In a misguided effort to save on expenses, startup businesses often hire inexperienced legal counsel. Rather than spending the money necessary to hire competent legal counsel, founders will often hire lawyers who are friends, relatives, or others who offer large fee discounts. In doing so, the founders deny themselves the advice of experienced legal counsel who could potentially help them avoid many serious legal problems.
Equipment loans. Small businesses can buy equipment through an equipment loan. This typically requires a down payment of 20% of the purchase price of the equipment, and the loan is secured by the equipment. Interest on the loan is typically paid monthly and the principal is usually amortized over a two- to four-year period. The loans can be used to buy equipment, vehicles, and software. Loan amounts normally range from $5,000 to $500,000, and can accrue interest at either a fixed or variable rate. Equipment loans can also sometimes be structured as equipment leases.
If you prefer a little more guidance as you search out a franchise opportunity, consider hiring a consultant to locate the perfect opportunity. Consultants gather information on your financial situation and preferences and give you a few options that fit. However, make sure you’re working with a reputable franchise consultant. Ask questions about franchisees they’ve successfully helped and contact those franchisees as references.
Many companies, however, don't have established credit, so they cannot obtain a business loan without a guarantee from the owners. In other words, you'll probably have to "co-sign" for the company's loan, putting your own credit on the line. If you'll be applying for a loan and your credit matters, do all you can to boost your own score before applying. This means paying down debts so your credit utilization ratio is low, and always paying bills on time.
SBA loans of five- to six-year maturities can provide short-term working capital and equipment. Real-estate loans can run for 20 years or more. About 10% of all SBA loans go to franchisees, with the size running between $250,000 and $500,000, and maximum of $2 million. Most of that money is for franchise entry fees, improvements or working capital. Borrowers must be creditworthy, typically must contribute some equity, and are expected to repay the SBA loan out of the franchise’s cash flow.
Traditional loan: Banks and credit unions are a source of financing for all businesses, including franchises. New franchise owners are 15% more likely than other new business owners to use a commercial bank loan, according to the SBA. Lenders are more likely to finance franchises of an established brand that has proved successful in a variety of markets. However, you’ll still be subjected to the bank’s underwriting standards and lending policies, meaning it will review your net worth and credit history. You also may need to put up collateral, regardless of the brand you’re associated with.
And don’t forget that unlike their independently-owned competitors, franchise owners don’t get to choose when to schedule expenses or which suppliers to work with. Their business model might have been passed down by the franchisor but it’s up to the franchise owner to figure out how to grow the business without endangering profits or failing to cover mandatory expenses.
The ROBS option allows you to use funds from your retirement savings to finance your franchise without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. This can be an attractive option for franchisees that struggle to get traditional loans and are comfortable with some amount of risk. Those with substantial retirement savings may feel most sanguine removing a portion of those funds for this purpose.
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.
If you want to separate your personal liability from your company's liability, you may want to consider forming one of several types of corporations. This makes a business a separate entity apart from its owners, and therefore, corporations can own property, assume liability, pay taxes, enter into contracts, sue and be sued like any other individual. One of the most common structures for small businesses, however, is the limited liability corporation (LLC). This hybrid structure has the legal protections of a corporation while allowing for the tax benefits of a partnership.
There are infinite sources of financing available to help you launch the franchise of your dreams. However, operating a franchise with no reserves and blinding yourself to unexpected business problems can lead to disaster. A good rule to remember: Never invest more than 75 percent of your cash reserves. If you have $10,000, invest $7,500. If you have $25,000, invest $18,750.
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