Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

7 Signs You’re Not Ready For Online Business Success

Dot.Com or Internet businesses started going main-stream in the early 1990′s and between 1995 and 2000 internet stocks were selling at multiples of their book values. Most of the Dot.Com companies had nothing tangible to justify their Mount Everest-high prices. It didn’t take long before the market started correcting itself and by October 4, 2002 the NASDAQ index had crashed by 76.81%, to 1,139.90, from a peak of 5,084.62 recorded on March 10, 2000..Since the burst, the Dot.Com business had separated the men from the boys with valuable lesson learnt. Many of the boys went home to their parents to lick their wounds while the men started searching for the keys to online business success. As a matter of fact, no one key to online business success was found as internet business was a brand new territory. So it became a matter of trial and error to find out what worked.In 2012 Rich Schefren released his much-acclaimed Internet Business Manifesto in which he advised Dot.Com entrepreneurs to approach every aspect of online business, from list building to product development and sales, strategically rather than tactically. He particularly noted that technology is an enabler and the whole focus should be on developing structures and building relationships rather than looking for tactical advantages like trying to outsmart the algorithms.Since the Dot.Com crash, many online entrepreneurs have figured out what works and what doesn’t and the internet is producing millionaires in record numbers in assorted niches and sub-niches. One of such millionaires is Russell Brunson, the author of three best-selling books: Dot.Com Secrets, Expert Secrets, and Traffic Secrets. These books are definitive guides on what works online. If only to note in passing, as at the 2020, Russell Brunson’s net-worth was estimated at $41m; a figure he built over 15 years.Scott Cunningham of Social Lite not long ago pointed out that online entrepreneurs go through three phases: the crawl phase, when you’re making less than $100,000 per annum, the walk phase when you’re making between $100,000 to $1m, and the run phase when you’re making over $1m. It is at the crawl phase you need the most learning.For those of us in the crawl phase, it’s important to note that, just like anything in life, online business has its own guiding principles. Those who succeed in a big way online follow these principles. The opposite is also true for those who fail. As Russell Brunson and other internet business experts would readily advice, do what works. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.Here are seven signs you’re not ready for online business success. Not in any particular order, they include:1. You’re not curious, indeed more often than not you’re skeptical that people like you are building successful online businesses and making money.2. You’re not paranoid, indeed you believe online business is a passing fad and will soon go away. Andy Grove, Intel’s co-founder, once said, “Only the Paranoid Survive”. The internet is not likely to go away soon.3. You believe Social Media is a distraction; if you use SM at all, you use it for the “social” aspect. Social media like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are business tools if you know how to use them.4. You lack production mindset, you rather consume, and if you produce at all, you’re inconsistent. To succeed online, especially if you’re selling digital products, you must be a prolific producer.5. You wear the toga of expert, always asking, “What can anybody teach me?” As Steve Jobs said in his Stanford’s 2005 Commencement address, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”6. You focus on the negatives: fraud, complexity, and the technicalities etc., thus convincing yourself “it’s not for me”. The internet has its dark side. It also has its bright side. Embrace the bright side.7. You live a “satisfied life” believing you’re already successful so “why bother?” This is the attitude of high corporate earners. Why not invest and learn now you’re earning high; sooner or later, you’ll retire.If you exhibit three or more of the signs I have enumerated above: you lack curiosity, you’re not paranoid about the internet, you hate social media or only use it for play, you rather consume than produce, you consider yourself an expert who knows it all, you only see the dark side of the internet, and you’re too satisfied to bother, the simple interpretation is that you lack online business success mindset.The signs simply say you’re not ready for online business success. I define online success as someone who makes a minimum of $10,000 monthly online and scaling and investing massively to move from the crawl to the walk stage. My simple advice to you is this: get off your couch, put on your running shoes and start looking for online business influencers to learn how you too can succeed online.

How to Make Money from Your Website Using Advertising

You have managed to get your website to that magical point where you have established popularity, traffic, loyalty and a community of fans. Your site contains a wealth of information, resources and services that you provide free because that’s just the kind of person you are. You may not have intended to make money from your site but now that you have an audience you realise that it’s possible, or perhaps you have to start thinking about generating income because your costs to manage the site have increased and it’s starting to hurt.You have been diligent over the years to build up your community and wonder how to go about making some revenue by leveraging this audience (as the marketers would say, you want to monetise your site). Maybe you have some big dreams and plan to one day generate advertising income from your new web project. This is a very common plan for online business given people tend to expect information and services to be free. Advertising may be one of the only revenue generation strategies available to you.How much traffic do I have to have to make money?In my experience once you have about 500-1000 unique visitors per day to your site *at least* before you can start to make real money. You can make chimps change from day one from your 50 hits, but this article is targeted at those that have a larger audience, or perhaps are constructing a business plan (either real or in your head) and would like to know how to go about monetising your website. If you get more then 1000 unique visitors a day chances are you already make money from your site (if not you should be!) but my points are still relevant.As per usual I will illustrate my article using real world examples from what I did to make money. Over about five years I managed a hobby site that started off as a very local site focusing on people in my area that played the game Magic: The Gathering. I wrote reports and did news coverage for the game. Later I expanded the site to Australia and eventually opened it to the world although it remained mostly Australian with a good chunk of Asians and New Zealanders.Banner programsAt around the time I was getting 500 unique visitors a day I decided to start playing with advertising methods. This was before the advent of Google AdSense (more on this later) but there were many banner programs available that paid either on cost per click (CPC) or per impression basis. An impression is a banner being displayed to a user once, a click is someone clicking the banner and visiting the site being advertised.These networks act as a middle man between business that want to advertise and people like me that have an audience and want to make some money by displaying banners. Unfortunately these programs display banners that often don’t match your audience. I tried a few but it was a short lived experiment that made me a few dollars if that.I recommend you avoid any banner programs. If you are confused about what I am talking about regarding banner programs do a search for Burst Media to get a grasp of how they work. For small sites they just don’t make much money. For large sites there are much better ways to make money. There are people out there that make good money from these programs (I’m sure the program owners do!) but in my experience a little effort to find the right type of advertising can yield much better results.I decided the best way to make money was to really leverage the demographics of my audience. I had a fairly focused niche, card game playing young males. I started by emailing all the local and international card game shops and asked if they were interested in exposure to my market. Instantly I had responses but I had to come up with a pricing structure first.How much should you charge?By this time my site was getting close to 1000 unique visitors per day, with about 300,000 impressions per month. I had done my research and I knew that advertising on websites was usually via the standard 468×60 banner so I would start with that. I also knew that many companies charged by what is called CPM or cost per 1000 impressions. Back then this was by far the most commonly used scale for pricing of web advertising and you could expect to earn anywhere from $0.10 to $10.00 CPM. I never liked this method of advertising because it didn’t guarantee any visitors. Charging by click-throughs is a far better method, but didn’t become mainstream until later. I decided that in order to keep my advertisers I had to offer value so I went for a blanket approach. I started charging a flat rate of $30 per month to have a banner on my site which offered as many impressions that my traffic could provide. I signed up my first few advertisers at this rate.Banner management softwareIn order to “rotate” different banners across my site I needed some special software that would dynamically place banners. This allowed me to have more than one advertiser banner in a single location so I could optimise my adspace and make sure my audience didn’t get too bored from seeing the same banner over and over again.Let me save you some time, phpAdsNew [http://phpadsnew.com/two] is the best banner management software out there. It’s under an open source license and has all the features you could ever wish for at a price you can’t beat, it’s free. If you don’t believe me and absolutely have to try searching elsewhere try searching the PHP Resource Index.There is a learning curve with phpAdsNew and you do have to install it on your own server. If you are like me and you do things like this yourself most of the time you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Otherwise you might try contacting your favourite ITGeek and get them to give you a hand.Statistics are importantThe best feature with phpAdsNew is that it allows you to provide a unique user login for your advertisers to check their banner statistics in real time. This means at any point in time they can learn how many impressions and clicks there banners are receiving from your site.Before you start searching for advertisers you should be very familiar with the statistics of your site. Do you know how many unique visitors you get? How many hits you get? How many impressions? Do you even know what the differences are between these? Try this stats terminology primer on for size if you don’t.Most web servers come with a statistics package. Ask your web host if you don’t know. The most common are Awstats and Webalizer which often are preinstalled on many hosting packages. Become familiar with these packages so you can accurately assess your site traffic.Increasing ad revenueI now had the foundations laid and was serving the ads of my first few advertisers. From the point onwards I went to work attracting more advertisers by directly emailing North American online card stores and other related sites. I kept an Excel file to track which websites I had emailed and their responses so I could follow up in a timely manner.I created new banner positions and started initiatives like a newsletter to generate more revenue. I created monthly packages that combined newsletter advertising and different banner positions and offered them at $500 per quarter. I increased the top prime banner position fee to $50 and started offering a tower banner position for $50 as well. Eventually I had to limit the number of banners I could take in the prime positions to avoid dilution. I had a guarantee in place that offered at least 30,000 impressions per month (averaging 40,000-60,000) to advertisers so that they always received a good equivalent CPM rate. I even had some advertisers purchase the rights to “own” a position for a certain period to make sure no other advertisers banners would be displayed.Eventually I reached a point where I was averaging $500 per month and peaked at $1000 in one month. Some advertisers came and went quickly but many stayed loyal and in fact still advertise today though I sold the site a long time ago. The niche for the site was so focused that it became the pre-eminent site for Australia in it’s marketplace and consequently some Australian advertisers simply stuck their banners up as a branding exercise. They knew that the exposure from the site would help to align their business as one of the pre-eminent retailers or event organisers for the game. Some advertisers stopped caring about click through stats and kept advertising purely for the branding exposure.Google adsenseAt some point Google AdSense popped up and I was in with other early adopters to try it out. My results were okay. The money wasn’t nearly as good as the established relationships with advertisers I had, however the ads being displayed were a lot more targeted than banner networks. I eventually stopped using AdSense because I could better monetise the adspace with my traditional advertisers. However that was before Google went to work providing such a variety of banner sizes and display options. Nowadays Google AdSense is a viable income source for many websites so I definitely suggest you look into it as a possible option for generating revenue but remember it’s not the only means and you can earn more if you get busy chasing targeted advertisers.Ongoing maintenanceI wouldn’t call web advertising income passive, but it sure is close. The systems I had in place handled everything automatically. While I did have to manually create advertiser accounts, pursue advertisers and control billing, once the systems were in place, in particular phpAdsNew, I didn’t have to do much. Of course depending on your website often the maintenance of your community is were the labour is involved, but chances are if you started the site you either enjoy it or have plans in place to eventually remove yourself from the maintenance role. In the end I sold off my site but if it wasn’t for the advertiser revenue my asset would not have been valued nearly as highly as the final sale price. Investing in advertising is like investing in any asset, the time and labour you put in today will lead to benefits in the future.