I traveled across the U.S. and around the world, and kept meeting unconventional entrepreneurs -- people who had started a business almost unexpectedly, usually without a lot of planning and almost always without a lot of money. Most of them did so for $1,000 or less, and half of them did so for $100 or less. My goal was to tell their stories in a way that readers could use in their own quest for freedom.
SmartBiz (see our review) is a viable online loan option for franchise owners that want the security and low-interest rates of an SBA-backed loan, but with the ease and speed of an online loan. SmartBiz is the #1 marketplace for SBA 7(a) small business loans online, offering an SBA/online loan hybrid with low interest rates and long-term repayment terms. However, this lender is only an option for established franchises — you’ll need at least 2 years’ time in business to get a working capital or debt refinancing loan, and 3 years to be eligible for a commercial real estate loan.
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.
Franchises are consistently vulnerable to cash flow issues thanks to the many mandatory expenses they face all throughout the year. On top of operational expenses and growth-related investments, franchises must obey the fee guidelines of their parent company, or “Franchisor.” Royalty and advertising fees are deducted from weekly or monthly sales. Some franchise owners must pay for new employees to undergo special training programs. Certain upgrades might be required for specific dates, and the national marketing campaigns that come from the aforementioned deduction must usually be supplemented by local advertising.
Congress passed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 to ensure that drivers of commercial motor vehicles are qualified to operate those vehicles. States have the right to issue a driver's license, but they must meet minimum national standards when issuing a commercial driver's license. The Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Program places requirements on the commercial motor vehicle driver, the employing motor carrier, and the states.
If you do decide you’re going to need space, consider the number of employees you’re going to need and the equipment that will fill the space—chairs, photocopying machines, a fridge, a coffee machine, a reception area, a meeting room, and so on. Furthermore, how quickly do you expect to grow? If rapid growth is in the books, rent a space where there is room for growth and so that you don’t have to change your business address.
To find out the best ways for new business owners to secure loans, I consulted with experts who have a wide range of experience with funding businesses including Jared Hecht, CEO of the online lending website Fundera, David J. Hall from the Small Business Association, Hal Shelton who is a SCORE mentor and author of The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan (Summit Valley Press 2014) and Larry Conley, Senior Vice President and Specialty Finance National Manager for Chase bank.
Thousands of people have become millionaires through their stock options (Facebook being one famous example), making this form of benefit very appealing to prospective employees. The spectacular success of some Silicon Valley companies and the resulting economic riches of those employees who held stock options have made Stock Option Plans a powerful motivational tool for employees to work toward the company’s long-term success.
Personal collateral requirements depend on the loan amount and the project. Does the coffee franchise involve commercial real estate or will the business be leasing a space? Collateral can be in different forms. Real estate equity is one form of collateral. Cash (in the form of a payment reserve or a CD) is another. We would need to know the specific project cost breakdown to know what might be possible. Rule of thumb would be to plan on 25% personal equity into the business and the bank will finance 75%. If it is preferred to avoid putting a lien on personal real estate, plan to have 18 months of loan payments to set aside in an escrow account at the bank as a payment reserve. The payment reserve can be released back to you after 2 years, as long as the business is showing good cash flow and making the loan payments without a problem. The other option is a CD held at the bank for the term of the loan. The CD is usually a smaller amount of funds than the payment reserve but is held for the entire term of the loan.
“For many individuals, funding a business may involve taking on significant business or personal debt. With most loans, you would need to start making payments right away. This makes it difficult for your business to grow in its early stages, when you’re trying to build revenue and generate profits. With ROBS funding, you avoid having principal or interest payments, which can greatly impede your cash flow, especially in the early years of business. Using retirement funds can also help your business reach profitability faster. And because you’re investing your own money in your own business, there’s no need to provide collateral, like your personal home.”
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.
3. Leverage social media. Let’s face it, everyone is on social media these days, and the majority of traffic still occurs on Facebook. If you are not using Facebook for your business, create a page today. You are leaving an opportunity on the table if you don’t. There has been a shift the past few years with more and more retirees joining the social media world. I guess they realize that if they want to keep up with their kids, grandkids, friends and neighbors, they better get with the program. In fact, retirees are often my best brand ambassadors and help promote our events.
There are some apps that help to enhance your business on Instagram. One such app is liketoknow.it. This fashion app lets social media influencers tag their Instagram photos with the items in the picture as well as a link to a retail partner of liketoknow.it. If a follower buys an item through the link, both liketoknow.it and the influencer get a part of the profit. This app helps to introduces Instagram users to new items as well as allows influencers to be paid for their work.
But not every small business is positioned for success. In fact, only about two-thirds of businesses with employees survive at least two years, and about half survive five years. So you may be in for a real challenge when you decide to take the plunge, ditch your day job, and become a business owner. The stage is often set in the beginning, so making sure you follow all of the necessary steps when starting your business can set the foundation for success.
Small business owners are passionate about their ideas and tend to get excited about the little details, leaving the financials alone in the back of their business plan. It’s a mistake to put your financial information as an appendix or otherwise in the back because “it says that finance is not important,” advises Shelton. Your lender wants to feel comfortable that you have a plan for managing your finances, including paying back your loan, so keep your financial information up front in your business plan.
According to Hecht, online lenders tend to stay away from lending to startup businesses: “The longer you’ve been around, the easier it is for you to get funding from an online lender.” Even though his business is based on online lenders, “we’re not anti-bank,” says Hecht. He advises every entrepreneur to begin their financing process by going to their local bank first to see what they have to offer.
One noticeable trend in most businesses of all kinds today is technology. Workers and business owners cannot deny how it has influenced and advanced the world of commerce. In particular, technology has made it easier for franchises as they need sophisticated systems to manage the complexity of their trade. By their size, even the smaller franchises require this approach. Thus the most significant concept observed among franchises is software that is not installed on a computer, but instead consists of the web. The point of this approach is to take all the software programs usually equipped with a company’s personal computers and move them to the internet. There, they are presented in a single and secured environment accessible from any Internet-connected device, be it a tablet, computer, or phone. Examples of this development can be found with software solutions such as Nextstep Systems, Hello Scheduling, VST Inc, and Steller Restaurant Solutions to name a few. Still, internationalization of franchises continues to be a strong trend within the industry. Many countries are always willing to pay large amounts of money to use western trademarks along with the training and knowledge that come with the territory. Over 400 franchises are operating internationally, proving to be a thriving option. Furthermore, the Franchise Trade Commission also facilitates business deals for American companies abroad confirming the demand for an American disposition.
An SBA loan has two major disadvantages for franchises. First, it takes a significant amount of time (30-90 days) to fund. Second, you can’t use the funds from an SBA loan to cover many startup costs, including franchise fees. Those will have to be paid as an out of pocket cost. However, if you can live with these two disadvantages, then SBA loan rates are typically the lowest you’ll find. You can use our SBA loan calculator to determine what your monthly payments might be.
Crowdfunding financing companies are platforms that raise money from both institutions and individuals, and they often lend it out to specific industries. Some focus on real estate, while others will focus specifically on small businesses or franchises. They typically bridge the gap between traditional business loans, like SBA loans, and alternative loans with much higher costs.