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.
Now that you have completed our QuickBooks Online tutorials, you should be convinced that you don’t have to be a certified public accountant or have an accounting background to learn how to use QuickBooks. You should also know that QuickBooks is a much better solution than using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to keep track of your income and expenses.
1. Strategic Plan. All of us have heard of a “back-of-the-napkin” story about how a small idea turned into a successful business—and these stories do happen. However, it is typically the basic concept that happens on the back of a napkin, not the actual plan to bring that concept to the market. The first step is to develop a well-thought-out business plan that addresses key success factors such as:
As with other small businesses, finding financing for a new franchise can be one of the biggest challenges owners face. Some financing options are unique to franchises, such as franchisor discounts on fees and online financing companies that cater to franchises. General business financing options such as traditional and Small Business Administration loans are also available to franchisees.
"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."
The second step is to be strategic about how and where you apply for a loan. Key targets for your loan application would be your own bank, local business lenders and national lenders. Within that group, it is also important to target lenders who may be familiar with the brand and have made loans to other franchisees. That said, don't use a shotgun approach and apply everywhere. This approach can lead to inefficient use of your time and money as the process can lead to several declines from lenders as you blindly submit applications. This process can take up to 120-190 days before you even get funded. Additionally, some lenders charge application fees so it can get expensive, but more importantly, a lender may do a "hard" credit pull on you when you apply. Multiple hard credit pulls within a timeframe will actually hurt your credit score and decrease your ability to get a loan. One alternative is to use a service like BoeFly, which puts you in the driver's seat. It allows lenders to evaluate your loan package and credit and engage with you directly without officially applying at the bank. Only once it seems like it may be a good match will the lender issue you a proposal or term sheet on the financing and then officially invite you to apply at the bank - thereby saving your credit score and time and money. Unlike other marketplaces and "connecting" websites, BoeFly can significantly reduce your time of origination by up to 75% as well as your costs.
Create a logo that can help people easily identify your brand, and be consistent in using it across all of your platforms, including your all-important company website. Use social media to spread the word about your new business, perhaps as a promotional tool to offer coupons and discounts to followers once you launch. Be sure to also keep these digital assets up to date with relevant, interesting content about your business and industry.
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To find out the best ways for new business owners to secure loans, I consulted with experts who have a wide range of experience with funding businesses including Jared Hecht, CEO of the online lending website Fundera, David J. Hall from the Small Business Association, Hal Shelton who is a SCORE mentor and author of The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan (Summit Valley Press 2014) and Larry Conley, Senior Vice President and Specialty Finance National Manager for Chase bank.
The challenge is even greater for franchise owners looking to open new locations. They must pay a “franchise fee” amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, and the aforementioned deductions begin as soon as the new location opens its doors. Combine these expenses with inevitabilities like new equipment or furniture and you can see why business loans are popular for franchises. Multiple large expenses can easily pile up at the same time, making it extremely difficult to raise profits or save money.
You can arrange to borrow from ordinary commercial banks or credit unions for your new venture. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), new franchise owners have a higher tendency to borrow from commercial banks than new business owners. Lenders prefer advancing cash to new franchises over other new businesses since they already have trust in the brand and business model of the business being funded.
6. Create local awareness and establish a network. Join chambers, business associations, community groups, etc. Find ways to get involved. Networking is a great way to capture business leads as long as you don’t come on too strong. It allows you to meet new contacts and create more brand awareness and new referrals. Sponsor sporting events, nonprofit events or anything that is for a good cause. Get your name out there while also being a good community steward. Give away SWAG (promotional items with your business name, logo and contact info on them). T-shirts are a great example of free walking advertisements for your business.
Tenant improvements. Your new space may need some improvements or alterations (a new paint job, new carpeting, a reconfiguration of the space). Which party will pay for these improvements depends on how tight the commercial office space market is in your city. Most form leases stipulate that the tenant can’t make any alterations or improvements without the landlord’s consent. Ask for a clause that says you can make alterations or improvements with the landlord’s consent, and that the consent won’t be unreasonably withheld, delayed, or conditioned. Often, you are able to negotiate a “tenant improvement allowance,” which is an agreed-upon sum of money that the landlord will provide for the improvements and alterations you would like to make.
Shelton advises entrepreneurs to apply for a larger loan once they have the numbers to prove that they are growing: “What you’re hoping to get from these smaller loans is traction,” which you can use to “pitch [your story] as a growth story” when you apply for a larger traditional loan from a bank. Proving that you have experience growing your business from someone else’s money will help you convince the bank that you can do the same with their loan.
If you have a newer franchise or need capital ASAP, OnDeck (see our review) is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get a short-term loan or line of credit. Though OnDeck isn’t specifically geared toward franchise owners, it’s a viable online loan option for any type of small business owner that doesn’t qualify for a bank loan or doesn’t want to wait months to receive loan funds. OnDeck also recently partnered with the Franchise Council of Australia in an effort to better serve the global franchise market (fun fact: Australia actually has more franchise outlets per capita than America).
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.
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.