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Customer Finance Programs Key to Increasing Sales

While studies show that technology spending is once again on the rise, there’s a reason you haven’t heard a collective sigh of relief from the software industry. While many budgets are once again allowing for the purchase of enterprise software, hardware and peripherals, there’s no question that today’s purchasers are smarter, savvier and more selective than ever.

Even though the purse strings have loosened, competition is at an all-time high. It’s no longer enough to provide a software solution that meets the potential customer’s needs, or even to provide it at the best price. Today, smart vendors are constantly looking for ways to stay one step ahead of the competition.

While increasing sales is always part of a competitive business strategy, software development companies often overlook a simple method of accomplishing this objective – making it easier for customers to buy.

One option increasing in popularity among software vendors is to establish a customized finance program that provides no-hassle financing solutions for your prospective clients. In addition to “one-stop shopping,” your customers can reap the other benefits of financing that make it easier for them to commit to technology purchases, including:

100 percent financing — Many finance companies offer 100 percent financing for the cost of software and maintenance contracts, which requires no down payment. Because customers don’t have to come up with a down payment, they can make a purchase immediately, rather than hold up the sale with a “wait and see” mentality that often accompanies a dip into cash reserves. It also allows your customers to invest more capital in revenue-generating activities.

Improved cash flow management – With software financing, your customers can conserve capital for reinvesting in their business and improve budgeting accuracy through fixed monthly payments. Financing also makes it easy for customers to access multiple-year budgets by paying for the benefit of your software over its useful life.

Flexible payment structures – Customers can optimize project budgets by taking advantage of the flexible payment structures available through financing to maximize the return on their investment. For example, with software financing, customers can ramp up payments to match the revenue generation of a new technology project that is utilizing the software being financed.

While financing provides a clear advantage for the buyer, when a program is well planned, the list of advantages for software developers, distributors and resellers can be even more beneficial.

Improved Customer Relations

As noted above, financing packages add value for the customer by enhancing their buying power, offering greater flexibility and providing convenience. It also increases their satisfaction through the ability to leverage their budget to acquire the total technology solution – which could include software, hardware, service, support, integration and training – rather than only the parts and pieces they could afford through an outright purchase.

Shorter Sales Cycles

On the sales side, any customer who expresses some interest in a product seems like a good lead. However, there are many times when the question of how to pay for the new software prevents the sale from happening. Time lost on dead-end deals can be eliminated when financing is part of the sale, as the ability to pay is immediately considered in the equation. In addition, many finance companies now offer fast, easy credit and documentation processes, so you can complete a sale quickly and avoid costly processing delays.

Another benefit is that as software needs are being discussed in the sales process, the finance specialist can work with the chief financial officer or accountant to determine which financing option and payment plan best suits business needs and cash flow.

Direct customer financing can also save software vendors millions of dollars each year by reducing the number of days a sale is outstanding. Consider a company with quarterly cash sales of $50 million. On average, it can take 45 days to collect payment. Assuming a borrowing rate of 6 percent, the 45-day lag in payment results in a carrying cost of $371,204. If the same numbers are run with a leasing finance program that generates payment within 2 days, the carrying cost drops $82,253, saving the company more than $288,951 in one business quarter.

The Big Picture

Overall, equipment financing programs can:

Generate larger, more profitable sales faster;

Increase account control;

Improve sales efficiency and productivity;

Lower days-sales-outstanding;

Improve cash flow;

Differentiate your company from its competition; and

Provide complete solutions for your customers.

Taking the Next Step

After identifying an interest in offering flexible financing as part of the sales process, the next step is to develop a finance program. By partnering with an experienced leasing company to develop a finance program for your customers, you can transfer all of the uncertainties of extending terms to your customer to the finance company.

Partnering with an experienced finance company also means you can concentrate on what your company does best – developing software – while letting a finance expert handle the intricacies of a finance program. Put simply, by working with a third party, your company will receive all of the benefits with none of the risk.

Whether you choose to refer your clients directly to your financing program partner or to work with a third-party finance partner to develop an in-house program, it is essential to choose an experienced equipment finance partner. During the sales process, the finance expert will be working closely with your customers, and it’s important that his or her actions and service levels reflect your company’s ability to meet your customers’ expectations. When searching for a finance partner, look for a company that:

Is flexible and willing to work with your management team to develop a program that will meet your financial objectives;

Is experienced in the IT and software finance world, since the sales process, client-decision criteria, and revenue recognition issues are different than that of capital asset sellers;

Provides marketing support and materials to help you promote your financing program

Is willing and able to provide your sales team with materials and training to ensure sales team members are comfortable and easily able to raise financing as an option with their clients; and Is a financially stable, long-term business partner.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

What Is Mudaraba in Islamic Finance and Banking?

Types of Mudaraba: There are two types of Mudaraba, and they are mentioned below:

(1). Al Mudaraba Al-Muqayadah:

Rab’ul-Maal may specify a particular business or a particular place for the Mudaarib, in which case he will invest the money in that particular business or place. This is called Al Mudaraba Al-Muqayadah (restricted Mudaraba).

(2). Al Mudaraba Al Mutlaqah:

However if Rab’ul-Maal gives full freedom to Mudaarib to undertake whatever business he deems fit, this is called Al Mudaraba Al Mutlaqah (unrestricted Mudaraba). However Mudaarib cannot, without the consent of Rab’ul-Maal, lend money to anyone. Mudaarib is authorized to do anything, which is normally done in the course of business. However if they want to have an extraordinary work, which is beyond the normal routine of the traders, he cannot do so without express permission from Rab’ul-Maal. He is also not authorized to:

a) keep another Mudaarib or a partner

b) mix his own investment in that particular Modarabah without the consent of Rab-ul Maal.

Conditions of Offer & Acceptance are applicable to both. A Rab’ul-Maal can contract Mudaraba with more than one person through a single transaction. It means that he can offer his money to ‘A’ and ‘B’ both so that each one of them can act for him as Mudaarib and the capital of the Mudaraba shall be utilized by both of them jointly, and the share of the Mudaarib.

Difference between Musharaka and Mudaraba

(1). In Musharaka, all partners invest, however in Mudaraba Finance, only Rab’ul-Maal invests.

(2). In Musharaka, all partners participate in the management of the business and can work for it. However, in Mudaraba, Rab’ul-Maal has no right to participate in the management which is carried out by the Mudaarib only.

(3). In Musharakha, all partners share the loss to the extent of the ratio of their investment. But in Mudaraba, only Rab’ul-Maal suffers loss because the Mudaarib does not invest anything. However this is subject to a condition that the Mudaarib has worked with due diligence.

(4). In Musharaka, the liability of the partners is normally unlimited. If the liabilities of business exceed its assets and the business goes in liquidation, all the exceeding liabilities shall be borne pro rata by all partners. But if the partners agree that no partner shall incur any debt during the course of business, then the exceeding liabilities shall be borne by that partner alone who has incurred a debt on the business in violation of the aforesaid condition. However in Mudaraba, the liability of Rab’ul-Maal is limited to his investment unless he has permitted the Mudaarib to incur debts on his behalf.

(5). Once the partners mix up their capital in a joint-pool in Musharaka, all the assets become jointly owned by all the partners, according to the proportion of their respective investment. All partners benefit from the appreciation in the value of the assets even if profit has not accrued through sales. In Mudaraba financing, the goods purchased by the Mudaarib are solely owned by Rab’ul-Maal and the Mudaarib can earn his share in the profit only in case he sells the goods profitably.

Distribution of Profit & Loss

It is necessary for the validity of Mudaraba that the parties agree, right at the beginning, on a definite proportion of the actual profit to which each one of them is entitled. The Shariah has prescribed no particular proportion; rather it has been left to their mutual consent. They can share the profit in equal proportions and they can also allocate different proportions for Rab’ul-Maal and Mudaarib. However in extreme case where the parties have not predetermined the ratio of profit, the profit will be calculated at 50:50.

The Mudaarib & Rab’ul-Maal cannot allocate a lump sum amount of profit for any party nor can they determine the share of any party at a specific rate tied up with the capital. For example, if the capital is 10,000 Pound Sterlings, they cannot agree on a condition that 1,000 Pound Sterlings out of the profit shall be the share of the Mudaarib nor can they say that 20% of the capital shall be given to Rab’ul-Maal. However they can agree that 40% of the actual profit shall go to the Mudaarib and 60% to the Rab’ul-Maal or vice versa.

It is also allowed that different proportions are agreed in different situations. For example, the Rab’ul-Maal can say to Mudaarib “If you trade in wheat, you will get 50% of the profit and if you trade in flour, you will have 33% of the profit”. Similarly, he can say “If you do the business in your town, you will be entitled to 30% of the profit and if you do it in another town, your share will be 50% of the profit”.

Apart from the agreed proportion of the profit, as determined in the above manner, the Mudaarib cannot claim any periodical salary or a fee or remuneration for the work done by him for the Mudaraba. All schools of Islamic Fiqh are unanimous on this point. However, Imam Ahmad has allowed for the Mudaarib to draw his daily expenses of food only from the Mudaraba Account. The Hanafi jurists restrict this right of the Mudaarib only to a situation when he is on a business trip outside his own city. In this case he can claim his personal expenses, accommodation, food, etc. but he is not entitled to get anything as daily allowances when he is in his own city.

Relationships With Credit – Are You And Your Partner Ready For It?

As you found the love of your life at last, one of the most acute problems that your couple faces is how to manage the both partners’ finances. It is usually no easy for the partners to determine how they will spend together and how they will own the property in possession. There are some guidelines to help couples organize their spending according to their choice and lifestyle and the way they make their relationship.

- You and your partner are free to share or not share your property and earnings. There are a number of models to organize the financial aspect of your relationship:

- You spend as a married couple: that is you have joint accounts and are both reliable for payments, plus both of you are involved in the ownership. You also make credit card applications in both names, building a joint credit history.

- Partnership for spending: you can get joint accounts for certain expenditures, such as rent or household payments, on other needs each of you spend on your own.

- Keeping independence-model: each partner pays for himself and you manage to pay for mutual needs (household, food, holidays) in turn or making equal contributions.

When living together, young people can not usually do without big purchases. A TV, a sofa or a washing machine – sooner or later the couple gets in need of such sort of things. No wonder, a loan or a credit card plays the main part in this case. It goes without saying you should be careful and wise to play it fair and safe. Remember, you should be 100% sure of your partner before putting your name on an application or agreement.

These are some possible threats that each of you should be aware of when some of you decides to apply to the bank.

- Be careful becoming a co-signer. If your partner fails to pay off the debt or you fall apart, you will have to pay off the balance, as a second responsible person. Besides, it is fraught with damage to your credit score.

- Joint accounts for credit cards or loans seem to be a good option, but not in cases when the relationship is unstable and seems to be not to last long. Though in this way you can build your credit rating together and both of you are responsible for payments, there are pitfalls to beware. If some of you fail to pay or exceed the limit, the other’s credit history can be damaged and he or she will have to pay the balance and all the penalty fees.

- If one of the partners has bad credit, it is required that it should be under repair, in order to prevent future problems with approvals.

- Before taking the decision to apply for mortgage or a car loan, which are long term and money consuming types of lending, you should know for sure you can trust your partner. Mistakes in this matter can cause serious troubles like bankruptcy.

Love has nothing to do with money. So if you want to be protected, it does not mean you do not love your partner. Create your relationship and do not forget about future and financial security.