For-profit lenders are reluctant to issue loans to anyone who does not have a strong credit report and financial history. That is not the case with government small business loans. Obviously, a decent credit report is important, and you will have to follow the guidelines regarding the repayment period and the interest rate set by the government, but usually the interest rates charged by government loans are lower than those you could expect in the private sector.
Keep in mind that your ability to negotiate an office lease is dependent on how much leverage you have. Do your homework. Are other companies vying for the same space? Has the space been vacant for a long time? Factors such as these may mean the difference between you calling the shots, or a landlord insisting on onerous terms throughout the lease process.
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.
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.
When you do a ROBS, you basically sponsor a retirement plan under your franchise, rollover funds from your personal retirement plan to the company retirement plan, and use those funds to buy shares of stock in your business. The sale of stock creates the capital needed to start or buy a new franchise or recapitalize an existing franchise. Read our in-depth guide on ROBS to learn more about how it works.
Your second option invokes the idea of a “warmup” period for your business. Instead of going straight into full-fledged business mode, you’ll start with just the basics. You might launch a blog and one niche service, reducing your scope, your audience and your profit, in order to get a head-start. If you can start as a self-employed individual, you'll avoid some of the biggest initial costs (and enjoy a simpler tax situation, too). A payment processing company, such as Due, can be a big help when you are struggling to invoice and follow up professionally.
If you start your company with co-founders, you should agree early on about the details of your business relationship. Not doing so can potentially cause significant legal problems down the road (a good example of this is the infamous Zuckerberg/Winklevoss Facebook litigation). In a way, think of the founder agreement as a form of “pre-nuptial agreement.” Here are the key deal terms your written founder agreement needs to address:
Rent and rent escalations. Some landlords will give free rent for the first month or two of a lease. Fixed rent over longer-term leases is relatively rare. Sometimes landlords insist on annual increases based on the percentage increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If your landlord insists on rent escalations, try to arrange for a CPI rent increase that does not kick in for at least the first two years of the term. Then, try to get a cap on the amount of each year’s increase. If you have to live with a rent escalation clause, try to negotiate a predetermined fixed increase; for example, a rent of $5,000 a month the first year that would only increase to $5,200 a month the second year and $5,400 a month the third year.
At the early stages of your startup, you will likely want to have a small employee team to minimize expenses. A good way to fill in for specialized expertise is to use freelancers or consultants. That way, you avoid taking on employee costs and benefits payments. And there are a variety of sites that can help you access freelancers, such as Freelancer.com, Guru.com, and Upwork.com.
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.
Guidant is our recommended ROBS provider. Guidant has helped over 10,000 businesses and facilitated over $3 billion in small business financing since 2003. They are also the only ROBS firm we know of which guarantees access to outside independent counsel during the ROBS setup process, which can help you objectively evaluate if ROBS is a good decision for the franchise you are buying.
Market research is important because it will help you figure out whether or not there is demand for the service you’re offering or the product you’re selling. It will also help you when it comes time to write your business plan, especially if you’re pitching an angel investor or a venture capital firm. They will want to see there’s a market for your idea, otherwise, it won’t scale as rapidly as they need it to in order to make a return on their investment.
To become an officially recognized business entity, you must register with the government. Corporations will need an "articles of incorporation" document, which includes your business name, business purpose, corporate structure, stock details and other information about your company. Otherwise, you will just need to register your business name, which can be your legal name, a fictitious "Doing Business As" name (if you are the sole proprietor), or the name you've come up with for your company. You may also want to take steps to trademark your business name for extra legal protection.
Also called a business cash advance, this option is only applicable to those having cash flow problems who would need ten thousand dollars or less. Cash advances usually have very high interest rates meaning that you will almost certainly pay more in the long run than the initial loan, especially if you miss a payment. Be certain you can repay on time before going this route.
As you consider financing options, make sure you get the best deal overall for your business. This means you'll need to compare interest rates, repayment terms, origination costs, and whether pre-payment penalties apply. By looking at the total cost of the loan, as well as whether monthly payments are affordable, you can secure financing that works for your organization.
A ROBS isn’t a loan, so there’s no debt or interest to pay back. This lets ROBS-financed franchises conserve more of their income, and as a result, they may be more successful in the long run. You do have to pay monthly administration fees when you do a ROBS, but compared to a loan the monthly fees are about 11x cheaper! This sets you up for a greater chance at long-term success than other financing methods.
We are often asked by franchise owners, “What do I need to qualify for franchise financing with Balboa Capital?” Well, they couldn’t be more happier with the answer to that question. If your franchise has been operating for at least one year, and it generates $300,000 or more in annual revenue, the chances are pretty good that you will qualify. We will just need to review your credit to make a decision.
Never start a business as a “sole proprietorship,” which can result in your personal assets being at risk for the debts and liabilities of the business. You will almost always want to start the business as an S corporation (giving you favorable flow through tax treatment), a C corporation (which is what most venture capital investors expect to see), or a limited liability company (LLC). None of those are particularly expensive or difficult to set up. My personal preference is to start the business as an S corporation, which can then easily be converted to a C corporation as you bring in investors and issue multiple classes of stock.
Crystalynn Shelton is a CPA and staff writer at Fit Small Business, specializing in small business Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Taxes. She is also an Adjunct Instructor at UCLA Extension where she has taught hundreds of small business owners how to setup and manage their books using QuickBooks for 8 years. Prior to joining Fit Small Business, Crystalynn was a Senior Learning Specialist at Intuit for 3 years and also ran her own QuickBooks consulting and training business. When Crystalynn isn’t writing or teaching, she enjoys rollerblading in Venice Beach and reading a good book.
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