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]
Your first option is to change your business model to demand fewer needs as listed above. For example, if you were planning on starting a company as a consultant or freelancer, you could reduce your “employee” expenses by being the sole employee at the start. Unless you need office space, you can work from home. You can even do your homework to find cheaper sources of supplies, or cut out entire product lines that are too expensive to produce at the outset.
Use your retirement accounts (401(k) or IRA) to invest in your business without having to pay early withdrawal penalties or taxes. If you still need more money, this can be used in combination with a SBA loan. The investment into your business may be enough that no collateral is required. Even if collateral would normally be required, an alternative such as a payment reserve and be utilized. Learn more about 401K business financing.
Type of loan. Many types of business loans need to be secured by collateral, whether that’s by your mortgage, investment accounts, vehicle, life insurance or other assets. You may find that while you still need to secure them, SBA loans come with better interest rates and requirements that aren’t as strict as other financing options. The fact that they’re guaranteed for up to 90% of their amount by the government gives lenders the confidence they need to make offers to customers who may be more risky borrowers.
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:
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.
SBA loans are government-guaranteed loans with long repayment terms and low interest rates. There are many different types of SBA loans, but the most popular SBA loans are 7a loans and 504 loans. An SBA 7(a) loan can be used for working capital (marketing, staffing, etc), equipment, or for commercial real estate. The SBA 504 loan is only for commercial real estate and fixed equipment. Franchises are often a great fit for SBA loans, because of the SBA’s policy goals to help build small businesses to grow the economy.
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.
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.
Loans backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) are a favorite of franchisees, since they tend to have higher limits and lower rates than commercial loans. However, SBA loans come with strict requirements, including the need to prove that you don’t have the ability to obtain a loan from traditional lenders. Partner institutions disburse and administer the loans with SBA approval and application requirements tend to be quite extensive.
If you can secure a credit card in your company name and make purchases and on-time payments, you can get financing and start building good business credit at the same time. Of course, the credit limit, interest rate, and terms of payment will vary, and each bank or credit union will have eligibility requirements, so this option will not work for everyone.
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.