Trademarks. A trademark right protects the symbolic value of a word, name, symbol, or device that the trademark owner uses to identify or distinguish its goods from those of others. Some well-known trademarks include the Coca-Cola trademark, American Express trademark, and IBM trademark. You obtain rights to a trademark by actually using the mark in commerce. You don’t need to register the mark to get rights to it, but federal registration does offer some advantages. You register a mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
One basic way to protect proprietary company information is through the use of a Confidentiality and Invention Assignment Agreement. This type of agreement deals with confidentiality issues, but can also ensure that the ideas, work product, and inventions the employee creates that are related to company business belong to the company—not the employee.
If you don’t have a business idea yet but you do know you want to run your business, you might start by looking at our guide on coming up with business ideas. Or, you could consider turning a hobby you have into a full-time business. You could even pursue something in which you have a lot of experience. If you’ve been working in retail for 10 years, why not consider opening a boutique?
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.
The franchise industry, like all businesses, was not immune to the economic crisis of 2008 and the ensuing credit crunch. But the vital signs of a recovery are there. According to the International Franchise Association (IFA), many of the country’s business sectors currently starting to show growth mirror those sectors expected to be the leading drivers of employment in franchising this year. These include food service, health care, hospitality and construction—all sectors with a high concentration of franchise businesses.
Remember that a business is franchised for two reasons: to expand the business and to raise capital. So if you have a reasonably good credit record and pass all the financial requirements, most franchisors will bend over backwards to get you on the team. The help that franchisors provide to help you get financing usually includes assistance with business plans and introductions to lending sources. In many cases, franchisors serve as guarantors of loans you take out.
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.
Starting a small business doesn't have to require a lot of money, but it will involve some initial investment as well as the ability to cover ongoing expenses before you are turning a profit. Put together a spreadsheet that estimates the one-time startup costs for your business (licenses and permits, equipment, legal fees, insurance, branding, market research, inventory, trademarking, grand opening events, property leases, etc.), as well as what you anticipate you will need to keep your business running for at least 12 months (rent, utilities, marketing and advertising, production, supplies, travel expenses, employee salaries, your own salary, etc.).
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But not every small business is positioned for success. In fact, only about two-thirds of businesses with employees survive at least two years, and about half survive five years. So you may be in for a real challenge when you decide to take the plunge, ditch your day job, and become a business owner. The stage is often set in the beginning, so making sure you follow all of the necessary steps when starting your business can set the foundation for success.
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.
If you own an existing franchise and are looking for working capital financing, then you’ll likely have even more options than you had when you started your business. These loans can be used to fund any business activity, such as to make payroll or to make equipment purchases. The table below shows some of the best options for working capital franchise financing and who each might be a good fit for.
A lender is primarily concerned about the ability of the borrower to repay the loan. To the extent that a security interest can be given to the lender on company assets (company equipment, property, accounts receivable, etc.), the borrower should be able to increase its chances of getting a loan on favorable terms. Some lenders may insist upon the personal guarantee of the principal owner of the business. That is best avoided if possible as it puts the owner’s personal assets, and not just the business assets, at risk.
You should specifically start your search for a lender that has experience funding franchises. Some major banks such as Bank of America, HSBC, and PNC have specific programs targeting franchisees. Smaller institutions specialize in franchising in specific industries, such as restaurant franchise funding from Oak Street Capital, and hotel funding from Access Point Financial.
Bio – Your bio should describe your business and display your brand personality. You should also use the 150 characters to explain what users can expect from your Instagram profile. Try using emojis and hashtags in your bio to add personality and for users to find your brand. See how Target makes use of emojis and hashtags to highlight its competition.
If you identify areas of weakness, you’ll need to make a plan for dealing with them. If you don’t have a head for figures, perhaps you could partner with someone who does. Or you could hire an accountant, or improve your own skills by checking out some of our super-simple accounting tutorials or doing other training. If you’re no good at designing websites, hire someone to do it for you.
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.
"Your product is built by people," Zawadski said. "Identifying your founding team, understanding what gaps exist, and [determining] how and when you will address them should be top priority. Figuring out how the team will work together ... is equally important. Defining roles and responsibility, division of labor, how to give feedback, or how to work together when not everyone is in the same room will save you a lot of headaches down the line."
Stock Option Plans are an extremely popular method of attracting, motivating, and retaining the best employees, especially when the company is unable to pay high salaries. A Stock Option Plan gives the company the flexibility to award stock options to employees, officers, directors, advisors, and consultants, allowing these people to buy stock in the company when they exercise the option.
Personal Assets – Getting a traditional loan for a franchise can be difficult. The more personal resources you can bring to the table, such as retirement funds and personal savings, the easier it will be to buy a franchise. If you’re planning to get a bank loan or an SBA loan, then you at a minimum need a 10-20% down payment and some collateral (if the franchise involves the purchase of real estate, that can be used as collateral).
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.
In addition to building a relationship with the loan officer, you want to find out what exactly they need to see in your business plan. Go in with your plan already written and numbers in your head so you can confidently and intelligently discuss your business model, and ask the loan officer what specifically they want to see from a business plan. Take the time to revise your current business plan to match what the loan officer wants before you go back to the bank for your actual pitch.
SmartBiz (see our review) is a viable online loan option for franchise owners that want the security and low-interest rates of an SBA-backed loan, but with the ease and speed of an online loan. SmartBiz is the #1 marketplace for SBA 7(a) small business loans online, offering an SBA/online loan hybrid with low interest rates and long-term repayment terms. However, this lender is only an option for established franchises — you’ll need at least 2 years’ time in business to get a working capital or debt refinancing loan, and 3 years to be eligible for a commercial real estate loan.
“For many individuals, funding a business may involve taking on significant business or personal debt. With most loans, you would need to start making payments right away. This makes it difficult for your business to grow in its early stages, when you’re trying to build revenue and generate profits. With ROBS funding, you avoid having principal or interest payments, which can greatly impede your cash flow, especially in the early years of business. Using retirement funds can also help your business reach profitability faster. And because you’re investing your own money in your own business, there’s no need to provide collateral, like your personal home.”
Spend the next week working on your pitch, your business plan, and on researching your financing options. Remember that your business plan isn’t set in stone. It should remain a “live” document as you progress and as you grow. Don’t stress about it, just use this week to focus your thoughts and bring everything you thought about and learned in week one together.
Borrowers have multiple options for SBA-backed loans, including microloans with a six-year repayment term to allow new businesses to borrow up to $50,000; 7(a) loans that allow companies to borrow up to $5 million; and 504 loans, available for up to $5.5 million for smaller businesses with a net income under $5 million and a net worth below $15 million.