puzzle as possible because it will save you a lot of money long-term. There are things you can do yourself, and things you have to outsource. Better if you do not have to outsource everything and can do some on your own. Educating yourself now will save you considerable cash as your business matures.

Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

Purchase Order & Letter of Credit Financing

Many business opportunities come with an associated challenge. For most entrepreneurial businesses, the greatest challenge is financing the business opportunities created by your sales efforts. What are your options if you have a sales opportunity that is clearly too large for your normal scale of operations? Will your bank provide the necessary financing? Is your business a startup, or too new to meet the bank’s requirements? Can you tap into a commercial real estate loan or a home equity loan in sufficient time to conclude the transaction? Do you decline the order? Fortunately there is an alternative way to meet this challenge: You can use Purchase Order Financing & Letter of Credit financing to deliver the product and close the sale.What is purchase order financing?Purchase order financing is a specialized method of providing structured working capital and loans that are secured by accounts receivables, inventory, machinery, equipment and/or real estate. This type of funding is excellent for startup companies, refinancing existing loans, financing growth, mergers and acquisitions, management buy-outs and management buy-ins.Purchase order financing is based upon bona fide purchase orders from reputable, creditworthy companies, or government entities. Verification of the validity of the purchase orders is required. The financing is not based on your company’s financial strength. It is based on the creditworthiness of your customers, the strength of the commercial finance company funding the transaction, and in most cases a letter of credit.What is a letter of credit?A letter of credit is a letter from a bank guaranteeing that a buyer’s payment to a seller will be received on time and for the correct amount. If the buyer is unable to make payment for the purchase, the bank is required to cover the full amount of the purchase. In a purchase order financing transaction, the bank relies on the creditworthiness of the commercial finance company in order to issue the letter of credit. The letter of credit “backs up” the purchase order financing to the supplier, or manufacturer.Is purchase order financing appropriate for your sales program?The perfect paradigm is a distributor buying products from a supplier and shipping directly to the purchaser. Importers of finished goods, exporters of finished goods, out-source manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors can effectively use purchase order financing to grow their businesses.Is purchase order financing appropriate for growing your sales orders?Purchase order financing requires you to have management expertise- a proven track record in your particular business. You must have bona fine purchase orders from reputable firms that can be verified. And you must have a repayment plan; often this is from a commercial finance company in the form of accounts receivable or asset-based financing.You should have a gross margin of at least 25% to benefit from purchase order financing. Sellers of services or commodities with low margins, such as lumber or grain, will not qualify.The bottom line decision for purchase order financing:It can take two or more years to develop a profitable business. Banks generally base their lending limits on a business’ performance for the past two or three years. Purchase order financing, combined with letters of credit and/or accounts receivable or asset-based financing can give you sufficient funds to cover your operating costs, financing costs and still realize significant profits. If you qualify for purchase order financing, you can grow your business by taking advantage of large purchase orders and eventually qualify for bank financing.Copyright ©2007
Gregg Financial Services