Raise the money you need in 48 hours through factoring
Winning a big client is a little like dating a movie star. There’s a lot of prestige that comes with jumping into the limelight, but staying there can be a bitch. For many entrepreneurs, the toughest part of the relationship is getting large businesses to pay up. The fact is, at many of America’s corporate monoliths, the folks in accounting like to wait 60 or 90 days before they pay invoices. The reason is simple: the longer Godzilla Corp. keeps its money in the bank, the more interest it collects. Small businesses are stuck financing the operations of these big players while they struggle to survive. For a growing number of entrepreneurs, factoring offers a way around the problem. This fast track to cash, once used mostly in the garment industry, is now catching on in fields ranging from construction to medicine, says Leonard Machlis, executive director of the Commercial Finance Association, a trade association for factoring companies and other asset-based financial services operating in New York City. Factors collected $72 billion worth of bills in 1997, up by 13 percent over the prior year, according to the association’s research. “Factoring’s on the rise,” Machlis says. Here is how factoring works. Special finance firms known as factoring companies take on the responsibility for collecting bills from your most creditworthy customers, provided these payments aren’t more than 90 days overdue. In most deals, they give you between 60 and 80 percent of the value of your invoices up front, says Robert Press, chairman, and CEO of Finantra Capital, a finance company in Plantation, Fla. Then, when they collect the bills, they’ll give you the rest of the money, minus a fee. Currently, fees range from about 1 percent to 5 percent of the value of your invoices, depending on how old the bills are. While factoring can be an expensive way to raise capital, it can also be a practical alternative to bank loans for those who don’t qualify – particularly if your need for cash is time-sensitive. Unlike your banker, factors won’t look at your business plan or your personal credit rating. “We don’t care how big or small you are,” says Finantra Capital’s Press. All they check out is the credit rating of the customers whose bills you ask them to collect. This can take less than 48 hours, which means you get the money you need fast. It’s worked for Philip Brach, owner of World Trade Knitting Mills in Brooklyn, N.Y. His factory makes sweaters, primarily for a large national retailer, churning out $10 million in sales annually. He started factoring his bills 14 years ago but quit in 1998 when a major bank gave him a $1 million credit line at a better interest rate. Six months later the bank rescinded its offer. The loan officer told him that World Trade Knitting Mills was too big for the institution’s small-business loans and too small for the financing it offered medium-size firms. So, in 1998, Brach went back to factoring, building a relationship with a Manhattan-based factoring concern called Quantum Corporate Funding. He says he’s happy with the switch. “When you call with a question, you don’t have to wait days and weeks for answers from the president and vice president,” he says. Factoring has allowed him to increase his production and sales by about 25 percent in two years, he adds. Some banks are actually beginning to send clients they reject to factors, says Craig Sheinker, president of Quantum Corporate Funding, who now gets regular referrals from Citibank and other institutions: “They’ve decided it’s in their best interest to refer their business to someone who can help the client. When the client grows to the point where he’s bankable, they feel he’ll be inclined to stay with them and borrow from them.” Navigating the factoring process can be challenging if you’ve never done it before. Use these tips.