The Dangers of Merchant Cash Advances: Part 4
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 final part of our series, we tell the sad but true tale of a contractor who saw first-hand a merchant cash advance gone wrong. We recount this story (one of many) just to illustrate what happens when you only take the easy and fast way out!
A contractor in Texas—65 to 70 years old and shortly away from his retirement—had 40-plus years in business, been in the same town, worked with the same general contractors and project manager, and developed a great company. His business grew from $3 million to $10 million, and he went from several dozen employees to over 100.
This contractor did projects that were a few $100,000, up to a couple of million dollars. Then, one week, one of those projects had a little bit of a delay, nothing problematic, nothing different than folks see in a typical construction world. And it was going to be tight for payroll. So, what did he do? This business owner got a merchant cash advance.
He was offered a couple of hundred thousand dollars within a day was deposited into his account shortly after that. He had multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars going through his account, and he’d been in business for years and had a great relationship with his bank. It was easy to lend him money. He said, “Oh, my payroll is only $60,000 or $70,000 per period, but it is always good to have a little extra money.”
MCAs: Too Good to Be True
So, the contractor took the loan, and he started to repay that every day. The first and second months weren’t an issue, but suddenly, the amount of cash flow debited from his account over those two months strained his cash because contractors only get paid once a month.
Typically, contractors are paid that month for what they did and the costs they incurred 45 or 60 days ago. These payments are not in line with their current payroll or overhead. So, contractors are left floating payroll and expenses to material suppliers for six to eight weeks. These contractors must also have money left over to repay their MCA loan.
If businesses earn money out of sequence with an MCA’s repayment structure, they will have cash flow problems. This kink in cash flow will cause the business owner more stress than just missing payroll one week or having a challenging conversation with a material supplier, vendor, or employee.
This solution may sound like the worst-case scenario, but it’s not as bad as what happens two and a half months after getting an MCA loan.
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, Except Peter Is Broke, Too
The contractor had the same payroll problems but now had two months’ worth of accounts payable issues too. He didn’t pay materials suppliers, and the vendors shut him off on the jobs. The suppliers were not going to be without payment, and they weren’t going to deliver.
Because the suppliers and vendors ultimately put liens on the project, the contractor had general contractors and their project managers calling him, wondering about the suppliers’ payments. The project managers also held back paying any money they owed the contractor for previous months’ invoices because of the liens placed on the project.
To add insult to injury, the merchant cash advances lenders are calling this contractor too, but this time, they’re not calling him and offering more money. They’re calling him because their daily debits are starting to bounce, and they’re getting frustrated and making threats. In addition, they are also calling the Project Managers and telling them to freeze payment because they are entitled to the money owed to the contractor.
Now, this contractor is in a world of hurt, and instead of just missing payroll, his whole business is now at risk. This financial crisis could have been mitigated if he had been educated on the dangers of MCA loans.
The Fast and Easy Path Is Usually the Wrong Way
The MCA lenders led the contractor down a path without giving them all the information—but it is up to businesses to stay informed.
Merchant Cash Advance loans are not smart solutions for construction companies. If a business is working with people who have the borrower’s best interests at heart, they will ask tough questions.
Then after careful deliberation, they will use this information to help assess the business so they can appropriately give it something beneficial to the company’s future. If receiving $100,000 feels too easy, be cautious. There are always strings attached. These strings just happen to appear a few days, weeks, or even months later.
At Mobilization Funding, we’re here to help you make better construction business decisions. Let’s chat about your options — (813) 712-3073