It’s useful to come up with a business plan to think through what you want to do for the development of the product or service, marketing, financial projections, and more. And you should then get input from trusted business and finance advisors. But don’t go overboard with a 50-page business plan. In reality, many startups have to deviate from their plan as the business develops.
An important step in forming a new business is to determine the type of business structure that you will use. There are several business structures to choose from, including sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company and limited liability partnership. Each has advantages and disadvantages as well as tax consequences of which you should be aware. You must decide which of these structures best suits your business objectives and needs. The Secretary of State cannot advise you on choosing a business structure. For help in making this decision, you may wish to consult a tax practitioner, accountant or attorney.
Many banks and credit unions offer financing for franchise purchases, so be sure to compare any franchisor lending rates and terms with these. When you approach a bank, be prepared to disclose all your financial information. While your credit rating is important, you’ll also need to provide a personal financial statement, copies of tax returns and information about the source of your down payment funds.
In Canada, you can get a free credit report by contacting one of the two credit reporting agencies, TransUnion or EquiFax Canada. To receive your free credit report you will need to mail or fax one of these companies a request along with copies of two pieces of I.D. Note that you will not be able to get a free credit report through the website of either company; you will be charged a fee for an online report. CreditKarma provides free online credit reports through much of Canada.
According to Meme Moy, a spokesperson for FRANData, about 2,000 franchises are currently on the Registry. When a franchise is on the Registry, lenders can see its historical loan performance. About 55 % of lenders only lend to franchises that are on the franchise registry, so this an important step in choosing a franchise. By choosing a franchise that is on the Registry, you can get better and faster access to SBA funding. To check if your franchise is on the Registry, click here.
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.
Most lenders are interested in how long you've been at a certain job or lived in the same location, and whether you have a record of finishing what you start. If your past record doesn't show a history of stability, then be prepared with good explanations. Not only is the amount of income you earn important but so is your ability to live within that income. Some people earn $100,000 a year and still can't pay their debts, while others budget nicely on $20,000 a year.
Franchise business loans typically come with more attractive terms than you are likely to find for any other type of start-up business loan. This is because lenders consider the financial stability, business model, and previous success of the franchise parent company when reviewing a loan application. Banks and alternative lenders are finding franchises to be an increasingly attractive investment. In 2011, the SBA reported approval of $1.5 billion in 7(a) loans for franchises, up from approximately $826 million the previous fiscal year. The 7(a) loan-guarantee program is the SBA's most popular loan program.
Being that each franchise launch means the business doesn’t have existing/trailing revenue, opening a franchise business is essentially opening a startup business. As with startups, the small business lending options are limited — but available. Other franchises are existing entities and are looking for capital to help with operating expenses and other working capital options. Here are the main options:
If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure. If you are unable to take out a bank loan, you can apply for a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or an alternative lender. [See related story: Best Alternative Small Business Loans]
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.
You do need to create a list of prospects before you reach out. This will help you focus on targeting the right areas and the right people. Do your research. If you’re selling a high-end product, you don’t want to target/cold-call customers in a low-income neighborhood. And, if you’re selling a product suited to children, should you really focus on the section of town that all the college students live in?
It's now possible to reach people (customers, clients, subscribers, etc.) based on shared ideals and values. Microbusinesses of one sort or another have been around since the beginning of commerce, but the ease of connecting with people is a new phenomenon. Also, a large percentage of the population is being comfortable with making purchases online. These things create a perfect storm of economic convergence. It's never been easier.
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.
5. Social Media: Depending on your type of business, you will want a social media presence. LinkedIn, with more than 380 million members, is regarded as the business site for connecting with other businesspeople and offers excellent posting features for articles and blogs. Facebook is more of a social friends site than a business-focused site, but it’s also an excellent tool for “getting your word out” to your friends and customers. Both Linkedin and Facebook allow you to set up a commercial page for your new business.
This option is less likely to work out for those with bad credit because traditional lenders have limits on who they will finance. That said, it isn’t impossible. Your interest rate will however be higher than a standard rate and more collateral will probably be required of you than a traditional recipient. If you think you may still qualify, take a look at some of the loan options offered by the SBA.