Becoming a small business owner has unique challenges and rewards that aren’t right for everyone. You must be driven, disciplined and able to identify a product or service that people need — one that they will pay enough for to allow you to live comfortably. You have to develop marketing skills and be able to find your own work, because it won’t fall into your lap until after you’re well established. Business owners need to understand how to budget, keep records and handle small business taxes. They must familiarize themselves with employment laws if they want to hire staff. They also need a plan for protecting their business and everything that’s tied to it if something goes wrong. (For more, see Are You An Entrepreneur?)
Once you have chosen a name for your business, you will need to check if it's trademarked or currently in use. Then, you will need to register it. A sole proprietor must register their business name with either their state or county clerk. Corporations, LLCs, or limited partnerships typically register their business name when the formation paperwork is filed.
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.
Sometimes it makes sense to tap 401(k), Individual Retirement Account or other retirement funds rather than seek a loan. But rather than just taking an early withdrawal, which may be subject to taxation, you may want to consider setting up a C corporation that will own and operate the business. Then roll over money from your self-directed retirement account into that corporation’s profit-sharing plan and direct that those funds be invested into the franchised business. But this is a risky option: If the franchise fails, your retirement fund can be wiped out. Check with a professional on possible tax implications, and consider the tradeoffs carefully.
Richard D. Harroch is a Managing Director and Global Head of M&A at VantagePoint Capital Partners, a large venture capital fund in the San Francisco area. His focus is on Internet, digital media, and software companies, and he was the founder of several Internet companies. His articles have appeared online in Forbes, Fortune, MSN, Yahoo, FoxBusiness, and AllBusiness.com. Richard is the author of several books on startups and, co-author of Poker for Dummies and Mergers and Acquisitions of Privately Held Companies (Bloomberg), and a Wall Street Journal-bestselling book on small business. He was also a corporate and M&A partner at the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, with experience in startups, mergers and acquisitions, and venture capital. He has been involved in over 200 M&A transactions and 250 startup financings. He can be reached through LinkedIn.
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.
SBA small business loans. Some banks offer attractive low-interest-rate loans for small businesses, backed and guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Because of the SBA guarantee, the interest rate and repayment terms are more favorable than most loans. Loan amounts range from $30,000 to as high as $5 million. However, the loan process is time consuming with strict requirements for eligible small businesses. Visit the SBA website to see a list of the 100 most active SBA lenders.
The Louisiana Secretary of State, Louisiana Department of Revenue, and Louisiana Workforce Commission are working to make it easy for you to manage your Louisiana business filings and tax account registrations from one location―the Louisiana geauxBIZ portal. geauxBIZ can help you find resources to help plan, make key financial decisions, and complete legal activities necessary to start your business. You can also use geauxBIZ to produce a list of possible federal, state and local licenses and permits required for your business, to reserve your new business name, and to complete your new business filing. If you want to do business in Louisiana, visit geauxBIZ to get started!
1. Understand how credit works. There is such a thing as a business credit score, which factors in things like whether your business makes late payments or is in debt. Be sure to also remember that as a business owner, you basically are the credit representative of your company. Your personal credit score, factoring in things from credit cards to car payments, is a big factor when a bank is deciding whether or not to lend. Don’t lose heart; there are positive things you can do to build up credit.
Never start a business as a “sole proprietorship,” which can result in your personal assets being at risk for the debts and liabilities of the business. You will almost always want to start the business as an S corporation (giving you favorable flow through tax treatment), a C corporation (which is what most venture capital investors expect to see), or a limited liability company (LLC). None of those are particularly expensive or difficult to set up. My personal preference is to start the business as an S corporation, which can then easily be converted to a C corporation as you bring in investors and issue multiple classes of stock.
He is a nationally recognized speaker and blogger on the topics of leadership, communications, decision-making, problem solving, and other critical business skills. An honor graduate from West Point, Mike served in the US Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Company, and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership (www.onepieceofpaper.com), Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results (www.leadinsidethebox.com), and The Elegant Pitch: Create a Compelling Recommendation, Build Broad Support, and Get it Approved (www.elegantpitch.com). Mike's blog and the programs he teaches can be found at www.thoughtleadersllc.com.
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.
Online lenders provide small-business loans and lines of credit from $500 to $500,000. The average APR on these loans ranges from 7% to 108%, depending on the lender, the type and size of the loan, the length of the repayment term, the borrower’s credit history and whether collateral is required. These lenders rarely can compete with traditional banks in terms of APR.