If your company is either a startup or an entrepreneurial enterprise and you are seeking financing from individual accredited investors, remember this: Prospective investors (regardless of their level of sophistication) are interested in several things, and each one must be addressed in your presentation. The idea is not to simply boast with great confidence about your unique business model, intellectual property or disruptive technology – you must also devote adequate time in your presentation to discuss how a viable and interested investor:
*can make a substantial return on capital invested;
*recovers his or her initial capital contribution (through cash flows, exit strategies, etc.);
*is protected against any loss of principal.
You’ll do well to conduct yourself (and to tailor your pitch) as if you were an investment advisor and advocate for the prospective investor instead of as a mere promoter. Don’t just sell. Educate and reassure. You can appear quite confident – so long as you temper that confidence with some caution and in both your attitude and presentation. Remember: Be enthusiastic, but come across as conservative. Part of your responsibility is to comfort the prospective investor. http://GlobalEdgeInternational.com
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. There is, unarguably, an increasing disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. And, for the most part, the good folks residing on Main Street (situated somewhere between Lake Wobegon and Anytown, USA) are on the losing end of the misunderstanding, and will probably continue to remain so until a major disruption brought on by Peer-To-Peer lending and financing or crowdfunding takes place.
It seems that most everyone has something negative or nasty to say about investment bankers; sadly, I’ll confess to being conflicted in that both the critics and objects of their criticism are among my friends and acquaintances.
There’s a celebrated joke that’s made its way around business and financial circles over the years. It goes something like this:
An investment banker walks into a room where his colleagues are in a meeting. “I’ve got good news and bad news,” he announces. “The bad news is we’ve just lost $100 million. The good news is, it wasn’t ours.” An associate raises his hand. “What was the bad news again?”
It’s humor, but if you were alive during 2008 to 2009, you’ll know that there is more than a grain of truth to the tale. Whether we’re talking about brokers, bankers, or even your most trusted financial advisor, you are probably finding it increasingly uncomfortable to rely on anyone else to care about your money and keep it safe.
The primary forces which are driving prices ever-upward in the United States economy are entrenched flaws in the economic system, which I will endeavor to isolate, identify and describe in this brief “read it and weep” article. While the situation continues to worsen, economic policy steps and changes in consumer habits could go a long way to bringing prices for durable and non-durable goods and services back within the realm of affordability. Please read on:
Flaw 1: Too Much Consumer Credit Available:
While access to consumer credit does increase consumption and can indeed be economically stimulating, it also changes major consumer acquisition decisions regarding durable goods (cars, appliances, homes…) from being cost-sensitive to merely being debt/lease service affordable. If I can drive a $55,000.00 automobile for a reasonably affordable $350.00 per month, I will either lease or purchase the car on installments (regardless of the real “cash” price) without even stopping to think that a car of equal value would have only cost me $27,500.00 five years ago. We’ve become obsessed with monthly payments while becoming irresponsibly uninvolved with real costs, which continually rise in response to the availability of credit. Simply put: More credit availability leads to steeply increasing prices.
Flaw 2: Too Little Personal Saving
The average United States taxpayer saves less than 10% of his or her annual income due to cultural changes, the growing disparity between wages and household expenditures, and due to the irksome fact that an increasing percentage of what used to be disposable personal income is now going toward the servicing of consumer debt. This leads to increased borrowing, which brings us back to Flaw 1, above.
Flaw 3: Third-Party Reimbursement And Payment
Why should I decline a medical test (whether truly necessary or not) or any medical or healthcare protocol when my insurance company will pay for all or close to all of the cost? Medical costs (as well as healthcare insurance premiums) have risen astronomically because prices do not reflect the ability of individuals to pay, but instead, reflect the willingness of third party payers (i.e., insurance companies) to foot the bill. This third-party payment addiction (just like debt addiction) takes the focus off of the real cost and necessity per procedure, treatment or medication, and replaces it with a focus on “how much does my insurance premium cost and how good is my plan coverage?”.
Flaw 4: Too Many Monopolies Or Protected Territories
Without mentioning the names “Comcast” or “Xfinity” (two monikers for one of the least-beloved and most hated companies by users/consumers), government-permitted or inadequately-regulated trusts or constructive monopolies make competition all but impossible for new market entrants to offer better, cheaper alternatives to those offered by the Goliaths which dominate the cable/telephone/ISP service sphere, as well as the consumer spheres for most major utilities – all of which are necessary for ‘normal’ living. Impediments to fair and open markets invariably lead to lower quality and higher prices to consumers.
Flaw 5: The Notion Of “Too Big To Fail” And Resultant Bailouts And Subsidies
When governments selectively elect to print more money, allocate more of public funds or increase taxes in order to subsidize the inefficiency and provide cover for the mistakes and misdeeds of large institutions (under whatever guise that this is done), it activates cost-push inflation as these subsidies and bailouts are paid for by consumers and taxpayers. What is worse, is that these colossal corporate wastrels are all but encouraged to continue behaving poorly as there is absolutely no incentive (either negative or positive) for them to mend their wicked ways. These beached whales (with extensive ties to government policy and largesse) will always be pushed back into the ocean by the governmental administration. Consumers get poorer while the corporate elite continue to receive paychecks and bonuses in ever-increasing, stratospheric amounts. Unconscionable? Yes, indeed!
Flaw 6: Premeditated Obsolescence
The adoption of new technologies is a natural outgrowth of scientific advancement and market demand, and that’s perfectly fine; but when you buy a generational model of something that you use (either a product or a service), such as an iPhone 5 – just to cite one example – and the company which manufactures or provides the product or service stops supplying peripheral support for your version and all but forces you to buy the newer, more expensive version, prices are driven up as unwitting or unwilling consumer hostages line up to trade in the increasingly-useless older model for the shiny new one. This inflates costs (i.e., the new version is more expensive than the old), and increases the requirement to buy replacements, virtually turning a durable good into a consumable, depletable item.
Flaw 7: The Disappearance Of The Middle Class
As the middle class shrinks to an ever-decreasing percentage of the total population, the wealthy become wealthier and can afford to buy more, while the poor proceed to either rely upon government aid (quite inefficient and expensive) or live an increasingly leveraged lifestyle. Please refer to Flaw 1, at the beginning of this article…
To be a leader and to maintain a position of leadership, you must be a competent and efficient delegator. By the act of delegating, you are not relinquishing control – you are actually expanding the realm and scope of your control. The larger the responsibilities and the larger the organization, the more proficient you must be at delegation.
In the military, “delegation” is defined as the action by which a commander assigns part of his or her authority commensurate with the assigned task to a subordinate commander. While ultimate responsibility cannot be relinquished, delegation of authority carries with it the imposition of a measure of responsibility. The extent of the authority delegated must be clearly stated.
Your success at delegation will determine the strength and length of your reign as a leader and commander. The most significant insights and skills which are required in successful delegation are listed below. They are worth studying:
=> If you are obsessive-compulsive by your nature, do all that you can to rationally counterbalance this dangerous impediment to effective delegation. You cannot micromanage and be a leader. You cannot be the servant of your subordinates because you are insistent about things being done exactly as you would have them done;
=> You must constantly keep the big picture and the broader focus in mind. If you are a perfectionist and overly detail-oriented, you will never be able to attain your organizational objectives while mired in minutiae;
=> Understand all of your responsibilities, and itemize or componentize each of them. You’ll find that each individual component can be delegated (as it must) to someone in your organization whom you can select. If the right individual is not among your inventory of Human Assets, then you must either replace some of your people, or your must acquire some new members with the requisite skill sets. The objective is to export as many of your responsibilities as possible, while retain the central responsibility of organizational stewardship, oversight and goal attainment;
=> When you delegate responsibility for the accomplishment of a task or function, also remember to grant the requisite authority and to impose the necessary accountability to the person to whom you’ve charged with the job. Responsibility without authority is a recipe for managerial impotence and non- performance. Responsibility without accountability is a recipe for waste, abuse and failure;
=> Since you, as a leader, are ultimately responsible for the successful and efficient attainment of your organization’s most important goals, you must constantly monitor the performance of those to whom you’ve delegated, without being drawn in to correcting their mistakes yourself. Observe, measure, suggest, monitor and determine whether the subject task has been assigned to the right individual; sometimes a change may be warranted.
=> Where you observe leadership potential in some of those persons to whom you’ve delegated tasks, you may find it wise to increase their roster or responsibilities, but to also grant them greater authority to sub-delegate to others who are subordinate to them. Remember that the greatest leaders know how to identify and cultivate leadership within their organizations. Be aggressive and bold about identifying and leveraging the leadership talents of other leaders within your organization. Encourage leadership and acceptance of increased responsibility. Reward it and give it appropriate recognition. Empowering other leaders liberates you to be a greater leader yourself.
=> As you develop leaders and assign them to their respective specialty areas (not unlike fiefdoms within a kingdom), clearly identify where each one’s territory begins and ends. Clearly define their responsibilities with minimal overlap. Keep your subordinate leaders separated from each other (unless you are present and orchestrating or conducting a meeting or hearing reports) – fiefdoms should not compete, but neither should their feudal lords unite, lest they undermine the king’s leadership.
In brief, don’t permit your subordinates to take you over. Delegate, but do so without ever permitting your absolute command from being undermined. Keep your emerging leaders separated from each other, and even instill a competitive spirit amongst them to ‘fight’ for your approval.
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Douglas E. Castle, leadership, management, delegation, responsibility, authority, taking command, grooming leaders, accountability, business, career advancement, self-promotion, personal power, organization.
Entrepreneurs with brand-new pre-revenue companies, developmental-stage enterprises (DSEs) and fledgling companies having won their first client contracts are, generally speaking, desperately in need of capital. And, generally speaking, most funding sources shy away from companies with limited operating histories and limited tangible collateral assets. Yet these intrepid (but naive) newcomers insist on shopping the capital markets in search of either an investor or lender who will make them the “special exception” and grant them free rein and total discretion with a pile of money. Shopping in this marketplace is all too often a waste of time.
A more viable alternative for any one of these entities in need of cash might be to form a joint venture with an established and synergistic (or complementary) company. Not only do some of these existing companies have capital and credit lines of their own, but in many cases their management teams [at the senior level] have business acumen, contacts and other non-financial resources that can be leveraged by their younger counterpart in the joint venture relationship.
The key, of course, is in finding the right joint venture partner. In order to insure a productive, long- lasting (and non-traumatizing), entrepreneurs might give serious thought to utilizing the services of an outside management consulting firm or agency to facilitate the matchmaking process and to advise and assist in negotiating terms. In the immediate term, this may cost a bit of money, but in the near-term and the longer term, engaging the services of an independent third-party professional firm may save you the costs of a meandering, time-consuming, trial-and-error process.
Give some sincere thought to either financing your startup though a joint venture, or, if you are a well- established organization, to seeking out fresh, new co-venturing and licensing opportunities through an impartial, experienced consultant. In a well-crafted joint venture, all parties win.
If you’d like to reach me directly with your questions about this article or about joint venture possibilities, please contact me at http://bit.ly/CASTLEDIRECT .
Establishing a valuation for your company is a crucial process. You’ll need a valuation for the following purposes (and these are just several): sale of the business to a third party; taking your private company public; merging with another company or acquiring another company; for a buy-sell agreement; for the issuance of such incentives as stock purchase options… your company’s valuation is important. What is equally important is that the valuation is properly documented, the computation strongly justified and supported, the actual process is undertaken and overseen by an impartial, objective third party with the appropriate credentials. Valuation of a company is a target which moves and changes over time depending upon the company’s performance and other variables, so periodic valuations of your company are important to stakeholders, creditors and potential investors or acquirors.
If the business is passive, and merely serves as an ownership vessel for income-producing property, equipment, securities or the like, establishing a valuation can be relatively easy. Simply take the combined Fair Market Values of all of the assets, reduce this amount by the total liabilities on the books (and perhaps some contingent liabilities in certain cases), and you have a basic valuation.
If the business is an operating entity (usually in the form of a partnership, an LLC or an IRC SubChapter S corporation), and income from operations is generally being swept out to the maximum extent possible to the stakeholders who work for the entity, the valuation issue is somewhat more complex. The business’ books might reflect very little in the way of appraisable assets, making a Fair Market Value approach untenable. The business’ true value is in its Human Capital, which is unreflected (lamentably) on its books.
Most of these operating entities must be valued on a more subjective, judgmental basis, which usually involves some capitalization or discounting approach based upon the entity’s distributable income prior to any distributions made to the owner-managers.
Several prospective methods (all variations on the Net Present Value theme) are offered for your consideration, with the caveat that these methods assume [and we all know what happens when we assume] that the business being subjected to the valuation has been in operation for a period of no less than five consecutive years:
1) Simply add the most recent 5 consecutive years’ distributable income together to arrive at a value;
2) Average the most recent 3 consecutive years’ distributable income and multiply that result by five;
3) If the business has shown a pattern of consistent growth, you may consider using a weighted average method, where, for example, you’d take (say) 50% of the most recent year’s distributable income, 30% of the prior year’s income plus 20% of the earliest of the three years’ respective distributable incomes, take that weighted sum and multiply it by 3 , 4, or 5.
My inclination is to utilize the third approach because it gives effect to growth and affords the most recent income-generating period the highest weight.
In light of all of the horrific news concerning the ebola virus and some of the Humanitarian issues which have raised eyebrows throughout the U.S. and numerous other nations, it appears that the United States through EX-IM Bank is acknowledging the vast market potential that exists in Sub-Saharan Africa, a geographical locus of increasing Human Capital and slowly, but steadily growing consumerism. This is encouraging.
Ex-Im Bank Approves Record $1.7 Billion in Financing of U.S. Exports to Sub-Saharan Africa
$3 Billion in Financing Support Pledged for U.S. Exports Over the Next 2 Years
Washington, D.C. – The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) announced today that it has authorized a record $1.7 billion in financing to support U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa over the past 10 months. This record-setting surge has not only empowered U.S. small businesses to sell their products in global markets, but has also supported more than 10,000 American jobs which contribute to strengthening the U.S. economy.
The announcement was made as Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg participated in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit convened by President Barack Obama this week in Washington D.C. The summit has drawn about 50 heads of state, ministers, and business leaders from across the African continent.
“Ex-Im Bank is firmly committed to equipping U.S. exporters to realize the vast economic opportunities emerging throughout sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing markets,” said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg. “Each transaction the Bank supports creates jobs for local U.S. businesses and strengthens our relationship with a region that has a strong prospect for long-term economic growth.”
Ex-Im also announced that it will pledge $3 billion in financing to support U.S exports to sub-Saharan Africa over the next two fiscal years. The Bank also recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Angola to strengthen collaboration on the financing of American-made exports to Angola.
Recent Ex-Im Bank success stories in sub-Saharan Africa:
Ex-Im approved a loan guarantee for $17 million to support long-term financing by the West African Development Bank (BOAD) for the Azito Power project in Cote D’Ivoire. Two-thirds of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa lacks electricity; by strengthening their power capacity, however, their economies will be well-positioned for growth. Financing for steam turbines used in the Azito Power project will support 40 manufacturing and engineering jobs in Schenectady, New York, and Bangor, Maine.
Three Louisana small businesses benefit from Ex-Im’s $43 million financing of a liftboat destined for Nigeria. The “Bellator” liftboat is a self-propelled vessel, 150-foot long by 118-foot wide, that lifts and suspends equipment and personnel up to the level of an offshore drilling platform. About 300 employees of C.S. Liftboats, Inc., of Abbeville, Louisiana, together with Gulf Island Fabrications of Houma, Louisiana, will construct the high-tech vessel. The Nigerian buyer also contracted for prefabricated liftboat-mounted modules for housing workers; these are built by Fiberglass Unlimited Inc. of Raceland, Louisiana. This is Nigeria’s first purchase of a new, American-made liftboat system.
Pennsylvania employees of GE Transportation will benefit from the Bank-supported export of GE’s locomotives with Pennsylvania-made engines and components to Transnet in South Africa. In its recent transaction, Ex-Im Bank authorized a $563.5 million loan guarantee to support financing for the sale of 293 locomotives being manufactured by GE Transportation, which will support an estimated 2,500 U.S. jobs.
Establishing a valuation for a startup business is not only a challenge, but it is (on a positive note) an opportunity to be endlessly creative depending upon projections and other variables. Having said this, valuation is the primary issue, aside from survivability of the underlying business, that concerns both the promoters and the prospective investors in the startup.
Sadly, most entrepreneurs are clueless about the issue of company valuation and the need to have some underlying theory to support it when a prospective investor inquires. The valuation model must be established by the company’s owners or promoters immediately, before solicitation or recruitment of investors begins — and, admittedly the process is somewhat arbitrary at its very starting point, but a model constructed on logic needs to be created.
Established companies value themselves (assuming that they are not publicly-traded) based upon several approaches, or upon an average of the of the results yielded by several approaches. These include 1) values of comparable companies in the same industry and of approximately the same revenue size or point of revenue growth; 2) net present value of several consecutive years of either historical cash flows or projected cash flows, with the latter used far less frequently than the former, in the the interest of conservatism; 3) the cost to replace the business at its current operating level; and d) the liquidation value of the business, where the fair market value of all the assets are reduced by the amount of all liabilities and either a fairly negotiated value or a distressed value (i.e., the fire sale) in an immediate cash sale at auction.
None of these approaches lends itself to valuing a brand new enterprise, so alternative, creative approaches have to be designed. The only solid variables to work with are 1) an initial starting point valuation for the first investor who comes in; 2) the timing of an investor’s capital contribution, which is the order (i.e., first-in versus last-in) of that contribution — the later the investment, the higher the company’s dynamic valuation, because the perception is that later adopters are more risk-averse and not as critical to the new entity’s very survival; and 3) the amount of the investment, on the assumption that a larger investment is more valuable to the company than a smaller one, so that it should be “appreciated more” in terms of a bargained-down valuation.
I would propose that a combination, or multivariate formula comprised of these three variables be applied to solving the valuation issue. This could either be done with a degree of arbitrariness and instinct, or it could be done with a multivariate type of formula.
By way of example, if each factor could be assigned a weight (represented as the inverse of a decimal fraction), perhaps a dynamic valuation formula for a new enterprise could look like this:
Dynamic Valuation = Preliminary Valuation x f(order, amount).
In terms of result, the earliest and largest investors would be buying at a lower Dynamic Valuation than the later and smaller investors. Intuitively as well as practically, this makes a great deal of sense.
I’m guilty! I am so backlogged with tasks that my Native American name (no offense to any member of any Native American tribe actually out there in Indian Country) should be “Running Behind.” Mismanaging my time and tasks is obviously a problem from which I suffer. Just imagine if a company were comprised of individuals, just like myself who were managing their time and tasks like a bunch of weasels on treadmills? Or like a one-armed paperhanger? Or like a glassblower with the hiccups? [Had enough? Well, I’ll stop now. But remember: My blog, My rules.]
Here are my mistakes in terms of time and tasks allotted:
1) I have failed to delegate those tasks that I could have given to others. I’ve clearly taken on too much for myself;
2) I am multitasking instead of rotational tasking – in the case of the former, I use a peripheral focus on a number of things and perform very poorly – in the case of the latter, I focus on one task for a limited time (using a timer on my computer desktop), then proceed to the next task….it’s an installment approach to keeping from burnout while accomplishing everything on my to-do list;
3) I have unrealistic expectations of myself;
4) I am obsessed with control and not even interacting with other persons around me — how could I ever be an effective manager;
5) I am so enmeshed in my own personal tornado that I can’t possibly be paying any attention to the larger picture of my position in the company or project and the changes in the environment around me (a fire, a meteor shower, an invasion by an “Occupy” group.
The Solution? I’ll Sum It Up:
Rotate tasks – don’t multitask;
Switch tasks at regular intervals;
Take frequent brief breaks — walk around and see what is happening;
Stop beating yourself up if you don’t finish everything on time, or if you fail to complete all of your tasks — in industrial and behavioral psychology, we know that your general mood, your work environment, and your feelings about your own perceived “shortcomings” are more damaging to you and to the company.
If you’re not managing yourself, emotionally, physiologically and in terms of time and tasks, you will damage a precious Human Asset and Reduce the Collective Creativity and synergy that make a company’s output far greater than the sum of the respective outputs of the individuals who comprise its employees and contractors.
Douglas E. Castle
Some more material, courtesy of REPOST (I would, in particular, take a long, hard look at the last entry; I wonder if there might be some confusion between cause and effect:
Husbands With More Masculine Chores Have More Sex NewsLook — Jan 31 2013
Video News by NewsLook A study shows married men who spend more time doing traditionally female chores have less sex than men that don’t do as many of those chores. Jen Markham explores if the…[Author’s Note: I’d better finish up here so that I can kill a bison and drag it home to my cave so that I can share it with my wife. Red or white wine with bison? Anyone know?]
Sunk costs are wasted, and often recurring expenditures on a purchase, program, idea or business campaign which, by all rational means is either dead (unproductive) or doomed to failure, Yet we persist in throwing good money after bad either because our emotions or egos want so badly too prove our initial ideas right, or because we have invested such a significant sum that we are irrationally thinking that a few more dollars might “turn it around” – or, as my British friends call it, the “in for a penny, in for a pound,” mindset.
Sunk costs are emotionally unaccepted losses. They represent the triumph of Human psyche over sound business policy. If you have some of theses fiscal black holes embedded in your budget you are going to compromise your subsistence, and possibly miss out on opportunities (the Opportunity Cost is the “if only we could have”: cousin of the Sunk Cost); you will need an objective outsider to identify them for you, and to help you to allow logic to triumph over fragile sentiment. In my practice I’ve disliked having to undertake this repair the most — I invariably have to be as much of a psychologist as a restructuring or strategic planning consultant.
The best way to avoid these anchors to business failure is to learn to draw two lines:
1) What is the absolute maximum you’ll spend, without exception. Limit your fiscal exposure by a rule established early in the game; and,
2) What is the maximum time that you are willing to wait to see a definable, quantifiable result.
If you can establish and live by these two parameters, you and your business will have a far better chance to survive and thrive. I would much rather establish these policy guidelines for a growing company than to have to walk blindfolded through a minefield of voracious pet projects.
Economic Times Main Syracuse ambulance company files for bankruptcy; change won’t likely …
Douglas E. Castle‘s insight:
After reading the article, it struck me as fascinating how the Economic Times was callng this Chapter 13 abankruptcy (as if it were a death knell for the ambulance company), and that the ambulance company spokesman, out of political training, or out of ignorance, called the proceeding "a routine reorganization….the company’s service will not be affected." The reason for the publication taking a more fatalistic view is that most companies of small to medium size ultimately wind up transitioning [atrophying] into Chapter 7 (a liquidation of asets, usually by auction), with a complete cessation of activities, The "reorganization" is basically a court intervention which just forestall (in most cases) a liquidation.
This fatalistic perception has permeated all of society because of the sad fact that those companies which are not "too big to fail" do not do anything constructive during the Chapter 13 reorganization period in terms of formulating and implementing an Emergence Plan to leave Chapter 13 and emerge as a streamlined, smarter, better-run enterprise. It takes an expert with a great deal of knowlege to get into the company, correct its trajectory objectively and candidly, in order to navigate through the "reorganization" into a newer, better way of doing business.
Lamentably, most businesses tend to just use Chapter 13 as an excuse to continue making the mistakes that brought them to the courthouse in the first place. That’s very foolish. They need to be turned around by a visionary from the outside with an objective view and a firm hand regarding suggestions and implementation.
Business is war: Jack Tramiel’s secret to conquering Silicon Valley StartupSmart Vertical integration is where you grow your company by buying or starting a number of businesses along the same supply chain in one industry at different stages of…
Douglas E. Castle‘s insight:
Business might indeed be war, but in many cases bridge-building assists in the process of the ultimate conquest.
As a firm believer in vertical integration (a company buyer its customer or its supplier) and in thereby becoming a combined and more self-sufficient entity, both larger, and more powerful with certain expenses redundancies to be eliminated to assist in boosting combined profitability, I have found that it’s much more important to befriend and negotiate [sometimes that feels like war] with a prospective acquiree company and its management, usually on several levels, in order to "educate" it regarding the advantages to its best longer-term interests, such that it comes along as a willing and smiling captive instead of utilizing any other, more hostile strategy, which would be a secondary choice.
The idea is to conduct the war utilizing intelligence (informational), diplomacy, education and negotiation in such a manner that your target never even knows that any war was occurring.
As the late lawyer (for the famous O.J. Simpson murder trial) Johnny Cochran might have said: "If you want to agressively integrate, you must educate and negotiate."
A temporary cash crunch situation is something that occurs in the ordinary course of business in most every organization, especially when the business is of a seasonal nature or when the businesses is in a rapid stage of growth, i.e., inundated with purchase orders but without sufficient cash to fill them and to also pay recurring expenses. But if a cash crunch situation is chronic, a diagnosis of the reason must be made, and appropriate actions must be taken. This article will give you the ability to do both.
Bear in mind that when I speak of revenues, I mean total sales, both as computed on the cash basis and the accrual basis, but when I speak of expenses, I actually mean cash outflows of every nature. Throw away the accounting and auditing textbooks for just a bit so that we can deal with bare bones economic reality. Also by current, I mean as either generated or paid in the ordinary course of operations.
Most every enterprise experiences a period or periods of cash crunch, especially if those businesses are either seasonal or rapidly-growing companies which are generating purchase orders, but do not have adequate cash to fill them while still meeting their obligations, such as payroll, occupancy and the like. There are remedies for both of these situations because they are either predictable or can be financed with short-term debt to enable them to either withstand the “tight season” or to let their cash flow catch up with their market demand.
If cash crunch is chronic, and is an ongoing problem, there is something wrong with the business on a fundamental level. Either revenues are too low, or current expenses (outflows — remember that we’re using lose terminology here) are too high.
If the expenses or outflows are not truly for operations but payable to a lender in the form of , for example, a short-term self-amortizing debt where the payments are large and swollen with principal, the lender may be negotiated with to arrive at an interest-only loan with a provision for a rollover of the principal at the end of its term (optimal for maximizing utilizable cash flow), or possibly a longer amortization period where the payments are lower, conserving more cash flow for operations.
Sometimes a business is improperly capitalized and it requires equity to be infused in order to retire debt. Many businesses which have good fundamentals need to de-leverage themselves by retiring existing debt with equity. This is appropriate unless the equity is used to cover current expenses.
The test is this: If you deduct the debt payments from the total current outflows, and you subtract the number obtained thereby from the revenues, the resulting number should be positive. This means that the business is not properly capitalized, but is probably fundamentally sound. These companies are good candidates for refinancing.
If the number obtained is still negative, then it is highly likely that the business is fundamentally unsound, either due to its core purpose, mismanagement or some improper assumptions which have gone uncorrected for too long. Revenues can be increased by increasing sales through better marketing and sales, or by increasing prices if the market will tolerate this.
When certain food or beverage prices are suddenly increased, a restaurant may hike up its prices and say, for example that “due to the increase in the cost to us of coffee, we are sorry to have to raise the price per cup to $2.25. If the market tolerates this it is a wonderful strategy, especially if done in steps, or if accompanied by a re-packaging or the product or service to somehow differentiate it from what it was previously. The perception of added-value tends to justify an increase in price.
The other possibility is more difficult, and the prospects less pleasant: You may have to negotiate with your employees (or terminate some of their positions), cut back on the use of your contractors, or re-negotiate costs with your vendors. Vendors can often be persuaded to reduce their charges by 1) indicating that the situation is temporary, and that they’ll receive a premium after you’ve reached a certain sales level or after a certain amount of time has passed or 2) an incentive wherein the vendor participates in either your revenue when you’ve reached a certain threshold, or in you company’s ownership (this is an example of a partial vertical integration strategy).
The acid test of the fundamental soundness of any simple business model is this: If debt service is eliminated, do revenues exceed current expenses. Put more realistically, without considering debt, do your revenues (where the earnings process is complete and they are either in the form of cash or accounts receivable) consistently exceed your ordinary current operating outflows including product (inventory purchases as required) or service purchases? If not, can they be restructured to fit the aforementioned parameters? If the answer to both questions is “no,” your business model is fatally flawed, and that must be dealt with — we’ll discuss this at another time.
If you increased your sales volume, increased your prices to customers, eliminated any idle personnel, negotiated with your suppliers, and gotten your bank loan replaced with equity, then you still may be suffering because your customers are not paying you on a timely basis, while you’re paying your vendors promptly.
If your average days to payment on your accounts receivable is 55, and your average days to payment of your current expenses is 35, that 20-day discrepancy can be killing your business, depending upon your profit margins. Sadly, you can’t pay your vendors with your receivables. There are two things to be done to eliminate that 20-day discrepancy:
1) Collect the receivables faster; and
2) Pay your vendors more slowly.
That gap between average days that your business waits to collect its receivables, and the average days its takes to pay its vendors must be reduced to zero, or to a negative number.
You can collect your receivables faster by offering some of your less creditworthy customers less credit, and giving some of your better, faster-paying customers more credit. You can offer early payment incentives or cash payment discounts. You can collect partial payments in cash. Use some imagination. Any of these approaches alone or in combination will cut that 55 days significantly if you focus on achieving this.
You might even get a line of credit up to some percentage of your “acceptable” accounts receivable, factor your receivables, or utilize single invoice financing in order to get that number down a great deal further. Often the real cost of factoring or similar arrangements is about equal to what you might sacrifice if all of your customers took advantage of a discount for paying in less than 30 days.
To eliminate turning a simple article into a doctoral dissertation, suffice it to say that slowing down payments to your vendors requires some diplomacy, some negotiation, and some creativity — but then, if you are in business in these times, you must have an abundance of creativity.
Quick, Easy Metrics:
1) Your average collection days on your receivables (it’s a weighted average) should equal or exceed your average payment days on your current bills;
2) Your average collections days on your receivables divided by your average payment days on your current bills should be equal to or (hopefully) greater than 1.0;
3) The value of all of your cash and all of your receivables divided by the amount of your current bills should always be significantly greater than 1.0 (i.e., no contribution margin). While this is not a measure of cash availability, it is a measure of your gross profit on sales. The bigger the dividend produced by this computation, the greater your basic profit margin and the greater the contribution of your sales to ultimately cover fixed overhead.
The idea is to avoid a cash crunch (assuming that your basic business concept is fundamentally sound) by collecting and hoarding as much cash as you can, and holding off on the payment of bills as long as you can. Remember: If you business is sound, a cash crunch crisis is a phenomenon only created by bad timing. And it’s quite curable.
As part of the Action Plan in any business turnaround, or in any plan of emergence from Chapter 13, reduction and restructuring of debt will play a key role, provided that the business involved in the emergence or “rescue” effort is inherently profitable by its nature — in other words — has an otherwise viable business model which was just mishandled or mismanaged in its execution. If debt can be reduced or eliminated, that is optimal; however, the second alternative which is more palatable to most lenders involves debt restructuring.
You have two restructuring objectives in dealing with lenders or bondholders – one is to defer the payment of the principal (the “balloon”) of the debt and to try to pay it on an interest-only basis for a business recovery period; the other, which is far more popular and easier to negotiate is to restructure the debt amortization or payment schedule. This second alternative permits you, as the acting Chief BusinessRestructuring Officer, to offer your creditors an option where the debt can be paid in a self-liquidating schedule, but simply over a longer time. In fact, if the length of the loan payoff schedule is sufficiently lengthened, you may even offer the creditors a small sweetener, such as a slightly higher interest rate on the loan or bond principal amount as a risk premium for their patience. Even after doing this, your payments to retire the debt in full may still be substantially lower than they would have been at a shorter (i.e., more rapid) amortization schedule.
Let’s see how this rescheduling of amortization works, Mr. Turnaround Expert:
Firstly, we’ll assume that the remaining principal amount of debt on one of our client’s loans is $80,000,000, and that at present, the client is paying off the loan at an interest rate of 8% over a five-year amortization period, fully self-liquidating. This means that the client’s monthly debt service due on the loan is approximately $162,211.
Going further, let’s assume that the client’s Chief Restructuring/ Turnaround Officer has projected (conservatively) that the cash flow available to service the loan will be approximately $175,000. This gives us a narrow margin for error. If we calculate the debt service ratio [divide the available cash flow by the the monthly loan payment obligation], it comes out to be a very, very uncomfortable 1.07884. As a lender, I would much rather see a debt service ratio that approaches 1.50000… that would make me quite comfortable, assuming that the available cash flow projections are reasonable.
If our Chief Restructuring/Turnaround Officer is a very good negotiator, and convinces the lender to reschedule the amortization of the remaining balance over a nine-year term, with a rate of 9% (our turnaround expert has given the lender an extra 1% as a risk premium for lengthening the amortization timeline), the monthly debt payments would now be $108,343.27 — we’ve cut $53,867.73 from our monthly fixed debt payment by doing this. Our new debt service ratio (assuming the $175,000 cash flow available to service the debt is the same, as it should be) will be 1.615236 instead of 1.07884. I now have a debt service ratio which exceeds the 1.50000 standard.
Amortization gives you the opportunity to stay alive longer, but yet to generate sufficient cash flows to pay off this debt, simply by changing its associated amortization schedule. We have restructured the debt brilliantly, assuming no other changes in terms on the part of the creditor, and no additional concessions to the creditor (with the exception of the 1% risk premium) on the part of our turnaround advocate, The Chief Restructuring Officer. Note that he might have chosen to cal himself the Chief Turnaround Officer, but that is too obvious and is on the edge of being Politically Incorrect. “Restructuring” sounds more positive than “Turnaround,” which conjures up images of the grim reaper following the client company’s president around.
This has given us additional cash flow margin (for coverage of other expenses of more than $53,000 per month.
Why would the creditor (a bank, represented by the officer who approved the original loan and who is responsible for handling the relationship with the client) agree to this?
Our negotiator simply took the bank officer aside and apprised him of the following facts and conclusions, gently but firmly:
1. If the client company were to go out of business and liquidate (Chapter 7, perhaps), the proceeds left to pay the bank would be less than 50% of the remaining loan principal. That would mean a substantial loss to the bank attributable directly to the officer’s decision to extend credit;
2. The foregoing could be very injurious for the officer’s career objectives, or perhaps the ability to remain employed by the bank at all;
3. If the client company remained in business, there would be no write-down or loss relating to the loan (the principal would be paid in full), and the officer would have made a good financial and career decision. His decision to allow the rescheduling of the loan has made it possible for the client company to stay in business and pay off the loan in full. Plus, the officer can speak about how “good a deal maker he was” by adding a loan premium of 1%, increasing the bank’s yield on the loan;
4. The client company keeps its deposits, its payroll account, all of its 100 or so employees have consumer loan, credit card, car loan or lease, deposits, checking or other business with the bank, all of which will now will definitely stay intact due to the officer’s “goodwill gesture to keep the company in business and everyone employed”. Interestingly, the officer also gets a credit for funds supplied to the bank (i.e., deposits — especially to demand deposit accounts (i.e., business checking), and this client has kept an average total balance in the bank of close to $1.5 million, all of which the bank earns interest on (this is called in the banking trade “playing the float”) while the client, who receives no interest waits for funds to “clear” and the bank puts this money out on overnight interest-bearing transactions with its under-reserved or slightly illiquid brethren;
5. It becomes apparent that the Chief Restructuring Officer can make the bank officer (with his own stationery, business cards, lapel pin and pens) look like a clever, prudent potentially promotable businessperson in the eyes of the client and his superiors in the bank, whom the Chief Restructuring Officer has promised to speak with (in laudatory terms) in his behalf.
The theme is not only that amortization is like fiscal alchemy — it is also that if a focal point of a turnaround Action Plan can be addressed with everyone emerging benefited (or at least not damaged as much), it can be negotiated.
Debt restructuring is a crucial part of most turnaround operations. Now you’ve gained a better insight.