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Thriving in the New World Strategist

Thriving in a New World Strategist

In the introduction to our CFO Contribution Series, Thriving In the New World Strategist, we suggested that most business owners may not be well served by high-level, third party driven, divergent strategic exercises. Certainly, there is significant value in undertaking far reaching, blue sky thinking. Most small to medium size organizations will be better served by incorporating their own foresight into targeted, most probable future scenarios developed by highly engaged participants directly linked to the success of the business.

There can be no doubt the Covid 19 pandemic has led to unprecedented change for most businesses. Revenue levels have plunged for some firms while others are experiencing unexpected increases in new customers and unforecasted demand levels. Supply Chains have been disrupted. Optimizing employee productivity and satisfaction have become more art than science. Short-term cash availability and long term capital requirements are highly uncertain. Even the most confident experts are reluctant to make a call on the economic climate we are likely to experience a year from now or even six months from now.

Success in this uncharted New World requires business owners to make effective decisions to address today’s challenges and to establish a strong market position in an uncertain future. We call this Future Proofing your business. The path forward will be unique for every enterprise. For most businesses, the contribution of an integrated senior financial leader can be a major factor in making the best decisions for steering the business towards a successful future.

Owner operators will particularly benefit by injecting their full time or part time CFO into idea

generation and implementation planning to future proof their business using the following four-step process.

Developing Most Probable Future Scenarios

The insight of the CEO along with sales and market-oriented management will understandably be

essential to develop and select three or four most likely market scenarios. Important dimensions for assessing your business’ future would include revenue outlook, new revenue sources, changes in access to customers or preferences of customers, competitive forces, regulatory factors and assessment of staff effectiveness. Identifying these factors specific to your business and your industry should be considered in conjunction with the team’s projections of potential future operating environments.

Involving a holistic professional with the ability to stretch the team’s future thinking to include the full spectrum of potential obstacles often leads to more robust, more complete future scenarios. Team members should expect the organization’s financial leader to embrace the uncertainties inherent in guessing at potential futures while also expecting them to act as a catalyst to describe the leading scenarios with sufficient clarity to facilitate resiliency testing and implementation planning.

Leveraging Emerging Technology

The pace of change over the past five to ten years combined with the recent accelerated societal and economic changes linked to the pandemic forces all businesses to adapt and respond quicker and more intensively than ever before. Adapting and responding effectively requires timely and appropriate application of emerging technology solutions to uncover new connections to customers and to unlock methods to streamline and enhance business processes.

A few of the more pervasive and perhaps highest potential technology trends destined to shape the future are Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain Technology and Internet of Things. Finance leaders bring essential analytical skills, as well as opportunity and risk assessment expertise. These attributes will help the business select the most advantageous solutions and deploy these applications to deliver favourable returns.

Stress Testing Scenarios and Strategies

Once the business has collaboratively generated their high probability future scenarios and articulated corresponding strategies to maximize results; a critical need emerges for disciplined evaluation to ensure the selected paths forward can stand up to expected obstacles and deviations.

The CFO’s involvement in scenario testing is likely to be most accepted and welcomed by the business owner and the future proofing team. A New World CFO is one that passionately embraces uncertainties and optimism while maintaining their proven ability to rigorously apply a check and balance approach to the team’s chosen future scenarios and strategies.

Commitment to Highest Impact Initiatives

The hardest decision for many organizations undertaking future proofing activities during today’s tumultuous environment will be to commit the necessary financial and human resources to those chosen few initiatives expected to best position the business over the next six months to five years.

Creating the internal and external confidence to act now often hinges on the development of concise, compelling business cases to define the initiative, its costs and expected profits. The involvement of your financial leader in the entire future proofing process will significantly enhance the quality and effectiveness of these strategic business cases. In situations where the organization is seeking external financing or participation from partnering organizations; the voice of an informed, engaged, credible CFO will be a significant factor in securing the desired external support.

Business owners and their management teams have the responsibility to navigate the firm through today’s urgent challenges and opportunities. They also bear the greater responsibility to establish direction and take action to prepare the organization to succeed for many years ahead. A New World CFO welcomes this responsibility and possesses the knowledge and dedication needed to deliver results today and in the future. Discover more.

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STRATEGIC FUNDING – Where to find the capital your business needs – Part II

In part I of the strategic funding article, we discussed the following sources of funding:

  • Bank Operating Line of Credit
  • Loans
  • Invoice Discounting (Factoring)
  • Asset Financing

Theres are also another variety of funding available for businesses: the Alternative financing.

Alternative finance is a general term to describe a variety of financing options that sit next to traditional bank facilities and factoring and invoice discounting products.

The alternative finance market includes a wide variety of new financing models including peer to peer lending, crowdfunding and specialist finance providers offering products such as selective invoice finance and invoice trading platforms.

Specialist providers have greater flexibility than the traditional sources and can often offer a faster turnaround on the right deals. Crowdfunding, peer to peer lending and invoice trading platforms greatly depend on online platforms bringing many investors and borrowers together.

The section below looks at the main options for the different and emerging alternative financing options:

Selective Invoice Financing

Unlike traditional factoring companies, invoice financing or invoice discounting, selective invoice finance allows businesses to choose which invoices or debtors should be put forward for funding. The business owner can choose when and how much they wish to draw from the selected invoices. The provider agrees upon an ongoing facility for the business. On presentation of a valid invoice, money can be accessed from the facility as soon as the validity of the invoice has been confirmed. For each invoice, an agreed percentage of the value becomes available to draw – typically 70% to 85%.

Selective invoice finance is a great option if you’re looking for flexibility as the business is not tied to any contract and can dip in and out of the facility as needed. Business owners have direct control over costs and the opportunity to repay early if additional funds become available from elsewhere.

Additional security is often required to support the facility. This could include a charge over business assets and a personal guarantee from the directors or owners.

Invoice Trading Platforms

Invoice trading is a short-term finance option where the borrower signs up to an online platform and submits an invoice for sale.

The invoice trading platform will pre-vet the invoice, looking to ensure the debtor is credit worthy. If satisfied with the quality of the debt, full details of the invoice will be posted on the platform and a bidding process begins.

Potential lenders start a reverse auction so the keener they are, the lower the interest rate for the borrower. If there is insufficient appeal, the trade will fail. It is exclusively web based due to the administration efficiencies involved.

When the invoice becomes due the debtor pays directly to the platform but the business remains responsible for making sure the invoice is paid.

On repayment the platform deducts its own charges and repays the capital and interest to the individual lenders. A shortfall in the repayment will mean the business will be asked to make up the difference.

Some trading platforms have now started to take additional security in the form of a charge on the business and a personal guarantee from the directors and/or shareholders.

Peer To Peer Lending

Peer to peer (P2P) lending enables numerous small investors to loan money directly to a business and could be a good solution for longer term funding.

The length of the loan is agreed by all parties upfront and as per a normal commercial loan, the business will have to pay interest, typically quarterly. In order to attract lenders the proposition needs to demonstrate a strong likelihood of both the interest and capital being repaid on agreed terms.

Failure to meet the repayments may result in penalties such as a demand for immediate repayment or an increased rate of interest if the loan remains in default.

The platform provider acts as middleman between lender and borrower and will ultimately enforce whatever security has been taken on behalf of the individual lenders.

Provided a loan has been properly serviced and there is adequate security available, it is often possible to return to the P2P lender for a second or later round of borrowing but each new loan has to be separately posted to the platform and must justify why the new lending is required.

Security will need to be offered, normally in the form of a charge over company assets (a debenture) and a personal guarantee. Investor money is at risk if the loan is defaulted.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding involves a business plan being posted to a specialist website where sufficient small investors offer funding to generate the target amount required by the business.

Crowdfunding is a good option for businesses not wanting ongoing interest costs. However, on completion investors will own shares and have certain rights in the business. For example they may require input such as audited financial statements and will need to be kept informed of how revenue is progressing. No personal security is needed from the current owners.

There are two main types of crowdfunding and the expectations of investors vary according to which they are looking at:

  1. Special Interest Funding: Often used in the entertainment industry, for instance to pay a musician to produce a new album or to cover the production costs of a new show. In this case, the investor doesn’t necessarily expect a commercial return on the investment but will have some special rights, such as pre-release copies of a CD or discounted tickets to see a show.
  2. Trade Finance: Money is advanced to enable goods to be purchased (typically from abroad) before they are sold. The lenders security is the goods purchased so these must either be easily saleable or in response to a confirmed order. Generally available to established businesses with good credit. Minimum transaction values and margin on the contract will apply.

 

Supply Chain Finance

The funder takes control of the supply chain, generally making payments direct to the supplier. Security is taken over goods purchased. There is usually a high degree of involvement and control over the borrower’s business and other security is invariably required.

Private Equity Firms

Private equity firms provide medium to long-term capital in return for an equity stake in companies with high-growth potential.

The investors’ return is dependent on the growth and profitability of the business. As a result, most private equity investors will seek to work with you as a partner to grow the business.

It is most suitable for firms looking for longer term capital to fund their expansion activities.

IPO (Public Offering for Shares)

This is where your business is publicly listed and shares can be bought and traded by the public. Typically this is only used for larger businesses.

In Canada, the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) is the senior equity market, while the TSX Venture Exchange is a public venture capital marketplace for emerging companies. The Montreal Exchange or Bourse de Montréal (MX) is a derivative exchange that trades futures contracts and options.

 

CONCLUSION

Funding is often the catalyst for taking your business to the next level.

It’s your choice whether you want to take on an equity partner or raise debt to finance the growth of the business. When raising equity, if the right partner can be found, it can make a profound difference to your business. It may be that the investor provides not only funding but also adds significant value to your business in terms of experience, expertise, infrastructure, and channels to market. However, it does mean you will lose partial or complete control in running your business. Something that for many is not appropriate.

Raising debt can be complex and frustrating, and the increasing array of alternative funding doesn’t make that process any easier, but it does mean you keep control as your business grows. However, if you’re like most business owners, you simply want the funds and are less interested in the detail of how to get hold of them!

That’s fine if your company has a full-time chief financial officer (CFO) with substantial experience in raising funds: however, as an SME, you probably don’t have a full-time CFO, or if you have they probably don’t have a vast range of fund raising experience, whether it be raising debt or equity. So what can you do?

You can hire a very experienced part-time CFO to manage the entire process for you. He or she will manage everything from determining your immediate and long-term objectives to finding the right kind of funding partner for the business.

Discover the funding options now

To discover your funding options, book your free one-to-one call with one of our chief financial officers who are funding experts:

tel: 1-800-918-1906
email: [email protected]
www.thecfocentre.ca

 

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