Understanding Banking Relationships

© duncanandison - Fotolia.com

© duncanandison – Fotolia.com

We’ve discussed financing issues on this blog before, such as SBA loans, bonded contracts, and other alternative financing options for government contractors.

Let’s talk more about some different banking relationships to be sure and understand how to choose between them.

First, there are various forms of what could be considered purchase order financing or invoice financing. At one end of the spectrum of invoice financing is what is traditionally known as factoring. This is where you sell your invoices directly, presumably for a greater or lesser percentage. You don’t do any collection or wait for the funds, you simply sell the invoices.

You don’t have to sell every invoice. The advantage here is that if you don’t need the funds, you can wait and collect when the customer pays. On the other hand, if you’re looking for funds and have a whole different set of circumstances, you can sell or finance a bunch of invoices and move on.

The disadvantage of invoice financing is that it’s traditionally more expensive than other forms of credit, such as a line of credit. While lines of credit are much less expensive, the disadvantage is that they often come with substantial “covenants” – agreement terms you’re supposed to meet.

For example, a line of credit agreement may require you to make a profit every quarter. It doesn’t sound very onerous, but traditionally a lot of business expenses are front-loaded in the first quarter (e.g., annual bonuses or health care costs), and therefore it might become onerous.

There may be additional requirements that strongly affect how you conduct your business, for example a restriction that you can’t take a draw on the line of credit without the bank’s approval.

It’s important to understand all of the parameters, pluses and minuses of the banking relationship you’re choosing. Of course the best quadrant to be in is where you’ve made enough money so that you can self-finance everything. But most of us are not in that quadrant.

Like anything else in business, successful financing comes down to relationships. Remember, though, your relationship here might not be with your regular banker, but rather with your bank’s credit department.

(Watch for a future post about the care and feeding of your banker.)


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