Working Capital Business Financing Sources

Working Capital business financing is never a question of why – it’s just simply a matter of when! Working capital and cash flow are of course the heart of every business. The challenges of obtaining that financing become a question of time.

Perhaps you need cash for for your regular ongoing business cycle – that’s the simple one – you buy inventory, your produce things, you sell, bill and collect. In a perfect world your suppliers give you unlimited time to pay, and unlimited credit limits. And of course your customers pay you in exactly 30 days. Guess what? It’s not a perfect world!

If you are a traditionally financed firm you have access to bank capital for revolving credit lines based on your business needs. But for a growing number of Canadian firms that access to traditional bank capital is not available. Those scenarios require a special expertise in identifying sources of business financing that work for you. The solutions actually are quite numerous – its becomes a questions of which solution works for your firm, what are the costs involved, and does the solution fit within your business model.

The business financing we are talking about can take many different forms – it might include an asset based line of credit, inventory financing or purchase order financing, a sale leaseback on unencumbered assets,, working capital term loans, or accounts receivable financing, otherwise known as factoring.

One of the most important things you can do for business financing is to ensure that the type of financing you source matches your needs. What we mean by that is that you should match short term needs with short term financing. Factoring might be a good example. If your receivables aren’t financed, and you need cash to meet inventory and supplier commitments that type of financing is immediate and addresses your needs. Why would you enter into a five year term loan at fixed payments for a short term capital need or requirement?

The best way to think of short term financing is to focus on the current assets part of your balance sheet – those items include inventory and accounts receivable typically. Those assets can quickly be monetized into a working capital facility that comes in a variety methods. The reality is that your inventory and accounts receivable grow lock step to your sales and your ability to finance them on an ongoing basis will give you access to, in essence, unlimited working capital.

There are some solid technical rules of them around how you can generate positive pricing for operating facilities. By calculating and analyzing some basic financial ratios (we call them relationships) in your financial statements you can get a strong sense of whats available in working capital business financing and what pricing might be involved. Those ratios are your current ratio, your inventory turns, your receivables turns or days sales outstanding, a, and your overall debt to worth ratio. Depending on where those final ratio calculations come in will ultimately allow your working capital financier to put your firm in a low risk, medium risk, or high risk band of pricing?

In Canada working capital rates range from 8-9% per annum to 1-2% per month, depending on what assets are financed and how they are financed.

So whats our bottom line in working capital business financing? It is simply there are alternatives available and you as a business owner of financial manager can assess those alternatives in terms of short term needs or long term needs. Pricing and solutions vary, and your ability to convey the positive aspects of your business to the working capital lender will ultimately lead to a final pricing and solution. Speak to a credible, experienced and trusted working capital business financing advisor to determine what solutions are the best for your firm.

Financing Cash Flow Peaks And Valleys

For many businesses, financing cash flow for their business can be like riding a continuous roller coaster.

Sales are up, then they do down. Margins are good, then they flatten out. Cash flow can swing back and forth like an EKG graph of a heart attack.

So how do you go about financing cash flow for these types of businesses?

First, you need to accurately know and manage your monthly fixed costs. Regardless of what happens during the year, you need to be on top of what amount of funds will be required to cover off the recurring and scheduled operating costs that will occur whether you make a sale or not. Doing this monthly for a full twelve month cycle provides a basis for cash flow decision making.

Second, from where you are at right now, determine the amount of funds available in cash, owners outside capital that could be invested in the business, and other outside sources currently in place.

Third, project out your cash flow so that fixed costs, existing accounts payable and accounts receivable are realistically entered into the future weeks and months. If cash is always tight, make sure you do your cash flow on a weekly basis. There is too much variability over the course of a single month to project out only on a monthly basis.

Now you have a basis to assess financing your cash flow.

Financing cash flow is always going to be somewhat unique to each business due to industry, sector, business model, stage of business, business size, owner resources, and so on.

Each business must self assess its sources of financing cash flow, including but not limited to owner investment, trade or payable financing, government remittances, receivable discounts for early payment, deposits on sale, third party financing (line of credit, term loan, factoring, purchase order financing, inventory financing, asset based lending, or whatever else is relevant to you).

Ok, so now you have a cash flow bearing and a thorough understanding of your options available for financing cash flow in your specific business model.

Now what?

Now you are in a position to entertain future sales opportunities that fit into your cash flow.

Three points to clarify before we go further.

First, financing is not strictly about getting a loan from someone when your cash flow needs more money. Its a process of keeping your cash flow continuously positive at the lowest possible cost.

Second, you should only market and sell what you can cash flow. Marketers will measure the ROI of a marketing initiative. But if you can’t cash flow the business to complete the sale and collect the proceeds, there is no ROI to measure. If you have a business with fluctuating sales and margins, you can only enter into transactions that you can finance.

Third, marketing needs to focus on customers that you can sell to over and over again in order to maximize your marketing efforts and reduce the unpredictability of the annual sales cycle through regular repeat orders and sales.

Marketing works under the premise that if you are providing what the customer wants that the money side of the equation will take care of itself. In many businesses this indeed proves to be true. But in a business with fluctuating sales and margins, financing cash flow has to be another criteria built into sales and marketing activities.

Overtime, virtually any business has the potential to smooth out the peaks and valleys through a more robust marketing plan that better lines up with customer needs and the business’s financing limitations or parameters.

In addition to linking financing cash flow more closely to marketing and sales, the next most impactful action you can take is expanding your sources of financing.

Here are some potential strategies for expanding your sources for financing cash flow.

Strategy # 1: Develop strategic relationships with key suppliers that have the ability to extend greater financing in certain situations to take advantage of sales opportunities. This is accomplished with larger suppliers that 1) have the financial means to extend financing, 2) view you as a key customer and value your business, 3) have confidence in the business’s ability to forecast and manage cash flow.

Strategy # 2: Make sure where possible that your annual financial statements show a profit capable of servicing debt financing. Accountants may be good at saving you income tax dollars, but if they drive business profitability down to or close to zero through tax planning, they may also effectively destroying your ability to borrow money.

Strategy # 3: If possible, only transact with credit worthy customers. Credit worthy customers allow both the business and potential lenders to finance receivables which can increase the amount of external financing available to you.

Strategy # 4: Develop a liquidation pathway for your tangible assets. Equipment and inventory are easier to finance if lenders clearly understand how to liquidate the assets in the event of default. In some cases, businesses can get resale option agreements on certain equipment or inventory from prospective buyers assignable to a lender to be used as recourse against a lending facility for financing cash flow.

Strategy # 5: Joint venture a sales opportunity with another business to share the risk of a large sales opportunity that may be too risky for you to take on yourself.

Summary

The primary long term objective of a business with fluctuating cash flow and margins is to smooth out the peaks and valleys and create a scalable business with more of a predictable sales cycle.

This is best achieved with an approach that including the following steps.

Step #1. Micro Manage your fixed costs and cash flow and accurately project out the cash flow requirements of the business on a weekly basis.

Step #2. Take a detailed inventory of all the sources you have for financing cash flow.

Step #3. Incorporate your financing constraints into your marketing approach.

Step #4. If possible, only transact with credit worthy customers to reduce risk and increase financing options.

Step #5. Work towards expanding both your financing sources and available source limits for financing cash flow.

Business cycle stability and cash flow predictability is an evolutionary step for every business. The industries with longer sales cycles will tend to be the more difficult to tame due to a larger number of variables to manage.

Understanding The Basic Finance Options

When it comes to getting your finances in order, it is a good idea to understand a little about all the tools that you have at your disposal. Here are a few reminders of the several different ways you can gather support and information to help you manage your finances.

No matter what our goals happen to be, most of us find ourselves in need of good sound finance advice from time to time. We can find all sorts of qualified finance advisers around us. Our local bank is usually willing to help us understand the workings of saving and investing, and without charging anything for going over the basics. Many communities have non-profit organizations that help with preparing budgets and providing counseling when persons are in need of a few tips on breaking bad financial habits.

Counseling is also available to help you meet long term financial goals as well. As an example, if one of your goals is to finance college tuition for your children, a qualified counselor can help you set up a savings program that will allow you to set aside an equitable amount on a regular basis in some sort of interest bearing account. By using a finance calculator to layout your monthly budget, and make sure your budget is realistic, you can begin to make headway toward building that college fund.

Of course, it may be that you need some guidance in seeking a finance loans to purchase a home or start a business. You will want to speak with more than one finance lender, so that you can do some comparison shopping on finance rates, monthly repayment terms, and how much of your monthly payment will be applied to your principle. You also want to know if there are any penalties for paying off the loan early, or if there are any incentives that would make it worth your while to retire the debt earlier than planned.

Finance equity can also be a topic where you would want to seek some expert advice before making a move. Understanding just exactly how much equity you current have in your property can make all the difference in evaluating your overall financial health. This is especially true if you are considering the sale of a portion of your properties. Without a reasonable amount of equity accrued, you may find it advantageous to hold on to the properties for a little while longer.

If you want to learn to handle more of your finances on your own, there are probably several avenues in your community where you can take a finance course or two. Your local community college may have courses that can be taken in the evenings or on weekends. Credit associations often have short term courses that are geared toward particular areas of financial management. Check in the phone book and with your local chamber of commerce to find out what opportunities are coming up.

Record keeping is also important to your fiscal health. If you have a home computer, you can avail yourself of finance software. Some computers come with basic finance tracking packages already loaded into the hard drive. If you need something a little more robust, there are a number of different software programs on the market today. Often, you can download a trial version of any finance software you are interested in and see if the package will do everything you need it to do.

Sources of Business Finance

Sources of business finance can be studied under the following heads:

(1) Short Term Finance:

Short-term finance is needed to fulfill the current needs of business. The current needs may include payment of taxes, salaries or wages, repair expenses, payment to creditor etc. The need for short term finance arises because sales revenues and purchase payments are not perfectly same at all the time. Sometimes sales can be low as compared to purchases. Further sales may be on credit while purchases are on cash. So short term finance is needed to match these disequilibrium.

Sources of short term finance are as follows:

(i) Bank Overdraft: Bank overdraft is very widely used source of business finance. Under this client can draw certain sum of money over and above his original account balance. Thus it is easier for the businessman to meet short term unexpected expenses.

(ii) Bill Discounting: Bills of exchange can be discounted at the banks. This provides cash to the holder of the bill which can be used to finance immediate needs.

(iii) Advances from Customers: Advances are primarily demanded and received for the confirmation of orders However, these are also used as source of financing the operations necessary to execute the job order.

(iv) Installment Purchases: Purchasing on installment gives more time to make payments. The deferred payments are used as a source of financing small expenses which are to be paid immediately.

(v) Bill of Lading: Bill of lading and other export and import documents are used as a guarantee to take loan from banks and that loan amount can be used as finance for a short time period.

(vi) Financial Institutions: Different financial institutions also help businessmen to get out of financial difficulties by providing short-term loans. Certain co-operative societies can arrange short term financial assistance for businessmen.

(vii) Trade Credit: It is the usual practice of the businessmen to buy raw material, store and spares on credit. Such transactions result in increasing accounts payable of the business which are to be paid after a certain time period. Goods are sold on cash and payment is made after 30, 60, or 90 days. This allows some freedom to businessmen in meeting financial difficulties.

(2) Medium Term Finance:

This finance is required to meet the medium term (1-5 years) requirements of the business. Such finances are basically required for the balancing, modernization and replacement of machinery and plant. These are also needed for re-engineering of the organization. They aid the management in completing medium term capital projects within planned time. Following are the sources of medium term finance:

(i) Commercial Banks: Commercial banks are the major source of medium term finance. They provide loans for different time-period against appropriate securities. At the termination of terms the loan can be re-negotiated, if required.

(ii) Hire Purchase: Hire purchase means buying on installments. It allows the business house to have the required goods with payments to be made in future in agreed installment. Needless to say that some interest is always charged on outstanding amount.

(iii) Financial Institutions: Several financial institutions such as SME Bank, Industrial Development Bank, etc., also provide medium and long-term finances. Besides providing finance they also provide technical and managerial assistance on different matters.

(iv) Debentures and TFCs: Debentures and TFCs (Terms Finance Certificates) are also used as a source of medium term finances. Debentures is an acknowledgement of loan from the company. It can be of any duration as agreed among the parties. The debenture holder enjoys return at a fixed rate of interest. Under Islamic mode of financing debentures has been replaced by TFCs.

(v) Insurance Companies: Insurance companies have a large pool of funds contributed by their policy holders. Insurance companies grant loans and make investments out of this pool. Such loans are the source of medium term financing for various businesses.

(3) Long Term Finance:

Long term finances are those that are required on permanent basis or for more than five years tenure. They are basically desired to meet structural changes in business or for heavy modernization expenses. These are also needed to initiate a new business plan or for a long term developmental projects. Following are its sources:

(i) Equity Shares: This method is most widely used all over the world to raise long term finance. Equity shares are subscribed by public to generate the capital base of a large scale business. The equity share holders shares the profit and loss of the business. This method is safe and secured, in a sense that amount once received is only paid back at the time of wounding up of the company.

(ii) Retained Earnings: Retained earnings are the reserves which are generated from the excess profits. In times of need they can be used to finance the business project. This is also called ploughing back of profits.

(iii) Leasing: Leasing is also a source of long term finance. With the help of leasing, new equipment can be acquired without any heavy outflow of cash.

(iv) Financial Institutions: Different financial institutions such as former PICIC also provide long term loans to business houses.

(v) Debentures: Debentures and Participation Term Certificates are also used as a source of long term financing.

Conclusion:

These are various sources of finance. In fact there is no hard and fast rule to differentiate among short and medium term sources or medium and long term sources. A source for example commercial bank can provide both a short term or a long term loan according to the needs of client. However, all these sources are frequently used in the modern business world for raising finances.

The Advantages of Buying With Owner Financing

Also known as seller financing, owner financing is growing in popularity in today’s economy. With the credit markets slowing down and people finding it harder and harder to borrow, owner financing is looking better and better as an alternative to traditional financing. Owner financing is when the seller of the property basically agrees to take payments rather than a lump sum. Here are a few things that need to happen in order for the owner to be able to finance your deal:

1. The owner needs to have considerable equity in the property. The owner will usually have their own mortgage they will need to pay back in full when they sell the property to you. If they don’t have a whole lot of equity, they usually can’t offer to finance a whole lot of the deal. The best scenario is an older owner that is close to retirement. Odds are that they have a good amount of equity or even own the property free and clear. They are looking to retire and just want a steady cash flow rather than a lump sum when they sell the place.

2. The owner should have a desire to accept owner financing. If the seller wants to roll the funds over into another property or needs the lump sum of cash for one reason or another, they probably won’t want to take on very much seller financing.

3. The terms need to be right for both parties. The interest rate, duration and repayment structure need to be acceptable for both parties. This usually requires a good deal of negotiation.

If you have all your ducks in a row and seller financing seems like it might be a possibility, here are some of the benefits to consider if you are thinking about locking in owner financing:

1. You might not have to get traditional financing. This depends on how much the owner is willing to finance. If they are willing to finance just a little bit, this might help you lower your down payment or help you qualify for traditional financing, but won’t completely eliminate traditional financing unless you pay the remaining amount due as a down payment.

2. You could get more flexible terms than you would on a standard mortgage. You have the power of negotiating so that both the buyer and the seller walk away with a fair deal. You typically can’t do this with a traditional bank.

3. The seller is still somewhat on the hook for the property. You know that you aren’t getting totally ripped off, because the seller still hasn’t received all their money. There is a possibility that you could pay a little bit of a premium for the deal. If they end up totally screwing you, and the property completely falls apart in a few years and you let it fall into foreclosure, the seller only stands to get the property back. The seller isn’t going to want to lend to you using a bum property as collateral.

If owner financing seems like it would work for you, there is no reason to start looking for properties for sale with owner financing. Even if a property isn’t advertised as offering owner financing, you may be able to talk with any seller and see if they are willing to negotiate on terms.

In House Financing Programs Making A Comeback

In House Financing is making a comeback in the Canadian market. When I first entered the car business in 1995 there were very few options for people who had credit issues such as bankruptcy, written off accounts, judgements or collections to be able to obtain financing for a reliable vehicle. I was lucky enough to work for a dealership that had an in house leasing company and we were able to sell cars to these people before the sub prime lenders came on the scene.

Over the past several years there have been many companies come into the Canadian automotive financing market to fill the need for most of these customers. They are relatively large national and international financing companies. They have signed the majority of the dealerships across the country to refer business to them. In 2005 there were no fewer than 7 such companies doing business all across the country with many others doing business in certain markets in the country. At the time of writing this article in 2010 there are only 4 remaining and they have tightened up on their lending practices because there is less competition in the marketplace. Of note the 3 sub prime lenders that were doing business all across Canada that are no longer in the marketplace were international lenders with 2 or the 3 based in the United States. When the financial crisis occurred in America we lost them due to their parent companies consolidating their operations into the United States.

It has been this tightening up of lending practices that is beginning to make a need for In House Financing at the dealership level once again. Today there are more and more clients who have credit problems and are in need of special financing solutions as they no longer qualify for financing from the mainstream sub prime lenders.

Many car dealerships are growing tired and frustrated at spending a lot of time and money in advertising to get customers into their dealerships to sell them a car just to have the lenders turn their customer down. It has been this frustration that has led many of them to take another look at an old concept and begin financing these customers themselves. So slowly but surely there are In House Financing, In House Leasing and Buy Here Pay Here programs starting to pop up all across the country to service this new marketplace.

There is very little difference in the various financing programs from a consumer point of view. They all work basically the same way. You have to give them a down payment that the dealers require to offset the risk they are taking in financing these type of high risk clients. Most of the down payments range between $500 – $2000 and are either used as money down on the loan in the case of In House Finance and Buy Here Pay Here programs. The out of pocket money is used as a security deposit and first payment in most In House Leasing programs. The security deposit can be used to buy out the lease at the end of the term without having to come up with any money out of your pocket at that time. No matter what the money you give the dealership is called, by the end of the term it is used to pay down on your vehicle.

The other major difference in these programs is how the vehicle is registered by the Registry of Motor Vehicles in your province. With the In House Financing programs the vehicle is registered in your name on the registration and a chattel mortgage is placed on the vehicle at the Registry of Deeds in your province. The chatel mortgage make it possible to repossess your vehicle if you default on the loan the same way a bank or finance company can. With the In House Leasing programs the vehicle is registered in the name of the leasing company with you being registered as the plate owner of the vehicle. The Buy Here Pay Here programs are usually run by a smaller dealership and they sometimes register a chalet mortgage the same as the In House Financing Programs but often they get the customer to register the vehicle in their name and then return to the dealership with the ownership paper and sign it over to the dealership. This way if the customer defaults on the loan the dealer simply registers the vehicle back into their name and repossess it from the customer. At the end of the day it really doesn’t matter which program you choose to use if you don’t make the payments they will repossess your car but if you make your payments you will not have any problems. Remember all of these dealerships are interested in you keeping your vehicle. They are usually understanding if you are going to be a couple days late with your payment as long as you let them know beforehand and make arrangements to get caught up right away.

These dealers live in the areas they work in and are usually very helpful and are willing to work with you. Most of these dealerships require that you place full coverage insurance on your vehicle but some of the smaller Buy Here Pay Here dealers will allow you to just have basic car insurance because the vehicles they sell are usually fairly inexpensive and full coverage insurance just doesn’t make sense.

The hardest thing about financing a vehicle through these dealers is usually finding them. With so many dealerships advertising Guaranteed Auto Approvals, Bad Credit – No Credit Car Financing and the like but most of them do not have any options for you if you are declined by the national finance companies. You end up spinning your wheels looking for a dealer who will work with you causing you to either give up or get frustrated and buy a cheap car privately with whatever money you can come up with.

To try to fill this problem with finding these dealerships there is a new website launching called [http://www.inhousefinancing.ca]. Its sole purpose is to connect people who need special in house financing options with dealerships in your area that provide in house financing. The majority of the dealerships on the website will have their own in house financing companies with some of the dealerships having the Go Plan program. The Go Plan is a special financing program through Carfinco is a national financing program that is very close to an in house program.

A word of caution about these programs. Remember that these programs are designed to help you re establish your credit and get you into a reliable vehicle at a reasonable payment. It would be extremely rare that one of these companies will finance a 2009 Chevy Silverado Diesel or 2010 Ford Mustang GT to you because their programs just are not designed for that. But if you are serious about buying a vehicle and re establishing your credit they are a good option for you.

Manufacturing Equipment Financing

Generally all manufacturing companies require some equipment for the smooth running of their processes. They may need to replace any outdated equipment or to buy new equipment at any point of time. Investing in equipment is therefore important for any manufacturing concern. In fact, investing in new manufacturing equipment to produce goods can increase the flow of revenue. Since the cost of such equipments is high, the need for manufacturing equipment financing arises.

Since various manufacturing companies produce different types of commodities, the manufacturing equipment financing options would vary accordingly. You can seek financial help of any of the reliable financing companies in order to acquire new manufacturing equipment that stretch the cash revenues.

Machine tool financing is one of the types of manufacturing equipment financing that is required for any machine shops or iron shops. Lathe machine, drilling machine, routers, roll forming, milling, punch press etc are some of the machine tools indispensable for the machine or iron shops. Computer control machine tools are the advancements in this field. However they are expensive and so seeking the financial assistance of any legitimate financing company are important to acquire such equipment.

Woodworking equipment financing is often desirable to acquire exceptional woodworking equipment. Panel saw machines, belt sander, door frame machine, wood shaper machine etc are some of the unique equipments used in this field. Since these equipments are special in nature, many financing companies may not be willing to provide help. These equipments are not only special but are also expensive. Hence manufacturing equipment financing is a must. There are few valid financing companies that offer financial assistance to buy these types of equipment.

Stone and glass cutting and fabrication equipment are really unique in nature. For instance, diamond cutting equipment can be used for that purpose only. This specialized nature of these types of equipments may raise complexity in getting financial help from the financial institutions. Yet there are some genuine financing companies that offer manufacturing equipment financing help to acquire stone and glass cutting and fabrication equipment. They also provide various options like edge polishing equipment financing, sandblasting equipment financing, glass cutting equipment financing and so on.

Rubber and plastic equipments are required by some manufacturing companies. Recycling equipment, rubber molding machine, thermoforming machine, rubber vulcanization machine, plastic molding machine etc are special in nature and so traditional finance lending institutions may not be ready to provide financial assistance. Hence a reliable financing company which is expert in dealing with manufacturing equipment is vitally important.

Embroidery equipments have undergone various advancements and so acquiring the computer control equipment is important for the companies that engage in embroidery making. Some financing companies offer manufacturing equipment financing help to acquire the embroidery equipment.

Benefits of Financing Your Business Equipment

The advantages of financing are greater than ever. Any business or organization can benefit from these advantages which include reduced costs, simplified budgeting, credit preservation and flexibility. When it is time for your business to make a financing decision, equipment financing allows you to take full advantage of business opportunities while enjoying critical flexibility and investment protection.

More for Your Money

Many businesses struggle with the need to grow while feeling constrained by a lack of capital. What so many business owners don’t know is that equipment financing can increase your buying power and decrease your expenses. When you finance rather than use working capital, you can afford a more complete solution while making lower monthly payments and paying little or no up-front costs. This leaves your working capital intact while allowing for the needed growth.

The larger the business acquisition, the greater the benefits of financing. For large-scale projects financing can mean the difference between making those changes now and putting them off indefinitely. Putting off necessary changes often means taking your business out of a competitive market position – a position that can be difficult to regain.

Critical Business Advantage

As the business landscape changes on a daily basis, it can be imperative for your own business to adapt and grow to match the market. This is especially true for software and services that are vital but can have large up-front costs. Unfortunately, there are many companies that lack – or think that they lack – the resources required to purchase all of the equipment needed to keep their businesses productive.

Financing can expedite this business transformation by letting you add necessary service capacity, reduce the risk of your technology becoming obsolete and can decrease the total cost of ownership. Equipment financing can provide flexible payment options tailored to your specific budget requirements or timed to match your benefit streams, enabling your company to afford all of the components necessary to maintain a competitive business edge.

Speeding Up Your Business

Other obstacles to keeping businesses moving ahead at an effective pace can include budget constraints and the lack of capital. But emerging markets and those ever present competitors won’t wait for you to catch up. Financing those business purchases means that a lack of capital doesn’t have to cripple your business endeavors.

Equipment financing enables companies to quickly adapt to changing competitive environments, and any business strategy should include access to flexible and competitive financing options. Take some time to research equipment financing companies. The good financing programs offer customers competitive, flexible financing solutions for acquiring hardware, software and any other equipment that your business might need.

Competitive Advantage

It is a simple fact that business solutions are becoming obsolete faster than ever. A customer-focused equipment financing program provides flexible, cost-effective solutions that can help you acquire the technological components that you need to migrate to new business models and to maintain your competitive edge including software applications. This benefit can help ensure that your business never faces the specter of business obsolescence.

You should consider taking advantage of the flexibility that financing offers if your business is in the market for new equipment. This flexibility can help you stay ahead of the technology curve, and ahead of the competition.

A Hedge Against Inflation

With an economy that may seem less than stable, it is important that businesses, especially newer businesses, take advantage of every opportunity that gives them protection against tough economic times. Postponing growth is not necessarily the best way to protect your business as it can result in a loss of customers if you can’t offer them the services that they need or want.

When growth becomes a necessity, equipment financing can allow you to grow the way that you need without making your financial base less stable. The right equipment financing program not only gives you the access to capital that you need for growth but it could also lock in the rates for the loan. This means that you won’t have to worry about your rates falling victim to inflation… ever!

Don’t Fear Financing

The business world can be cutthroat. That’s no secret. So in the quest to keep your own business competitive or to grab a bigger share of the market, don’t let the lack of capital inhibit your plans. It would be nice if we could all expand using only the capital at hand, but that is simply not realistic. Equipment financing can be a very valuable tool and one that offers many benefits. It should not be feared. There are plenty of financing programs available that offer flexible and tailored terms to fit your needs. Do your homework and you will find a lender that will work with you rather than against you. In the long run, that financing could be the most valuable weapon in your business arsenal.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.

Careers in Finance – An Overview

Finance is a very broad subject. Speaking in terms of employment doesn’t narrow the term much. There are a wide variety of careers and job positions available in the Finance field. Education requirements and salary expectations depend on the area of interest, as well as the geographical position.

Several careers opportunities are available in Finance. Banking is probably the more common position that comes to mind. Commercial Banking, Corporate Finance, Financial Planning, Insurance, Investment Banking, Money Management, and Careers in Real Estate are all related to the field of Finance. Studies done recently have shown that the need for people in the Finance field is growing. Incidentally, as long as there is money involved, there is a need for finance. Some characteristics of Finance professionals include; Strategic thinking, and the ability to comprehend complicated matters fairly quickly, a new, fresh perspective, and candor. If you are interested in a career in finance, you should also possess some leadership qualities, have a firm understanding of risk management, and have strong analytical and problem solving skills.

Keeping in mind that Finance is a global industry, a second or even third language would be a very helpful skill in this field. Education requirements vary, depending on the career path that you have chosen. An Associates Degree would be beneficial for a few minor career choices, but most companies require at least a Bachelor’s Degree for jobs such as accounting, investment banking, commercial banking, and so forth. You can opt to pursue your Master’s Degree, and expect to earn a much higher annual income. Income ranges with a Bachelor’s Degree start around $25,000 per year and top out at over $40,000. Starting salaries with a Master’s range from $30,000 to $80,000 annually. Incidentally, if you choose a Bachelor’s degree, your starting title would probably be “Junior Financial Analyst”, as with a Master’s it would be “Financial Analyst”. So, besides the annual income being higher, with a Master’s Degree, you can expect to have more responsibility and a much higher “clout” with companies than if you simply pursue a Bachelor’s Degree.

Whatever degree you decide to obtain, there will be specific courses of study that you must take. Actual course titles will, of course, vary by institution, but an example of your required courses would be: Developing Business Perspective, Management and Leadership, Fundamentals of Business, Marketing and Sales, Human Resource Management, Organization and Communication, Finance and Accounting, Financial Markets and Institutions, Investment and Portfolio Management, Business Ethics, Public and Nonprofit Finance, and Risk Management. Keep in mind that these courses are not the only ones that you will be required to take, depending on your choice of degree, and the institution that you attend.

The Government Finance Officers Association has information, news, and helpful links to help you whether you are in the Finance industry, or just thinking of entering finance. You can find lists of companies that are hiring, as well as their salary requirements and educational requirements. There are also links to local training events, as well as general news that affects the finance industry in the United States and Canada.

A look at some current job openings in the finance field, shows that the need for financial advisors is very much in demand. In California, an Assistant Chief Fiscal Officer, for a county government office, with only 1 year of experience, has a salary range of $81,765 to $99,424 annually. There are many opportunities in the government, if you have a finance degree, and you can expect the salary to be very competitive. Other, non-government companies, such as AIG, American Express, and local banks are a good place to get your start in the finance world. Also, private firms such as Deloitte & Touche Corporate Finance Canada, Inc., Chapman and Cutler, and William Blair & Company, all which serve the US and Canada, and other private firms hire periodically for new positions, and offer competitive salaries.

If you are inclined to seek your career in the finance industry, research companies well to find the best one for you. Educationally speaking, most colleges and institutions offer a wide range of courses, depending on the focal point of your finance choice. You would need to delve into the path of finance that you are planning to pursue, and with a little research and a good head for business, you could well be on your way to a very lucrative career in the ever-growing Finance World.