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The Sound of Small Business USA

The US is and has always been built on small businesses. Did you know the SBA’s 2019 report stated there are 30.7 million small businesses in the U.S. and they make up 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses? That’s right. They contribute not only to employment, but to innovation and the global economy. 

There are many upsides of owning a small business. There’s the flexibility and empowerment of being your own boss. There’s the possibility of financial freedom without the restrictions of working for someone else. And of course, maybe most importantly, there’s the ability to follow your own passion and do what you love.

Of course as many of us know, freedom comes with responsibilities and risk. For instance, right at the outset, 50% of all small businesses fail. Not the best odds when trying to set up a career and future. Small businesses tend to be the hardest hit during times of recession. And it’s more difficult to attract qualified employees when you might not be able to offer the same level of pay or benefits as a large corporation.

Despite the potential downsides, the good news is that the future of small business looks promising. Most of the recent studies and statistics show a future of growth and expansion, which bodes well for business owners and the US economy.

Need proof? According to a Guidant Financial and the Small Business Trends Alliance (SBTA) Small Business Trends 2021 survey:

  • 49 percent of small business owners plan to increase staff and expand or remodel their business. 
  • 55 percent will pivot with the times by investing in digital marketing 
  • 27 percent will be investing in IT infrastructure
  • 22 percent will invest in business services such as using a third-party or software to help them manage payroll, accounting, or inventory.

The fact that businesses are planning to invest right now means they see opportunities for growth and feel confident committing time and resources towards that growth. This speaks volumes especially considering we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and most small businesses have not fared well over the past year. Plus, as so many of us know, the hardest part of growing a business is cash flow management

The future of small business requires capital. 

But how do you secure it? Bank loans can be cumbersome and tedious, especially for small business owners. And often, they don’t provide the benefits other options do.

Also, many of the small businesses that require capital don’t qualify for traditional bank loans. The banking industry’s risk management model does little to support and encourage small entrepreneurs. 

Larger corporations tend to be more diversified and therefore can navigate growing pains more easily. Whereas a small business owner might have to mortgage a house, for example, to expand or even just to keep the business going.

Banks tend to be a poor match for a small business owner. There are however alternative methods that can help you fund your growth:

  • Equipment Leasing: Leases can provide a great way to source new equipment without having to secure a loan. Plus, you can keep the loan option available for other important projects.
  • Business Line of Credit: extremely flexible since you can continue to reuse and repay as often as you’d like, as long as your payments are on time.
  • HELOC – Home equity line of credit: Often a viable option for small businesses. It can be a bit risky as it ties your personal assets to your performance in business. While the costs are low, you have to put your personal finances on the line.
  • Pay Cash: Can you liquidate assets? Have a family member who can provide funds? If so, cash can be a great option.
  • Private Short-Term Unsecured Cash Loan: Working capital loans are easy to secure and typically no collateral is required with an alternative lender. And since they draw capital from private sources, they can be more flexible with the lending opportunities they provide.

There are many benefits of alternative lending which has led to a rise in small private finance companies in the last decade:

  • Private lenders such as AFG understand the personal risks of a small business owner and offer solutions that help the business thrive.
  • Unlike banks, most private lenders do not impose blanket liens on the business. The equipment financed is the only collateral required to guarantee the deal. No need to put family finances at risk.
  • Creative payment options and finance structures that take a company’s seasonality and downtime into account.
  • Prompt, simple process – most private lenders will make their credit decision in 24-48 hours with little paperwork (banks may take weeks reviewing financial statements).
  • Tax deductions (often, you can deduct the full cost of qualified equipment purchases).

We believe in the power and strength of small business. This country was built on it and will continue to thrive because of it. Which is why AFG does what we do. We hope our support of small business is evident in the way we structure our own processes and the way we work with our clients. We truly want what’s best for them and work hard to ensure we meet their goals every time.

If you’re a small business owner that wants to grow, reach out and learn more about your options. Let us find a solution that works best for your business.

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The Hardest Part of Growing a Business

According to the U.S. Bank study conducted by Jessie Hagan, “82 percent of businesses fail due to cash flow mismanagement” 

You know that running a successful business requires first and foremost, a clear understanding and knowledge of the financial aspects of the business. Companies of all sizes need at least some sort of financial planning assistance in order to grow. A plan needs to be in place, especially during those growth years when problems with cash flow management are most likely to arise.

Businesses operate on money and its availability (working capital) determines everything from how you’re going to pay your bills, to making your rent payment to being able to upgrade equipment and materials to keep up with your competitors. 

You need to know where every single dollar is coming from and where every single dollar is going.

If you don’t stay on top of your cash flow, you could put your business in jeopardy.

FACT : Just because a company makes a profit does not mean that they are cash-flow positive.

Let’s imagine that a company makes $25,000 in sales and has $20,000 in expenses one month. There is no guarantee they will collect all $25,000 from those sales, especially if their customers are given terms (i.e. net 15 or net 30). If at least $5,000 or more of those sales are not paid upon delivery, the business will be forced to cover a portion (or all) of the $20,000 in expenses. This is where a lot of businesses get into trouble and would benefit from additional working capital.

Some of the most significant monetary challenges your business can face:

  1. Limited cash flow – if capital expenditures or outstanding receivables are draining your bank account, your ability to be profitable will be challenging if not impossible.
  2. Effective Budgeting – failure to stick to a budget can affect your ability to analyze and forecast expenditures and change direction quickly when needed. 
  3. Tax Compliances – One of the biggest issues that businesses face regarding federal taxes isn’t payment – it’s the cost of compliance.
  4. Raising capital – a lack of capital can prevent a small business from hiring, thereby preventing expansion into additional markets and exploration of new opportunities.
  5. Preparation for unforeseen events – how many people predicted a global pandemic? Not many, and unfortunately because of that, thousands lost their businesses and livelihoods. 
  6. Excessive Debt – from varying interest rates to price increases on cost of goods and services, unexpected costs can add up. And debt can grow exponentially when these surges are combined with slow selling seasons.
  7. Late payments – late payments typically come with late fees and the longer you wait to pay them, the quicker they add up.

How do you overcome these challenges? 

It’s not about overcoming these challenges – the real question is how do you acquire the cash liquidity needed to keep your company not only operational, but in a growth stage?

There is more than one solution, but utilizing a working capital loan or leasing equipment are often your best bets, depending on your business and its current state. There are lots of benefits to both. You can read more about working capital benefits and benefits to leasing equipment to understand what solution will work best for you.

In the meantime, here are some other helpful hints to get you on the road to abundant cash flow:

  1. Keep a Line of Credit
    You’ll likely need access to funds other than your initial investment to keep your business going. Taking out a revolving line of credit helps many businesses stay afloat.
  1. Minimize Overhead
    Everything you spend in a business eats into your profits. Prioritize only necessary expenditures (equipment, staff, space, etc.) to minimize costs.
  1. Track and Monitor Spending
    The more you know about what’s coming in and going out, the easier it will be to plan for your future and invest in your growth when the time comes.
  1. Invest Appropriately
    Investments are necessary for growth, but don’t rush into “too good to be true” ventures. Take your time to assess the potential outcomes and choose the opportunities that best fit your business model and mission.
  1. Maintain Cash Reserves
    Cash is king. And as far as we know, it probably always will be, so maintaining some level of cash at all times is a must when you’re in business.

Need help with cash flow management, a working capital loan, or equipment financing? We can find the path that works best for your business. 

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How To Finance Equipment For Your Business Needs

We’ve all heard the phrase you have to spend money to make money…  

But really, it’s only true if you spend that money wisely. Investing money into something that doesn’t improve the outcome of your business won’t get you anywhere. 

We know that having the right equipment to power your business is important. The proper equipment can increase your productivity, lower your costs, or give you access to new markets – all things that positively affect the bottom line.

Would you partner with an IT firm with old computers and network servers? Or how about a frequent coffee shop without an espresso machine? Or hire a construction company without the machinery required to build reliable houses? Absolutely not.

Businesses require the right equipment, machinery, hardware, and/or software in order to operate, gow, and succeed. And the ugly truth is, not everyone has the funds to cover these expenses. There are a few different options out there to get to the money-making stage.

We’ve summarized various ways to fund business equipment needs, each with pros and cons. 

Your pocket – Using cash payment to buy the equipment

Pros : Using your cash reserves to purchase equipment and machinery makes the transaction simple and fast as there’s no lease or loan to enter into, and the new purchase is owned outright.

Cons : Since cash is a finite resource compared to credit, it is almost never a good idea to purchase large business items with cash. Companies that only use cash limit their access to major resources when they are needed.

A bank/credit loanBorrowing money to purchase a piece of equipment and paying it back over time.

Pros : For companies with a strong financial standing, it is easy to secure credit for a large purchase. Using credit creates more flexibility, allows expansion of purchasing power to readily respond to opportunities for growth and to proactively improve machinery and equipment.

Cons : Applying for a line of credit can take a while. It requires detailed documentation such as audited financial statements and involves numerous fees and a substantial down payment.

An equipment financing company (leasing) Signing an agreement that allows you to use specific equipment for a period of time.

Pros : Leasing provides a fixed rate upfront and equal payments month-to-month, which makes budgeting and cash flow management easier. Leasing companies partner with you and understand your needs. They specialize in working with industrial equipment, so they understand your business and the equipment in your space. It is a smooth process where a credit decision can be made in under 48 hours. You are able to upgrade when needed. Plus, you can eliminate maintenance costs with leased equipment. Bonus: There are also significant tax deductions available!

Cons : Are there any? We haven’t found them. Leasing just makes sense.

 

Once you’ve decided to move forward with leasing your equipment…now what? Choosing a lease structure! There are a variety to consider: 

  • Operating Lease – This is the traditional lease agreement that typically provides the lowest payment and is a good option for overcoming any current capital restraints.
  • Capital Lease – a lease classified by the lessee as a purchase, with a title transfer to the lessee at the end of the term. 
  • First Amendment Lease – The first amendment lease allows you to purchase the equipment at one or more predetermined points during the lease. 
  • Tax Lease – A lease in which the lessor, is the party that is considered the owner of the leased equipment for tax purposes. The lessor assumes both the benefits and costs of ownership including depreciation, while the lessee (you) can still write off the lease payment as an expense.
  • Synthetic Lease – A synthetic lease is structured so that it is treated as a capital lease (similar to a loan) for tax purposes and an operating lease (traditional lease) for accounting purposes. 

How do you know which option is best for you? It depends on your business and specific situation. Before you shop for an equipment lease, think about your monthly budget, how long you’ll need the equipment for, how you’ll use it, and when you’ll need to upgrade it. 

Several other lease structures are available through AFG – we offer seamless flexibility to our clients, knowing every situation is different and unique.

Shopping for an equipment financing and leasing company can be overwhelming. Take a step back and consider these factors when selecting the company that is right for your business.

  • Experience – How long has the company been in business? Who are their satisfied customers? 
  • Convenience – How simple is the application process? How soon do you have access to the funds? Do they provide a personal account manager to help you in this process or do you have to reach out to customer care?
  • Specialization – Which industries does the company specialize in? 
  • Reputation – Customer references and overall experience

Businesses can work with a provider that’s intimately familiar with their industry and cooperatively select terms and conditions that meet the unique needs of the business.

With a number of variables involved in securing financing for equipment, AFG is a great place to lease. It makes the process straightforward, clear and convenient. It provides services to a wide range of credit profiles and brings competitive story-based financing to the table. 

“When we need equipment financing, we call Brandon at Alliance Funding. He gets our deals done on time and on budget. What else could you ask for?” – Steve “Barney” Byle, Corporate Controller, Edge metals Recycling, Inc.

AFG can help you find a solution that makes sense for your business.

Start your application today →

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Emerging from The Shadows: Independents Embrace Optimism for 2021

Leaders of three top private independents share the biggest challenges their companies faced in 2020 and discuss how their cost and access to capital fared over the last year. As the economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic with pent-up demand and new infrastructure spending projects on the horizon, they agree 2021 looks bullish for the industry.

What was the biggest challenge your company faced in 2020 and how did you overcome it?

Dave Fate: The biggest challenge we faced was the sudden stop in travel and loss of opportunity to meet face to face with customers, business partners and prospects. When the global pandemic became evident in March, we immediately assessed how best to assist our then current customers and prospects. We are happy to report that our disciplined, uncompromising credit culture, coupled with our focus on assets that are integral and essential to the ongoing operations of the customer, once again proved vital to Stonebriar Commercial Finance’s outstanding performance.

In 2020, SCF achieved record volume of $1.4 billion, its highest level of new business volume in its six-year history.

Operating income grew over 36% from 2019, highlighted by zero credit losses for the sixth straight year. We were able to meet and exceed the challenges brought on by the pandemic due to the skill, dedication and tireless effort of our staff.

Brent Hall: The biggest challenge that we faced in 2020, like many companies probably, was the very rapid transition to a remote work environment. Our IT group had to rapidly deploy additional hardware for home offices and set up a new system for remote meetings which, in our case, was Microsoft Teams. We also implemented electronic documentation.

Justin Nielsen: The pandemic and economic shutdown last year put significant stress on our customer experience approach, as we were forced to make emergency adaptations to our systems. One crucial example was in mid-March of 2020; we identified the urgent need to institute a payment-relief program for our lessees.

It was obvious with the complete economic shutdown that many of our lessees would certainly see an abrupt decrease in revenues and a likely potential for payment impairment.

We “rolled up our sleeves” to create a pre-packaged payment relief plan for our lessees who requested assistance. This took considerable work (often requiring department leaders to work around the clock) and collaboration with each of our wonderful funding partners to complete. It was incredible to watch the Onset team institute such a monumental task in a very short period of time.

By April 1 of last year, we were proud to offer each and every lessee who requested help a temporary payment-relief program. Not one of our customers was declined. We knew we were one of the fastest to bring this fully documented, pre-packaged payment relief to market, as several of our funding partners asked if they could have and use our “CRP” (COVID Relief Program). We were flattered at the request and of course gave it to them freely.

Additionally, many of our customers were frustrated that none of their other lenders or lessors offered them any payment help during the crisis. Our lessees were extremely grateful that we had this in place to help remedy their unexpected cash-flow constraints. Ultimately, we were able to offer our CRP to a large number of our lessees. Not only did this protect the overall performance of Onset’s portfolio, but more importantly, it helped us provide the best customer experience we could during extraordinarily difficult global economic circumstances.

How has the cost and availability of capital changed over the last year? 

Fate: As we have noted in our recent press releases, SCF continued to access the capital markets in 2020 with high demand for our securitized products at the very attractive rates. Our 20-1 and 21-1 ABS issuances were met with record demand from over 70 investors made up of the world’s largest asset managers, insurance companies and other institutional investors.

The markets are very liquid right now with significant amounts of cash looking for quality investments. The past performances of our existing issuances, illustrated by continuing rating agency upgrades, have shown that SCF is a sound and trustworthy investment. SCF’s $1 billion revolving credit facility provides liquidity to operate the business.

Hall: The cost of capital has remained quite low, with no movement in interest rates and strong demand for small ticket equipment lease and finance business. We’ve actually seen a decrease in pricing, and availability has been excellent, with more capital providers chasing fewer quality assets. In our capital raise, which took place in Q1/21, we were oversubscribed, having come to market with a $20 million offering and ending up with $25 million in under two weeks.

Nielsen: Funding availability was a dramatic roller coaster last year. While Q2/20 was Onset’s worst funding quarter in recent history, we significantly recovered by exceeding our quarterly funding record in Q4 and actually wrapped up 2020 by achieving our highest annual fundings in company history — what a year! That said, there was definitely a capital supply and demand issue in Q2, which was certainly understandable and most definitely self-explanatory.

Looking back, it was impossible not to feel the unsettling uncertainty regarding how long the financial markets would take to return to even a resemblance of normalcy. Thankfully, Onset Financial experienced a swift and healthy return of capital availability while debt rates remained competitive compared to previous years of strong global financial markets. It was so refreshing, and frankly, quite relieving to see the capital debt markets snap-back into normalcy at the beginning of Q3, which was a much faster return than the overall national economic recovery. Obviously, this lightning-fast recovery was dramatically impacted by a combination of federal relief programs and stabilizing equity markets after a very bumpy Q2. In summary, considering the Herculean challenges of the pandemic and economic shutdown, capital availability and low debt rates remained constant throughout 2020 with the exception of Q2.

What is your outlook for equipment finance in the year ahead given the macro forces at play (political, pandemic, etc.)? 

Fate: We remain very optimistic for equipment finance in 2021. The economy is growing, demand is trending up in most industries and many consumers are in the best shape they have been overall, with higher personal savings, stronger net worth and less debt. Over $5 trillion of high yield debt will need to be refinanced over the next several years, and significant government spending during that same time would likely drive additional CAPEX needs.

It is important to note, however, that higher taxes and increased regulation, as proposed by the current administration, could temper the growth of CAPEX spending. The equity markets are at record highs, interest rates are still low and companies are flush with cash. The outlook for the equipment finance industry is strong for the near-term.

Hall: We are very bullish on 2021 and expect to grow our business 38%. It is expected that GDP growth will be 4% to 6% this year and there is a lot of pent-up demand for CAPEX. Even though employment is higher, the other economic indicators are quite good, with many companies faring very well during COVID-19 and poised for strong growth this year.

Nielsen: Looking at our current macro-economic environment with total positivity, I’m thrilled at the potential opportunities that lie ahead. There are so many wonderful things happening that I believe will be monumental for the equipment leasing industry. The federal government has flooded trillions of dollars into the market. Hopefully, this will have the desired effect and jumpstart consumer spending, which directly impacts the economic food chain. Companies across the country will need to grow to meet increased demand. Equipment leasing should thrive as the national economic engine begins to hum again.

Additionally, the current administration is moving forward with trillions in infrastructure spending. Again, how can this not be an absolutely huge and potentially industry-changing positivity? Sure, economists may argue the long-term adverse effects this surge in the national debt will have on taxes, the value of the dollar, inflation and artificially low interest rates; however, as it relates to equipment leasing, I believe a major spending flurry is coming and equipment lessors need to be in the best position possible to capture the new funding opportunities.

Don’t forget the stock market! The Dow continues to perform at a record-breaking pace which also drives confidence in capital markets. This should keep capital availability in a state of high liquidity, so there will be plenty of dollars to fund the increased equipment demand. By way of disclaimer, we were hit so hard and fast by the pandemic and it seems the news outlets are constantly reminding us of the very real potential for new virus surges and variants that could quickly send us back into lockdown. So, we still need to always act with prudence. However, it should be obvious I’m extremely bullish on the equipment leasing industry in 2021 and beyond.