Information for the city of Birmingham
Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama. The city is the county seat of Jefferson County. The city's population was 212,237 according to the 2010 United States Census. The Birmingham Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of about 1,128,047 according to the 2010 Census, which is approximately one quarter of Alabama's population.Birmingham was founded in 1871, during the post Civil War Reconstruction period, through the merger of three pre existing farm towns, notably, former Elyton. It grew from there, annexing many more of its smaller neighbors, into an industrial and railroad transportation center with a focus on mining, the iron and steel industry, and railroading.
Birmingham was named for Birmingham, England, United Kingdom; one of the UK's major industrial cities. Many, if not most, of the original settlers who founded Birmingham were of English ancestry. In one writer's view, the city was planned as a place where cheap, non unionized, and African American labor from rural Alabama could be employed in the city's steel mills and blast furnaces, giving it a competitive advantage over industrial cities in the Midwest and Northeast.From its founding through the end of the 1960s, Birmingham was a primary industrial center of the South. The pace of Birmingham's growth during the period from 1881 through 1920 earned its nicknames The Magic City and The Pittsburgh of the South. Much like Pittsburgh, Birmingham's major industries were iron and steel production, plus a major component of the railroading industry, where rails and railroad cars were both manufactured in Birmingham. In the field of railroading, the two primary hubs of railroading in the Deep South were nearby Atlanta and Birmingham, beginning in the 1860s and continuing through to the present day. The economy diversified during the later half of the twentieth century. Though the manufacturing industry maintains a strong presence in Birmingham, other businesses and industries such as banking, telecommunications, transportation, electrical power transmission, medical care, college education, and insurance have risen in stature. Mining in the Birmingham area is no longer a major industry with the exception of coal mining.
Birmingham ranks as one of the most important business centers in the Southeastern United States and is also one of the largest banking centers in the United States. In addition, the Birmingham area serves as headquarters to one Fortune 500 company: Regions Financial, along with five other Fortune 1000 companies.In higher education, Birmingham has been the location of the University of Alabama School of Medicine (formerly the Medical College of Alabama) and the University of Alabama School of Dentistry since 1947. Since that time it has also obtained a campus of the University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham (founded circa 1969), one of three main campuses of the University of Alabama System. It is also home of the private Birmingham Southern College. Between these two universities and Sam University, the Birmingham area has major colleges of medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, law, engineering, and nursing. Birmingham is home to three of the state's five law schools: Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham School of Law, and Miles Law School. Birmingham is also the headquarters of the Conference, one of the major U.S. collegiate athletic conferencesFrom Birmingham's early days onward, the steel industry has always played a crucial role in the local economy.
Though the steel industry no longer has the same prominence it once held in Birmingham, steel production and processing continue to play a key role in the economy. Steel products manufacturers . In recent years, local steel companies have announced about $100 million worth of investment in expansions and new plants in and around the city. Vulcan Company, a major provider of crushed stone, sand, and gravel used in construction, is also based in Birmingham.In the 1970s and 1980s, Birmingham's economy was transformed by investments in bio technology and medical research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and its adjacent hospital. The UAB Hospital is a Level I trauma center providing health care and breakthrough medical research. UAB is now the area's largest employer and the second largest in Alabama with a workforce of about 18,750 as of 2011.
As of 2009, the finance & banking sector in Birmingham employed 1,870 financial managers, 1,530 loan officers, 680 securities commodities and financial services sales agents, 380 financial analysts, 310 financial examiners, 220 credit analysts, and 130 loan counselors. City Center in downtownThe telephone company that is now owned by ., which was formerly and before that , which had its headquarters in Birmingham, has a major nexus in Birmingham, supported by a skyscraper downtown as well as several large operational center buildings and a data center.The insurance companieshave their headquarters in Birmingham, and these employ a large number of people in Greater Birmingham.Birmingham is also a powerhouse of construction and engineering companies,each with more than $500 million in sales per year, are located in Birmingham. The Birmingham metropolitan area has consistently been rated as one of America's best places to work and earn a living based on the area's competitive salary rates and relatively low living expenses. One study published in 2006 by Salary.com determined that Birmingham was second in the nation for building personal net worth, based on local salary rates, living expenses, and unemployment rates.A 2006 study by web site bizjournals.com calculated Birmingham's "combined personal income" (the sum of all money earned by all residents of an area in a year) at $48.1 billion.Birmingham's sales tax, which also applies fully to groceries, stands at 10 percent and is the highest tax rate of the nation's 100 largest cities.Although Jefferson County's bankruptcy filing was the largest government bankruptcy in United States history, Birmingham remains solvent
Information for the state of Alabama
The state has invested in aerospace, education, health care, banking, and various heavy industries, including automobile manufacturing, mineral extraction, steel production and fabrication. By 2006, crop and animal production in Alabama was valued at $1.5 billion. In contrast to the primarily agricultural economy of the previous century, this was only about 1% of the state's gross domestic product. The number of private farms has declined at a steady rate since the 1960s, as land has been sold to developers, timber companies, and large farming conglomerates.
Occupations outside of agriculture were widespread by 2008. Employment in that year was 121,800 in management occupations; 71,750 in business and financial operations; 36,790 in computer-related and mathematical occupation; 44,200 in architecture and engineering; 12,410 in life, physical, and social sciences; 32,260 in community and social services; 12,770 in legal occupations; 116,250 in education, training, and library services; 27,840 in art, design and media occupations; 121,110 in healthcare; 44,750 in fire fighting, law enforcement, and security; 154,040 in food preparation and serving; 76,650 in building and grounds cleaning and maintenance; 53,230 in personal care and services; 244,510 in sales; 338,760 in office and administration support; 20,510 in farming, fishing, and forestry; 120,155 in construction and mining, gas, and oil extraction; 106,280 in installation, maintenance, and repair; 224,110 in production; and 167,160 in transportation and material moving.
You no longer have to waste time in collecting on invoices.
Birmingham Factoring Companies
Before making your final decision and entering into a Transportation Factoring agreement, check out the fees applicable and the terms of the contract. Both of these can vary a lot, depending on the Transportation Factoring company and the industry it is serving. -Birmingham Factoring Companies
DOES YOUR CASH FLOW EVER TROUBLE YOU?
Birmingham Factoring Companies Articles
Factoring in the Future of a Trucking Business: A Story
John Thompson let the phone ring on his desk. He let his morning coffee cool and left his cigarette to ash itself in the tray, because he is trying to make the biggest decision ever for his trucking company. Thompson Trucking Company was at a turning point of growth and John had to decide if signing with a factoring company was the right way forward.
John's father had started as an owner-operator and had grown Thompson Trucking Company into a fifteen trailer fleet over forty years. There had been some hard times when it seemed everything was going to go under and even John's mother strapped herself into a cab to make hauls. His father had lived long enough to witness the price of hires drop during the recession and watch the eruption of fuel prices afterwards. Now the company was solely in John's hands and he wanted to live to see it in better shape for his sons.
To move Thompson Trucking Company ahead into the future, he needed a steady cash flow but there was just not enough money to go around. His employees needed to be paid. They had families and household bills too. Some of the refrigerated trailers were in need of repairs and he felt to stay competitive it was also a good idea to invest in specialized haulers to be ready for the constant requests he was getting for loads of new energy and agriculture equipment. Every time he had to turn down a request, Thompson Trucking looked weak in a very strong market.
His father would have told him to wait and to take his time adding on new technology. John allowed himself a good hard chuckle. His father had been against placing GPS units in the cabs. He would say, "Why do you need the voice of some woman to tell you to get off at an exit that has been the same exit that has been there for years?" Also his father had the habit of teasing all the drivers he caught switching into automatic even though driving in automatic was much more efficient though not manly in his father's eyes. His father days were long gone and technology was actually an important improvement for the business such as having Qualcomm to cut down on fruitless time communicating on the phone for bills of lading.
John believed a successful man is always thinking of his next step. What would be the next step for Thompson Trucking? And how would he be able to afford it? Funding was all tied up in the mortgage for the office and garage and in the fuel bills. He just finished paying off the small bank loan for installing satellite radio in the trucks for the guys.
But was factoring the answer? There was a lot he didn't understand about the process. It sounded a lot like ninth grade algebra which just didn't feel like it belonged as part of the trucking business. Factoring companies buy your invoices and manage your accounts receivable for a certain percentage of the invoiced amount. The factoring company gives the trucking business its payment right away which allows the business to have continuous cash flow so it can pay employees, buy fuel, and make repairs for upcoming hauls. Without the assistance of factoring, you have to wait for customers to send you the payment which is often 30 days late. In those 30 days, a trucking company can't pay its bills and employees in invoices.
Now it was time for John to do his homework. John had heard that there were companies that charged for same day money transfers and would only advance a percentage of the money owed to your company while holding the rest in a private account if they didn't get their bill payment within 60 or so days. Plus it was worse still if the customer didn't pay up at all because then the factoring company would take it right out of the money supposed to be coming to you! Through the grapevine, he'd also heard about how some companies suddenly slipped you onto a sliding scale of percentages even if you had already signed a lengthy contract for maybe 3% or 7% so there you are with 10% coming as a cost to you out of the freight bill. His friend Ronnie who had a trucking business in Missouri, was run nearly into the ground by a factoring company that charged him the full freight bill on top of the factoring fees. Well, what was the point of going to a factoring company if there was shady business like that going on?
But it turned out to be quite easy. All the factoring companies he researched were open about their business practices and very friendly on the phone when he called. Their customer service actually knew things about their company and spoke in nice clear English so he could understand what was being explained. He didn't mind signing an exclusive contract. He liked the idea of a long term commitment so he knew he wouldn't have to bother going back and forth to different companies and wasting time filing more forms. Nobody charged him for credit checks and they offered him a fuel advance on the pick-up of the load. Many companies offered a non-recourse factoring program that suited him just fine. Also he was happy to hear how much he was offered in terms of percentages on the freight bills. It was good money.
It was really refreshing dealing with the factoring people. They were more personable than those loan managers at the bank. It seemed as though those bank people spoke another language, but these factoring guys knew the trucking business and spoke to him like a client, not like a beggar for a handout. The factoring companies didn't worry over his credit and the debt troubles his father had had in the past of the company. Factoring was based on the credit of his customers and on their reliability which worked well for John because he and his father had built up good strong relationships over decades with their list of clients. So he knew they would understand when the factoring company contacted them for the invoices. His clients wouldn't think poorly of Thompson Trucking and the factoring companies appeared capable of handling the accounts receivable in the same polite manner that his father had used over the years.
John stepped out of his office to let his secretary know to expect the arrival of the factoring contract shortly. He felt exhilarated by the new possibilities that would make the future of the company fun again and put the stress of the difficult times behind him. With the capabilities of this new cash flow, John could actually expand Thompson Trucking Company further across the country and perhaps even go international into Canada. His heart felt full knowing his sons wouldn't have to worry about money because of the right decisions he had made for their trucking business.
You no longer have to waste time in collecting on invoices.
Birmingham Factoring Companies Articles
Bookkeeping for Freight Brokers and the Most Common Mistakes Businesses Make
A freight broker is either a company or an individual who effects the transportation of goods by pairing up shippers with transportation services. The freight broker is not only responsible for pairing reliable and authorized transportation carriers with shippers, but also organizing the shipping needs for various organizations. Besides matching shippers with carriers, a freight broker is also responsible for ensuring each and every piece of cargo reaches its destination - and in good condition.
In addition to these tasks, freight brokers are also responsible for maintaining accurate bookkeeping records, and those who fail to keep meticulous accounting records are likely to lose money in the long run. In this post we've detailed what we believe are the most common accounting mistakes freight brokers make, and ways in which they can be avoided.No. 1: Attempting to DIY Your Bookkeeping Can Result in Costly Errors
Whether you handle the books yourself or delegate this vitally important job to an unqualified employee or even a family member, DIY bookkeeping is seldom, if ever, a good idea. Yes, initially you'll undoubtedly save some money, but your inexperienced bookkeeper's errors can ultimately become very costly to your business and result in expensive financing terms, increased bond premiums, and other unnecessary costs.
We strongly suggest you employ the services of an experienced bookkeeper who's qualified to deliver accurate accounting records, which will ultimately result in fewer errors and the job being completed quickly and efficiently.
No. 2: Postponing Important Bookkeeping Tasks Due to Heavy Workloads
It's not easy running a business, and anyone who finds themselves in this situation understands only too well just how difficult it can be to find the time to complete day-to-day time-consuming tasks. It's imperative that things like reconciling credit card and bank statements be completed each month because it's only through these reconciliations that errors can be found; plus of course it's how you determine out how much credit or cash you actually have.
As tempting as it may be to postpone these tedious tasks, you must ensure that your credit card and bank statements are reconciled every month, ideally as soon as you receive each statement. Keeping on top of statements means you can quickly identify any lost checks, missing deposits, or fraudulent charges, and be able to handle any discrepancies in a timely manner.
No. 3: Failing to Track Receivables and Invoices
Your business depends on you getting paid, and you won't be paid if you're not regularly and properly accounting for receivables. The lifeblood of your business is cash, which means the success of your business is entirely dependent upon you accounting for receivables. To put it another way, if the period of time between paying your carriers and receiving payment from customers is unnecessarily delayed by poor accounting practices, your business cash flow is going to be very strained.
If you're time-poor and realize you simply don't have time to track and collect invoices, then invoice factoring is the perfect solution for you. For just a small fee your applicable invoices will be purchased by the invoice factoring company, but the best part about invoice factoring is that you receive immediate payment! No longer will you have the time-consuming responsibility of trying to collect payments, thus saving an enormous amount of office time: plus, it leaves you free to take care of your own job, which is handling the day-to-day running of your business.
No. 4: Overlooking Liabilities Can Have Disastrous Results
When a surety inspects your business records to underwrite a bond, one of their first and most important considerations is whether your assets are sufficient to cover your liabilities. It's difficult for inexperienced bookkeepers to understand the full implications of accurate record keeping and sometimes DIY accountants record a liability but once the payment is made they forget to reverse the liability. This is a serious error because it understates net income while overstating liabilities, which makes your business appear less financially stable than it actually is.
The only way to avoid these unnecessary accounting errors is to hire an experienced bookkeeper. It's always handy to have another set of eyes, whether it be a CPA or an owner, to regularly review the balance sheet and check for discrepancies in account balances.
No. 5: Miscategorizing or Creating Unnecessary Expense Categories
All too often we see inexperienced bookkeepers either creating unnecessary expense categories or wrongly categorizing expenditures, either of which can be a huge red flag. Generally, each industry uses a standard set of categories for expenses and failing to follow this set of rules can signal to a surety or loan underwriter that an inexperienced person is handling your books; meaning that they may not be well prepared.
It's really important that your business's accounting software is correctly set up, preferably with the help of an accountant or experienced bookkeeper. Additional expense categories should not be added unless absolutely necessary. If you have any queries about how to classify expenses, don't hesitate to ask for guidance from your qualified accountant or CPA.
No. 6: Submitting Invoices with Insufficient Details
Don't try to save time by skimping on invoice details. Your customers' invoices should have detailed information on each line item; for example, do you invoice per mile, by weight, or by piece? Is the charge a flat fee? If there are additional charges such as fees or reimbursements for fuel, these should be listed as separate line items. The only way to avoid any confusion is to ensure that charges are properly detailed on invoices.
The last thing you want is for your customers to complain about charges they don't recognize on their invoices; and missing information can cause much confusion, resulting in delays in payment. All of these problems can be prevented by ensuring that your invoices have complete, detailed, and accurate information. Don't create unnecessary problems by trying to skimp on invoice details.
No. 7: Not Learning or Understanding the Full Functionality of Your Accounting Software
Getting a business up and running can be very expensive and time-consuming, and many freight brokers simply don't have time to learn how to use their accounting software package to its full capacity. This is not a problem if all your accounting and bookkeeping tasks are being outsourced; however, if you're using the software in any way at all, perhaps even just for entering checks and running reports, we strongly recommend that you learn how to use all functions of your accounting software package.
You can save so much time and have easy access to real-time information on the financial status of your business if you have the right accounting software and you know how to use it correctly. Having this information at your fingertips can help you make the right decisions to grow your business.
Birmingham Factoring Companies Articles
Business Is Booming but Your Company's Cash Strapped!
A business needs good cash flow for many reasons, and many businesses have learned the hard way that business can be booming but they can still suffer from cash flow problems. There are many scenarios where a business might urgently require access to cash: it could be due to the sudden growth or expansion of a business, a major transaction may need to be expanded, perhaps there's a need to purchase equipment or even to employ more personnel.
Interestingly, research shows that many businesses (both small and medium-size) fail, not because business is bad, but because they experience difficulties when trying to meet short-term financial responsibilities. So how can a growing and profitable business get into serious financial trouble, or even go broke? It seems so contradictory, but on closer examination you'll see that it's not surprising at all.
Many Businesses Experience a Cash Flow Dilemma
It's so easy for a business to get into a situation where they have a cash flow problem: you only need one or two larger accounts to default on payment, or to take an additional 60 or 90 days to pay, and now you've got a cash flow problem!
Traditionally, business owners have depended on conventional lending sources for a business Line of Credit, and this often includes short-term Bridging Finance. But there are also many people in business who've used their personal credit cards for business-related expenses. Once business owners have exhausted traditional means of funding, the process of acquiring extended financing can become a time-consuming, trying, and often impossible task.
Fortunately, today, we have a viable and effective alternative for business owners to get through cash strapped periods, particularly during periods of expansion and business growth. This innovative form of financing is known as Factoring; it's also sometimes referred to as Asset Based Lending or Accounts Receivable Financing.
Factoring has become a workable and realistic solution for many businesses, particularly when cash flow is uncertain and threatens the viability, or even survival, of the business.
How Does Factoring Work?
Basically, when a business has credit-worthy accounts receivables, the factoring process provides the business with an instant cash injection on those receivables. So, sometimes, when a lender says 'no' to a business, a factoring company may say 'yes', thus offering the much needed cash injection that so many businesses require to move forward.
Factoring companies understand the financial needs of their trucking clients and react very quickly to provide them with the professional, personalized, hands-on attention that they require. Freight Bill Factoring is actually a very simple process: it provides a business with instant cash flow in order to satisfy its cash needs, which in turn enables the business to grow and prosper.
It works like this! Your company has quality accounts receivables, and needs a cash boost. A factoring company may purchase just one, or a group of your receivables, and in return will immediately give you up to 100% (less fees applicable) of the face value of these accounts. Once the customer invoice has been paid in full the balance is forwarded on. Yes, factoring costs more than other means of lending, but factoring clients believe the benefits far outweigh the costs.
The Benefits of Factoring
Possibly the greatest benefit of factoring is the short turnaround time, because factoring companies don't have a lengthy loan approval process, unlike banks and other lenders. This means that, with factoring, trucking business owners can have money in-hand by the end of the same working day!
In order to receive approval as a factoring customer, a trucking business must first-of-all be a reputable trucking business, and secondly, it must have credit-worthy customers. Once a business has been approved for factoring, funding will be provided on the same day. It's important to note, also, that ongoing financing is only limited by the amount of receivables available for purchase.
In the last decade we've seen factoring grow very quickly, and today it's become a financially feasible alternative for many trucking companies. Many trucking companies have stated that Freight Bill Factoring has made it possible for them to process orders and undertake loads from brokers that would otherwise have been impossible because of a lack of financing. Freight Bill Factoring is here to stay, and it clearly has a place in today's business environment. Because of factoring, a trucking company can expand its customer base, increase loads, and even survive a seasonal slump. Thanks to Freight Bill Factoring, many businesses have been able to expand and grow, and easily survive in what has become a very competitive industry.
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Factoring: An Overview
What Is Factoring?
'Factoring' is when a third party commercial finance company purchases the Invoices or Accounts Receivable from a business. The finance company concerned is called a 'Factor' and the transaction is known as 'Factoring'. Factoring is also known as 'Accounts Receivable Financing' because factoring occurs when a business needs to access cash quickly, quicker than if it had to wait the 30 to 60 days (or longer) to receive payment from a customer.
The majority of factoring companies purchase invoices and advance cash within 24 hours, although the terms and nature of factoring can differ between industries and different financial service providers. Depending on the industry, the customers' credit histories, and various other criteria, the advance rate can range from between 80% and 95%. The business also receives back office support from the factor. Once the factor has collected from the business's customers, the business will be paid the reserve balance of the invoices, less a nominated fee for assuming the collection risk.
The main benefit of factoring is that a business is not required to wait one or two months (sometimes more) for payment by a customer - the business will receive cash in hand to operate and grow their business. It's important to note that factoring is not a loan: there's no debt with factoring. Funding is unrestricted, which means that a business has more flexibility than borrowing from a bank.
The Five Simple Steps of Factoring
1. As a business, you provide a service to your customer;
2. The invoice for this service is sent to a factoring company;
3. On this invoice, you'll receive a cash advance from the factoring company;
4. It's now up to the factoring company to collect full payment from your customer;
5. Once payment has been received, you'll receive the balance of your invoice account from the factoring company - minus their fee.The Advantages of Factoring
There are many reasons why factoring has become a popular and valuable financial tool for businesses today. The key benefit of factoring is that a business receives a quick boost to its cash flow: in fact, many factoring companies offer cash on their Accounts Receivable within 24 hours! The factoring company takes responsibility for collecting customer payments, and may also evaluate the payment and credit histories of a business's customers.
Other Benefits Include:
' When a business needs access to cash, factoring can be customized and managed in order to provide the necessary capital;
' The business balance sheet will not show this financing as a debt;
' Factoring is not based on the company's credit or business history: it's based on the quality of its customers' credit;
' Factoring is not determined by the company's net worth: it provides a Line of Credit based on sales;
' There's no limit to the amount of financing through factoring, unlike a conventional loan;
' Factoring is an ideal solution for start up businesses that often require immediate cash flow.
Is the Concept of Factoring New?
No, it's not! In fact, the origin of factoring comes from overseas trade among nations and dates back several centuries to the 1400s when it became part of doing business in England. In the year 1620 it arrived in America with the Pilgrims. Like other financial tools, factoring has improved and evolved over the years. It became an effective way of creating cash flow in the United States at a timewhen companies faced strict limitations when trying to secure loans in the country's damaged banking system.
Who Uses Factoring?
Factoring is available for companies of all sizes, ranging from a one person business to Fortune 500 companies. Every business can use factoring as an effective way of increasing their cash flow. In addition, factoring spans all types of industries, from transportation, trucking, textiles, manufacturing and distribution, staffing agencies, and oil and gas.
The cash generated from factoring is used by companies to purchase new equipment, pay for inventory, expand operations, add employees, and basically cover any expenses related to the running of their business. The beauty of factoring is that it allows companies to make quick decisions and to expand at a faster pace.
How Does Factoring Work?
For the purpose of this post, we'll describe a fictional example as a way of illustrating a common factoring situation.
XYZ Transport is a trucking company: their intention is to double their fleet size over the next two years in order to service more clients in the West. The company has just successfully won a new customer on the West Coast who requires freight to be shipped from Oklahoma to Los Angeles. This new customer is more than happy to pay for the service within 30 days; however, that won't cover all the immediate costs involved, like payroll, fuel, and maintenance costs of running the route.
This is a familiar situation for the owners of XYZ Transport: the lack of available cash flow in the past has prevented the company from accepting new business. So now XYZ Transport has turned to a factoring company: they have agreed to sell the West Coast customer's invoice to the factoring company in exchange for a 90% advance on the total amount - within 24 hours! This much needed influx of cash will replenish the trucking company's reserves and allow it to continue running the Oklahoma - Los Angeles route. In addition, XYZ Transport now has the added flexibility of taking on new customers.
How Much Do Companies Factor?
Each company has its own unique business needs, so somecompanies only factor invoices for customers that are slow in paying, whilst other companies factor all of their invoices. Companies can factor receivables ranging from a few thousand dollars right through to millions of dollars each month.
What's the Difference between Factoring and a Traditional Bank Loan?
Factoring, also known as Accounts Receivable Financing, is a quick, flexible and effective way for businesses to create a steady cash flow stream. See below for how factoring is different to a Line of Credit at a bank or a traditional business loan
Birmingham Factoring Companies Articles
Small Business Invoice Factoring: The Clever Choice!
Many small businesses are discovering invoice factoring and quickly realizing this was a very smart business choice! Why? Because small business invoice factoring converts receivables into immediate cash!
The Ideal Alternative to Traditional Bank Loans
Small businesses are discovering that invoice factoring is the perfect, and much easier, alternative to traditional funding sources, like bank loans and cash advances. Any small business who sells to the government or other companies can use invoice factoring to enjoy the many benefits of accessing immediate cash flow. Whether you've applied for traditional funding and been refused or applied and are still waiting to hear if you've been accepted, keep in mind that small business invoice factoring is a very viable option for you.
How Does Invoice Factoring Work for Small Businesses
One of the major benefits of small business invoice factoring is that it's the credit worthiness of your customers that determines the funding decision. This means that if you're a business who sells to the government or other businesses with good credit, you're the perfect candidate for small business invoice factoring.
Applying for invoice factoring is a very simple process, and you certainly won't be forced to wait weeks, even months, for a decision as you would with traditional funding sources.
Why Small Businesses Are Choosing Invoice Factoring
Many businesses are only just learning about invoice factoring, even though factoring has been around for a long time. Any business owner who has applied for a bank loan knows only too well that, to start with, the application process can take months, and secondly, there's still no guarantee you'll be approved for finance.
According to the Small Business Administration, in the first quarter of the year 2015 small business loan approval rates at banks were 22%, and at credit unions it was 43%. The limit on business credit cards is often capped at less than $100,000, which is often not sufficient to cover unexpected expenses or large projects.
Invoice Factoring: The Smart Alternative to Traditional Lending
Today, small business invoice factoring has become the smart alternative for many business owners because factoring provides an immediate cash advance, with no restrictions placed on the money received. It's also important to note that factoring is not a debt, which means there are no limitations on how you choose to use the funds received.
Yes, small businesses can access quick money with a merchant cash advance, but there's always a high cost involved. You'll soon discover that the cash advanced will cost your business more than 70% effective annual interest. Alternatively, cash advance lenders demand daily repayments with full payment due in just a few months. The demand for daily payback can destroy a small business, but sometimes business owners are left with no choice.
So, let's take a quick look at just some of the benefits of small business invoice factoring, and once you read through this list we're sure you'll think of more benefits to your own business.
With this immediate cash advance you'll be able to -
- Employee new staff members
- Easily meet payroll
- Accept larger orders from bigger customers
- Invest in marketing and sales
- Expand manufacturing and production
- Your business will be able to weather cash flow cycles and seasonal sales periods
- Pay down any existing debt
- Take advantage of early pay discounts from your suppliers (these discounts often cover your factoring fees)
- Extend your customers' payment terms
- Provide a smooth cash flow to support daily business operations
- Overheads are lowered due to reduced administration expenses
- Your business will be self-financed during rapid growth periods, without having to give up equity.
As you can see, the benefits of small business invoice factoring are many and varied, so why not contact us today and let's talk business!
Birmingham Factoring Companies Articles
The Difference between Accounts Receivable Financing and Factoring
Today, it's not as easy for businesses to access finance as it was in past years, and more companies are being forced to look for alternative, non banking financing options in order to access the capital they require to help their business grow.
Two of the more popular tools available to cash strapped business owners are Accounts Receivable Financing (A/R Financing) and factoring. Some business owners believe these two are the same, but there are, in fact, some small yet significant differences.
What Is Factoring?
Factoring is when a commercial finance company, also known as a factor or factoring company, purchases a business's outstanding accounts receivable. At that time, the factor will typically advance the business somewhere between 70% and 90% of the invoice's value. Then, once the invoice is collected from the customer, the remaining balance - minus a factoring fee - is released to the business. The factoring fee could range from between 1.5% and 5.5%. It's calculated on the total face value of the invoice and depends on how many days the funds are in use and other aspects, like the collection risk.
When a business has a factoring contract they can usually choose which invoices they want to sell to the factor: it's not generally an all or nothing process. Once the factor has purchased an invoice they become responsible for managing the receivable until the account has been paid. Essentially, the factor becomes the business's accounts receivable department and credit manager, analyzing credit reports, performing credit checks, mailing invoices, and documenting payments.
What Is Accounts Receivable Financing?
Accounts Receivable Financing is more similar to a traditional bank loan, however there are some key differences. Bank loans are secured with collateral; which might be real estate, the business owner's personal assets, or plant and equipment; whereas Accounts Receivable Financing is backed by the business's assets related to the Accounts Receivable. When a business has an Accounts Receivable financing agreement, a borrowing base is established at each draw against which the business is able to borrow money: this would typically be between 70% and 90% of the qualified receivables.
Between 1% and 2% is typically charged as a collateral management fee against the outstanding amount, and interest is only calculated as and when the money is advanced. An invoice must be less than 90 days old in order to count towards the borrowing base, and the finance company must deem the business credit worthy. There may also be other conditions to fulfil.
So, you can see that there are many similarities between Accounts Receivable financing and factoring; however, one is the sale of an asset (receivables or invoices) to a third party, while the other is actually a loan. In many ways, though, they do act similarly. Below we've listed the main features of each so you can determine which would be the best fit for your company.
Accounts Receivable Financing
' Generally, Accounts Receivable Financing is not as expensive as factoring;
' It can be easier to move from this type of financing to a traditional bank line of credit once a business becomes bankable again;
' Typically, a minimum of $75,000 per month is required in sales to qualify, so this type of financing may not be available to small companies;
' Due to the fact that the business will be required to submit all of its Accounts Receivable to the finance company, this type of financing can be less flexible than factoring.
' It's quite easy to qualify for factoring, and factoring is the ideal solution for start ups and financially challenged companies;
' Because businesses can decide which invoices they want to sell to the factor, factoring offers more flexibility than Accounts Receivable Financing;
' The company is able to track total costs on an invoice by invoice basis because factoring has a simple and straightforward fee structure.
Today we see both Accounts Receivable Financing and factoring as traditional sources of financing; effective when traditional bank financing is not an option. Factoring can carry a business through a period when an immediate cash input is required.
Somewhere between 12 and 24 months most companies are generally able to repair their financial situation and once again become bankable. However, some companies in certain industries continue factoring their invoices indefinitely.An example of this is the trucking industry, which relies heavily on factoring for cash flow injections.
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trucking factoring companies
factoring companiesp> As the owner of your own business, you may be more than aware already of the difficulty in making sure that cash flow issues do not become a problem down the line. After all, the worst thing that can possibly happen for your business is to find yourself embroiled in a long and difficult situation that leaves you forever trying to find two pennies to rub together.
For any business in this situation, the problem can come for waiting for work to clear up and actually be paid into your account. Invoices, cheques and the like can take some time to actually processed which can leave you with short-term cash flow issues. Thankfully, there are options out there for businesses to look into - and one of these is factoring companies.
Factoring companies will, in exchange for your invoices, provide you with the cash today so that you don't need to worry about the waiting period that could make paying the bills and getting materials more difficult. With this type of setup, invoice factoring can become incredibly useful for many businesses who need to get out of a cash trap which they have found themselves in.
Because, depending on the size of the job, it can take up to 60 days for some businesses to get paid then it's important to cover your own back and not leave yourself short in that day. after all, how many businesses have two months revenue just lying there to cover all the losses until they get paid?
This is especially true of trucking companies. They tend to deal with lots of invoices which means a significant amount of running around and donkey work for the business owner themselves. Trying to get paid in time can become an incredible hassle and this is why you get specific trucking factoring companies who are happy to help out truckers specifically.
As we all know, trucking is an incredibly large industry with many companies out there employing hundreds of drivers. Unfortunately, many of these drivers can spend night in the cold or hungry as they are still waiting for work from six weeks ago to actually pay them. When this is the situation for a trucking company, turning to factoring companies for assistance might be the best choice left.
This means that a trucking company can pay the wages of the staff, keep all the vans topped up with fuel and continue to scale, grow and expand without always waiting for the never-never with money which is taking forever to arrive coming in. businesses running without a factoring model put in place are leaving themselves in significant risk, as competitors cash out fast and continue to expand.
There's genuinely nothing to be worried about when it comes to using a Factoring company - they aren't like a payday loan firm or somebody who is going to leave you with a huge pile of debt to apy back. Although you are technically borrowing a loan, so long as you only ever give them genuine invoices from work you have already finished you are merely speeding up the payment process.
In the United States, where trucking companies thrive, factoring companies are not considered borrowing in any capacity. This confidential agreement then allows both parties to profit and enjoy a comfortable future - it gives the factoring company a guaranteed asset of income to add to the list and it gives the trucking firm a wad of cash that they worked hard to earn.
The trucking company will usually need to pick up the invoice and cash it in still, and then make the payments back to the factoring company. Because it's a confidential agreement, and it can look bad for a business to be involved in this type of short-term finance even though it's perfectly legal and a very common practice, it's usually in the hands of the company to get the money for the factor.
This is an extremely old business type and has been used for many years by many different types of work - but none more so than truckers. While you may miss out on a small part of the money , something like 15% depending on who you work with, it means that you are getting the money today and can actually start putting some food on the table.
After all, an IOU or an invoice is not going to be you fed and washed, is it? For trucking companies when the money can be good one day and gone the next, it's up to the drivers to work sensibly and to ensure they are leaving themselves with a significant amount of time and finance to get through the week until they are paid again.
So the next time your trucking business is having some short-term cash flow issues and you are spending too much time chasing up slow paying clients, why not start considering to use factoring businesses as a way to change your motive and give yourself a more comfortable future in the eyes of your trucking staff and your bank balance?
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Questions You Need to Ask Your Factoring Company
In today's marketplace we're seeing more and more factoring companies, and factoring fees, rates and agreement terms have become very competitive. This means that, as a potential factoring customer, this competitiveness should work to your advantage. However, there are some issues you must consider when choosing a factoring company to suit your specific requirements.
Before entering into any factoring agreement, here are some important questions you should ask -
What Are Your Terms?
As a factoring customer, you'll be looking for as much flexibility in your factoring agreement as possible. It may be that you choose a long term contract with your factoring company if it includes flexible rates or a price break. In today's competitive market, many factoring companies are agreeing to adjust their rates based on competitive offers from other factors or increased factoring volume.
The majority of factoring agreements are a one year contract, which appears to be industry standard, and this contract will renew automatically unless you provide the factoring company either 60 or 90 days notice.
What's Your Fee Structure?
The fee structure may vary depending on both the factoring company involved and your industry. Some factoring companies charge a flat fee, which is calculated as a percentage of the total value of the invoice. On the other hand, other factoring companies charge additional fees to cover costs associated with doing business, such as money transfers, software, and so on. Ensure that the factoring company you're considering working with is completely upfront and transparent with you about its terms and fees.
Are You Able to Offer Both Recourse and Non Recourse Factoring?
Recourse factoring is less expensive than non recourse factoring. With recourse factoring, you (being the client) are ultimately responsible if the factoring company is unable to collect on your customers' invoices. However, you're not necessarily required to pay the debt out of pocket if you have a recourse agreement and the customer defaults on payment. It may be that the factoring company will withhold a portion of future cash payments or payments held in reserve, with the money being placed in an escrow account until such time as the debt has been paid.
Non recourse factoring:
When you have a non recourse factoring agreement, the credit risk for the collection of customers' invoices lies with the factoring company.Therefore, we believe it's to your advantage to use a factoring company that offers both recourse and non recourse factoring, simply because you may find that some of your customers are more suitable for recourse factoring than others. In addition, you need a factoring company with a strong credit team because they can work with you to ensure you're dealing with good customers: to a certain degree this will relieve some of the pressure of being responsible for bad debt.
How Long Has the Factoring Company Been in Business?
With the marketplace becoming increasingly competitive, today we're seeing the creation of more and more factoring companies. However, many of these companies are recent start ups, with limited industry experience. Make sure you research the factoring company's history prior to entering into any factoring agreement: also research its background into providing financial services in your specific industry.
Do You Have the Capital to Grow with Me?
The fact that there's no limit to the level of financing is the major advantage factoring has over traditional bank lending. As your company continues to grow, so too should the funding of invoices grow with you. Do your research and learn as much as possible about your potential factoring company's client base and their capital structure.
Does this factoring company have a limit to the number of debtors it takes on? What's a typical account size? What's the factoring volume of their largest client? You'll probably find that factoring companies who have been serving your industry for many years will have greater capacity to finance your company as it continues to grow.
Is There Anything Else You Can Do for Me?
Obviously, factoring is more expensive than a conventional bank loan, and this is partly due to the back office services that your factoring company is able to provide. Besides collections and financing, many factoring companies will evaluate companies in your industry and provide credit information. Therefore, when looking for a factoring company for your business, make sure the one you choose offers additional services and products that can assist you in making good business decisions.
How Do We Start Factoring?
Fortunately, factoring companies are not unduly concerned about your balance sheet before they decide to work with you, unlike banks. However, they do have a process to follow when selecting new clients, so be sure you understand what the factoring company is looking for when it's considering you as a client. Are they looking at your credit ratings and/or your customers' payment histories?
Are they looking at your personal credit score?
In many cases a company will start factoring because it's looking for a quick injection of cash, so you need to know how many days the factoring company will take to review and process your application.
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The Advantages of Trucking Factoring for Trucking Companies
Around the country, many owners of small trucking companies are running into the same problems when trying to expand their business. While the trucking business can be quite lucrative, it can take many weeks or even months to finally get paid on hauling invoices. This puts trucking companies in a real bind by having to play catch-up while trying to pay bills and salaries of their drivers.
We caught up with Jason Kind, an owner of a small trucking business that he created just a few years ago. Like many trucking owners, Jason was trying to expand his company to meet the needs of his clients, but was running into money issues that were holding him back. We asked him about his situation, the challenges he faced and how Trucking factoring played a real role in helping his company to expand without being burdened by paying back high interest loans.
Jason, it's good to have you with us.
Jason Kind: "Thanks, I appreciate being here."
Tell me a little about your trucking company and how it got started.
JK: "I had been driving trucks for years when in 2011 I decided to start my own trucking business. I went through the loan process, purchased a couple of trucks and got started. At first, it was really exciting because I had made a few connections as a driver and I picked up some early business. It seemed like everything was starting to snowball as I was getting requests from other businesses, but I was running into a cash problem."
It seems rather strange that being successful was causing you to be short on cash?
JK: "I know. You see in the trucking business we charge invoices which means that it could take weeks or even months before the cash would roll in. A typical invoice takes anywhere from 45 to 60 days before the payment comes through. Here I was getting offers from other businesses and I didn't have the cash on hand to buy trucks and hire drivers."
So, what did you do?
JK: I'll admit I was at my wit's end because I thought by the time I had the cash to expand that the interest would dry up first. I didn't want to take out another loan because I would just be putting off that debt until later and I had nothing to sell or any additional way to make more money. It was around that time when I heard from one of my friends in the trucking business about Trucking factoring."
What exactly is Trucking factoring?
JK: "Well, Trucking factoring is a way for trucking companies like mine to get paid quickly for the loads we are hauling. Instead of having to wait weeks or even months sometimes to get paid for hauling, Trucking factoring lets us get money right away for the work that we've done."
How does Trucking factoring work?
JK: "Well, there are companies out there who are willing to purchase the invoices that trucking companies like mine get when we perform a job. I managed to find a good, reputable company that actually purchases the invoices we get after performing a job along with other bills that we charge in our business. In return, they pay us cash that I not only use to cover my payroll, fuel costs and expenses, but I was able to put back enough money to purchase another truck a lot more quickly than if I had simply waited for the invoices to be paid."
It seems like you stumbled on a pretty good deal when it comes to Trucking factoring. Are there any other benefits that you've enjoyed by using this service?
JK: You bet, because the invoices act as the means to pay the company. It is not a loan where I have to pay back any money. The Trucking factoring company simply takes a very small percentage off each invoice or bill as their fee and I get the rest in cash right away. It's really worked out for me because not only was I able to get the cash needed to expand my business I was able to pay off my original loan a lot more quickly as well.
In fact, I was able to leap onto new business offers more quickly because the Trucking factoring allowed me to start purchasing new trucks and hire drivers months before I could even consider doing that simply waiting on the invoices.
This Trucking factoring sounds almost too good to be true, surely there must be a catch somewhere?
JK: I'll admit, I was a little skeptical at first, but it's all pretty straightforward. The Trucking factoring company I use didn't even charge me a sign up fee nor did they sign me to any long term contract. I just took a few minutes with them to set everything up and when I turn in an invoice, they pay me cash right on the spot.
You said you didn't have to sign any long term contracts. Are there a minimum number of invoices or amounts that you have to turn in each month?
JK: Actually, no. When I first started with them I was turning in practically all of my invoices so I could generate some cash up front. Now, when I need some cash to pay off bills or make quick purchases, I go to the company with my invoices. Some months I've turned in quite a few invoices, other months not so much.
It really sounds like you found a great deal in Trucking factoring?
JK: You bet. I have even used their fuel advances and discount cards to help me save money which really helped out in the first year of my business. I've had other trucking owners call me up and ask me how I was able to expand my company as fast as I did. I tell them all the same thing, if you have invoices, then Trucking factoring is the way to get fast cash without having to take out loans or put yourself in a deeper hole.
Jason's business continues to grow and Trucking factoring was a big reason why he was able to expand so rapidly. If your trucking business is short of needed cash with invoices that have yet to be paid, then you should consider Trucking factoring as a way to put money into your hands right away.
Birmingham Factoring Companies Articles
A 'Factor' is a third party commercial financial company who purchases the Accounts Receivable from businesses: this transaction is known as 'Factoring'. Factoring exists so that businesses can receive a quick injection of cash, as opposed to waiting the 60 or 90 days for customers to pay their invoices. Factoring is also known as Accounts Receivable Financing, and Invoice Factoring.
The majority of factoring companies purchase invoices and advance money to the business within 24 hours; however, the nature and terms of factoring can (and do) differ among financial service providers and industries. Depending on your customers' credit histories, your industry, and other specific criteria, the advance rate on your invoices can range from 80% to as high as 95%. The factoring company not only collects on your invoices; it also offers back office support to your business.Once the factoring company has collected on your customer's invoice,you'll be paid the balance of the invoice - less the factor's fee for assuming the risk. The primary benefit of factoring is that businesses no longer need to wait anywhere between one and three months for a customer to pay their accounts: they now have access to cash in hand so they can operate and grow their business.The Advantages of Factoring
There are a few reasons why factoring has become an invaluable financial tool for many businesses, including start ups. As mentioned above, the main benefit is that businesses can now receive a quick boost to their cash flow because factoring companies, in general, will provide cash on accounts receivable within 24 hours. This resolves the problems businesses experience with short term cash flow, and in many ways this injection of cash can help to grow a business. Besides handling your customer collections, factoring companies can also evaluate your customers' payment and credit histories.Other benefits of factoring include:
' It can be customized to a business's needs and managed to ensure that capital is available when it's needed;
' It's not based on your own business or credit history: it's based on the quality of your customers' credit;
' It's not based on your company's net worth: it provides a line of credit based on sales;
' There's no limit to the amount of financing, unlike conventional bank loans;
' This financing will not show up as a debt on your balance sheet, because it's not a loan.Who Uses Factoring?
Companies of all different sizes, including start ups, use factoring; and today factoring has become common business practice across many industries. Factoring is now widely used in the transportation industry, including manufacturing, textiles, trucking, oilfield services, wholesale and distribution, and staffing agencies. Interestingly, factoring receivables is practiced in many countries around the world and has a long history of success.
Can I Factor? My Company's New, with No Financial History
Yes, you can! In fact, factoring has become an excellent tool for start up companies because no company credit history or balance sheet is required. It's not really your company's finances that the factoring company is concerned with; they'll base their financing on your customers' payment histories and credit scores.
What Percentage of My Invoices Should I Factor?
The answer to this question really depends on the unique needs of your business. Some companies only factor invoices for customers who typically take a long time to pay, while others factor all their invoices. The receivables that a company can factor range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars each and every month.
What's the Difference between Factoring and a Bank Loan?
' The difference between factoring and a bank loan is that you're not assuming any debt with factoring because it's not a loan;
' With factoring, there's no emphasis on your balance sheet - it's all on your customer's invoices;
' In addition, a bank loan is typically one lump sum, whereas factoring provides a steady flow of funds;
' Factoring companies can also help improve your company's balance sheet by assisting with your credit and collection functions;
' A bank loan adds to your debt, whereas factoring converts receivables (an asset) into cash (another asset);
' And of course, bank loans can be very difficult to get because they're limited by your balance sheet.How Do You Start the Factoring Process?
The factoring process can be very simple to set up. The customer will be asked to complete a short application form, and may be required to follow up with other reports and documents.
Recourse and Non Recourse Factoring: What's the Difference?
' With Recourse factoring the client is ultimately responsibility for the payment of the invoice; whereas
' With Non Recourse factoring, the factoring company accepts responsibility for the risk of collecting the invoice.It's important to note that some factoring companies over offer both types of factoring - recourse and non recourse.
What Are the Contract Terms and Fees Applicable with Factoring?
There are different fee structures with different factoring companies: some factors charge an overall factoring fee which is determined by the creditworthiness of your customers and the monthly volume of invoices; while others charge additional fees to cover shipping, money transfers, and other costs associated with doing business. Before signing with any factoring company make sure you understand the fees and terms applicable to your contract. Also note that most factoring contacts are renewed annually.
Do I Need Credit Insurance on Debtors?
Insurance is not typically required, but in specific circumstances it may be.
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Oilfield Services Factoring Services
Running a company in the oilfield services industry is no easy business, especially with payrolls to meet, equipment to purchase and deadlines that must be met. The sheer complexity of combining the geological research and modeling, imaging and exploration and finally the drilling to see whether oil is really present can take a lot of investment before any payoff can be seen.
For those who own a Frac Sand Hauler for example, the efforts that must be put in to start such as business can be considerable. But arguably the biggest challenge is paying the expenses as the invoices come in. A Frac Sand Hauler often has expenses that must be met immediately, but their invoices can take up to 60 days before they see the money.
What follows is an interview with Ray McClerand, a man who owns a Frac Sand Hauler business and ran into the same difficulties that many new companies of his type face. How Ray overcome some of the challenges in paying his bills through oil service factoring are explained in the interview.
"Welcome Ray, I'd like to know first why you decided to start up a Frac Sand Hauler company and how you prepared for the challenges it created."
Ray McClerand (RM): "I've been in the oil business for the past 15 years or so working on different jobs from roughneck to foreman to deskwork for different companies. A few years ago I saw the potential of having a Frac Sand Hauler business in this area and got together with a couple of partners to create a company. We sat down, went over the details and decided that this would be a real good time to build a business that was serving a particular need in this industry."
"So, I take it you created a business plan and took out the appropriate loans in order to purchase the equipment and hire the personnel necessary to get your company started?"
RM: "Exactly. Because I had been around this business for a while, I understood what was needed in terms of personnel and equipment. Plus, I had some contacts with others in the business that needed the type of services that a Frac Sand Hauler provides, so I felt that there was some real potential to make a profitable business work."
"How did it go over the first six months or so?"
RM: "At first, we were really thriving as my contacts had lined up some business my way. Our loans covered the first six months or so of operations and we were doing quite well with the business we had. My partners and I were certainly happy and everything was going good when something really strange happened."
"Could you elaborate on what you mean by "strange"?
RM: "Yes, after the first five months or so I started getting requests to have our company work with several other businesses in the area. This would mean having to expand our company through buying new equipment and hiring more people. But we did not have the cash on hand to make such a move. We were getting invoices from the businesses that we worked with, but it was taking up to 2 full months before we actually got the cash."
"So, you were making enough money to expand, but you didn't have it on hand because of the invoice system?"
RM: "You got it. Add to that our initial money from the loan was running out and we needed to start paying it back as well. I knew that if we didn't expand and accept the new business that others would step in and we would lose that money. So, we were in a real pickle until I heard about oil service factoring companies."
"Tell us a bit about oil service factoring and how it helped you out?"
RM: "Well, one of my partners had heard about factoring companies, so we checked it out and decided to go with one that was best suited for our needs. A factoring company buys our invoices with cash so we have money on hand to pay our bills and do what we need accomplished immediately. The factoring company then collects the money from the invoices when they become due. It's really been a win-win for what we do."
"That's interesting. I wonder if you could you explain a little further just how factoring has helped your company?"
RM: "Sure, instead of having to wait up to 60 days before we could collect on the invoices, we were able to have the cash on hand immediately to purchase some new equipment and hire some more people to expand our business. This meant that we could accept the new offers that other businesses were providing for us and not having to pass. I cannot say enough about how factoring really benefitted us when it came to expanding our business."
"So, it seems like factoring really paid off for you. Do you still use factoring today?"
RM: "Yes we do. Although for the most part we still cash our own invoices, whenever we need money quickly so we can buy some new equipment or expand our business a little further, we go back to the factoring company and cash in our upcoming invoices. It really has worked wonders for our company."
"Tell me, what would have happened if factoring was not an option?"
RM: Frankly, I don't know how we could be in the position we are today without factoring. In this business, you have to take advantage of new opportunities quickly because there are other companies out there who will step in if you don't. Basically, I don't think we would be anywhere near the company we are today if it had not been for factoring.
There is little doubt that Ray's company would not be where it was without oil service factoring that allowed him to expand his company when he needed. For those in the oil industry, having your invoices cashed immediately by factoring companies allows greater flexibility so you can grow your business a lot more quickly and take advantage of opportunities.
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