Purchase order financing, also known as PO financing, gives you the ability to pay your suppliers for the goods you need to fulfill outstanding customer orders. This type of financing can make sense for small businesses that receive more sales and orders than they have inventory or cash to complete — and don’t want to turn customers away.
Here’s what you need to know about purchase order financing, how it works and where to get it for your business.
What is purchase order financing?
Purchase order financing is a cash advance that small-business owners can receive on their purchase orders. With PO financing, a lender will pay your third-party supplier up to 100% of the costs required to produce and deliver the agreed-upon goods to your customer.
Once your customer receives the goods, you invoice them for the fulfilled order, and they pay the purchase order financing company directly. Then, the PO financing company deducts its fees and pays you the rest.
How does purchase order financing work?
With traditional small-business loans, only two parties are involved: you, and the lender issuing the funding. When you enter into a purchase order financing agreement, however, you’ll typically work with the following parties throughout the process:
Your company/the borrower: You, who is seeking financing to fulfill a purchase order for your business.
Purchase order financing company: The company offering the financing. This company verifies your purchase order and provides funds to the supplier.
Supplier: The third party that supplies or manufactures the goods that you resell or distribute. The supplier receives payment for its goods from the purchase order financing company directly.
Customer: Your customer, the party trying to buy the goods. In a purchase order financing arrangement, after your customer has received their goods, they typically pay the financing company directly.
Here’s a breakdown of how purchase order financing works:
You receive a purchase order. Your business receives a large order from a customer, but you don’t think you have the inventory or cash on hand to fulfill it.
You determine the costs. You reach out to your supplier to determine how much it will cost to complete the order. Based on the cost assessment your supplier provides, you can confirm whether you’ll need to apply for financing to fulfill the order.
You apply for purchase order financing. After you’ve decided that you need PO funding, you’ll want to find the right purchase order financing company, submit an application and, hopefully, receive approval. You should submit the purchase order and the supplier’s cost estimate as part of your application. The financing company may approve you for up to 100% of the supplier’s costs, depending on your business’s qualifications, the supplier’s track record and reputation, and the customer’s creditworthiness. It’s important to note that if the financing company approves you for only a percentage of funding — say, 90% of the supplier’s costs — you’ll be responsible for covering the remaining 10% on your own.
The purchase order financing company pays the supplier. Once you’ve been approved, the purchase order financing company will pay your supplier to manufacture and deliver the goods that are needed to fulfill the customer’s purchase order. Many financing companies will pay suppliers using a letter of credit — an official bank guarantee that payment will be made once certain conditions are met — in this case, once the goods have been shipped and proof of shipment has been provided.
The supplier delivers the goods to the customer. The supplier ships the goods directly to the customer. Once the customer receives the goods, the order is complete.
You invoice the customer. After the customer receives the goods, you send them an invoice for the order. You also send the invoice to the purchase order financing company.
The customer pays the purchase order financing company. The customer pays the financing company directly for the full price of the invoice.
The financing company deducts its fees and transfers your funds. After receiving payment from the customer, the purchase order financing company deducts its fees and pays you the remaining balance from the proceeds.
How much does purchase order financing cost?
Purchase order financing fees typically range from 1% to 6% per month and are usually priced on a per-30-day period. These fees are charged on the total of the supplier’s costs, but generally increase the longer it takes your customer to pay their invoice.
Say, for example, you have a purchase order financing agreement in which the supplier is paid $100,000. The financing company charges a fee of 2% per 30 days. If it takes your customer 30 days to pay their invoice, your total fees are 2% of $100,000, or $2,000. If it takes your customer 60 days to pay their invoice, on the other hand, your total fees equal 4% of $100,000, or $4,000.
These fees may seem low; however, since they’re not traditional business loan interest rates, it’s important to calculate them into annual percentage rates to understand the true cost of the financing. APRs on purchase order financing often fall upward of 20%.
Some purchase order financing companies may also use a rate structure in which you receive a set fee for the first 30 days and then a lower rate for a specified number of days until your customer pays.
For instance, a company may charge 3% per 30 days and then 1% per 10 days thereafter, or 3% per 30 days and then 0.1% per day thereafter.
The purchase order financing fees that you receive will ultimately depend on factors such as your business’s qualifications, your customer’s creditworthiness and the reputation of your supplier.
Advantages and disadvantages of purchase order financing
Allows you to take on customer orders you couldn’t otherwise fulfill. Purchase order financing can be a good option for seasonal businesses, or those that are growing quickly and need extra capital to fulfill large orders from customers. Similarly, this type of financing can be worthwhile for businesses that are experiencing a cash flow shortage and could benefit from an order that would generate significant revenue.
Can be easier to qualify for than other types of business financing. Many purchase order financing companies focus on the creditworthiness of your customers and the reputation of your suppliers first and foremost when evaluating your business’s application for funding. Although these companies will still consider your business’s financials and credit history, it may be easier for startups and businesses with bad credit to qualify compared with other types of business funding.
Doesn’t require budgeting monthly or weekly loan payments. Although you’re borrowing money, purchase order financing isn’t technically a loan, so you don’t have to worry about paying back funds in monthly or weekly installments — like you would with a business term loan.
Can be expensive. Purchase order financing fees may seem competitive at first glance — typically ranging from 1% to 6% of the total supplier’s costs per month — but when you calculate these fees into an APR, rates can turn out to be much higher. Anecdotally, they can range from 20% to upward of 50%.
Reliance on customers. The amount you pay in fees is based on how long it takes your customer to pay their invoice, meaning it’s difficult to estimate the total cost of purchase order financing upfront. Plus, to access PO financing, you must rely on your customer’s creditworthiness (on top of other factors) in order to qualify.
Loss of control. With purchase order financing, the company you work with manages a significant amount of the process — including paying your supplier and collecting payment from your customer. Your supplier also ships goods directly to your customer, meaning you don’t have your hands in that part of the process, either. Although this may save your business time, it might also mean processes are not handled in the way you prefer, which could potentially risk relationships with your suppliers or customers.
Where to get purchase order financing
Purchase order financing is usually offered by online financing companies, many of which specialize in this type of business funding. Some banks may offer PO financing for existing customers or larger-scale clients, but they don’t typically advertise or offer these services for small businesses.
If you’re looking for a place to start your search, here are a few of the best purchase order financing companies to consider:
SMB Compass. SMB Compass offers PO financing in amounts that typically range from $25,000 to $10 million, with rates from 1.5% to 3.5% and a funding timeline of less than 30 days. The company also offers other types of business loans, including inventory financing, invoice financing and equipment financing.
PurchaseOrderFinancing.com. As the name implies, this company focuses exclusively on PO financing, offering up to 100% funding of your supplier costs for amounts of $500,000 to $25 million. PurchaseOrderFinancing.com doesn’t specify its fees online — the company only states that it gets “a small percentage of the profit you make on the specific deal being financed.” After you’ve started the application process, you can expect a response from PurchaseOrderFinancing.com within approximately 72 hours, and qualified businesses can fund between seven to 14 days.
King Trade Capital. According to its website, King Trade Capital is the largest purchase order financing company in the U.S., providing funding to small- and medium-size businesses across the country. Unfortunately, King Trade doesn’t provide many details about its services upfront, but interested businesses can submit a funding request for more information through the website.
Liquid Capital. Liquid Capital specializes in asset-based financing solutions, such as purchase order financing, invoice factoring and inventory financing. Liquid Capital’s purchase order financing covers up to 100% of supplier costs, offering up to $10 million in funding. Qualified businesses can receive financing in as little as 24 hours. Although the company says there are no hidden terms with its funding, it does not provide information about fees or rates on its website.
How to choose a purchase order financing company
As you compare different options, you can ask the following questions to find the right purchase order financing company for your business:
How often does the company handle purchase order financing agreements?
Does the company have experience working with businesses in your industry?
How long has the company been in business?
Do you need to meet a minimum funding amount to work with the company?
How does the company pay suppliers? Does it use letters of credit?
How does the company receive payment from your customers?
Does the company contact your customers directly? If so, how?
What happens if your customers fail to pay?
What kind of vetting process will it perform on your suppliers and customers?
How quickly will you receive your funds?
Fees and other requirements
What are the typical fees and how do they break down?
What percentage of supplier costs does the company offer as an initial advance?
Does the company require a personal guarantee?
What type of documentation (e.g., tax returns, financial statements) is required for the application?
Find and compare small-business loans
If purchase order financing isn’t right for you, check out NerdWallet’s list of the best small-business loans for business owners.
Our recommendations are based on the market scope and track record of lenders, the needs of business owners and an analysis of rates and other factors so you can make the right financing decision.
4 tips to find the funding that fits your business
The facts are clear: Startups are finding funding increasingly difficult to secure, and even unicorns appear cornered, with many lacking both capital and a clear exit.
But equity rounds aren’t the only way for a company to raise money — alternative and other non-dilutive financing options are often overlooked. Taking on debt might be the right solution when you’re focused on growth and can see clear ROI from the capital you deploy.
Not all capital providers are equal, so seeking financing isn’t just about securing capital. It’s a matter of finding the right source of funding that matches both your business and your roadmap.
Here are four things you should consider:
Does this match my needs?
It’s easy to take for granted, but securing financing begins with a business plan. Don’t seek funding until you have a clear plan for how you’ll use it. For example, do you need capital to fund growth or for your day-to-day operations? The answer should influence not only the amount of capital you seek, but the type of funding partner you look for as well.
Start with a concrete plan and make sure it aligns with the structure of your financing:
- Match repayment terms to your expected use of the debt.
- Balance working capital needs with growth capital needs.
It’s understandable to hope for a one-and-done financing process that sets the next round far down the line, but that may be costlier than you realize in the long run.
Your term of repayment must be long enough so you can deploy the capital and see the returns. If it’s not, you may end up making loan payments with the principal.
Say, for example, you secure funding to enter a new market. You plan to expand your sales team to support the move and develop the cash flow necessary to pay back the loan. The problem here is, the new hire will take months to ramp up.
If there’s not enough delta between when you start ramping up and when you begin repayments, you’ll be paying back the loan before your new salesperson can bring in revenue to allow you to see ROI on the amount you borrowed.
Another issue to keep in mind: If you’re financing operations instead of growth, working capital requirements may reduce the amount you can deploy.
Let’s say you finance your ad spending and plan to deploy $200,000 over the next four months. But payments on the MCA loan you secured to fund that spending will eat into your revenue, and the loan will be further limited by a minimum cash covenant of $100,000. The result? You secured $200,000 in financing but can only deploy half of it.
With $100,000 of your financing kept in a cash account, only half the loan will be used to drive operations, which means you’re not likely to meet your growth target. What’s worse, as you’re only able to deploy half of the loan, your cost of capital is effectively double what you’d planned for.
Is this the right amount for me at this time?
The second consideration is balancing how much capital you need to act on your near-term goals against what you can reasonably expect to secure. If the funding amount you can get is not enough to move the needle, it might not be worth the effort required.
What to keep in mind when updating your business plan
Did you know updating your business plan should be a part of your regular business practices? If not, don’t worry — a lot of people skip this step. But it could benefit you to make this effort.
Read on to learn why updating your business plan is so important, how to tackle this task, how often you should make updates, and key things to keep in mind.
Let’s get to it!
Why should you update your business plan?
Outside of updating your business plan as a standard course of doing business (which we’ll discuss in detail shortly), there are a few noteworthy situations that warrant a full business plan overhaul:
You need to raise funds
If you need capital to make tech upgrades, grow your team, or expand operations, you’ll likely need to raise funds. Before you can reach out to new investors, however, your business plan must be up-to-date and reflect your company’s current financial situation, including operating costs, cash flow, business goals, and income projections.
Related: 10 small business funding options
You want to refinance
Similar to potential fundraising moves, refinancing your business loans requires an updated business plan because it outlines operating costs, your company’s challenges, and forecasted revenue. No lender will entertain refinancing or even new loans without an updated business plan and financials.
You want to launch a new product
Big business moves necessitate an updated business plan and launching a new product or service qualifies. A new product means new potential revenue, so updating your business plan to reflect that fresh revenue stream is critical. Be sure to include everything you would’ve when writing your business plan the first time around — like costs, vendors, time frames, target demographic/segmentation, and financial projections.
You want to expand your company
Company expansion can take many forms. Perhaps you’d like to open up a second location in another city. Maybe you want to purchase more warehouse space for your products. Large technological upgrades are considered expansions, too. No matter what type of growth you have in mind for your business, updating your business plan to reflect this intention to grow is a key step before reaching out to investors and potential lenders.
You’ve changed your supply chain
Supply chain issues have become an acute problem since 2020. However, there has always been a need to update business plans to reflect changes in the supply chain and/or a change in the vendors you decide to use. Any time you make changes to your vendor list, put updating your business plan on your schedule.
You have new competitors
If a new major competitor enters your industry, it’s likely to affect how you do business. Whether that means your share of the industry “pie,” so to speak, decreases, or it means a new brand changes the expectations for your industry and you need to now follow suit — a business plan update is in the cards to reflect these changes.
When and how often should you update your business plan?
As you can likely see by now, updating your business plan is an essential part of having a business plan in the first place.
It’s a dynamic document that needs to be updated to meet where your business is at right now.
Though you don’t need to update your business plan to reflect every little change, making regular updates is a solid business practice.
If your company is chugging along with no major changes, giving your business plan the once-over at least once a year should be sufficient for updating financial data and projections. However, if your company undergoes a major shift, you’ll want to update your business model when you expect that change to occur.
How to update your business plan
Now that you have a sense of how often you should update your business plan and why you need to do so in the first place, let’s turn our attention to the real meat of this article: how to update your business plan. Here are six key things to keep in mind when updating this most important document.
1. Make updating your business plan part of your regular review process
One of the biggest obstacles to updating a business plan is scheduling the time to do it. Business owners are busy people, and it’s all too tempting to leave these sorts of tasks until tomorrow. However, you can get around this by simply incorporating a business model review into other processes you already complete.
If your company does quarterly financial reviews, add in a business plan review during this time. You’ll already be taking time away from day-to-day business operations to complete the financial review, so you might as well spend a couple of extra hours updating your business plan.
You could even schedule it for when you do your taxes or prep documents to send to your accountant. Add the business plan update to your to-do list for those days.
2. Include your team in the process
If you have any kind of team for your business, you must include them in this process. They are likely involved with the day-to-day functions of operating your business and can provide key insights into what the future of your company looks like. For example:
- Ask the marketing team for reports on trends they’ve noticed over the past six months or so.
- Ask sales about any demographic shifts they’re noticing in the customer base.
Those who are doing work within your industry daily are going to feel the subtle shifts within the market before anybody else. And they might have insights into what projections look like — things that you might not come up with on your own.
Leveraging your team means getting a more complete picture of what your company has accomplished, how it’s currently positioned, and where it will go from here.
Pro tip: You can manage these tasks directly in Microsoft 365 as well. Sharing documents is a snap and you can collaborate on your business plan in real-time.
3. Note regulatory changes
When updating your business strategy, take some time to research any regulatory changes that have taken place in your industry. New rules, regulations and laws are passed all the time and many can have a direct impact on how you do business.
For instance, payment processors now must report your earnings to the IRS. This change could affect how you report income and change your relationship with contractors. The implementation of sales tax on internet sales made in the state where your business is located is another example from the past that had a profound effect on companies doing business online.
Such changes can impact your financial reporting and/or make your business more competitive, and less competitive, and otherwise change your approach to how you do business.
4. Note vendor/supply chain changes
Another factor to take into consideration when updating your business plan is any vendor or supply chain issues or changes that have occurred since your last plan update. If a vendor suddenly changed their billing system or adjusted their fees, you might need to account for this in your business plan as it could cut into your profit margin projections.
Or, if the supply chain has made it so you need to use multiple vendors to meet your company’s needs without experiencing disruptions, your business plan should make note of this change — and even indicate that supply chain issues are an ongoing problem.
5. Keep broader economics in mind
The overall state of the economy can directly affect your company’s performance. And while economic downturns can leave some industries untouched, it’s rather rare. But even if your company is lucky and hasn’t been affected by broader economic fluctuations as of yet, keep updating your business plan on your radar.
The economy as a whole can impact your vendors, shipping, packing, contractors and other services related to how you do business. It can also affect staffing and the accessibility of talent. So even if your company hasn’t experienced negative effects, acknowledge the general state of the economy in your business plan and include contingency plans should issues arise.
6. Follow demographic changes
We’re currently in the midst of huge demographic changes in the United States and all over the world, which will have a direct impact on how you do business and what the future might bring to your company.
As of 2022, the median income among the middle class is going down, the income of the very wealthy continues to go up, and the median age of workers is going up, too. People are having babies later in life and at lower rates than in the previous generation.
All of these factors can directly impact your revenue potential as well as who your target demographic or ideal customer even is. And this means you need to update your business plan to account for these shifts. Continue to revisit demographic data and projections a couple of times per year to ensure your internal projections still apply and to see if your processes need updating and track your actual results. If so, a business plan update is in order, too.
What to do next
If you haven’t even so much as glanced at your business plan in a bit, now’s the time to dust off the document and give it a once-over. Times are changing — seemingly faster than ever before — so it would behoove you to set aside some time to update your business plan sooner rather than later.
Build your own brand (and stop reselling!)
I used to think that every “brand” was supported by its own factory and an army of in-house employees. I was wrong. Branding your own product doesn’t mean you need to design and manufacture it yourself.
Of course, most brands partner with factories, freelancers and agencies for extra support. But many others use white label designs straight from a factory. Here’s how it works:
- You find a manufacturer with a product design you like
- Add your brand name on it
- Sell it as your own
Sometimes there’s simply no need to design a product from scratch. There are plenty of well-designed products out there that just need a brand to sell them.
Where can you source white label products?
You can use sites like Alibaba and AliExpress to find pre-designed products ready for your brand name. No need to invest in product development, which can take months (or sometimes years) before a final sample is ready for production.
This Reddit post shows you how to use Alibaba or AliExpress to build your own brand step-by-step with just $1,000, a little imagination and a healthy amount of drive and ambition.
White labeling gives you so much freedom compared to reselling other brands’ products.
It can be the stepping-stone you need to put your brand on the map — even if you do end up reselling in the future or invest in R&D for products down the line.
1. Building your own brand means having control
When you buy stock from other brands to resell on your website, you’re not in control. They are able to dictate things like:
- The price you pay
- Whether you can discount it and for how much
- How you can and can’t market it
When you start your own brand, you have control. If you source directly from a factory, you can afford to drop prices to undercut competitors, while still making large margins. The tough design decisions have already been made, but you still get to make the product yours by customizing its look and adding your branding.
Where the brand goes in the future is up to you — it’s your adventure!
2. It reduces competition
Selling other brands’ products seems like an easy way to get rich. But often, you end up competing against other companies selling the exact same products. It’s not easy.
When starting your own brand, you’re the only one selling the products with your name on them, so you can build your own reputation.
For example, if I sell Beats headphones, I have to compete against all the big names already selling them. Those bigger companies can undercut me because they buy the headphones in bulk, which means they can sell them at a cheaper price.
So without competitive pricing, I could be crowded out of the market altogether. There’s just no way for a one-person company to achieve meaningful success by selling Beats headphones.
That said, if I launch my own brand of headphones called Nick’s Brilliant Headphones, I’ll still be competing against other companies making headphones. However, I’ll be the only person in the world selling Nick’s Brilliant Headphones.
With proper branding, some good reviews and the ability to maintain a good reputation, I could be on my way to the top.
3. It’s a stepping-stone to success
Perhaps you’ve heard of the popular saying, “Mighty oaks grow from little acorns.” The understanding of this quote means that sometimes something grand can stem from a small venture.
It doesn’t matter if you start out selling water bottles you bought on Alibaba, then rebrand them in your living room. After all, Jeff Bezos started Amazon out of his home.
The biggest brands have humble beginnings. There’s no telling how far you’ll take your brand once you get off the ground.
You could be importing en-masse from factories this year, developing your own products the next and building your own factory in five to ten years. As your brand reaches more people, it’ll gain recognition and loyalty. You’ll be able to take the brand wherever you want from there.
Importing products and adding your brand name to them may seem primitive, but it’s the first step to success and ownership over your future.
4. You can become the distributor
Today, you might approach Beats by Dre to resell their products. But instead, imagine if people approached you to sell your product?
You still get a cut of every sale, but you also get the following perks:
- Increased brand exposure
- Added benefit of a new revenue stream
- No burden of selling to customers all by yourself
You can go from begging other brands to let you work with them to the person whose products everyone else wants to stock.
I know several companies whose products are stocked in brick-and-mortar stores — and they all tell me it adds cushy extra income. There are always people who prefer to shop in a store or buy important last minute purchases in-person so they don’t have to wait for delivery.
5. Increase profits by cutting out the middlemen
If you resell products from an existing brand, you pay a wholesale fee to them. This helps cover their margin, plus the cost of the product, but may leave you with a lower profit.
If you start your own brand and sell it online, you only pay the manufacturing costs and any import and shipping fees.
That wholesale fee you would’ve paid another brand is money in your pocket.
You can then afford to undercut other sellers of similar products, while still maintaining a great margin.
It’s time to build your own brand
There are many merits to selling other people’s products. But the advantages speak for themselves when you have:
- Personal drive to start and build your own brand
And with white labeling, it’s easy to get started with a small investment.
Save the time and effort of marketing someone else’s products and promote your own instead. It could be the start to your brand becoming a household name.
Have thoughts on building a brand? Share them in the comments!
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