Many firms benefit significantly from either setting up on their own or partnering with a third part to set up a customer financing program for their products. Key benefits are increased sales, cash flow, customer loyalty, etc.
But are there also some risks for the company to be aware of also – Of course there are and let’s look at some of those risks.
We would also point out that these risks are in fact the same ones taken on by independent leasing firms also.
Foremost from a risk perspective is that fact the customer financing program will be viewed by the customers as the one and same as your company. Therefore customer service and financing ability are in fact now part of your firm’s reputation.
Companies may also find that the borrowing costs to set up a program are in fact higher than their normal business operating costs. Naturally the method in which the finance division is set up also affects the debt levels of your company. No business wants to fail because it took on higher debt in an effort to in fact help their customers!
On a long term basis company lenders might view your firms foray into customer financing as an additional risk factor, which they might try to compensate on by imposing restrictions such as additional covenants, requests for more equity into the firm, etc. The bottom line is simply that setting up a customer financing scenario may in fact affect your own firm’s ability to borrow.
If your firm is larger then analysts and firms looking at your firm might in fact be raising issues and perceptions around which business you are actually in, i.e. your products, or the financing of those products. Business owners and financial managers will always want to ensure that ultimately they are sticking to their core business model and philosophies. If your firm becomes too enamored by financing you possibly run the risk of total business failure. There are numerous cases in financial history where firms collapsed because of the shenanigans of the finance division.
We have heard the term in business ‘sticking to our knitting’, which of course simply means that management needs unique skills to run a business, and those skills are different in financing. Owners and managers related to the customer financing division must have strong skills in financial sales, structuring, and credit… Naturally we are also inferring that additional skilled personnel ultimately must be hired.
No company every wants to look back in hindsight and say that if failed or stumbled because efforts and funds went into financing, as opposed to r&d, marketing, staff, and product growth. Do not let a customer finance program become an obstacle to your ultimate business success
Business owners should ensure that there is good communications between the main operating company and the customer financing division – clear goals and philosophies should be set out re the function of such a customer finance program.
In summary the benefits of offering financing to your customer are very obvious, and proven true by some of the largest and most successful companies in the world – but all you have to do is to do it right! Ensure your firm is aware of the risks and challenges and monitor your customer financing program on an ongoing basis to ensure you are not straying from your core business model.