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Solving Your Liquidity Crunch

Sometimes business owners get into difficult situations because they don’t understand the likelihood of crisis and are unprepared when it strikes. One of the most likely kinds of crisis is a liquidity crunch.

A liquidity crunch can occur as a result of a customer extending their time to pay you. This event may come unplanned, and therefore, put you in a cash crunch in the short-term. As the saying goes “cash is king.”

Sometimes a liquidity crunch is the result of a business decision that doesn’t work according to plan. A business invests in a new product or service line, only to learn that market demand for the new offering is less than expected and the business needs some time to adjust. The money expended may eventually be recouped, but the payback period will be significantly longer than management had planned.
Lining Up a Credit Line
One way to prepare for a liquidity event described above is to line up a source of available cash while the business is flourishing. The best time to get a loan is when you don’t need it. However, in my experience, some business owners delay this process during good times because they are too busy to plan for lean times, then panick when trouble hits. The panic sometimes causes them to drain their personal bank accounts. This is a mistake that must be avoided. Nothing is worse than letting a business difficulty spill into the business owner’s personal life.
A far better option is to pursue a business line of credit, which is an agreement for a lender to provide a specified amount of short-term credit to a business owner for a period of one year or less. The maximum amount of the credit line typically depends on business revenues, the credit history of the business or its owner, their industry, and how long the business has been in operation.
The best thing about a line of credit is the flexibility it offers. I recommend using a line of credit prudently. You should not use it to shore up operating issues that are not getting addressed. It should be for a short period of time with a clear indication on how it gets paid back. You only borrow what you need, when you need it, and you are borrowing only for a short-term time horizon, less than 12 months. If you don’t see how you will be able to pay off the line of credit within the 12 months then it should not be used. Rather you should seek more long-term financing with your bank or other institution.
Where You Borrow and What You Pay
In years past, banks provided virtually all lines of credit. The documentation could be significant, but if you were approved the rate was usually very good. The interest rate charged on a credit line was generally stated as a standard rate like bank prime, plus a small spread for the lender.
Today, the process has changed some given new financial regulations. Many banks may not lend to a small business, unless the owner or business is a long-time customer with other banking needs (checking, savings…). But, it’s well worth asking banks if a business line of credit is available because of the competitiveness of their rates.
A whole new crop of online lenders has emerged to meet the needs of small businesses, including leaders like Kabbage, BlueVine and OnDeck. These lenders usually work with businesses seeking $10,000 – $200,000 as a line of credit. Rates are typically higher than those available from a bank. The range of APRs can easily exceed 18%. If you go down this path, find the right lender that is affordable for you. Be very careful taking on debt that is only “kicking the can down the road” and will ultimately result in a severely limited business operation.
Think of a line of credit as an insurance policy. You hope that tapping it won’t be necessary. But, when you face a liquidity crunch, you’ll be glad to have it. Remember, liquidity is a lifeline that might well save your business.
Have you considered a line of credit for your business? Call Trillium Financial. We can help you avoid the hazards and find the lender that best meets your needs.