Thursday, 23rd December 2021 | Small business financing Canada
Pros and cons of merchant cash advance financing
Merchant Cash Advance financing has both pros and cons. Read our detailed blog to know if it's the right choice for your business.
What is a merchant cash advance?
The first thing to remember is that a Merchant Cash Advance (MCA) is not a loan. Unlike typical loans, MCA is a lump-sum payment made to a company in exchange for future sales. This is why Merchant Cash Advance financing is ideal for B2B transactions, as well as retail and restaurant establishments that predominantly accept debit and credit card payments. This is also why a Merchant Cash Advance is simpler to obtain than a loan because the applicant is assessed depending on the number of sales and cash flow generated in the previous few months rather than by their creditworthiness.
Pros of merchant cash advance financing
A merchant cash advance may be the appropriate solution for you if you are a small business owner looking for an alternative credit option for your company. However, before making the decision, study the pros and cons of Merchant Cash Advance financing. Here are a few of its merits:
Remittance depending on your company's credit card sales on a daily or weekly basis
The remittance structure is one of the most appealing aspects of obtaining a merchant cash advance. A classic business term loan requires a company to make a specified payment regardless of whether or not its customers have paid their invoices. This might place a hardship on a company that has slow-paying customers or a changing cash flow. As previously stated, a percentage of your company's credit card sales is utilized to pay your commitment with merchant cash advance financing. As a result, if you have a sluggish sales month, you will not be charged as much as during peak seasons.
The money is received shortly
The process of obtaining a company loan from a bank might take weeks or months to complete. If your company needs immediate operating cash, you can't afford to go through a lengthy financing procedure just to find out that you don't qualify for a loan. Funds are typically accessible in less than a week with a merchant cash advance, and many lenders can close agreements in less than 72 hours.
Payments are made automatically
With a merchant cash advance, payments are automatically deducted from your business's accepted credit transactions. This means you won't have to take time out of your day to make the payments, and you’re far less likely to incur late fees. If you have a habit of forgetting to pay your bills, knowing that your cash advance remittance is handled for you might be reassuring.
Cons of merchant cash advance financing
Although having access to quick cash with no strings attached seems appealing, there are certain drawbacks to getting a merchant cash advance that you should be aware of. Here are a few disadvantages to merchant cash advance financing:
Rates of interest can be quite high
The expense of merchant cash advances is one of the main reasons why businesses avoid them. While the fees charged by each lender differs, a merchant cash advance may cost you more in interest than other types of business financing. Merchant cash advance providers are exempt from numerous interest rate limitations and regulations since cash advances are deemed "short term" borrowing. As a result, their approvals are frequently linked to a high annual percentage rate (APR).
It might be difficult to succeed if you don't receive credit card sales
In many circumstances, companies accept a combination of credit cards, cash, and maybe even cheques as payment methods. While merchant cash advance providers normally do not have a problem with this, they do occasionally add a clause in their contracts that prohibits businesses from giving incentives for non-credit card payments.
There could be limitations
Another negative aspect to receiving a merchant cash advance is that there may be “fine print” that places limitations on your business while you are fulfilling your obligation. A common restriction to watch out for is wording that won’t allow the business to switch credit card processing companies. Other prohibited changes may include things like moving locations or revising hours of operation.
Why you should choose iCapital
When applying for merchant cash advance financing, the most important thing to remember is that while it can be a useful tool in certain situations, it also comes with risks. Make sure you understand all restrictions and expenses before deciding to pursue this financing option and don't be afraid to ask iCapital questions. After you've gathered all of the information, you can assess if your firm might benefit from a merchant cash advance. Contact iCapital at 1.877.251.7171 today for the best services in Canada.
5 Tips for Your Small Businesses for the Holiday Season
Set your goals
It’s always a good idea to have a plan to meet your goals, and your sales goals are no different. Set a realistic goal for your holiday season, and make sure you account for metrics other than revenue. Customer engagement and social media following are also important.
Think about seasonal milestones like Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, and strategize about how you’ll leverage them in your overall plan. If you’re at loose ends, take a look at what your competitors are doing. Track where they’re advertising and what kinds of promotions they’re running.
Finally, track what works and what doesn’t. Planning doesn’t end just because it’s after New Year’s–you can take what you learned into the following seasons.
Create a marketing plan
You might already have a loyal customer base but the holiday season is the perfect time to attract new attention. People are primed to purchase, so they’re seeking out advertising. Get your name out there to acquire new customers, enrich your relationships with existing customers, and drive sales.
Your marketing plan should cover the what, how, and where you’ll advertise. Make sure you prioritize the marketing channels that matter. At a minimum, you should revisit your online presence, ensuring that your web site and social media channels are up-to-date and active. Also consider paid options like Google Search Ads and social media ads.
Stock up on inventory
All your goal setting and strategic planning will be for naught if your shelves are bare when your customers arrive. Now is the time to survey your sales numbers from last year. Account for any changes (if your marketing is successful, for example, you may have more demand), and get your orders in. The last thing you want to do is to give your customers a reason to seek out your competitors.
Attract customers with promotions and sales
Holiday shopping is extremely competitive so you’ll want to give your potential customers as many reasons as possible to visit your store. Store-wide or specific sales may entice your customers but you can make things more interesting and set yourself apart with promotional discounts like early bird specials, discounts, or free shipping. Make those on your email lists or social media feel special with targeted incentives like coupons or exclusive deals. Consider bonus offers. Also, don’t ignore end-of-season sales opportunities. You can capitalize on the momentum you’ve created with deep discounts that will help you maintain customer attention and clear overstock or excess inventory.
With all these strategies it’s a good idea to beta test them before a complete roll-out so you can hit the right balance and get customer attention while still turning a profit.
Open an online storefront
Whether you offer an online shopping experience or not, it’s a good idea to go at least partly digital over the holidays. Online shopping is very popular and shopper fatigue is real. Start by making sure everything on your existing web site is complete and current, and that any shopping capabilities you have are in perfect working order–including on mobile.
If you have little or no online purchasing capabilities, consider connecting to a service like Shopify, or leveraging Facebook Shops or Instagram Shopping to show off your wares.
The holiday season is a key part of your sales cycle. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can strengthen your relationship with current customers and attract new customers, all while hitting your sales targets.
Empowering Your Small Business With The Means to Market
The thing is, when you’re an SMB, it can be tricky to figure out just how much you should be spending. The answer, of course, is it depends–-on your industry, your goals, and your costs. Still, setting aside money for marketing is not a nice-to-have. You’ll have to market yourself if you want to compete.
Why is marketing so important?
Marketing is the tool businesses can use to introduce themselves, to engage with potential customers, to drive sales, and to foster loyalty. Without it, you’re missing an integral piece of your business model. While word-of-mouth is one way to get customers, it’s not easy to reach people as regularly and in sufficient numbers as you’ll need to sustain your business. Here’s where to set aside some budget.
Invest in awareness
Marketing encourages interest in your products and services which is why you can’t afford to do without it.
Marketing for customer acquisition is a strategy that tries to reach customers who’ve never bought from your company before. It’s obvious why this is important: your customers are the ones who make purchases.
Customer retention marketing focuses on nurturing existing relationships to make sure that your clients will not only want to be repeat customers, but also want to refer your business to their friends. Leveraging customer loyalty is not only good business sense, it’s also generally more affordable than attracting new customers.
Budget for marketing
You’ll need to invest strategically in your marketing, whether in traditional methods like newspaper or television, or in digital advertising platforms alone. In any case, you need your business to be on the internet. In some cases a simple (but well-written and SEO-friendly) website showing location, services, and hours will suffice. Other businesses will need something a little more robust.
Social media is just as important when it comes to your digital presence. Consider having at least one account on a top platform where you can publish contests, promotions, or interesting news from your industry. Social media is a powerful way to direct customers to your main site or to make sales.
Managing your marketing budget
Your business needs a marketing budget, but how much should you be spending? The most effective way to assess a realistic but effective marketing budget is to research, measure, and then evaluate.
You can arrive at a preliminary budget by looking at your revenue and determining what strategy will most help you reach your goals. For example, are you hoping to get more customers, have your current customers make more purchases, or have your customers pay more for more premium products or services?
Make sure that you have clearly defined and measurable goals. If you’re looking to increase web traffic, determine how many site visits you’re aiming for. If you want to see more engagement with a certain market segment, define as many characteristics as possible. This kind of granular thinking will enable your marketing team to tailor their efforts to your desired outcomes.
Record what you spend on each kind of marketing so that you can measure the return on investment and refine your efforts going forward.
Finally, schedule a review each quarter and adjust your budget accordingly.
Marketing will help your business meet its goals–but only if you invest in it. If you need help budgeting for your marketing plan, iCapital can help. Contact us here.
Tips for keeping your inventory secured and your brand trustworthy
Tips for keeping your inventory secured and your brand trustworthy
Inventory management, the practice of having the right–and right amount–of products for sale, isn’t the sexiest part of running a small business but it is crucial. Failure to stay on top of your inventory can cost your company time and money, but even more worryingly, it can destroy your reputation with your customers. Like supply chain management in general, inventory management is largely a matter of planning and organization. Read on for top tips on how to make sure you don’t have to tell your customers you’re sold out.
What is inventory management?
Your job as a small business owner is to meet the demand of your customers by supplying them with the products they want, when they want. It sounds simple enough, but businesses can’t just order as much as possible. There are costs associated with carrying excess inventory, and you can lose money if you have to sell off product at deep discounts. Foreseeing customer taste and demand is a key component of inventory management, and when done correctly, it will boost your business and help foster customer loyalty.
Why is inventory management important to your business?
According to Software Path, only about 18% of small businesses use an inventory tool, and nearly half–43%--either don’t track inventory at all or they do so manually. This means that these businesses are making stocking decisions without the pertinent data. This can lead to having too much or too little stock, cash flow problems, and a disorganized budget. By regularly surveying your inventory, you can make informed business decisions to ensure you’ll continue to profit.
Additionally (and importantly), a well-managed inventory will help ensure that you have the stock your customers want, when they want it. This directly affects sales, but it also demonstrates good business practices to your customers.
Top 4 inventory management tips for your business
Stay informed and be strategic
Prioritize taking stock of your…stock. Regularly assessing your inventory will enable you to make informed decisions about how much product you need–and how much you might need in the future. Include inventory management in your everyday operations to take the guesswork out of ordering.
Listen to your customers
If you and your staff aren’t paying attention to your customers’ requests, you’re leaving money on the table. Train your staff to note what your customers are asking for and to take these requests to management. Analyze your competition and see what they’re carrying. Be proactive in researching and analyzing the best products on the market.
Observe and anticipate seasonal trends
Every business experiences ebbs and flows and your ordering behaviour should reflect that. Document sales data over time so you can predict peaks and valleys, and secure inventory accordingly.
Use promotions strategically
Even the most well-managed businesses end up with overstock from time to time. If you’ve got product you need to move, you can set up a promotion to entice buyers. Be strategic about the deals you're offering. Too deep a discount can lose you money so aim for the highest sale price that will move your product.
If you want to compete in your marketplace, inventory management is key. By prioritizing regular assessments you can track your expenditures, purchase strategically, and keep your customers happy.
How small business owners can protect themselves against rising inflation
How small business owners can protect themselves against rising inflation
Inflation describes an increase in the cost of consumer goods and services. It’s a simple concept with complex causes but it’s certain that the COVID-19 pandemic has played a significant role in the spiking costs faced by Canadians. In January 2022, the inflation rate was a little over 5% compared to the previous year for consumers, with many businesses experiencing even higher increases. For Canada’s SMBs, this means rising prices and tighter profit margins.
If your business has yet to suffer the effects of inflation, it’s likely only a matter of time. Although costs don’t always rise at the notable levels we’ve seen this past year, inflation is an ongoing process so your best bet is to be proactive.
Inflation management strategies for your small business
Focus on growth
In dealing with rising prices and shrinking profit margins, small businesses will have to choose between severe austerity or a growth mindset. In the former strategy, you cut all but the absolutely essential expenses and try to hang on until things improve. (Spoiler: inflation is continuous.) The problem with this strategy is that you won’t be in a position to invest in your business so the likelihood of it surviving is painfully low.
Rather than trying to wait things out, focus instead on growth. Review your profit margins regularly and no less frequently than quarterly to make sure you can adjust to maintain your cash flow. This will help you maintain some certainty even while the markets fluctuate. By moving forward with a plan, you may well be giving yourself a better chance at success in both the short- and longer-term.
Review your gross profit margins
Setting your prices to match inflation rates is inefficient and can alienate your customers. Instead of posting fluctuating prices, build some room for adjustment into your everyday rates so you can be nimble in the face of instability without blowing your margins.
Look for savings
A growth mindset doesn’t preempt smart financial decision-making. Look at your indirect costs to see if there are places you can cut unnecessary expenses. Review your overhead expenses, software and media subscriptions, administration costs, and other operational items. Consider automation where you can. It streamlines processes, reduces errors, and can save you time and money.
Be smart about borrowing
Borrowing can be a sound choice, provided it's done at the right time and the right terms. If you foresee running up against cash flow issues, don’t hesitate. Borrow the money you need to keep operating. There are online tools to help you predict trends so aim to borrow at favourable rates. You can select a fixed rate loan to protect your repayment terms. Similarly, consider moving high-interest credit card debt to loans with lower rates.
Current inflation rates are a concern for Canadian small business owners but there are strategies to maintain operations. The tips above will not only help you weather this storm, but will also help you prepare for the next.