Canadian business owners and financial managers can be forgiven for getting confused when they hear about ‘commercial factoring ‘of accounts receivable as a financing strategy that is recommended for both growth and business financing survival.
Part of this confusion comes simply from the fact that this relatively new business financing strategy goes under several names – those names include invoice discounting, receivable financing, etc. In reality they all of course are talking about the same financing strategy – which is the sale of your receivables for immediate cash to another party, generally a ‘factoring company ‘.
The sale of these accounts receivable causes two occurrences, a profit for the factoring company, (generally between 1-3%) and immediate cash for your firm, which is the seller and owner of the receivables your firm has generated.
In Canada we feel the main challenge for the acceptance of this strategy is the entire concept of who collects the receivable, i.e. your firm which sold the product or service, or the factoring company. The Canadian business marketplace has been somewhat slower to accept commercial factoring as a true traditional business financing strategy because of the optics of who collects the receivable. In years gone by it were only ‘financially troubled’ firms that utilized this strategy. That has clearly changed and factoring of various types is utilized by small start ups to some of Canada’s major corporations.
When we meet with clients who are considering a receivable financing working capital facility it is very easy to explain the immediate benefits – these of course include working capital and cash flow generation. However the type of facility you enter into, what firm you work with, and how this facility works on a day to day basis is really the essence of the key points that we focus on when a client contemplates this type of financing.
The ‘cost ‘of factoring should be a key discussion point in contemplation of such a financing. Unless you are a large already very credit worthy corporation your factoring costs will range from 1-3% per month. Factors that should take into account are the length of time that your customers take to pay yourself, and your ability to sustain the additional financing costs. There is a bottom line here, and that is simply hat you should have sufficient gross margin on your product or service that allows you to bear these additional costs. Customers think of these costs as the ‘ interest rate ‘ on the transaction – this is really not valid because commercial factoring is not a debt financing per se, it is simply the liquidating of your receivables at an agreed upon discount . At the end of the day whether it’s perceived as a ‘ rate ‘ or a ‘ discount ‘ it still needs to be build into your profitability and cash flows budgets .
Is commercial factoring and receivable financing a recommended strategy? It is if you can immediately benefit from cash flow and working capital. It makes even more sense when you can utilized those funds (often received the same day as you invoice) to take advantages of supplier discounts and improved purchasing power. We have known some customers that have gained 100% cash flow benefits by immediate sale of their receivable, while at the same time utilizing those funds to reduce almost all of their discount factor fees. That’s true cash flow power.
Is there a bottom line? It’s simply that you should investigate commercial factoring, determine which benefits might work for you – while at the same time assessing costs and how the facility will work on a day to day basis. If it makes sense at that point work with a trusted, credible and experienced advisor to implement this relatively new cash flow solution for Canadian business .