Money Matters

How accountants can help clients access funding for their businesses

Discover how you can help your clients unlock funding opportunities for their businesses in this comprehensive guide for accountants.

One of the most critical factors for a business looking to grow and scale is its ability to secure adequate funding.

Your strategic advisory role as an accountant has never been more important.

You could play a pivotal role in helping your clients navigate financial opportunities, particularly in acquiring the much-needed capital to take their business to the next level.

This article aims to serve as a comprehensive guide if you’re an accountant or financial advisor who wishes to broaden your expertise in unlocking client funding.

Whether exploring grants, loans, or equity investments, we can help you build a structured roadmap for advising your clients successfully.

From understanding various types of funding to mastering the intricacies of financial documentation and compliance, we’ll equip you with the tools to become an indispensable asset to your clients in their growth journey.

Here’s what we cover:

Understand your clients’ funding needs

According to research from Sage partner Swoop Funding, 68% of businesses cite funding as a primary barrier to growth.

“This is particularly true if you have a business that has aged out of the start-up phase and is ineligible for start-up loans or government grants,” says Andrea Reynolds, co-founder of Swoop Funding, speaking to Sage Advice.

As an accountant, how can you help?

Initially, speak to your client about the value of a thorough financial audit.

This is crucial to pinpointing which type of funding is most appropriate for their current needs and future goals.

By reviewing their financial statements, cash flow projections, and operational costs, you can identify gaps and opportunities that will guide your funding recommendations.

Your audit not only helps in assessing the present health of a business but also gives you an understanding of what kind of funding they might need.

These activities can help you move from simply being a financial consultant to become a strategic advisor integral to your client’s long-term success.

Funding options to help your clients with

Different business phases and objectives call for specific types of funding.

Your expertise can be pivotal in helping your clients identify the most appropriate course of action.

They might ask you for help with:

Working capital

Working capital is the funding needed for the day-to-day running of a business.

It ensures your client has enough cash to cover operational expenses such as wages, rent, and inventory.

Short-term loans or lines of credit are often suitable for fulfilling working capital needs.

Expansion capital

When a business is ready to scale, whether by entering new markets or increasing production, it will look for expansion capital.

In this situation, you might advise your client to consider long-term loans or equity financing.

Research and development (R&D)

If your client is looking to innovate or develop new products, R&D funding could be a good call.

Grants and angel investments can be particularly useful, as they often don’t require immediate repayment or an equity share.

Debt refinancing

Your client may seek funding to manage or consolidate existing debts to reduce monthly outgoings and improve cash flow.

Acquisition financing

If your client wants to acquire another company or a significant asset, specialised financing options such as leveraged buyouts may be applicable.

Helping your clients expand their networks could lead to funding opportunities

Want to add even more value?

Your network could be an invaluable tool to secure funding for your client, opening doors to a wider range of opportunities.

Here’s three things you could do with your client:

  • Attend industry events
  • Engage with fellow professionals
  • Actively participate in business and financial communities.

Strong relationships within your network could lead to valuable connections and funding leads for your client.

Different types of funding to consider

Once you understand your client’s funding needs, the next step is to explore the array of financing options available.

The business funding landscape is diverse, offering multiple pathways for companies to secure required capital.

Each option has requirements, benefits and limitations you can meticulously evaluate.

Here’s a closer look at some of the most common types of funding:

Bank loans

Bank loans are the most traditional form of business financing and are generally categorised into short and long-term loans.

They are often suitable for working capital, expansion, and debt refinancing.

However, in the past decade, small businesses have been affected by a decline in high-street banking relationships.

Andrea Reynolds says: “Many businesses previously relied on relationship managers at traditional banks, a service that’s become increasingly rare due to automation and bank restructuring.”

You might be able to help.

Advise your client to openly communicate with the bank, negotiating terms that align with their financial needs.

The key to securing a bank loan is to present a compelling business plan and demonstrate strong financials that assure the bank of your client’s ability to repay.

Secured funding

Secured funding is a type of financing where a borrower pledges an asset as collateral to obtain funds.

This reduces the lender’s risk and could have better terms for the borrower, such as lower interest rates, higher borrowing limits and longer repayment periods.

Common examples include mortgages secured against property and automotive loans secured against vehicles.

Secured funding may be accessible to businesses with less-than-perfect credit scores due to the security provided by the collateral.

However, this balances with a risk of losing the asset if they don’t repay the loan as agreed.

Secured funding will probably mean a longer approval process due to the need for asset valuation.

In addition, some forms of secured funding, such as mortgages, may have prepayment penalties.

Venture capital

Venture capital is an option for startups and high-growth companies, often in the tech sector.

This funding involves trading equity shares for capital.

Venture capitalists provide funds and bring a wealth of experience and networking opportunities.

However, this comes at the cost of relinquishing a certain amount of control and ownership of the company.

Angel investment

Like venture capital but generally on a smaller scale, angel investors are affluent individuals willing to invest in promising businesses in exchange for equity ownership or convertible debt.

Businesses can often tap angel investors for management advice, crucial introductions, and capital.

Grants

A grant is money provided by governmental bodies or private organisations to encourage business in a particular sector or demographic.

While the competition for grants can be fierce, they are an attractive funding option because they don’t require repayment or equity dilution.

However, filling in the forms and having the right documentation can take time to pull together. And you’ll need to check that your client is eligible for the grants being applied for.

Grants are especially useful for R&D initiatives and social enterprises.

Funding applications: What to make your clients aware of

Here are a few things you need to make your clients aware of when applying for finance.

Trading time

The length of time client has been trading for will directly affect what type of finance they can access.

Andy Morris, a director at RLA Capital Limited, says: “Except for startup loans, most unsecured funding will require a minimum of 12 months trading time.

“This allows lenders to assess your client’s financial stability accurately.

“For companies that have been trading for less than 12 months, the secured route, such as asset finance/refinancing, could be a better option.”

Rates

The lender, loan type, company financial health, and trading time will all directly impact rates.

Andy says: “Advertised representative rates are used to illustrate rates you may be eligible for, but may only be given to 51% of successful applicants.

“The remaining 49% of applicants usually get a higher rate. The level of ‘risk’ will determine what rate you are offered.”

Personal guarantees

Given the current economic climate, Andy says lenders may require a personal guarantee from the directors/shareholders of the business they’re lending to, even when applying for unsecured finance.

He says: “A personal guarantee is a legal promise to pay back a loan in full as per your agreement. A lender would only enforce this if they cannot recover the loan in an agreed method.”

Understanding the intricacies of each funding option empowers you to offer nuanced advice tailored to your client’s specific needs and circumstances.

The key lies in aligning the type of funding with the company’s stage of development, financial health, and long-term objectives.

Funding documentation to prepare

Compelling and accurate documentation is the cornerstone upon which potential investors or lenders will assess your client’s viability.

You could significantly influence the funding outcome by getting this part right (or wrong).

Let’s dive deeper into the key components that make up the backbone of any solid funding application.

Business plans

A comprehensive business plan outlines the mission, vision, and strategy that drive a company.

Accountancy expertise is invaluable in crafting the financial section of the plan.

This includes validating the cost structure, revenue model, and the financial feasibility of achieving your client’s business objectives.

A strong business plan impresses potential investors and serves as a strategic guide for your client’s growth.

Financial statements

These are the business’s current ‘report cards’ and include essential documents such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.

These statements offer a detailed view of the business’s financial health, and your role in auditing, preparing, or interpreting these can greatly impact the credibility of the funding application.

Accurate, professionally prepared financial statements can instil confidence in potential investors and lenders.

Financial projections

Forward-looking financial projections can be key to the funding application. They demonstrate the business’s potential for growth and profitability.

Your involvement in developing realistic yet ambitious financial projections—based on reasonable assumptions and industry benchmarks—can significantly sway decisions in your client’s favour.

Your role in helping clients prepare a robust business plan, up-to-date financial statements, and realistic financial projections is indispensable.

Not only do you make the funding process more streamlined, but your expert guidance also heightens the chances of securing that much-needed capital.

Application process and timelines

Navigating the labyrinthine world of funding applications can be daunting, but a solid understanding of processes and timelines can help to set realistic expectations and inform strategic decisions.

Each type of funding comes with its own set of procedures, documentation requirements, and time frames.

Here’s an overview of applications you might be able to help with:

Bank loans

The application process for bank loans typically involves submitting a detailed business plan, financial statements and, often, collateral.

After an initial assessment, the lender may ask you for additional documentation or clarifications.

Depending on the bank and the complexity of the loan, the approval process can take anywhere from hours, days or weeks, to a couple of months.

Venture capital

Venture capital involves multiple stages, from initial pitch meetings and due diligence, to term sheet negotiations and legal formalities.

The process can take several months because of the depth of scrutiny and the stakes involved.

Preparation is critical. Your client must be ready with a pitch deck, a robust business plan, and financial projections to expedite the process.

Angel investment

The timeline for securing angel investment can vary depending on the investor’s familiarity with the business sector and their due-diligence requirements.

On average, your client should expect at least a couple of months for meetings, negotiations, and legal formalities.

Grants

The grant application process can be time-consuming, often requiring detailed proposals, budgets, and programme outlines.

The success of grant applications relies on the strength of your client’s proposal.

Ensure they identify their company’s unique selling points, highlight their contribution to the economy or community, and demonstrate how the grant will benefit business growth.

Your client needs to tailor each grant proposal to the specific eligibility criteria and objectives the granting organisation outlines.

By framing their story effectively, they’ll increase the chances of securing the grants and subsidies they require.

How to help clients with proposals

You can help your client add significant value and instil confidence in potential investors and lenders by compiling comprehensive and compelling proposals, including essential data.

Key components to incorporate within these proposals include cash flow projections, a detailed management team overview, the client’s track record, and a clear financial roadmap.

After submission, the review period can be extensive, depending on the method of funding your client is going for. Competition is usually high, making submitting a compelling and thorough application imperative.

Alastair Hazell is the financial specialist, coach, and founder of The Calculator Site.

He says: “Once the application is submitted, it’s a good idea to follow up to confirm its receipt and ask about the timeline for a decision.

“This can also provide an opportunity to clarify any questions the funding body might have about the application.”

If your client’s application is good enough to be approved, you should review the offer carefully.

Alastair says: “This includes understanding the interest rate, repayment terms, and other associated fees or requirements.

“It’s time to accept once everything looks good and the client is happy with the offer.

“Funds are then usually disbursed directly to the client’s bank account or, in some cases, to specified vendors or creditors.”

Monitoring your clients’ use of funding

Securing funding is only the first chapter in a business’s growth story.

You want your client to deploy newly acquired funds effectively.

This is where your role as an accountant moves from an advisor helping to securing funds to a vigilant steward overseeing how they are used, ensuring they meet your client’s business objectives.

The importance of monitoring

Monitoring your client’s use of funds is vital for several reasons.

Firstly, it ensures they’ll use the capital for its intended purpose.

Alastair Hazell says: “Monitoring fund usage is crucial to ensure your client spends money appropriately and transparently.

“Before disbursing funds, define what they are intended for. This helps track and ensure the money is used for its intended purpose.

“Use software or apps that allow you to categorise and track expenditures. This makes it easier to get a snapshot of where the funds are going and identify deviations.”

Secondly, careful monitoring allows your client to adjust their strategies based on the performance and impact of the deployed funds.

Lastly, tracking fund usage is often a requirement from investors or lenders, and failure to do so can result in penalties or even the withdrawal of funding.

Alastair advises: “Ensure funds are being spent appropriately and in line with the application’s stated information. It’s also important for accountability and future reporting requirements.

“If the funding requires repayment, adhere to the schedule and terms laid out in the agreement.

“Some funding bodies may require periodic reports on how the funds are used and outcomes achieved.”

Alastair recommends regularly reviewing financial statements for your client, such as bank statements, credit card statements and other financial records, to track spending and verify expenses.

He adds: “Remember, the primary purpose of monitoring fund usage is to ensure accountability and transparency and that the funds are used efficiently and effectively.

“Regularly reviewing and adjusting your monitoring practices will help keep things on track and build stakeholder trust.”

Review KPIs regularly

As an accountant, you can offer invaluable support by establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the business objectives related to the funding.

These could include metrics such as:

  • Return on investment (ROI)
  • Burn rate
  • Specific operational milestones.

Regularly review financial statements and cash flow forecasts to track how closely the business adheres to the chosen KPIs.

Your expertise can also be used to set up internal controls and audit trails, ensuring that funds are not misallocated or misused.

Additionally, you can assist in preparing regular reports to update stakeholders on how the funds are used, offering transparency and an opportunity to recalibrate strategies if necessary.

Essentially, you play a vital role.

Not only safeguarding the investment but also contributing to the long-term success and sustainability of your client’s business.

Final thoughts

From identifying the financial needs of a business to navigating the myriad types of funding available, winning finance calls for a deep understanding of both numbers and strategy.

This is where accountancy services can be invaluable.

You can assist in crafting compelling business plans, prepare meticulous financial documents, and establish credible financial projections that are the backbone of any successful funding application.

Remember, your involvement doesn’t stop at acquiring funds.

It involves monitoring and overseeing how they are used, ensuring the capital is put to its best possible use to achieve your client’s business goals.

Here are some final tips:

  • Stay updated on the latest trends in funding.
  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of your client’s industry to tailor your advice more effectively.
  • Regular communication with your clients is key. Keeping them informed and setting realistic expectations can make the funding process smoother.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of networking. Relationships with potential investors, banks, and other financial institutions could provide an invaluable edge in securing funds.

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