I was involved in a meeting with a prospect a few weeks ago who we will call Don. Don owns a manufacturing company which is presently experiencing a growth rate of thirty percent annually. He is showing a profit, but his bank will not increase his line of credit. As a result, Don’s company is having cash flow problems. He told me that he has to extend payments to his suppliers, but they are not happy with him. Don also told me he is unable to call most of his customers for payment, because they are within their credit terms; he feels he would be harassing them. He asked me “Why don’t I have cash?”
I told him he was caught in what I call the operating cycle trap. Don looked at me and said “What is that?” I told him his operating cycle is; 1) the time from when he first purchases raw materials, 2) converts the raw materials to a finished product, 3) sells the finished products, 4) converts the accounts receivable to cash. I continued by saying your problem arises when the operating cycle is greater than the credit terms you receive from your suppliers.
The operating cycle problem is increased when your bank, being a historical lender, bases your line of credit on what your company has done in the past, not the opportunities in front of you. They will not increase your line of credit. Finally, your profit margin is not large enough to fund your current growth rate. Don looked at me and said “Is there anything I can do?”
I said, “Yes, Don you do have some alternatives.” If possible, the way to solve this problem, at no additional cost to the company, is to get your suppliers to give you longer credit terms. Then, give your customers shorter credit terms. This will shorten your operating cycle, and a goal for any business should be to minimize their operating cycle. Don said “I know that will not work because my creditors are asking me to pay faster and the competition within my industry will not allow me to shorten my credit terms to my customers.”
Another way to solve your company’s needs is to consider approaching another bank that may take a more aggressive approach to increasing your line of credit. He then told me that he has been to three different banks. They all said they think they will be able to increase his credit line. The end result has been every bank has either a) they want Don’s business, but the line would be the same as his current line of credit, or b) the increase was so small it really wouldn’t solve his problem. I told him that is what I would expect. Bankers’ underwriting policies for lines of credit are similar.
A third solution would be to get an equity partner. A person or entity would invest the amount of cash to pay the bank off and to fund your projected growth for three to five years. He looked at me and said “The last thing I want is a partner.”