Situation: A company has a significant monthly payroll, and business is growing. Accounts payable collections are 90-120 days. Their challenge is to finance the gap. They have tried, but can’t get their bank to provide financing. An SBA loan will help. How do you manage cash flow gaps?
Advice from the CEOs:
Look for private non-bank financing.
Your AR is safe, low risk, and from reputable companies.
Non-bank financing offers better rates than banks, with access to cash from the lender on reasonable notice.
Investigate Lendingclub.com. They offer business loans up to $300K at 5.9%. Lendingclub.com operates by spreading the risk over thousands of investors.
Talk to lots of banks – not just those with whom who’ve worked in the past. Given your cash flow needs and good credit history, if you offer to shift all of your business to another bank you may get a more positive response. Once you have talked to other banks, let your current bank know your plans. They may become more responsive.
Change your service policy so that you give your best service to customers who pay you fastest. Once the purchasers at companies with whom you work learn about this, they will pressure their AP people to speed their payments to you.
Put more focus more on services which pay up front.
Going forward switch as much business as possible to ACH payments.
Offer customers early pay discounts – 1% net 10 or ½ of the Lendingclub.com rate to your biggest clients.
Befriend lower level employees in client companies. Particularly those with whom you have regular business contact.
They can tell you how to get to the top of the AP pile.
Let them teach you their company’s practices.
Plan finances going forward so that you can finance the gap yourself.
Situation: A company anticipates closing a Round 3 financing this year. The CEO has an idea of the range of management team ownership that is likely at this round. He seeks advice from others with experience. What can the team do to assure that their ownership is at the upper end of the range? How much should management own post-financing?
Advice from the CEOs:
The numbers change depending upon both company valuation and the funding environment. Currently, Silicon Valley venture capital firms are becoming more cautious and risk averse. This is because many companies that have received financing over the last 2-3 years have underperformed. Many have yet to even produce and release a product. In this environment, the chances for maintaining a larger share of ownership for management are not as good as in headier times.
Seek two outside counsel to generate two independent opinions on a fair management option pool, and to assist in negotiations. These will likely be boutique firms.
Approach the situation as an executive option pool objective. Determine what needs to be in place to attract new executives, as well as to replace existing executives should they leave or be unable to serve.
When discussing this with your board and investors, phrase the challenge in win-win terms. The objective is to lock-in key personnel and assure that key positions will be filled to meet company objectives. This is the best way to assure future financial success.
Key members of the executive team may want to seek independent advice, apart from the company or executive team.
Situation: An early stage web Company is looking at steep ramp up expenses. Many companies have bootstrapped their way to success. However outside investment may speed the process. How have other CEOs evaluated these two options?
Advice from the CEOs:
Raising money takes time and is a major distraction to your development process. The two big variables will be investor interest and timing of investment.
Talk to Angels and VCs now. Start by presenting a broad outline of your technology and business model. Ask what they will want to see to offer you funding at different levels.
This will give you a reality check as to investor interest in funding you, and creates a roadmap to funding if the response is positive.
What are you seeking? Money or accountability? One CEO bootstrapped the company early, then looked for outside investment to gain accountability and advice – a whip to help move things along.
This CEO found that investors brought few of the anticipated assets, and added a new level of distraction and pain.
If you are looking for funding to purchase content to serve through your portal, consider a more creative way to gain content.
Can you use a Web 2.0 portal through which your target audience provides both the content and the consumer audience in a marketplace exchange? Establish the audience and add premium services to monetize the model.
This can minimize your upfront cash investment requirements, and may create a faster track to positive cash flow.
Note: OOM = Our Own Money; OPM = Other Peoples’ Money