The Basics of Invoice Factoring: Choosing a Factoring Company
Probably the biggest frustration for business to business (B2B) companies is waiting to get paid.Anyone involved in a seasonal business, long payment cycle, or lumpy cash flow will be able to relate to this statement. Some customers are very slow payers (of course corporate clients and governments come to mind!) and other customers demand generous terms.
Explaining Invoice Factoring
Basically, with invoice factoring your current but unpaid invoices are turned into cash - it's a financing solution for businesses. Other terms used for factoring are 'Accounts Receivable Financing', 'Invoice Financing 'and 'Receivables Financing'. Because many clients demand generous terms, it means that invoices can remain unpaid for anywhere between 30 and 90 days; while in the meantime you're left without cash and falling behind on important expenses, such as payroll, and missing opportunities to grow your business. And this is where factoring comes in: factoring reduces, and sometimes eliminates the frustration of unpaid accounts.
A receivable financing transaction usually involves three parties, and these are the company that initially issues the invoice, the customer who is required to pay the invoice (otherwise known as the account debtor), and the 'factor', which is the financing company prepared to supply the cash.
Explaining Invoice Financing
An invoice is issued to a customer after a company has delivered a service or product. This invoice will now be sold to the factor and, in return, the company will receive a cash advance: this will usually be between 70% and 90% of the invoice's value. With this cash the company finds it easier to pay employees; plus, it can now purchase supplies, materials, and inventory, and it can take on more work. Once the debtor pays their invoice the business will receive a rebate for the rest of the funds, less a fee which will be based on the value of the invoice and the term. This type of financial agreement benefits all three parties: the customer receives cash almost immediately, the debtor gets favorable payment terms, and the factoring company collects a fee.
Explaining the Difference between Traditional Bank Financing and Invoice Financing
There are, of course, both drawbacks and benefits to this type of financing for businesses. The obvious benefits of factoring are a simpler application process, quicker funding, and higher approval rates when compared to bank lending. Having access to cash allows a business to grow, to meet payroll, achieve supplier discounts for bulk purchases or early payment, and to purchase equipment in order to improve productivity.
Factoring has a very simple application process which eliminates some of the main hurdles placed on small businesses by banks. The speed of funding with factoring offers businesses the opportunity to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. In addition, the high approval rates with factoring means that many more businesses qualify, even though they may have previously been declined by a bank. Another bonus is that funds received from factoring invoices can be used to supplement bank credit, if necessary.
On the other hand, when it comes to cost, a line of credit at a bank is less expensive than factoring; this is assuming that the business will be successful in their application to the bank and that they'll have access to the finance within a reasonable timeframe. Unfortunately, these applications are not always successful (four out of five companies are refused bank loans), while others find the whole process too discouraging.
Another possible issue with working with traditional factoring companies is that some of these companies will advise your customers that their invoices have been financed: this information can cause issues for some small businesses because they prefer to maintain control over all correspondence with their clients. Other factoring companies actually take control of your account receivables. Our advice is that you look for a factoring company that's prepared to work on a non notification basis.
Receivables Financing Has Become Good Business Sense
Today we see factoring becoming quite commonplace in many industries, such as IT companies, professional services, wholesale trade, marketing, manufacturing companies and so on. Many, many industries are discovering the benefits of receivables financing.
Invoice factoring is an ideal solution for business to business companies who issue invoices payable within 15 to 90 days. Any B2B company who's experiencing rapid growth, long payment cycles, or lumpy cash flow, will benefit the most from accounts receivable factoring. On the other hand, businesses and business to consumer (B2C) companies that are paid on delivery and don't issue invoices would have no need of factoring services.
If you're interested in invoice financing and believe it may be an option for your business, see below for our tips on how to approach working with a factoring company.
How to Work with an Invoice Factoring Company
There are many advantages to invoice financing, but it can be tricky working with some traditional factoring companies. Some factoring companies don't have excellent customer service, and between confusing terms, long term contracts, monthly minimums, and hidden penalties, the experience can be quite daunting. Our aim is to ensure that you get a fair deal when working with a factoring company, and please remember that, as always, if a deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!
You're Looking for Transparent Factoring Fees and Rates
Companies that make it difficult to work out their all inclusive fees are companies who are working for their own advantage, so when determining pricing, transparency is key. If you're getting frustrated and not receiving direct answers, we suggest you move on to another factoring company that will be respectful of your time.
Another Word of Caution: Beware of receivables factoring companies who advertise low rates, which then increase when all their hidden fees come to light. We've heard of factoring companies who charge low monthly factoring rates, but you'll be charged for two months' even if the invoice was paid in one month and one day. We also know that some factors require monthly minimums, which means that you pay for financing even if it's not required. We strongly suggest that you read our article on factoring rates and tricks so that you approach factoring with knowledge and awareness.
Understanding Penalties, and How to Avoid Them
Be aware that some invoice factoring companies out there have hidden penalties. In order to avoid these penalties, you need to know why they occur. If you believe these penalties are out of proportion or unfair, then move on to another factor. It won't be long before you'll understand what fair and reasonable terms look like.
Read the Fine Print in Your Contract
In order to guarantee their profits, most factoring companies will try to lock you into a long term contract. Obviously this is good business for the factoring company, but it may not be so good for your business. You need to know what you're signing up for, so be aware of long term contracts where you'll be charged exorbitant cancellation fees if you should decide to leave.
Also, be aware that some long term contracts include minimums, so consider this carefully: you may find yourself paying for something you're not using when you only needed the factoring company to meet occasional cash flow needs. You shouldn't be forced to remain with a service that's not meeting your needs, so it's vitally important that you carefully read the fine print.
Once you start your research on factoring you'll discover that most factoring companies operate on a notification basis, which means that when you sell your invoices to the factor, they notify your customers. They'll also ask that the funds be routed directly to the factoring company's bank account, instead of your account. This can be an issue for business owners who prefer to have control of all communications with their customers. If discretion is important to you and your business,
we strongly suggest that your accounts receivable financing company provides non notification factoring, meaning that you retain control over customer communications. If this is not an option for your factoring company, then you need to move to a companythat will provide non notification factoring.
How Much Cash Will You Receive Upfront?
You'll receive an advance upfront, which is a percentage of the face value of the invoice. This advance will probably be somewhere between 70% and 90% of the invoice's face value. For example, let's say your customer owes you $1000: your advance payment should be somewhere between $700 and $900.
Factoring Minimums Compared with Single Invoice Discounting
You'll also notice in your research that many factors require small businesses to submit all invoices from certain customers. On the other hand, 'single invoice discounting', also known as 'spot factoring', means that the business concerned determines which invoices will be sent to the factoring company for advance payment. Make sure you understand your factoring company's terms before you sign anything. Single invoice discounting or spot factoring is generally the preferred method for small businesses because it enables you to retain control over your financing by determining which invoices will be sent for factoring.
Choosing Your Factoring Company
Think about all the above criteria, and look for a business partner who will provide your business with the best combination of flexibility, features, and terms that you require. By doing a little research you'll soon find a partner and an agreement that offers you the flexibility, funds, terms, and transparency that work best for you. Your aim is to find a partner that you'll be happy to work with long term, so don't settle for anything less.