Business Loans In Canada: Financing Solutions Via Alternative Finance & Traditional Funding

Business loans and finance for a business just may have gotten good again? The pursuit of credit and funding of cash flow solutions for your business often seems like an eternal challenge, even in the best of times, let alone any industry or economic crisis. Let’s dig in.

Since the 2008 financial crisis there’s been a lot of change in finance options from lenders for corporate loans. Canadian business owners and financial managers have excess from everything from peer-to-peer company loans, varied alternative finance solutions, as well of course as the traditional financing offered by Canadian chartered banks.

Those online business loans referenced above are popular and arose out of the merchant cash advance programs in the United States. Loans are based on a percentage of your annual sales, typically in the 15-20% range. The loans are certainly expensive but are viewed as easy to obtain by many small businesses, including retailers who sell on a cash or credit card basis.

Depending on your firm’s circumstances and your ability to truly understand the different choices available to firms searching for SME COMMERCIAL FINANCE options. Those small to medium sized companies ( the definition of ‘ small business ‘ certainly varies as to what is small – often defined as businesses with less than 500 employees! )

How then do we create our road map for external financing techniques and solutions? A simpler way to look at it is to categorize these different financing options under:

Debt / Loans

Asset Based Financing

Alternative Hybrid type solutions

Many top experts maintain that the alternative financing solutions currently available to your firm, in fact are on par with Canadian chartered bank financing when it comes to a full spectrum of funding. The alternative lender is typically a private commercial finance company with a niche in one of the various asset finance areas

If there is one significant trend that’s ‘ sticking ‘it’s Asset Based Finance. The ability of firms to obtain funding via assets such as accounts receivable, inventory and fixed assets with no major emphasis on balance sheet structure and profits and cash flow ( those three elements drive bank financing approval in no small measure ) is the key to success in ABL ( Asset Based Lending ).

Factoring, aka ‘ Receivable Finance ‘ is the other huge driver in trade finance in Canada. In some cases, it’s the only way for firms to be able to sell and finance clients in other geographies/countries.

The rise of ‘ online finance ‘ also can’t be diminished. Whether it’s accessing ‘ crowdfunding’ or sourcing working capital term loans, the technological pace continues at what seems a feverish pace. One only has to read a business daily such as the Globe & Mail or Financial Post to understand the challenge of small business accessing business capital.

Business owners/financial mgrs often find their company at a ‘ turning point ‘ in their history – that time when financing is needed or opportunities and risks can’t be taken. While putting or getting new equity in the business is often impossible, the reality is that the majority of businesses with SME commercial finance needs aren’t, shall we say, ‘ suited’ to this type of funding and capital raising. Business loan interest rates vary with non-traditional financing but offer more flexibility and ease of access to capital.

We’re also the first to remind clients that they should not forget govt solutions in business capital. Two of the best programs are the GovernmentSmall Business Loan Canada (maximum availability = $ 1,000,000.00) as well as the SR&ED program which allows business owners to recapture R&D capital costs. Sred credits can also be financed once they are filed.

Those latter two finance alternatives are often very well suited to business start up loans. We should not forget that asset finance, often called ‘ ABL ‘ by those Bay Street guys, can even be used as a loan to buy a business.

If you’re looking to get the right balance of liquidity and risk coupled with the flexibility to grow your business seek out and speak to a trusted, credible and experienced Canadian business financing advisor with a track record of business finance success who can assist you with your funding needs.

The Importance of Business Analyst Tools and Benefits of Hiring an IT Business Analyst

Do you want to know the importance of Business Analyst Tools? When it comes to workflow management, you need to use all the tools and processes that streamline and optimize the operations of your business. For instance, you need to utilize software systems that enable you to get improved productivity. These systems include content management systems, document management systems and business process management (BPM) tools.Remember the best workflow management systems can be costly and challenging to implement. However, by seeking the services of an IT Business Analyst, your company will benefit from them, which means you will get the best returns on your investments. In this informative article, we’ll look at five benefits of these tools.1. Improved AccountabilityThe best Business Analyst Tools enable your company to experience improved productivity. Keep in mind many employees don’t respond well to micromanagement, which means you need to use the latest tools to check their productivity. By using the best tools and software, you can know which tasks need to be done, the best team member to carry them out and the specific period the work should be completed.When you know which tasks and goals need to be met, you won’t need to intervene now and then, that’s unless it’s necessary. That improves the relations between the staff and management by removing personal opinions and considerations from any issue. Databases can store records of what occurred in the system, which gives the administration the ability to audit behavior if necessary.2. Reduces the Need for Manual LaborThe best business analyst tools provide your team members with the chance to work on non-repetitive tasks. It means they can expand their skills, for example, by working on aspects that require more human input such as in the production process. The best work management tools ensure that work is done faster and without common human errors. Instead of using these tools to replace employees, you should use them to make the workplace more productive and exciting, which improves the firm’s overall morale.3. Better CommunicationThe best business analyst tools eliminate the need for paper chasing and use of telephones. That makes the office more efficient and greener, which in turn reduces the firm’s turnover rates. Among the reasons for quitting jobs is poor or inadequate communication in offices. By using tracking software, you can provide employees with a better way of finding out what needs to be done right now and in the future. For you to ensure smooth day to day running of the business, you need to make sure your communication is honest and clear to employees.4. Streamlines the Business Operation ProcessesWorkflow or business analyst tools enable you to have valuable insight in the day to day running of your business. For example, by using automation software, you can determine which tasks can be done simultaneously instead of being completed sequentially. You can know which steps are unnecessary; which means you will make informed choices and decisions. For example, you will know which employees perform specific tasks at their best, rather than who happens to be free at that particular time.5. Faster Completion of ProjectsThe best business analyst tools enable you to shorten the duration of projects. For example, you can use them to reduce the period between starting a project and having it approved. As the management, you can set these tools to notify team members when the deadline is approaching or if they have missed it. The team leaders can let employees know of any new projects, changes in scheduling and guideline updates. Remember that in the long run, the time taken to determine these issues can prove to be a lot, meaning you need to use the latest tools to move on to new profitable projects.What to DoWhen switching over to using the best Business Analyst Tools, you may encounter several challenges. That means you should evaluate your office or business needs before deciding to make the switch. If you regularly meet your goals or surpass them, you may choose to leave it as it is. However, if you think you need a general overhaul of your operating systems and routines, you should consider moving your company to the next level.Before implementing drastic changes, you should open up and consult with your team members about the impending changes. You should then consider hiring an expert IT Business Analyst to help in the process. Below we look at benefits of hiring them.Benefits of Hiring an IT Business AnalystOne common question on online business forums is; what are the benefits of hiring an Information Technology (IT) Business Analyst? For some businesses, business analysts provide them with many benefits. However, others may not know these benefits, which mean they fail to get the many positive results that analysts bring to companies. In today’s business environment, business analysis can be the glue that holds a company or business together.What’s The Role of a Business Analyst?Breaks Down Work into Manageable and Small BitsThe primary function of an IT Business Analyst is to help make work more manageable by breaking it into smaller pieces. Developing and testing are also made simpler by business analysts. These professionals ensure all projects are on track by documenting their progress. That means the best returns on your investments.Enhances CommunicationIT Business Analysts ensures the communication lines are kept open, that’s by filling any gaps in the case of breakdowns. They eliminate any confusion in the case of requirements, scope and testing by explaining the processes in a way that team members can understand. It means that the workplace efficiency is improved and tasks completed faster.Provides SupportIn the course of carrying out challenging tasks, the project managers may be overwhelmed by budgets, reports, schedules and other issues. Business analysts can step in and help by providing them with professional support to the team members, project managers and sponsors. The result will be improved returns and faster completion of projects.Increases the Business ReturnsProfessional IT Business Analysts know how to increase the company’s potential benefits and returns. For example, they know how to uncover or discover new business needs and ensure that your business priorities are focused on bringing the best value. Remember that they use the best Business Analyst Tools to arrive at their decisions.What 2018 Holds For IT Business AnalystsAs far as the role of Business Analysts is concerned, the year 2018 offers them new predictions. That’s because new Business Analysts Tools provide them with more chances to improve the operating systems of companies.These professionals will be tasked with many projects that include project and testing management. Many will offer their services on a specialist basis, for example, cost-benefit analysis, scoping and other project requirements.For those with business analysis backgrounds, they will continue their migration towards critical and influential positions in different areas of the organization. The result may be a change in their titles, which may result in disagreement or confusion over their exact job description and responsibilities.How to Hire the Best IT Business Analyst• If you’re asking yourself whether you need to hire a Business Analyst or a project manager, you need to consider the value that each of them brings to your organization or project. In some instances, the project manager may have vast expertise.• On the other hand, the business analyst may have experience and knowledge in examining information and other facts, which means they can provide your company with the right questions and carry out thorough research.• The primary factors for hiring an IT Business Analyst is that he or she can be able to break down information into several parts, document and workflows.• You need to ensure the business analyst you’re hiring has the best experience in the IT field which you need. It may seem like an obvious consideration, but you should remember that IT fields are different.• Other qualities you should consider are their industry knowledge, problem-solving skills and effective documenting. They will ensure you get the best results. Remember that any professional should be self-directed and motivated.• The business analyst should also have the best working skills and communication abilities. They will ensure that he or she works with your team to solve problems. Remember that it’s only through effective communication with your team members that the professional will able to bring you the best results.• When hiring them, make sure you have written agreements on how fast you should expect results, the processes involved and how much they will charge you. That will enable you to plan your budget estimates to ensure that no payment disputes occur during the work or after completion of the project. Compare quotes from different professionals before settling on the best one, who should have experience and provide you with competitive rates.ConclusionThe best IT Business Analyst should be able to use the latest Business Analyst Tools to ensure that your business improves its efficiency and profits. Consider hiring those who use the most recent software and have experience in your particular field.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.