“I pay for everything in cash, I never finance anything” or “I’ve never had to take out a loan, I don’t believe in it”. Every so often, I encounter this type of feedback from a business owner. The attitude usually goes along with a strong, hands-on work ethic for an owner which has built their business from the ground up. They have worked long hours, suffered through the ups and downs and sacrificed family time and vacations to make their business survive. Their belief is, if they cannot pay for something with cash then they do not need it.
I respect the energy and devotion but I also take note that the strategy seems to apply to small, family owned businesses with a small number of employees which have remained flat in their growth and have stopped expanding years ago. Expansion and reaching new markets are not typically part of their business plan and they are happy with a fixed income often servicing the same clientele they have for years.
The downside of never financing anything is the limited amount of expansion which can occur. In essence, they cannot grow beyond what is in their bank account at any moment in time. For example, a small business with $100,000 of capital desires to purchase a new $40,000 machine which will speed up production or bring them into a new market or simply replace an old machine; if they decide to pay cash that will leave them with $60,000 in cash reserves. If they encounter an emergency which requires $30,000 then that will leave them with little cash cushion in their account. They have also limited themselves in the case if another opportunity should surface at the same time they would not be able to take advantage of it like paying early for inventory to get a good discount.
The other negative of never borrowing is that your business will not have any established comparable credit so in the case when you do decide to finance anything, the likelihood of getting approved is marginal. A lender will not be able to assess your ability to pay back debt since you have never had any. Some business owners feel it should be viewed positively that you have never had to borrow but in the finance world it is not a positive. No credit history equals no loan.
The mantra in financing is ‘it is easier to finance equipment than it is money’ which is primarily true. Yes, you can get low cost capital from your bank if you have an established credit line but that line will have a limit. It is not a good move to use your credit line to finance an asset or equipment because that line should be used as either a last emergency resort or for short term borrowing. Finance rates are now in the 4-6% which can be stretched out to 5 years and sometimes longer. Many times, when expanding in a careful and planned manner, the finance payment will be less than the added revenue of your new equipment. This is true of energy and cost efficient industrial machines, solar systems and LED lighting.
Financing equipment for your business offers you the opportunity to expand, create more profit and reach new markets and clients. For those that want to know the benefits of never financing anything it is this; you will never owe anybody anything, no monthly payments, no interest and no chance of borrowing more than you can pay back but in that perceived safety there is also some risk and missed opportunity.