Get matched with a mentor who has experience building a business by visiting SCORE.org. SCORE is dedicated to helping small businesses develop and thrive through mentorship and training programs. SCORE mentors can help small business owners write a business plan, determine the type of lending they need, figure out the best bank(s) to approach for a loan and prepare to meet with a loan officer.
Rent and rent escalations. Some landlords will give free rent for the first month or two of a lease. Fixed rent over longer-term leases is relatively rare. Sometimes landlords insist on annual increases based on the percentage increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If your landlord insists on rent escalations, try to arrange for a CPI rent increase that does not kick in for at least the first two years of the term. Then, try to get a cap on the amount of each year’s increase. If you have to live with a rent escalation clause, try to negotiate a predetermined fixed increase; for example, a rent of $5,000 a month the first year that would only increase to $5,200 a month the second year and $5,400 a month the third year.
There are plenty of resources that business owners can refer to when putting together their loan applications. The Small Business Administration, for example, provides a highly detailed loan application checklist for borrowers. Using these resources can decrease your likelihood of coming across as disorganized or unprepared. [See Related Story: Applying for a Small Business Loan? Here's What You'll Need]
Also make sure you have a structured process for setting measurable objectives, reviewing your progress, and adjusting the objectives or setting new ones. A good way is to keep a simple monthly checklist of the most important items. All of this should be driven by your overall business plan (you do have a business plan, don’t you?), and you should use the data you collect to help you keep the plan constantly updated.
You can arrange to borrow from ordinary commercial banks or credit unions for your new venture. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), new franchise owners have a higher tendency to borrow from commercial banks than new business owners. Lenders prefer advancing cash to new franchises over other new businesses since they already have trust in the brand and business model of the business being funded.
More than anything, focus on consistent, repetitive branding. Many marketing professionals believe in the “rule of seven," which means people need to hear or see your message at least seven times before taking any action. In today’s world of constant connectivity, you must make sure you’re seen and heard. The most common reason that people do not buy your product is that they do not know about it yet.
Most lenders are interested in how long you've been at a certain job or lived in the same location, and whether you have a record of finishing what you start. If your past record doesn't show a history of stability, then be prepared with good explanations. Not only is the amount of income you earn important but so is your ability to live within that income. Some people earn $100,000 a year and still can't pay their debts, while others budget nicely on $20,000 a year.
Small business term loans. Term loans are typically for a set dollar amount (e.g., $250,000) and are used for business operations, capital expenditures, or expansion. Interest is paid monthly and the principal is usually repayable within 6 months to 3 years (which can be amortized over the term of the loan or have a balloon payment at the end). Term loans can be secured or unsecured, and the interest can be variable or fixed. They are good for small businesses that need capital for growth or for large, onetime expenditures.
SCORE.org conducted research in 2015 that studied business growth in the United States between 1997 and 2014. They found a 67.8 percent increase in the number of women-owned businesses, compared with a 34.4 percent increase in men-owned businesses. The study also found a huge growth in the number of businesses run by women of color, up an incredible 215.7 percent, with revenues increasing by 193 percent. Latino-run small businesses also saw a massive increase, with small business ownership growing at a rate of double the national average.
Alternative business lenders are comprising a growing part of the financing industry as bank loans become increasingly hard to get. Franchise owners benefit from alternative franchise loans, which have less-strict borrower qualifications than traditional business or SBA loans, and also put the funds in your account a lot faster. Generally, alternative loans have higher rates than bank loans, but they represent an important source of capital to many small business owners, including franchise owners, who would not otherwise qualify for financing. Moreover, some of the best online lenders offer rates that are on par with big banks.
Tenant improvements. Your new space may need some improvements or alterations (a new paint job, new carpeting, a reconfiguration of the space). Which party will pay for these improvements depends on how tight the commercial office space market is in your city. Most form leases stipulate that the tenant can’t make any alterations or improvements without the landlord’s consent. Ask for a clause that says you can make alterations or improvements with the landlord’s consent, and that the consent won’t be unreasonably withheld, delayed, or conditioned. Often, you are able to negotiate a “tenant improvement allowance,” which is an agreed-upon sum of money that the landlord will provide for the improvements and alterations you would like to make.
Some franchising companies run their own franchise financing programs that help franchisees get in the door. Program offerings and requirements vary by franchisor, with such options as limited-term loans, reduced license fees or reduced royalties, and minority stake ownership by franchisors. Some companies, like Ace Hardware, offer financing to existing franchisees to open a new store or buy out a competitor.
Government small business loans help put your own business within reach. First there’s the quest for a decent location, then comes building a customer base, followed by all the initial hiccups of generating a cash flow before your business grows roots and gains momentum. The beginning of a business is crucial because it’s when you gain or lose market credibility. If you disappoint your customers, they may not give you a second chance. If your business gets off to a rocky start (most do), and you believe you can recover but need further financing to make this happen, you can apply for government small business loans.