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.
In some instances the franchise itself will extend financing to you. Some companies, like 7- Eleven, actually build the store for new franchisees and lease the location to you, meaning you incur minimal startup costs and the transaction is handled directly between you and the franchisor. Others, like Subway may buy back locations from existing franchisees and then sell them to you as a new location, meaning you'll be handed an established store, sometimes with existing employees and inventory.
Banks and credit unions are traditional sources for small business loans, and they’re a good place to start. Especially with small institutions, you’ll be able to meet with a lender who can guide you through the process. Larger banks might take a more hands-off approach. To improve your chances of getting approved, ask about SBA loans, which reduce the bank’s risk and feature interest rate caps. The loan process at banks and credit unions can be slow, so be prepared for a long process and a thorough review from the bank.
Whitney Johnson is a leading thinker on driving innovation via personal disruption and cofounder of Clayton Christensen's investment firm. She is a regular contributor for Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn, and the author of Disrupt Yourself, which Publisher's Weekly called "superb, savvy, wise." Whitney also speaks and consults with Fortune 100 Companies. Recently, her work was recognized by the Thinkers50, which named her as a finalist for the 2013 Future Thinker Award. You can find her at whitneyjohnson.com.
If you can secure a credit card in your company name and make purchases and on-time payments, you can get financing and start building good business credit at the same time. Of course, the credit limit, interest rate, and terms of payment will vary, and each bank or credit union will have eligibility requirements, so this option will not work for everyone.
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.