Jeff White is a staff writer and financial analyst at Fit Small Business, specializing in Small Business Finance. As a JD/MBA, he has spent the majority of his career either operating small businesses (in the retail and management consulting spaces) or helping them through M&A transactions. When he is not helping small businesses, he spends his time teaching his five kids how to become entrepreneurs.
When starting out, your product or service has to be at least good if not great. It must be differentiated in some meaningful and important way from the offerings of your competition. Everything else follows from this key principle. Don’t drag your feet on getting your product out to market, since early customer feedback is one of the best ways to help improve your product. Of course, you want a “minimum viable product” (MVP) to begin with, but even that product should be good and differentiated from the competition. Having a “beta” test product works for many startups as they work the bugs out from user reactions. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook has said, “Done is better than perfect.”
Startups requiring a lot more funding up front may want to consider an investor. Investors usually provide several million dollars or more to a fledgling company, with the expectation that the backers will have a hands-on role in running your business. Alternatively, you could launch an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise smaller amounts of money from multiple backers.
Why start a small business? Some people want to spend more time with family, and starting a business allows them to do that. Some find it exhausting to be outside the house all day, dealing with traffic, co-workers, meetings and interruptions. Some people hate answering to a boss all the time — needing permission to schedule a dentist appointment or take the day off when they’re sick. Some people are unmotivated by the security of a regular paycheck and prefer the challenge of the direct rewards or losses that entrepreneurs see from their efforts.
Overcoming this problem is easier than it used to be, thanks to the plethora of marketing opportunities on the internet. Many of them, of course, are free or low cost, but don’t forget that your time is also an investment. So don’t make the mistake of signing up for every social media site out there and letting your valuable time dribble away in tweets and status updates.
Fees and costs. Origination, underwriting and early repayment fees are typical costs that you could see. If a lender provides an APR, it includes the interest rate plus any upfront fees. Early repayment can be a conditional fee and is not reflected in the APR, so it’s a good idea to carefully read through the terms of your offer before accepting it. Learn more about business loan costs.
Outside of the typical startup costs, there are different costs that are unique to franchise businesses. First is the franchise fee, an upfront fee to the franchisor for the right to use the company’s branding and model. It can be paid in a lump sum or in installments, and varies widely by industry and company. It will likely to be at least $10,000 – sometimes substantially higher – and is typically nonrefundable. Franchisors are also likely to charge recurring royalty and marketing fees – usually arranged as a percentage of sales at the franchisee’s store – usually 4 to 8 percent for royalties and 2 to 4 percent for marketing.
To start your application for a business loan, calculate how much money and what kind of loan you need. Then, gather the necessary documents, including a profit and loss statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, tax documents, and a detailed business plan. Once you have all of your information, approach lenders, such as the Small Business Administration, banks, and credit unions, and complete the application for the best loan for your needs. Finally, wait to hear back from the lender and be sure to thoroughly review the terms of your loan.
There are a few companies that specialize in helping franchise businesses find funding, usually by matching franchisees with financing options. Considering the overwhelming options for franchising and the intimidating array of options for financing your endeavor, referring to or working with one of these matchmaker-advisers can be a good idea, especially for those who don’t have a clear idea of what type of franchise they are most interested in.
2. You can do it because there is a business appropriate for just about everyone’s interests, experience, passions or expertise. “Starting a business” really only comes down to figuring out your business idea, doing your paperwork, and sorting out the money. Given the number of funding resources available today, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem getting that initial startup cash, especially if you focus on a lean business model or MVP route to market.
Whether you're starting an online business or a brick-and-mortar model, figuring out how to start a business takes time and research. Starting a business involves planning, making important financial decisions and completing a series of legal activities, such as choosing a business structure. Before you can decide how you want to structure your business, you need to know what your options are. Each business structure has advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right one depends on your unique situation. The most common ways to organize a business include, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, nonprofit corporation, partnership, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, and sole proprietorship. LLCs are a popular choice for small business owners because they offer personal liability protection with great tax and management flexibility, while incorporating a business protects your personal assets and is preferred by outside investors. LegalZoom has all the resources you need to start a business and maintain it. Whether you want to form an LLC or trademark a business name, LegalZoom offers services to help you get it done fast and affordably. LegalZoom can also help you obtain the necessary business licenses and permits for your new business. Get the peace of mind you need when starting a business by letting LegalZoom take care of the details while you focus on the parts of your business that matter to you the most.
Visuals – As Instagram is a visual platform, special attention has to be given to the visual aspect of your posts. As well as choosing a color scheme to match your brand, you should also use a consistent filter. Using the same filter for your posts will help users recognize your images. For instance, Madewell’s Instagram incorporates its color scheme for consistent images and branding.
Most franchisees will have to get a business loan at some point. Fortunately, compared to independent small business owners, franchisees have traditionally had an easier time securing financing from banks — including loans backed by the SBA (Small Business Administration). But bank loans and SBA loans are still not easy to get even for franchise businesses, and the application and approval process can be prohibitively long for a lot of franchisees in need of quick capital. Some franchisors offer their own financing programs, but the practice is far from widespread, so you can’t necessarily depend on funding from your franchise brand.
Karen Newell at Key Commercial Capital exhibits an exceptional level of professionalism and grit, which is truly refreshing in an industry where both qualities are often lacking among small business funding resources. I love working with Karen because I can rely on her to provide timely, accurate and succinct updates about my funding candidates. I enthusiastically recommend Karen for any and all of your business funding candidates!
If you're thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell, or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing, and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don't (or deliver the same thing, but faster and cheaper), you've got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.
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]
Startups should also understand that the venture process can be very time consuming—just getting a meeting with a principal of a VC firm can take weeks; followed up with more meetings and conversations; followed by a presentation to all of the partners of the venture capital fund; followed by the issuance and negotiation of a term sheet, with continued due diligence; and finally the drafting and negotiation by lawyers on both sides of numerous legal documents to evidence the investment.
LendingTree, LLC is a Marketing Lead Generator and is a Duly Licensed Mortgage Broker, as required by law, with its main office located at 11115 Rushmore Dr., Charlotte, NC 28277, Telephone Number 866-501-2397 (TDD/TTY). NMLS Unique Identifier #1136. LendingTree, LLC is known as LT Technologies in lieu of true name LendingTree, LLC in NY. LendingTree technology and processes are patented under U.S. Patent Nos. 6,385,594 and 6,611,816 and licensed under U.S. Patent Nos. 5,995,947 and 5,758,328. © 2016 LendingTree, LLC. All Rights Reserved. This site is directed at, and made available to, persons in the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii only.
Our course starts at the very beginning with setting up QuickBooks for your business. We cover how to record your income and expenses, how to manage bank and credit card transactions and how to run financial statements. There are a total of 39 tutorials in our QuickBooks course spanning seven lessons. Each lesson has been broken down into bite-sized tutorials. Each QuickBooks tutorial includes a video where we demonstrate the concepts presented in each lesson.
While it can be tempting to pick a lower-priced option to lower your risk, it’s important to make sure you aren’t compromising too much based on finances. Instead, consider a loan or other method of financing that can help you get you started. Some franchising companies run their own franchise financing programs to help franchisees get in the door.
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.
ApplePie Capital (see our review) is an online lender that specializes in franchise financing. Founded in 2014, ApplePie was one of the first online lenders to offer franchise financing. After recently acquiring another franchise lender, ApplePie has expanded its offering to include SBA-backed loans, equipment loans, and conventional loans, in addition to its original “core” 3-7 year loan.
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.
Depending on the size of your loan, your financial statements and accounting records will be reviewed carefully by the lender. So make sure they are complete, correct, and thorough—including balance sheet, income and loss statements, and cash flow statements. The lender will analyze your cash flow, gross margin, debt-to-equity ratio, accounts payable, accounts receivable, EBITDA, and more, so be prepared to answer questions on those topics. Consider having your accountant look over your financial statements to anticipate issues a lender may raise.
Do you own a franchise or are you looking to lease a new location for your existing franchise? National Business Capital provides franchise financing and restaurant financing for current franchisees and offers funding programs with a variety of customizable options. Many franchisees use our franchise financing for remodeling, mandatory franchise updates, new location acquisition and equipment purchases, repairs and upgrades.
The last part is often translated as “often go awry”, and I’m sure you understand the sense: no matter how carefully you plan, things rarely go as expected. We live in a complex, interconnected world, and even if you do everything right, your business could be knocked sideways by a sudden economic meltdown, a real estate crash, a war on the other side of the world that raises prices for your raw materials, the sudden entry of a powerful competitor into your turf, and much more.
As you have done throughout the planning and startup process, consider analyzing your competitors and other companies. How are they selling themselves? How do they portray themselves? What do they say makes them unique? If you’re not sure, take a look at their advertising and marketing messages. This is generally where you’ll find the USP or variations of it.
You also will need to file certain forms to fulfill your federal and state income tax obligations. The forms you need are determined by your business structure. A complete list of the forms each type of entity will need can be found on the SBA website. You can also find state-specific tax obligations there. Some businesses may also require federal or state licenses and permits to operate. You can use the SBA's database to search for licensing requirements by state and business type.
The ability to communicate effectively can be critical to landing customers, inspiring employees, and pitching to investors to raise capital. Most people are not very good at public speaking and many are even afraid of it. You must strive to overcome this fear. Consider working with a public speaking or business coach to improve your public speaking skills. Some of the most recognized entrepreneurs, such as Apple founder Steve Jobs, were known for being great public speakers.
I’d like to call your attention to a series of video tutorials I did not that long ago as a donation to this community. They are all here and I’d like you to be aware of them. They are organized into modules, 2-10 minutes each. You can pick and choose and jump around, or run through them in the original order. They are here as a resource for you. (Note: the text in bold here highlights links to the videos)
Offering medium-term installment loans with repayment periods as long as 5 years, Funding Circle is a lending partner for established franchisees with a strong credit history. Specifically, you’ll need to be a franchisee with a business at least two years old and have a credit score of at least 620. For qualified applicants, Funding Circle has the advantages of offering faster funding than a bank loan would, as well as offering relatively low rates and fees.
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.
Biz2Credit can help entrepreneurs secure franchise business financing through its network of hundreds of lenders willing to grant loans. We have helped secure franchise loans for the owners of Dunkin' Donuts, Johnny Rockets, Subway, and other successful franchisees. Veterans, which are increasingly becoming franchisees, can refer to Biz2Credit's page on franchise loans for veterans.
SBA loans or loans that are backed by the Small Business Administration, a federal agency, do not typically need collateral. Even startups can get business loans without collateral through the SBA. Technically, banks or lenders will not decline your business loan application if you have no collateral. However, there has to be some kind of security. You may extend a personal guarantee. There could be some assets, whatever form and shape, which may have some tangible value and that can be attached to the loan as security.
If the franchise you're considering doesn't offer equipment leasing, look into nonfranchise, nonbank companies that specialize in equipment leasing for franchises. These types of financing companies will often provide asset-based lending to finance franchisees' furniture, equipment, signs and fixtures, and will allow franchisees to purchase the equipment at the end of the lease. Keep in mind that you may lose some tax advantages under the current law if you lease that equipment.