Opening up a franchise is a huge undertaking that takes no shortage of time and effort. Once you’ve done your homework to find a franchisor you want to work with, you’ll want to review the funding options available to get the ball rolling. When you’re taking out financing, be sure to work with a reputable lender, getting only the amount what you need.
The good news is both traditional and alternative lenders are making more loans. A strong economy and record low unemployment rates in 2018 are making all this possible. But a good credit score still carries great value, and if your score happens to be on the low side, here are some lenders you can take a look at when it’s time for getting a small business loan.
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.
General purpose business loans. The most widely used SBA loans, SBA 7(a) general loans can greatly help if you’re investing in a franchise. Because SBA loans are guaranteed by the government, they’re easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans. The amount and rates that you can potentially qualify for may make them worth the extra time and documents needed to apply. Outside of the loan itself, the Small Business Administration offers free tools to help you plan for securing the loan and keep up on your new enterprise once you’ve become a franchisee.
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.
At the early stages of your startup, you will likely want to have a small employee team to minimize expenses. A good way to fill in for specialized expertise is to use freelancers or consultants. That way, you avoid taking on employee costs and benefits payments. And there are a variety of sites that can help you access freelancers, such as Freelancer.com, Guru.com, and Upwork.com.
Approximately 75 to 100 franchisors are offering or working on offering creative financing programs for start-up franchise owners or those looking to expand. Programs range from zero-percent financing for a limited-term, lower license fees, reduced royalties and minority stake ownership by franchisors in multi-unit outlets. Each brand has its own offering, so down payments and collateral requirements will vary.
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.
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.”
Mid Prime franchise loans are a great tool for small business owners who are unable to get bank rate working capital, but don’t want to pay exorbitant rates that a small business owner would get from a business cash advance. Alternative loans are private, non-bank loans and have much fewer credit and documentation requirements than a bank would require. Additionally, an alternative loan will fund within days, as opposed to months.
Consider using a tenant broker. A good tenant broker can be invaluable and will represent your company’s best interests. He or she will educate you on the current market; locate spaces that meet your stated parameters; arrange tours and accompany you to view these available spaces; and then prepare offer letters and negotiate with landlords for all spaces that work best for your company.
The lender will want to know how much funding you are seeking and how the loan proceeds will be used. Will the loan be for equipment or capital expenditures? Expansion or hiring? Increase in inventory? Enhanced sales and marketing efforts? New research and development of technology? New product development? Expansion into new facilities or territories?
Create a logo that can help people easily identify your brand, and be consistent in using it across all of your platforms, including your all-important company website. Use social media to spread the word about your new business, perhaps as a promotional tool to offer coupons and discounts to followers once you launch. Be sure to also keep these digital assets up to date with relevant, interesting content about your business and industry.
SBA loans are government-guaranteed loans with long repayment terms and low interest rates. There are many different types of SBA loans, but the most popular SBA loans are 7a loans and 504 loans. An SBA 7(a) loan can be used for working capital (marketing, staffing, etc), equipment, or for commercial real estate. The SBA 504 loan is only for commercial real estate and fixed equipment. Franchises are often a great fit for SBA loans, because of the SBA’s policy goals to help build small businesses to grow the economy.
He is president of Toister Performance Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm that helps companies improve customer service. Jeff has appeared on numerous lists of top customer service experts including Global Gurus' World's Top 30 Customer Service Professionals, ICMI's Top 50 Thought Leaders to Follow on Twitter, and HDI's Top 25 Thought Leaders in Technical Support and Service Management.
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.
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.
If it does not exist, create it. If you have an idea-ideas or skills, think of how to use your ideas or skills to create a business and to put it out there to see what it can attract and what you can create. Many successful businesses started with an idea and that idea has become a success “from one person business to global corporations”. Failure is an attempt at success, if you don’t give up and modify each attempt, then each attempt can become a success.
Government loans are typically offered through banks and credit unions that partner with the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is a U.S. government body, with the motive of providing support for small businesses and entrepreneurs. For each loan authorized, a government-backed guarantee offers serious credibility, since the lender knows that even if you default, the government will pay off the balance. These loans can be applied to a number of uses, such as: