If you are not independently wealthy, and perhaps even if you are, eventually you will probably need to obtain some outside capital for your business. In some instances, you may need to obtain capital for the initial expenses prior to opening your business or, for instance, the funds you require may be for expansion or working capital during the off season.
Generally, business financing can take two forms: debt or equity. Debt, of course, means borrowing money. The loans may come from family, friends, banks, other financial institutions, or professional investors. Equity relates to selling an ownership interest in your business. Such a sale can take many forms such as the admitting of a partner or, if you are in a corporation, issuing of additional common stock, options or warrants to investors. It is typically a prudent idea to consult with your lawyer, as there are many significant legal ramifications to such a step.
HOW DO I GET THE MONEY?
Irrespective of the type of financing you need and are able to obtain for your business, the process of obtaining it is somewhat similar. There are several questions that must be answered during the course of raising money for your business. The ability to answer these questions is critical to your success in obtaining financing as well as the overall success of the business. Remember, in raising capital you have to sell the ability of your business to potential investors in much the same way you sell your product to your customers.
HOW MUCH CASH DO YOU NEED?
To answer this question you will have to do some serious cash planning which will require estimates of future sales, the related costs, and how quickly you must pay your suppliers. You will also have to factor into your planning some assumptions about when you will generate enough cash to pay the money back. However, if you raise cash through equity you probably don't need to pay it back, but your investors will want to know how the value of the business will grow, and how they will benefit through dividends or selling their shares.
WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH THE MONEY?
One of the most important questions you will have to answer for a potential investor is how the money will be spent. Will you use it for equipment, or to hire additional employees, or perhaps for research and development for a new improved product? Again, part of the answer on how you spend the money is how it will benefit the company.
WHAT EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE IN RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
One of the primary reasons for business failure is lack of experience and management. You will need to convince your investors that you have the knowledge, experience and ability to manage your business and their money at the level at which you expect to operate.
WHAT IS THE CLIMATE FOR YOUR TYPE OF BUSINESS AND YOUR GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION?
Few investors will want to put money into your business if you haven't done sufficient "homework" to determine that you have a reasonable chance of success. If your business is based on existing economic or legal conditions that are subject to change in the near future, your risk is substantially increased. Even if your business has great potential, if the local economy is sluggish to the point that it can't support your venture, you need to be aware of this before moving ahead.
Once you have developed concrete answers to these and other pertinent questions, you can begin looking for financing. One of the first steps is to determine whether to raise funds through debt or equity. There are positive and negative aspects to each type of capital. The cost to your company of each type of funding is different, as is the way they are treated for income tax purposes. The interest on borrowed money is deductible by a business for income tax purposes, which reduces the effective cost to your company. Dividends that you might pay on the same investment in stock would not be tax deductible by your company. In selling stock there usually is no firm commitment by your company to pay the money back, but your stockholder will want and generally will have a legal right to have a voice in the management of your company.
When you have made the decision as to the type of financing you think is appropriate to fit your desires and needs, it is a good idea to consult with your accountant as to alternative types of debt or equity financing available.
Whether you determine that debt or equity financing is the best choice for your company, there are a number of alternative types of financing available. Depending upon the nature of your business, the financing may be a combination of debt and equity and may be tailored to fit the specific needs of your company.
In the summary below we only mention a few of the more conventional methods for a young company to obtain capital, though the possibilities are many. Your accountant can discuss these and other alternatives in greater detail.
DEBT FINANCING SOURCES
The first source of funds that typically comes to mind when borrowing money is a bank; that is why they are in business. Banks typically lend to small businesses on a secured basis using equipment, inventory or accounts receivable. The more liquid and readily saleable the assets you have to offer as security, the more acceptable they are likely to be to a banker.
Loans from a bank may take several forms such as:
(a) A line of credit which is renewed annually and allows you to borrow up to a predetermined maximum as you need it and pay it back as funds from sales and receivables are collected.
(b) A short-term demand note which is payable in full on a specified date.
(c) A term loan for the purchase of a specific asset such as a computer or a machine.
As your relationship with your banker becomes better and your business becomes established, you may consider a long-term (three to five years) loan which will be payable in monthly instalments.
In today's business environment it is quite common to acquire equipment through lease agreements. Leasing packages come in a variety of types through many sources. Leasing companies typically will accept a somewhat higher degree of credit risk because they are looking to the value of the equipment for collateral if your business cannot make the agreed upon payments. For this reason, leasing companies generally prefer to finance new equipment of a general purpose nature that can be resold, if necessary. Leases often run for a period of three to five years, and because of the risk that leasing companies are willing to take, they are somewhat more expensive than commercial bank loans.
A very important source of financing for your company may be from the vendors and suppliers with whom you do business. Many suppliers will originally ask for cash on delivery or in some instances they want payment before starting on your order, depending on the nature of your purchase. Most sup-pliers will quickly establish trade credit with you once you have gained their confidence by continuing to do business with them and paying as requested. Establishing good relationships with trade creditors is essential because it allows you to use the goods and services in your operations and to sell your product to your customers, in some instances, before you pay for them. The trade credit you build today will be relied upon by other vendors, as you attempt to establish yourself with other vendors in the future. Trade credit terms will vary depending on the type of purchase you make, the industry you are buying from and the industry you are in.
EQUITY FINANCING SOURCES
Equity financing usually means selling a portion of your business. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including the sales of common or preferred stock, or stock warrants. Equity sales are usually carefully tailored to meet the needs of both the company and the investor.
VENTURE CAPITAL COMPANIES
A venture capital company or fund is typically a company that is in the business of taking risks. A venture capital fund is often backed by a group of investors that may be individuals or corporations. The investors are often represented by a management group, which evaluates potential investments and manages the existing investment portfolio.
The price of venture capital financing is usually very high when compared to borrowing money from a bank, but it must be remembered that venture capitalists are dealing with much higher risk situations than commercial banks will finance. This cost of venture capital is measured in terms of the portion of your company you must sell to obtain the level of financing you require. A venture capital firm some-times requires a 300% to 500% return on its investment over a four to five year investment period. While this may seem like an enormously high return, a venture capitalist is in the risk business and the return on a good investment must help offset those companies that do not meet their projections or fail all together. To determine the price of such financing, a venture capitalist will start with the amount of financing you require and calculate what they must receive at the time their investment will be sold to allow them to achieve the rate of return they deem necessary.
Based upon the operating projections you provide, discounted based on their experience, they will estimate what your company might be worth at the time their investment will be liquidated. This might be at the point of a public offering or a sale to a corporate investor. The last step for a venture capital company in determining pricing is to calculate what percentage of the company they must own to realize the return they desire. At this point, the "horse trading" generally begins. As a general rule, you will want to retain as much of the ownership of the company as you can. The venture capitalist wants enough ownership to achieve their investment goals and have some control over how their money is spent. This will often be achieved by voting power and representation on the Board of Directors. At the same time, a venture capitalist wants to be sure there is sufficient reward in the company for you and your management team to be motivated and achieve the projections in your business plan.
A venture capital company is often managed by an individual or group of individuals with a strong back-ground in business and management. They can often provide depth of experience and management assistance in areas where your management team may be weak. A venture capital group can very often provide contacts and valuable introductions in your industry. Remember a venture capital investor becomes a member of your team.
Very often, individuals who are successful in their own right and have accumulated substantial wealth may be looked to for investment in your business venture. Such individuals may believe that the success of your business may enhance theirs as well as help increase their personal wealth. These individuals, like a venture capital company, very often want to participate in the management activities of your firm and help guide your progress through representation on the Board of Directors. The business acumen and contacts of these individuals can often be a valuable asset of your business. An individual investor can often react to opportunity much more quickly than a venture capital firm and typically has only their own interests to serve as opposed to a financial backer or group of limited partners.
Individual investors can be more flexible in the type of investment structure they can deal with and often have personal, financial, and tax motivations to consider.
ALTERNATIVE FINANCING RESOURCES
Here are a list of helpful links to guide you towards alternative financing sources. From Angel investors, to accelerators, incubators, and grants, there are lots of different options when it comes to financing.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.