Sunday, July 22, 2007

Controlling The Cash Register

Many people that sell cash advances have approached me and asked "what kind of business works best for this product." I think the best way to answer that question is by answering the question "what type of businesses don't work well with this product." What I mean by that is while every merchant cash advance provider has different underwriting policies, they all typically are purchasing future credit card processing receipts at a discount. And if a merchant cash advance provider continuously provides working capital to businesses where they can not collect those future credit card processing receipts, it's common business sense to realize that merchant cash advance provider will not be in business for long.

It would make common sense to market to industries that will have a higher and easier chance of being approved by underwriting. The number one type of business that I would avoid marketing to is one that can "control the cash register." (It's a term I used to describe when the merchant can easily advise on the fly to the customer what payment method to use - whether it's a specific credit card type, or even paying by check or cash). What I mean by that is most merchant cash advance providers are repaid by collecting a percentage of a merchant's future credit card sales. If a merchant can easily control the cash register, there is a greater chance they will attempt to defraud the merchant cash advance provider.

Lets take an example of two merchants, one is a home improvement contractor that only receives 2 credit card payments a week (batches out 8 times a month) and the other business type is a liquor store that accepts on average 40 credit cards a day (batches out 20 times a month). The contractor processes $60,000 a month and the liquor store process $30,000/month in Visa/Mastercard sales from their customers. The contractor's average ticket is $7,500 and the liquor store's average ticket is around $37.50. Now lets assume both merchant funding contracts of the general contractor and the liquor store indicate that the merchant cash provider purchased 20% of all future Visa/Mastercard sales until they are paid off. That would mean on average everytime the general contractor made a credit card based sale, the merchant cash advance provider would be entitled to $1,500 (20% of the $7,500 average ticket) and everytime the liquor store made a credit card based sale, the merchant cash advance provider would be entitled to $7.50 (20% of the $37.50 average ticket).

Now, lets keep in mind the $7,500 and $37.50 in each example due to the merchant cash advance provider everytime the merchant is supposed to make a Visa/Mastercard sale while I discuss "controlling the cash register." Because the general contractor typically only has one customer a day (if that) that is paying by credit card, isn't in a retail environment and typically isn't delivering the product to the customer right away (future delivery) they can easily say to the customer, "when the job is done, if you pay me with an American Express card or check I can deduct 10% off the price." What the contractor has done here is saved $750 in their cash flow(normally 20% of the transaction or $1500 would have been paid back to their merchant cash advance provider if a Visa/Mastercard was used by the customer to make payment), but instead $0 is paid back to the merchant cash advance provider because the merchant circumvented the system by advising the customer to use an American Express card. By doing so, the merchant "saved" $750 (they gave 1/2 in discount to the customer) in that case and in turn they are deceiving the merchant cash advance provider that previously gave them working captial. The merchant cash advance provider did not get the 20% of this transaction ($1,500) they were entitled to that would have went against the merchant's balance and to the merchant cash advance provider.

Now lets look at the liquor store example, typically it can be in a fast paced environment, people don't have checks on them, there is no future delivery (they customer gets the end product typically at the time of sale) and we have found merchants are less inclined to default on their agreement with their merchant cash advance provider in a low ticket environment to ask their customers to use a card other than Visa and Mastercard that would prevent the merchant cash advance provider from receiving their percentage of future sales they have made. They would have to do 100 defaults on their merchant agreement at $7.50 (meaning to instruct the customer not to use a Visa/Mastercard to make a purchase, but another credit card or payment type) each to equal the 1 time the contractor has to do it to bypass the $750.

To sum it up, if you are spending marketing dollars to market this product, the number one type of business I like to avoid are ones that meet the criteria of the general contractor mentioned above - large average ticket items, low number of batches each month (I typically consider low under 12- 15 times a month) and future delivery (where the customer is coming back in most cases and can prearrange a payment method).

With that said, you want to focus your marketing efforts on those businesses with low average tickets, batch frequently (at least 12 - 15x a month on average) and have no future delivery of their products/services - basically where the merchant can not "control the cash register."

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