Maybe you want to build an empire and become famous, or create a wealth-generation machine that you can pass on to your children. Or perhaps you can’t convince anyone to recognize your unique vision and you’ve decided that it will never come to fruition unless you strike out on your own. Or maybe you’re thinking of self-employment because you’ve been unemployed for so long that you feel you’ve exhausted all other options.
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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:
Remember that a business is franchised for two reasons: to expand the business and to raise capital. So if you have a reasonably good credit record and pass all the financial requirements, most franchisors will bend over backwards to get you on the team. The help that franchisors provide to help you get financing usually includes assistance with business plans and introductions to lending sources. In many cases, franchisors serve as guarantors of loans you take out.
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3. Leverage social media. Let’s face it, everyone is on social media these days, and the majority of traffic still occurs on Facebook. If you are not using Facebook for your business, create a page today. You are leaving an opportunity on the table if you don’t. There has been a shift the past few years with more and more retirees joining the social media world. I guess they realize that if they want to keep up with their kids, grandkids, friends and neighbors, they better get with the program. In fact, retirees are often my best brand ambassadors and help promote our events.
Traditionally, the first place franchisees turn for financing is the franchisor. Almost all U.S. franchisors provide debt financing only. Some carry the entire loan or a fraction thereof through their own finance company. We found fractions of 15 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, all the way up to 75 percent of the total debt burden. The franchisors we talked to emphasized that these figures are simply guidelines and not hard and fast limits.
Negotiate the startup and operating costs: When you buy a franchise, there is a pretty long list of things that you need to buy before you can open the doors to customers. The cost for such items will be noted in the Franchise Disclosure Document. If you negotiate, the franchisor may be willing to absorb the cost of some of these items for you, like discounting your franchise fee.
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.
If you do decide you’re going to need space, consider the number of employees you’re going to need and the equipment that will fill the space—chairs, photocopying machines, a fridge, a coffee machine, a reception area, a meeting room, and so on. Furthermore, how quickly do you expect to grow? If rapid growth is in the books, rent a space where there is room for growth and so that you don’t have to change your business address.
Your answer will be something like the famous “elevator pitch”, or maybe a mission statement. It doesn’t matter whether it’s perfectly polished yet, but it is important that your answer is clear and easy to understand. If you were talking to your neighbours at a barbecue and they asked you what you do, would your answer make their eyes light up or glaze over? Would it make them ask for more details, or hurriedly excuse themselves to grab another burger?
Starting a business involves a lot of moving factors, but the most important one is financing. You are going to need to spend some time evaluating your business model and writing your business plan before you can really determine the type of loan you need and the best way to secure that loan. As your business grows, your lending needs will change, so take the time now to understand the differences between lending and investing so you can be ready when your company starts to grow and needs to adjust its financing.
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.
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).
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.
An SBA loan has two major disadvantages for franchises. First, it takes a significant amount of time (30-90 days) to fund. Second, you can’t use the funds from an SBA loan to cover many startup costs, including franchise fees. Those will have to be paid as an out of pocket cost. However, if you can live with these two disadvantages, then SBA loan rates are typically the lowest you’ll find. You can use our SBA loan calculator to determine what your monthly payments might be.
Lenders prefer financial statements that have been audited by a certified public accountant (CPA). But many small businesses don’t want to incur the costs of an audit, so one alternative is to have the financial statements “reviewed” by a CPA (which is cheaper and faster). However, some lenders may not require either audited or reviewed statements.
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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.