1. What's a factor and why are they
a source for working capital?
2. Who's this good for?
3. When is the best time for me
to participate in a factoring program?
4. When is this not advised?
5. Tips for getting the money.
6. Ingredients you'll need on
7. Idea Cafe Tips
8. What types of factoring programs
are on the menu?
9. Watch out for!
What's a factor and why are they a source for working capital?
If your business accepts credit cards, you are "factoring" in
an indirect manner. When you accept a credit card, you also pay
a fee to the credit card company/bank. In exchange for getting the
money wired immediately into your account, you have "sold" your
invoice to that credit card company for a discount.
That brings us to the definition of a true factor. A factor buys
current receivables from you at a discounted rate. You get the money
from an invoice immediately, instead of waiting 30, 60 or even 90
days for your customers to pay. Since you do get a discount, you
do get less of it than if you decided to wait to collect your receivables
yourself. Depending on the size of your company, your customers,
and the amount of time invoices are paid by your customers, a discounted
rate could range from 2 to 15 percent.
Factors first started in the apparel and textile industries. Today,
factors are common in many industries, including the medical industry.
There are some factors that will work with construction receivables
(progress billing), but these are few and far between (retainage
fees* are not advanced by a factor).
*Retainage fees: A business pays this fee to a Contractor in order
to retain the right of the business. The fee is held until the job
is completed. A factor does not advance this fee back to subcontractor
because it is held as a guarantee that the job will be done, inspected,
and later approved (or not).
Some funding companies refer to their programs as "lines of credit."
Although they are not "true lines of credit," the similarity lies
in the fact that you will have an advance of cash available. Unlike
bank lines of credit, which you can outgrow because banks have a
maximum cap on their lines, once your company grows and you need
a higher amount of money, it is always available --- just as long
as you have customers that are creditworthy and you submit those
this good for?
A company that has customers with good credit history (it allows
for better discount schedules/rates).
Retail, manufacturers, and other companies that have commercial
receivables, but run into a "cash flow crunch." You can factor,
regardless of how young or established. In a nut shell, factoring
can provide consistent cash flow in a business.
Health care business, such as physicians (individuals or groups),
home heath care facilities, medical equipment suppliers, hospitals,
Businesses with long lag times between purchasing supplies and
receiving income, for instance, the apparel industry where fabric
must be bought as long as a year before payment is received. (Although,
companies that have purchase orders can also receive purchase order
financing from some factors who provide this service).
And, it helps if your company has good credit. This can be very
beneficial, since this allows for a larger advance rate.
is this the best choice for me?
When your company is growing and you can't keep up with the growth,
which is creating an inconsistent cash flow.
When you want to get to that next level, but your slow-to-pay
customers are holding you back.
When you're a new company (because banks do not offer small business
loans to new businesses).
When you're a large company and you've outgrown your bank's line
When you have a big order that you can fund, but can't wait to
receive the monies.
When you have a large purchase order that you can't fulfill without
having up-front money for raw materials, cash payments to vendors,
When your company, although profitable with contracts for additional
business, is facing bankruptcy.
When you don't want to create additional debt by obtaining a loan.
When you've exhausted all other traditional routes.
is this not advised?
When you can get a loan from one of the traditional sources (i.e.,
bank) at a very low interest rate.
When your outstanding orders or accounts recievable are somewhat
When you have customers that pay you immediately or within a reasonable
time frame that doesn't cause any strain on the business.
5. Tips for
A good start: use a broker*. Brokers will take your company information
to a funding source that can best meet YOUR needs. If you're not
satisfied with what is offered, a broker can assist you in negotiating
some fine details in your proposal or even work to get you another
offer from another company, if necessary. Advantage? You still keep
your mind and energy on your business while the broker does all
of the "leg work" for you. Brokers can find funding companies that
specialize in businesses that have $5,000/month in receivables as
well as $25 million/month in receivables. Best of all, most brokers
DO NOT charge a fee for the service they provide, even though they
*Where can you find a broker: When you contact a company that
offer this service, ask if you're dealing with a broker or a factor.
You might think it best to just deal with the factor from the start,
but if you deal with the broker, he/she will continue to search
for the best company and the best proposal for you without you taking
your mind off of the business. The factor will make you ONE deal:
Show the funding company that your cash flow problem is just that
-- and not the tip of an iceberg-sized operational problem. If you've
got good, reliable customers who pay on time and who aren't credit
risks, they'll be good "risks" for a factor too.
Remember: a factoring company and a collection agency are two
entirely different entrees -- you could say that one is a "meat
lovers dish," while the other is the "vegetarian's delight." Don't
expect the factor to take problematic accounts off of your hands
in order to collect your payments. If your company is large, most
factors will audit your accounts before they buy them to make sure
they meet their own credit standards, and most likely will have
limits -- such as only taking accounts that pay off in certain time
Ingredients you have on hand.
You'll need to complete and sign an evaluation application. This
step gives the factor the authority to "pop up" your customers on
a computer screen so they can see your customer's credit history.
By the way, your credit history will also be seen -- the better
it is, the better your proposal --- although this is NOT a determining
ingredient as to whether or not you will get a satisfying proposal.
You'll need your most current aging receivables report, articles
of incorporation (if applicable), a sample invoice, and, in some
cases, you'll need a copy of your most recent financial statement.
If you're seeking purchase order financing, add to the pot, a copy
of the contracts/purchase orders, summary of cost breakdowns, and
a copy of your contractors license ( if applicable).
A "due diligence fee" will be required when you have agreed to
the proposal (whether it's verbally or via a letter of intent).
This is a ONE TIME fee that ranges between $150 - 600 for small
to mid-sized businesses. If the company is larger, this fee is evaluated
on an individual basis. The fee covers administrative costs to open
your account, to conduct lien and UCC searches, filing fees and
any other general out-of-pocket expenses.
Idea Cafe Tips.
Be wary of the 800 pound gorilla who could twirl you around by
the tail in this kind of relationship. Always, always, always --
am I stressing this enough? -- ask questions regarding terms, conditions,
terminations, etc. before "signing on the dotted line." You need
to make certain there aren't any surprises; this can be a very beneficial
relationship, as long as everything is completely understood.
Most factors work with your receivables on a "non-recourse" basis.
This is your best type of relationship -- it's a sort of insurance
that covers YOU! For instance, if a factor gives you an advance
on an invoice and later that company responsible for that invoice
declares bankruptcy, you DO NOT have to pay back that advance. The
factor takes the loss. (Whew!)
If you have legal counsel, have a conference call with the factor
and your legal counsel. Make the funding source discuss all of the
details and have your attorney ask about anything that's not stated
plainly in the contracts.
Having your own business can feel like an incredible sense of
accomplishment. Having cash flow problems can be like an incredible
case of indigestion. Having to depend on someone else (a factor)
to pull you through, can feel like a burning ulcer -- have extra
antacid in your drawer to help you through those times!
Remember: you will have a more consistent cash flow that permits
you to pay your debts earlier. Ask your suppliers/vendors for discounts.
For instance, tell them you will pay them the day you receive your
shipment and not in 30 or 60 days (whatever your agreement may be)
if they give you a 10% discount. Most vendors prefer to get their
money earlier too, and this will help offset the costs of factoring.
Ask your broker how to make this program most flexible for you --
you can still feel in control and maintain the costs you incur at
a lower level, if you learn "easy tricks of the trade."
After evaluating the relationship you can establish with a factor,
take advantage of this financial tool that has been made available
to you and grow, grow, grow!
types of factoring programs are on the menu?
Factors will work with commercial receivables only because they
depend on the creditworthiness of your customers. Therefore, your
receivables are the ONLY collateral.
There are factors that service general commercial business, construction,
medical, and international invoices. Some funding companies also
provide purchase order financing (some do this on a stand-alone
basis, others combine it with your receivables funding account).
Some factors offer "term contracts," while others don't -- it's
on an as need basis.
Don't get addicted to factoring -- you can really get used to
having your payments within 24 hours. Once this relationship is
no longer profitable, end it amicably.
After 12 to 24 months, your financials are much more attractive.
You may want to seek alternative financial assistance (i.e., from
your bank). If you outgrow your bank's program, you can always go
back to a factoring agreement.
ALWAYS make certain that your factoring company has strict confidentiality
policies. Some factoring companies like to advertise which businesses
they've assisted -- tell them they cannot do this without your consent.