Finance and Business Benefits For a Limited Partner

You might want to invest in a business but do not want to deal with the daily business management that comes along with owning a company. You might want to consider investing in a company as a limited partner. In this way the general partner will deal with the daily running of the company and you do not have to, while you will enjoy the benefits of the profits.

Explanation of a Limited Partnership

A limited partnership is when somebody provides the capitol that a business needs but has limited control. The amount of control the limited partner has is decided upon either by a contract or the limited partnerships general rules. They can’t be held liable personally for any transaction that take place within the business. They also can’t lose any personal property by law if the corporation needs funds.

The limited partner usually gets to vote at different types of business meetings, and also has the right to vote a general partner out if the majority votes to as well. Even if the partnerships general partners change the limited partnership stays. Usually all profits are divided equally between all partners unless stipulated otherwise. All losses or profits must be reported on their tax returns, whether its a personal or company return. Limited partnerships are non tax entities, so before the income reaches the limited partner it is only taxed one time.

Limited Partnership Could be the Right Choice for You

When dealing in finance and business this could be a right choice for you if you want the convenience of not dealing with the daily running of a company and still have an income coming in with your investment.

If you have a partner that wants to go into business but that does not want the responsibilities of the day-to-day business dealings, this could be right for you and them. As long as the company is effectively managed then the limited partners funds should not be in jeopardy. The limited partnership stays in place as long as there is a general partner.

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The 4 Types of Real Estate Investor Financing

Throughout my real estate investing career, I’ve spent many dozens of hours speaking with lenders and potential financiers of my deals. With all the different types of loans and equity financing products available to investors these days, it’s important to have a good understanding of the benefits and the drawbacks of each, so you can choose the most appropriate financing option for your particular need(s).

Of course, given today’s credit situation, options are not only more limited than they were a couple years ago, but the definition of a “good deal” from a lender has changed as well. When I first started looking at financing for single family houses, I passed on a couple potential options that in hindsight were pretty good given today’s tight credit market; so it’s important to not only understand the types of financing that’s out there, but also which types are most prevalent and most easy to come by.

The point of this article is to define the four most common types of financing available to real estate investors; while there are, of course, more than four ways of financing real estate investments, most are a derivative — or combination — of the four we will discuss here.

1. Traditional Financing

This type of loan is generally done through a mortgage broker or bank, and the lender may be a large banking institution or a quasi-government institution (Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, etc). The requirements to qualify for a loan are based strictly on the borrower’s current financial situation — credit score, income, assets, and debt. If you don’t have good credit, reasonable income, and a low debt-to-income ratio (i.e., you earn a lot compared to your monthly obligations), you likely won’t qualify for traditional financing.

Benefits: The benefits of traditional financing are low-interest rates (generally), low loan costs (or points), and long loan durations (generally at least 30 years). If you can qualify for traditional financing, it’s a great choice.

Drawbacks: There are a few drawbacks to traditional financing for investors, some major:

The biggest drawback to tradition financing is what I stated above — it’s difficult to qualify these days. Just a year or two ago, you could have qualified under a “sub-prime” variation of traditional lending, where income and credit were less of an issue; but given the sub-prime meltdown (many of these borrowers defaulting on their loans), these sub-prime options have gone away. So, unless you have good credit, income, and small debt, you’re better off not even bothering with trying to get traditional financing these days.
Traditional lenders generally require that at least 20% be put down as a down payment. While this isn’t always true, investor loans with less than 20% down can be tough to find via traditional lending these days.
As an investor, it can be difficult to deal with traditional lenders who don’t necessarily understand your business. For example, a house I closed on last week with traditional financing almost fell-through because the lender wouldn’t provide the funds until the hot water heater in the investment property was working. As an investor, it’s common that I’ll buy houses with broken hot water heaters (among other things), and I can’t generally expect the seller to fix this for me, especially when my seller’s are usually banks. In this case, I had to fix the hot water heater before I even owned the house, which is not something I want to do on a regular basis.
Traditional lenders take their time when it comes to appraisals and pushing loans through their process. It’s best to allow for at least 21 days between contract acceptance and close. As an investor, you often want to incent the seller to accept your offer by offering to close quickly; with traditional lending, that can often be impossible.
If the lender will be financing through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae (and most will), there will be a limit to the number of loans you can have at one time. Currently, that limit is either 4 or 10 loans (depending on whether it’s Freddie or Fannie), so if you plan to be an active investor going after more than 5 or 10 properties simultaneously, you’ll run into this problem with traditional lending at some point.
There are no traditional loans that will cover the cost of rehab in the loan. If you plan to buy a $100K property and spend $30K in rehab costs, that $30K will have to come out of your pocket; the lender won’t put that money into the loan.
2. Portfolio/Investor Lending
Some smaller banks will lend their own money (as opposed to getting the money from Freddie, Fannie, or some other large institution). These banks generally have the ability to make their own lending criteria, and don’t necessarily have to go just on the borrower’s financial situation. For example, a couple of the portfolio lenders I’ve spoken with will use a combination of the borrower’s financial situation and the actual investment being pursued.

Because some portfolio lenders (also called “investment lenders”) have the expertise to actually evaluate investment deals, if they are confident that the investment is solid, they will be a bit less concerned about the borrower defaulting on the loan, because they have already verified that the property value will cover the balance of the loan. That said, portfolio lenders aren’t in the business of investing in real estate, so they aren’t hoping for the borrower to default; given that, they do care that the borrower has at least decent credit, good income and/or cash reserves. While I haven’t been able to qualify for traditional financing on my own due to my lack of income, portfolio lenders tend to be very excited about working with me because of my good credit and cash reserves.

Benefits: As mentioned, the major benefit of portfolio lending is that (sometimes) the financial requirements on the borrower can be relaxed a bit, allowing borrowers with less than stellar credit or low income to qualify for loans. Here are some other benefits:

Some portfolio lenders will offer “rehab loans” that will roll the rehab costs into the loan, essentially allowing the investor to cover the entire cost of the rehab through the loan (with a down-payment based on the full amount).
Portfolio loans often require less than 20% down payment, and 90% LTV is not uncommon.
Portfolio lenders will verify that the investment the borrower wants to make is a sound one. This provides an extra layer of checks and balances to the investor about whether the deal they are pursuing is a good one. For new investors, this can be a very good thing!
Portfolio lenders are often used to dealing with investors, and can many times close loans in 7-10 days, especially with investors who they are familiar with and trust.
Drawbacks: Of course, there are drawbacks to portfolio loans as well:
Some portfolio loans are short-term — even as low as 6-12 months. If you get short-term financing, you need to either be confident that you can turn around and sell the property in that amount of time, or you need to be confident that you can refinance to get out of the loan prior to its expiration.
Portfolio loans generally have higher interest rates and “points” (loan costs) associated with them. It’s not uncommon for portfolio loans to run from 9-14% interest and 2-5% of the total loan in up-front fees (2-5 points).
Portfolio lenders may seriously scrutinize your deals, and if you are trying to make a deal where the value is obvious to you but not your lender, you may find yourself in a situation where they won’t give you the money.
Because portfolio lenders often care about the deal as much as the borrower, they often want to see that the borrower has real estate experience. If you go to a lender with no experience, you might find yourself paying higher rates, more points, or having to provide additional personal guarantees. That said, once you prove yourself to the lender by selling a couple houses and repaying a couple loans, things will get a lot easier.
3. Hard Money
Hard money is so-called because the loan is provided more against the hard asset (in this case Real Estate) than it is against the borrower. Hard money lenders are often wealthy business people (either investors themselves, or professionals such as doctors and lawyers who are looking for a good return on their saved cash).

Hard money lenders often don’t care about the financial situation of the borrower, as long as they are confident that the loan is being used to finance a great deal. If the deal is great — and the borrower has the experience to execute — hard money lenders will often lend to those with poor credit, no income, and even high debt. That said, the worse the financial situation of the borrower, the better the deal needs to be.

Benefits: The obvious benefit of hard money is that even if you have a very poor financial situation, you may be able to a loan. Again, the loan is more against the deal than it is against the deal-maker. And, hard money lenders can often make quick lending decisions, providing turn-around times of just a couple days on loans when necessary. Also, hard money lenders — because they are lending their own money — have the option to finance up to 100% of the deal, if they think it makes sense.

Drawbacks: As you can imagine, hard money isn’t always the magic bullet for investors with bad finances. Because hard money is often a last resort for borrowers who can’t qualify for other types of loans, hard money lenders will often impose very high costs on their loans. Interest rates upwards of 15% are not uncommon, and the upfront fees can often total 7-10% of the entire loan amount (7-10 points). This makes hard money very expensive, and unless the deal is fantastic, hard money can easily eat much of your profit before the deal is even made.

4. Equity Investments

Equity Investment is just a fancy name for “partner.” An equity investor will lend you money in return for some fixed percentage of the investment and profit. A common scenario is that an equity investor will front all the money for a deal, but do none of the work. The borrower will do 100% of the work, and then at the end, the lender and the borrower will split the profit 50/50. Sometimes the equity investor will be involved in the actual deal, and oftentimes the split isn’t 50/50, but the gist of the equity investment is the same — a partner injects money to get a portion of the profits.

Benefits: The biggest benefit to an equity partner is that there are no “requirements” that the borrower needs to fulfill to get the loan. If the partner chooses to invest and take (generally) equal or greater risk than the borrower, they can do so. Oftentimes, the equity investor is a friend or family member, and the deal is more a partnership in the eyes of both parties, as opposed to a lender/borrower relationship.

Drawbacks: There are two drawbacks to equity partnership:

Equity partners are generally entitled to a piece of the profits, maybe even 50% or more. While the investor doesn’t generally need to pay anything upfront (or even any interest on the money), they will have to fork over a large percentage of the profits to the partner. This can mean even smaller profit than if the investor went with hard money or some other type of high-interest loan.
Equity partners may want to play an active role in the investment. While this can be a good thing if the partner is experienced and has the same vision as the investor, when that’s not the case, this can be a recipe for disaster.

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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.

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Customer Finance Programs Key to Increasing Sales

While studies show that technology spending is once again on the rise, there’s a reason you haven’t heard a collective sigh of relief from the software industry. While many budgets are once again allowing for the purchase of enterprise software, hardware and peripherals, there’s no question that today’s purchasers are smarter, savvier and more selective than ever.

Even though the purse strings have loosened, competition is at an all-time high. It’s no longer enough to provide a software solution that meets the potential customer’s needs, or even to provide it at the best price. Today, smart vendors are constantly looking for ways to stay one step ahead of the competition.

While increasing sales is always part of a competitive business strategy, software development companies often overlook a simple method of accomplishing this objective – making it easier for customers to buy.

One option increasing in popularity among software vendors is to establish a customized finance program that provides no-hassle financing solutions for your prospective clients. In addition to “one-stop shopping,” your customers can reap the other benefits of financing that make it easier for them to commit to technology purchases, including:

100 percent financing — Many finance companies offer 100 percent financing for the cost of software and maintenance contracts, which requires no down payment. Because customers don’t have to come up with a down payment, they can make a purchase immediately, rather than hold up the sale with a “wait and see” mentality that often accompanies a dip into cash reserves. It also allows your customers to invest more capital in revenue-generating activities.

Improved cash flow management – With software financing, your customers can conserve capital for reinvesting in their business and improve budgeting accuracy through fixed monthly payments. Financing also makes it easy for customers to access multiple-year budgets by paying for the benefit of your software over its useful life.

Flexible payment structures – Customers can optimize project budgets by taking advantage of the flexible payment structures available through financing to maximize the return on their investment. For example, with software financing, customers can ramp up payments to match the revenue generation of a new technology project that is utilizing the software being financed.

While financing provides a clear advantage for the buyer, when a program is well planned, the list of advantages for software developers, distributors and resellers can be even more beneficial.

Improved Customer Relations

As noted above, financing packages add value for the customer by enhancing their buying power, offering greater flexibility and providing convenience. It also increases their satisfaction through the ability to leverage their budget to acquire the total technology solution – which could include software, hardware, service, support, integration and training – rather than only the parts and pieces they could afford through an outright purchase.

Shorter Sales Cycles

On the sales side, any customer who expresses some interest in a product seems like a good lead. However, there are many times when the question of how to pay for the new software prevents the sale from happening. Time lost on dead-end deals can be eliminated when financing is part of the sale, as the ability to pay is immediately considered in the equation. In addition, many finance companies now offer fast, easy credit and documentation processes, so you can complete a sale quickly and avoid costly processing delays.

Another benefit is that as software needs are being discussed in the sales process, the finance specialist can work with the chief financial officer or accountant to determine which financing option and payment plan best suits business needs and cash flow.

Direct customer financing can also save software vendors millions of dollars each year by reducing the number of days a sale is outstanding. Consider a company with quarterly cash sales of $50 million. On average, it can take 45 days to collect payment. Assuming a borrowing rate of 6 percent, the 45-day lag in payment results in a carrying cost of $371,204. If the same numbers are run with a leasing finance program that generates payment within 2 days, the carrying cost drops $82,253, saving the company more than $288,951 in one business quarter.

The Big Picture

Overall, equipment financing programs can:

Generate larger, more profitable sales faster;

Increase account control;

Improve sales efficiency and productivity;

Lower days-sales-outstanding;

Improve cash flow;

Differentiate your company from its competition; and

Provide complete solutions for your customers.

Taking the Next Step

After identifying an interest in offering flexible financing as part of the sales process, the next step is to develop a finance program. By partnering with an experienced leasing company to develop a finance program for your customers, you can transfer all of the uncertainties of extending terms to your customer to the finance company.

Partnering with an experienced finance company also means you can concentrate on what your company does best – developing software – while letting a finance expert handle the intricacies of a finance program. Put simply, by working with a third party, your company will receive all of the benefits with none of the risk.

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Choosing the Correct Partner for Leasing and Financing

One of the best ways to limit your company’s overhead, particularly when you’re in the early phases of development for your business, is to lease equipment that you will need to conduct all of your business operations. If you have a bit more cash to work with and want to buy equipment to save money in the long run, financing could also be an option.

But when you’re looking to find a partner for leasing or financing, how can you be sure that you’re working with an organization that will be reliable in providing you with the financial assistance you need?

Know exactly what your needs are

Before you even begin to look around for the right leasing or financing partner, you need to know exactly why you are looking for help in the first place. What are the exact services you need? How much cash flow do you have moving in and out of your business’s accounts? Are you registered as a business yet? The answers to all of these questions could have an impact on your decision.

Even if you know that you’re just getting started out and believe that all you need in terms of your finances is a checking account and one or two pieces of equipment, you need to consider the growth potential of your business in the coming years. Will you be expanding so much that you’ll need a loan? Does your equipment need to be regularly upgraded?

Take the time to figure out what your needs are as a business before approaching any leasing or financing partner, because that will help you to find the most effective partnership.

Analyzing potential partners

After you have determined what your needs are as a company, you can start to more closely analyze potential leasing and financing partners.

When choosing the right partner for your company, you should first look to make sure that it has a history of excellence in providing services for your company’s industry and that those services fit your business’s needs. As you would with any other potential business partner, do some research into the company’s reputation, including its track record of success and any reviews that are available from previous clients.

Customer service should also be an extremely important factor in your decision. Your business’s needs are important, and anyone that you are in contact with at a potential leasing or financing partner should be attentive to them. They should be extremely responsive and willing to have an in-depth conversation with you about your company’s goals and what the best leasing or financing strategies are to fulfill them will saving you money and hassle. Knowledgeable sales representatives can be a great help in clarifying your options.

Make sure that you’re taking note of any potential red flags, as well. For example, you should never be expected to do business without a contract, and you should never have to pay any fees up front. If your potential partner has terms that seem unreasonable, then you shouldn’t have to feel as though you’re locked in to using their services. You should be absolutely comfortable with the decisions that you make.

Using Equipment Leasing Company

Pick a leasing company that will understand your needs for current and future needs. The goal as a customer is to find a company that will satisfy your financing / leasing needs for the next 12 to 18 months. Creating that budget with a equipment leasing company will help your business to grow.

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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.

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The New Rule For Buying a Home – Using Owner Financing

The American Dream; what does it mean to you? People have different jobs or hobbies or passions in life, but one constant remains the same among all of us, and this common thread that unites our dreams is that of Home Ownership! Unfortunately, in this current economy, achieving the dream of home ownership is becoming more difficult than any time in recent history. Too many Americans are following the unwritten rule of home ownership that tells us to ‘Find a Realtor and Get a Bank Loan’. In past economies, with thriving job markets, lower inflation, and less credit restraint, that ‘rule’ may have made sense to follow.

But our current economic system is making it difficult for the average person to achieve the American Dream of Home Ownership. In times of unstable job markets, with double digit unemployment forcing people to become self-employed to make a living, the banks are requiring a W-2 stable job history in order to issue loans. In times of a great credit crisis, the banks are requiring stricter credit scores than most people are able to achieve. Fewer and fewer honest, hard working Americans who are used to following the ‘traditional rules’ for owning a home are having the opportunity to own their own homes.

What if you could achieve the American Dream of Home Ownership without the assistance of a bank?

The purpose of this document is to allow motivated home seekers an opportunity to write a New Rule of Home Ownership that allows you to declare your freedom from the services of a Bank in order to partake in your piece of the American Dream of Home Ownership!

In order to understand the New Rule of Home Ownership, let’s take a closer look at the existing rules of purchasing a house with Traditional Bank Financing.

The first part of the Traditional Bank Financing focuses on Qualifying for a Loan. While many different loan packages exist, the most common loan written in today’s market is an FHA Loan, and therefore, we shall use their guidelines as an example. The following are guidelines for an FHA Loan:

o FHA Loans require a minimum credit score of 620 to be eligible for a loan
o FHA will require 3.5% down on the home. This down payment MUST come from your account. You are not allowed to borrow from friends, family or anyone else. You must document where the funds for the down payment came from. Specifically, the source of the down payment must be from your personal checking, savings or retirement account and CAN NOT be borrowed!

In order to work with most Realtors, you must first get pre-approved for a bank. Many Realtors won’t even show you a house unless you can prove that you are able to afford and receive financing for the property. This painful process of pre-approval from a bank can take 2-3 days and involve the following steps:

o Proof of Creditworthiness
o You must provide 2-4 years worth of tax returns!
o You must provide your last 4 pay check stubs if you are an employee or an updated Profit and Loss statement if you are self-employed, a business owner, an independent contractor or entrepreneur. However, if you cannot show a consistent pay stub as proof of income, then you may want to skip ahead to the part of this document where ‘Owner Financing’ is discussed, as you will find it increasingly difficult to qualify for a mortgage.
o Your bank may require you pay off other debit to help improve your credit score to qualify for the loan
o And the worst part… this proof of creditworthiness is done throughout the entire home buying process! Even once you qualify and pick out the home of your dreams; underwriters at the bank will have you go through the same process to make sure you still qualify.

Now that you are pre-qualified for the home of your dreams, you may finally begin the process of working with a Realtor to find your new home.

Once you’ve found your home, the Traditional Banks will want an inspection performed on the home and may require the seller to fix EVERYTHING for the bank to finance your loan. Some people just want a small discount on the house and they will do their own repairs however, many times a traditional bank will not allow you to do this! These small fixes may add to the total price of the house.

Also, expect to pay Realtor fees, bank fees, filling fees, “point buy down” fees, loan origination fees, closing costs, title fees, surveys, appraisal fees, and anything else imaginable for which to be charged. Though many of these fees can be rolled into your loan, over the long term, you may be paying an extra 10% in unnecessary Financing Fees that are loaded into your loan!

What if there was a quicker, easier, and less intrusive way to take your share of the American Dream? What if you could look at homes without having to pay a Realtor fee, pre-qualify for a loan, and go through a 3 month home buying process? After all, we ARE in a BUYER’S market in Real Estate, so why shouldn’t we be able to buy?

Consider the possibility of declaring a New Rule. Instead of working with (and paying for) a Realtor, why not work with the Seller directly? Especially if that seller is a Professional Real Estate Investor who is not only willing to sell the house in a quick and simple matter, but is also will to FINANCE the sale of the house on a short-term basis!

Earlier in this eBook, we went over the process of the Tradition Bank Financing. Now, we shall detail the 7 Easy Steps of Purchasing Your Home with Owner Financing:
* Contact the Seller of the Home without having to pre-qualify for a loan and look at the home to decide if you want to purchase.
* Settle on a price
* Agree to a down-payment and interest rate
* Once you’ve agreed to a price, down payment, and interest rate, complete a Deposit to Hold form and pay this 1% fee applicable to the sales price of the property. This fee will take the property off the market while you are closing on the home.
* Fill out credit application; provide 2 most recent paycheck stubs and bank statements as proof that you can afford the monthly payment.
* (Optional) If you chose, you can order your own home inspection to review the condition of the home
* Close in 2-5 business days

Buying a home from a Professional Real Estate Investor is quick and easy. Once you have settled on the price and monthly payments, you have minimal paperwork to complete and can close on the transaction within one week! The following is a summary of some of the benefits of Owner Financing compared with Traditional Bank Financing:
* In many cases, there is no minimum credit score required
* Instead of 10% Traditional Bank Finance Fees / Closing Costs, your Owner Finance Fee averages to 5% of the transaction.
* Unlike Traditional Bank Financing, your down payment for Owner Financing may come from almost anywhere (as long as it is a legal way to raise the funds). You can borrow the money from family, friends, others. There are also some tax incentives for you to use part of your retirement savings. Either way, with Owner Financing, you are allowed to raise your own down payment as you see fit!
* You and the Owner Finance Seller will agree on a time to “close” on the home and may close within 5 business days!
* Your Owner Finance loan is dependent on your down payment and ability to pay the monthly payment and NOT on your credit or having a W-2 Job. Therefore, Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, Independent Contractors, and the Self-Employed may qualify for Owner Financed Homes!
* You are not required to provide extensive documentation to obtain your loan

Due to the efficiency, simplicity, and cost effectiveness, you can see why buying directly from an investor with Owner Financing is the New Rule for Buying Homes. Owner Financing interest rates may be a little higher than market price when you initially purchase your home, however, this higher rate, along with a sizeable down payment, will actually help you obtain conventional financing at a lower rate down the road when you decide to refinance!

A good way to look at Owner Financing is that is a solution to buying a home with short-term financing. Once you have paid your Owner Financed note on time for say 12-24 months, it’s easier to refinance your existing note with a traditional bank loan at a lower interest. It’s much quicker, easier, and less intrusive to refinance a home into traditional financing then it is to purchase a home with traditional financing!

The following example will detail the process and the costs of owner financing:

o John chooses to purchase a beautiful home for $150,000 with a traditional bank loan. John’s credit score is 590 and the bank will not loan him any money until his credit score is at least 620. John understands the importance of owning a home and wants to buy something now.
o John finds a home that is being offered for $150,000 with Owner Financing. John has $15,000 to put down and wants to close in 5 business days. John’s new loan is at an 8.5% rate for 30 years and the sellers would like John to refinance his loan in 24-36 months. John’s monthly payment is $1,350 and it includes Principle, Interest, Insurance, and HOA fees. John is happy because he can afford $1,350 per month and is able to take his part of the American Dream!
o As John pays on time for, say, 24 months, John has an excellent payment history with his current lender. John will also need to be working on his credit in those 24 months to raise his score to the current minimum of 620.
o When John approaches a traditional bank John will be able to demonstrate the following:
o John’s $15,000 down payment shows that he has ‘skin in the game’ and is not just going to bail on his house payments
o John CAN afford and has been paying $1,350 a month at a 8.5% rate for his loan
o John’s credit score is now above the minimum required 620
o If John can afford $1,350 a month at 8.5% interest, John can easily afford a $1,100 a month payment at 6.5%!

It is much easier to refinance a loan rather than trying to get a loan for the original financing! Since you are already in the house, there is no inspection required, no lengthily closing procedures and there is no longer all that extra red tape that is associated with buying a home with traditional financing!

As you can see, purchasing with Owner Financing can be easily done and quickly closed for those who cannot use a traditional bank loan but deserve to own a home now.

Summary

In today’s market, due to tough economic times, there are many people selling their properties. Yet, despite the fact that this is a ‘buyer’s market’, it is tougher to buy a home with Traditional Bank Financing than ever before. Following the old, unwritten rules will lead you to a long and unhappy life in an apartment complex. Motivated home seekers looking for their piece of the American Dream are unable to achieve this great promise by traditional and conventional means due to stringent lending requirements initiated by the very same financial institutions that gladly took over 1 billion of our tax dollars to bail them out! Banks tightening up on their lending practices is causing a shortage of homebuyers in the market. This is one of the biggest reasons that real estate values continue to free fall because there are not enough people who can qualify for available homes while following the unwritten rules.

Inspired home seekers, looking to break away from the old rules and ready to write his or her own New Rules to Home Ownership will be able to take advantage of this buyer’s market, and with Owner Financing, you will see more and more people purchasing homes. If you are in the market to buy a home however, you cannot qualify for a traditional loan, I strongly recommend you contact a company that specializes in Owner Finance Homes.

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