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:
The first thing you want to do before approaching any lender is determine what your net worth is. To do this, use a personal balance sheet to list both your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe). Under assets, list all your holdings--cash on hand, checking accounts, savings accounts, real estate (current market value), automobiles (whether paid off or not), bonds, securities, insurance cash values and other assets--then total them up.
Small business line of credit. Under a small business line of credit, your business can access funds from the lender as needed. There will be a cap on the amount of funds accessible (e.g., $100,000) but a line of credit is useful for managing a company’s cash flow and unexpected expenses. There will typically be a fee for setting up the line of credit, but you don’t get charged interest until you actually draw down the funds. Interest is typically paid monthly and the principal drawn down on the line is often amortized over years. However, most lines of credit require renewal annually, which may require an additional fee. If the line is not renewed, you will be required to pay it in full at that time.
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.
SBA.gov is the website for the Small Business Association. Founded in 1953, the SBA functions as an independent agency of the federal government whose mission, according to their website, is “to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” One way the SBA helps small businesses is by offering financial assistance through three programs: the guaranteed loan program, surety bonds program and venture capital program.
Overcoming this problem is easier than it used to be, thanks to the plethora of marketing opportunities on the internet. Many of them, of course, are free or low cost, but don’t forget that your time is also an investment. So don’t make the mistake of signing up for every social media site out there and letting your valuable time dribble away in tweets and status updates.
The franchisor: Some franchisors help finance new franchises by waiving fees or partnering with lenders to help franchisees get loans. If a company offers funding, it’s usually listed on its website and in Section 10 of the Franchise Disclosure Document. Compare the terms of the franchisor’s financing with other options to find the best source of funding.
Many business owners, however, are under the mistaken impression that they are completely protected from personal liability by filing a Certificate of Incorporation for a corporation. This is not true. The mere process of incorporating does not completely protect the business owners. To lessen the likelihood of such personal or shareholder liability, you should make sure to adhere to certain procedures:
A ROBS let’s you fund all, or part, of your new franchise with retirement savings (401k, IRA, 403b, etc) without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. If you have at least $50,000 in your eligible retirement account a ROBS can help you fund 100% of your franchise, be combined with seller financing, or be used as a downpayment for an SBA loan. Learn more by speaking with our recommended ROBS provider, Guidant, who offers an initial free consultation.
If you are new to franchise ownership, be sure to do your research and due diligence about the franchise system you’re interested in. Study the Franchise Disclosure Document (required by law) and speak to other franchisees about the brand and the financing program on offer. Next, try to understand what your financial responsibilities as a franchise owner will be. This blog offers some pointers on this: Buying a Franchise – How to Determine What it’s Going to Cost You.
You need to be prepared for a rejection of your loan, and you need to be prepared to re-work your business plan, save more money or do whatever else the loan officer suggests to secure a loan. It can be hard not to take a rejection personally, but remember that the lender is not rejecting you or your business idea–they are simply rejecting the opportunity to help you finance your business. You need to rework your business plan and/or secure more capital before you try again.
Despite these indicators, financing remains a problem for potential franchise owners. According to Entrepreneur magazine (January 2013), there’s still an 18 percent lending shortfall in the franchising industry. In a bid to boost franchise ownership, many franchisors are taking matters into their own hands and offering financing programs of their own. Meineke, The UPS Store, Gold’s Gym, Masasge Envy and Instant Imprints are just a few examples of franchisors now offering financing to qualifying first-time and multi-store franchise owners.
However, despite the tendency of commercial banks to favor franchise businesses, you are still subject to the bank's underwriting and lending policies. The bank still has to review your net worth and credit history to determine whether you can pay back the loan advanced to your business. In some cases, you may also have to provide collateral to secure your business loan.
For most business experts and established entrepreneurs, buying an existing franchise through franchise loans presents a lot of advantages not present if you opt to start your business from scratch. Purchasing a franchise, especially a popular one, enables you to start with a large and solid client base, a crucial element during the initial stages of a business venture. Another obvious benefit is that building up the brand does not take much effort in contrast to promoting a new business name.
Bank loans are a great option, but before you go that route, make sure you’ve done your market research and can demonstrate that your business will do well in your area. If you haven’t had any luck getting loans from traditional lenders, look for a lender that offers SBA-backed loans, since they’re geared specifically to the needs of small businesses and are only open to those who can’t get funding elsewhere. Other financial options include online alternative lenders, which may be less restrictive in who they approve, but also tend to charge higher fees and rates.
Length of lease term. Landlords are typically willing to make concessions for longer-term leases. However, your company’s needs may change and you could find yourself locked into a lease for an office space that is too small, too big, or with rent that is above-market if demand for space subsequently declines. Try to negotiate a shorter-term lease with renewal options—a two-year lease with a two-year renewal option, for instance, rather than a four-year lease.
You should approach small-business-loan shopping just as you would shopping for a car, says Suzanne Darden, a business consultant at the Alabama Small Business Development Center. Once you determine which type of lender and financing vehicle are right for you, compare two or three similar options based on annual percentage rate (total borrowing cost) and terms. Of the loans you qualify for, choose the one with the lowest APR, as long as you are able to handle the loan’s regular payments.