Many business owners, however, are under the mistaken impression that they are completely protected from personal liability by filing a Certificate of Incorporation for a corporation. This is not true. The mere process of incorporating does not completely protect the business owners. To lessen the likelihood of such personal or shareholder liability, you should make sure to adhere to certain procedures:
You can also use assets such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds to secure a loan as long as they're not part of a qualified plan like an IRA profit-sharing plan. Also, if you are over age 59 and have a lot of money tied up in an IRA, you could use it for part of your financing requirements. Although you'll have to pay taxes on the amount used, not to mention suffer the loss of income from interest, it can be a good financing tool.
Length of lease term. Landlords are typically willing to make concessions for longer-term leases. However, your company’s needs may change and you could find yourself locked into a lease for an office space that is too small, too big, or with rent that is above-market if demand for space subsequently declines. Try to negotiate a shorter-term lease with renewal options—a two-year lease with a two-year renewal option, for instance, rather than a four-year lease.
Start by learning about various franchise shops and restaurants in your preferred specialty. If you’re a fan of Panera Bread, for instance, go to the company’s franchise Information page and read up on the opportunity. If you need inspiration, Franchise.com keeps a running list of franchise opportunities, complete with a monthly featured franchise.
A lender is primarily concerned about the ability of the borrower to repay the loan. To the extent that a security interest can be given to the lender on company assets (company equipment, property, accounts receivable, etc.), the borrower should be able to increase its chances of getting a loan on favorable terms. Some lenders may insist upon the personal guarantee of the principal owner of the business. That is best avoided if possible as it puts the owner’s personal assets, and not just the business assets, at risk.
Confidentiality Agreements. These are also referred to as Non-Disclosure Agreements or NDAs. The purpose of the agreement is to allow the holder of confidential information (such as a product or business idea) to share it with a third party. But then the third party is obligated to keep the information confidential and not use it whatsoever, unless allowed by the owner of the information. There are usually standard exceptions to the confidentiality obligations (such as if the information is already in the public domain). See The Key Elements of Non-Disclosure Agreements.
Market research is important because it will help you figure out whether or not there is demand for the service you’re offering or the product you’re selling. It will also help you when it comes time to write your business plan, especially if you’re pitching an angel investor or a venture capital firm. They will want to see there’s a market for your idea, otherwise, it won’t scale as rapidly as they need it to in order to make a return on their investment.
It’s often easier to get started with a franchise compared to an independent business because a franchise comes with a proven concept, brand recognition, and customer base. Although the success rates of individual franchises vary widely, as a whole, franchises perform better than independent businesses in the long run. According to a report by the International Franchise Association, about 12,000 franchises open their doors every year!
James D. Stice, PhD, is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of Accounting in the School of Accountancy at BYU. Professor Stice has been at BYU since 1988. He has co-authored three accounting textbooks and published numerous professional and academic articles. In addition, Professor Stice has been involved in executive education for Ernst & Young, Bank of America Corporation, International Business Machines Corporation, RSM McGladrey, and AngloGold Limited and has taught at INSEAD (in both France and Singapore) and CEIBS (in China). He has been recognized for teaching excellence by his department, his college, and the university. Professor Stice currently serves on the board of directors of Nutraceutical International Corporation.
Paula is a New Jersey-based writer with a Bachelor's degree in English and a Master's degree in Education. She spent nearly a decade working in education, primarily as the director of a college's service-learning and community outreach center. Her prior experience includes stints in corporate communications, publishing, and public relations for non-profits. Reach her by email.
Brad has spent more than twelve years working at the crossroads of business development, marketing, and social media. He was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine as a young entrepreneur, launching his first successful business at the age of 15. Up until joining lynda.com as an online marketing manager in 2012, he honed his skills working as a consultant alongside brands large and small, including LegalZoom, Clear Channel, eSolar, Dickies, and Urban Outfitters. He has also served as an advisor to multiple startups, providing marketing direction and strategic advice.
Traditionally, the first place franchisees turn for financing is the franchisor. Almost all U.S. franchisors provide debt financing only. Some carry the entire loan or a fraction thereof through their own finance company. We found fractions of 15 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, all the way up to 75 percent of the total debt burden. The franchisors we talked to emphasized that these figures are simply guidelines and not hard and fast limits.
Most lenders will contact a credit bureau to look at your credit file. We suggest you do the same thing before you try to borrow. Under the law, credit bureaus are required to give you all the information they have on file about your credit history. Once you have this tool, you should correct any wrong information or at least make sure your side of the story is on record. For instance, a 90-day delinquency would look bad, but if that 90-day delinquency was caused by being laid off or by illness, then that should be taken into consideration.
Starting a business entails understanding and dealing with many issues—legal, financing, sales and marketing, intellectual property protection, liability protection, human resources, and more. But interest in entrepreneurship is at an all-time high. And there have been spectacular success stories of early stage startups growing to be multi-billion-dollar companies, such as Uber, Facebook, WhatsApp, Airbnb, and many others.
A microloan is similar to a traditional bank loan, but they often come from alternative lenders like credit unions. A microloan tends to be easier to get for those with subpar credit because the loan amounts, as the name indicates, are small, typically fifty thousand dollars or less. Because of this, the credit requirements for these loans are also lower. If this amount of funding suits your needs, this is a good option. The SBA has a microloan program, and there are several alternative lending options such as Prosper and Zopa.
Many banks and credit unions offer financing for franchise purchases, so be sure to compare any franchisor lending rates and terms with these. When you approach a bank, be prepared to disclose all your financial information. While your credit rating is important, you’ll also need to provide a personal financial statement, copies of tax returns and information about the source of your down payment funds.
But even if you’re not an internet startup or these techniques don’t feel right to you, you can still take steps to get money coming in quickly. If you run a service-based business, you can structure contracts so that clients have to pay a certain amount up front or at agreed milestones, instead of all at the end. With long-running projects, this can make a big difference to your cash flow. You can also offer special discounts and limited-time offers for people who sign up as early customers.
Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you're going to cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you're planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have some money put away to support yourself until you start making a profit? Find out how much you're going to need.
Maybe you want to build an empire and become famous, or create a wealth-generation machine that you can pass on to your children. Or perhaps you can’t convince anyone to recognize your unique vision and you’ve decided that it will never come to fruition unless you strike out on your own. Or maybe you’re thinking of self-employment because you’ve been unemployed for so long that you feel you’ve exhausted all other options.
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