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.
Starting a small business typically involves a lot of moving parts. In fact, time management can quickly become a challenge for entrepreneurs who are digging into the business start-up process for the first time. I compiled a list of 10 of the most important steps involved in starting a business and broke them down into easy-to-follow tutorials. Use this guide to make sure you're focusing your attention on the most important stages of starting a business and find out what you need to know so you can streamline your work for each of those steps.
More than anything, focus on consistent, repetitive branding. Many marketing professionals believe in the “rule of seven," which means people need to hear or see your message at least seven times before taking any action. In today’s world of constant connectivity, you must make sure you’re seen and heard. The most common reason that people do not buy your product is that they do not know about it yet.
A franchise is a business that sell the rights to use its logo, name and model to individual entrepreneurs or a group of individuals working in partnership. Franchisees are required to make an initial upfront payment to begin the business, and are typically expected to pay ongoing royalty payments to continue to use the business’s branding and benefit from its brand-wide marketing efforts.
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.
A very economical service is Regus, with office locations worldwide; office space is readily available for startup entrepreneurs on a just-in-time basis. Regus offers several membership levels: Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Platinum Plus. For example, a Regus Blue membership card is free, while a Regus Gold membership card costs $59 per month (with the first month free). With a Gold card you get shared space, Internet connection, and telephone access at Regus locations worldwide, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
You can get an approval decision right after you submit your franchise financing application. Our automated decision-making technology will review your application, and we will let you know if you qualify immediately thereafter. There is no need to waste time gathering up a bunch of your financial statements and copies of your tax returns. You will be happy to know that we look at all credit scores. In addition, you have a limited credit history and still be can a good candidate.
Working capital loans. A working capital loan is a debt borrowing vehicle used by the company to finance its daily operations. Companies use such loans to manage fluctuations in revenues and expenses due to seasonality or other circumstances in their business. Some working capital loans are unsecured, but companies that have little or no credit history will have to pledge collateral for the loan or provide a personal guarantee. Working capital loans tend to be short-term loans of 30 days to 1 year. Such loans typically vary from $5,000 to $100,000 for small businesses.
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The franchise industry, like all businesses, was not immune to the economic crisis of 2008 and the ensuing credit crunch. But the vital signs of a recovery are there. According to the International Franchise Association (IFA), many of the country’s business sectors currently starting to show growth mirror those sectors expected to be the leading drivers of employment in franchising this year. These include food service, health care, hospitality and construction—all sectors with a high concentration of franchise businesses.
Visuals – As Instagram is a visual platform, special attention has to be given to the visual aspect of your posts. As well as choosing a color scheme to match your brand, you should also use a consistent filter. Using the same filter for your posts will help users recognize your images. For instance, Madewell’s Instagram incorporates its color scheme for consistent images and branding.
One basic way to protect proprietary company information is through the use of a Confidentiality and Invention Assignment Agreement. This type of agreement deals with confidentiality issues, but can also ensure that the ideas, work product, and inventions the employee creates that are related to company business belong to the company—not the employee.
Funds cannot be used for lines of credit, owner-occupied housing, projects involving over $1 million and include relocating at least 50 jobs or agricultural production. Funds also cannot be used to fund certain businesses including golf courses, casinos/racetracks, churches or church-controlled businesses, fraternal organizations or lending/investment companies.
Often times, a franchisee looking to open their first franchise will fit nicely into a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan product. SBA loans are made by banks or other participating lenders - not the government. SBA loans allow the lenders to extend credit to borrowers, who they may not be able to lend on a conventional basis, by taking advantage of a guarantee that the SBA provides to the lender in the event of default. There are a few different options, but the Flagship SBA 7a product gives the bank a 75% guarantee if your loan defaults - so that the money that the bank lends to you is not entirely at risk. SBA loans are typically priced at Wall Street Journal Prime + 1 to 2.75%, for terms of 7 to 25 years, depending on the use of funds.
Most lenders will contact a credit bureau to look at your credit file. We suggest you do the same thing before you try to borrow. Under the law, credit bureaus are required to give you all the information they have on file about your credit history. Once you have this tool, you should correct any wrong information or at least make sure your side of the story is on record. For instance, a 90-day delinquency would look bad, but if that 90-day delinquency was caused by being laid off or by illness, then that should be taken into consideration.
Make sure you do your research before diving into any franchise brand by checking out the International Franchise Association or the SBA Franchise Directory. Read a franchise disclosure document carefully before signing any franchise agreement, and be sure you’re ready to commit a relationship with the franchise brand of your choice. Happy applying and best of luck buying a franchise!
Instead of spending hours playing with accounting software, dreaming up potential expense and income categories, and creating fancy reports with no data, spend that time generating revenue. As long as you record everything you do now, creating a more formal system later will be fairly easy. It will also be more fun, because then you'll have real data to enter.
In his courses, Drew merges the theory taught in a traditional classroom setting with more than three decades of experience, providing a real-world marketing and innovation experience. Drew's earned three prestigious teaching awards and is honored to have been a guest lecturer at Columbia University, Yale University, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Duke University.
Your eligibility. Each franchisor has its own set of requirements for you to meet, and from there you’ll need to meet the criteria any lenders have. Confirm eligibility with the providers you’re interested in to see whether you meet their minimum standards. If not, you have the option of learning what you can change to make the cut. And keep exploring your other providers.
Bank loans unsecured by collateral are relatively rare, even for those with good credit. In addition to securing a loan with a mortgage on your home or other asset, be ready to be asked to put your own money into the deal, typically about 20% of the amount needed. Even with healthy businesses and solid collateral, most bank loans to new franchisees occur when a borrower has established relationships with a banker, or has previous experience, or is a figure in the community. If that’s not you, consider a loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
If you own the business entirely by yourself and plan to be responsible for all debts and obligations, you can register for a sole proprietorship. Be warned that this route can directly affect your personal credit. Alternatively, a partnership, as its name implies, means that two or more people are held personally liable as business owners. You don't have to go it alone if you can find a business partner with complimentary skills to your own.
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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.
Follow – After you’ve set up your account and have a clear branding strategy in place, it’s time to start working on gaining visibility on Instagram. You should follow as many people who are relevant to your business as possible. For example, influencers, brands with complementary products and past customers. Read this blog for a guide on how to use social media influencers to promote your business.
Direct online lenders. There are a number of online lenders that make small business loans through a relatively easy online process. Reputable companies such as Swift Capital provide very fast small business cash advances, working capital loans, and short-term loans in amounts from $5,000 to $500,000. Sites such as Fundera and LendingTree offer you access to multiple lenders, acting as a lead generation service for lenders.
Some things we like about StreetShares include its excellent customer service, easy application, competitive rates, and speedy time-to-funding. You don’t even need to put up any business collateral for a StreetShares loan (though you will need a business guarantor who is willing to essentially “co-sign” your loan). Another thing that makes StreetShares special is that franchise owners who are also veterans and/or who have an interesting business backstory are preferred. See our StreetShares review to learn more about this alternative lending leader.
Short-term loans like the ones offered by OnDeck have higher rates and fees compared to longer-term loans. Effective interest rates start at 9.99%, and if you have a newer franchise and/or poor to fair credit, your rate will likely be higher than that. Nevertheless, OnDeck is one of the few reputable sources of short-term, unsecured business loans offered to franchise owners, and also one of the fastest. OnDeck is additionally one of the few online franchise lenders willing to lend to applicants with poor credit.
Dana is a founding partner of TechLaw, LLP, where his practice focuses on trademark prosecution and licensing, copyrights, and business transactions. He is also adjunct professor of law at the University of San Diego School of Law, where he has taught IP Survey, and helped launch the IP Law Clinic. His expertise includes a broad base of intellectual property law that covers copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, and international intellectual property. Dana has filed, managed, and prosecuted thousands of trademarks over the course of his law practice career. He has represented clients in numerous trademark infringement actions, as well as cancellations, oppositions, and appeals before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
Franchise equipment leasing allows the franchisee to attain needed equipment and machinery to operate the franchise, without paying the full upfront costs. Once the franchise identifies a piece of equipment its looking to obtain, they will apply through a leasing company to purchase the equipment for the small business, and then the leasing company will provide a lease of the equipment for up to 10 years.
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).
A microloan is similar to a traditional bank loan, but they often come from alternative lenders like credit unions. A microloan tends to be easier to get for those with subpar credit because the loan amounts, as the name indicates, are small, typically fifty thousand dollars or less. Because of this, the credit requirements for these loans are also lower. If this amount of funding suits your needs, this is a good option. The SBA has a microloan program, and there are several alternative lending options such as Prosper and Zopa.