The Dangers of Merchant Cash Advances: Part 2
Posted September 23rd, 2022
Merchant cash advances, or MCAs, are loans that business owners usually look to in a crisis. Think of them as the equivalent to the business version of a paycheck advance loan with high interest and repayment terms that often do not align with what is best for the business. MCA’s are dangerous for most merchants but horrible for construction businesses, and we’ll explain why in this four-part blog series.
In the second part of our series, we’re going to dive into the many ways businesses get hurt by taking out merchant cash advances.
The Repayment Structure of MCA Loans
Problem #1 – Typically, MCA lenders will require a daily or weekly payment that is automatically debited from the borrower’s account. Usually, construction companies are paid 30-60 days from when they invoice for work completed. So, a daily or weekly MCA repayment structure becomes a real problem quickly. It is always worrisome if revenue streams don’t match a payment plan when taking on debt.
Problem #2 – The price of debt to the amount of time to repay the loan AND the margin of the overall business. If a company sells its future receivables at a higher factor rate or at a higher dollar number than it makes in margin on sales, it will have an even bigger problem.
For example, an MCA lender approves a construction business for a $100,000 MCA loan, and the terms of the loan require the business to pay back a total of $140,000 (a 40% factor rate) in a twelve-month period. Let’s assume that the construction business works off a typical 20% gross margin. Now when the business generates $100,000 in revenue (the amount they just borrowed), and they only make a 20% margin, they will actually need $200,000 in revenue to generate enough margin of $40,000 to pay back a $100,000 loan. This example also assumes they remain disciplined enough to use the $100,000 they received from the MCA loan for revenue-generating activities and not to repay an old debt or put out a fire! IF the construction business used the $100,000 they received from the MCA loan for those types of things and they need to generate $140,000 of margin to repay the whole loan, then they would need $700,000 of revenue to produce $140,000 of margin ($140,000 / 20% margin).
See how quickly this can go bad?
The Effect of MCA Loans
The loan itself is fast and easy. (SIDE NOTE: In life, how many things that are fast and easy are actually good for you? 😊)
We discussed some of the problems, but practically what happens next is the worst part. The main reason for getting the loan in the first place (the “fire” or “issue” that needed to be solved) has now come and gone, but this loan and the daily or weekly repayment are here to stay. Slowly every week, the free cash flow of the business is sucked away, and as soon as one month but no more than 2-3 in the construction business, the same “fire” or “issue” arises again, but this time it is at least 2-3x worse. This time it is coupled with suppliers and vendors that have not been paid, or are so late to be paid, that they are causing stress to the business. The reasonable solutions for the company are limited, and the fact that there is an MCA payment every week is an issue for any other lenders. So, the MCA Lender comes to the rescue with another MCA loan solving the immediate pain, but in reality, it only pushes the problem down the road another 1-2 months.
How Customers Get Burned
First, it is vital to know the business owner is rarely talking to the direct lender. The network of folks selling MCA loans are brokers who are paid a commission. There is nothing wrong with a broker trying to find the right lender for a business owner and earning a commission for doing so as long as they represent all the options to the business owner and are upfront about who they are and what they are going to do.
Too often, brokers pretend to be the direct lender; instead, they shop your application around to the actual lenders to get the best possible rate for an MCA loan. Each of these lenders may pull the credit of the business and the business owner, which results in the credit being pulled dozens of times, and those credit pulls will cost the borrower 50 to 100 or more points off their personal credit score.
Don’t let your personal credit and business get flushed down the drain in exchange for a quick “fix.” Let our team light the way out of your financial pit by helping you find the right solution, whether through our program or just some good advice — (813) 712-3073