Keep in mind that whenever you’re applying for a business loan, whether it’s for start-up costs, working capital, or real estate, it’s a good idea to complete more than one loan application so you can compare rates and terms. Most lenders will only do a “soft” pull on your credit in the pre-qualification stage and will not do a hard pull (the kind that dings your credit score) unless you accept the loan offer.
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]
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.
Also make sure you have a structured process for setting measurable objectives, reviewing your progress, and adjusting the objectives or setting new ones. A good way is to keep a simple monthly checklist of the most important items. All of this should be driven by your overall business plan (you do have a business plan, don’t you?), and you should use the data you collect to help you keep the plan constantly updated.
The brand you choose to work with may provide upfront estimates of how much it will cost to start a new business and can also give you information on monthly and year-over-year revenue goals and expected progress. This information, if available, is often found in Item 19 of the FDD. However, a franchise is not required to provide this information in their FDD - so speaking with several existing franchisees is always a wise choice. Based on this data and your own projections make sure you understand when your business will break even factoring in both expenses as well as the loan payments and always assume there will be unexpected costs. When determining your loan amount make sure to include working capital to get you through the ramp-up period of the business until the business can support expenses and loan payments. When lenders review your loan application they will pay attention to several key things, but 2 items that you should be aware of are Loan To Value (LTV) and Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). LTV is a measure of the total value of the loan amount compared to the collateral pledged. Lenders will look at the collateral as a secondary source of repayment of the loan and in many cases with a start-up financing may look for collateral to cover the full loan. In cases where there is not enough collateral the lenders will look to other strengths of the deal. DSCR is a measure of the cash generated by the business available for the loan payments. The higher the DSCR, the better because in the bank's view there will be a cushion of cash just in case there are unforeseen problems or slow periods for the business. A lender will typically look for a minimum DSCR 1.20x or more. If your projections don't show the ability to service debt lenders may shy away from your loan request so it is important to understand the accuracy of your projections.
While many business experts believe that you should get into a business you are passionate about, it is important that you consider the market’s demand as well as your target demographics. You can’t start a business about something you love and expect people to patronize your services or your products on the get go. The success of a franchise hinges on a lot of factors, but demand and the target market should top your list.
With the relatively low margins in the restaurant industry, many franchise owners are cash strapped and may even have a turbulent credit history. This is not a problem. National Business Capital considers the big picture so a low FICO score does not pose an immediate disqualification. In fact, the majority of our clients were denied franchise loans from traditional banks before contacting us. Know that National Business Capital offers franchise loans to small– medium- and large-sized businesses nationwide – and works with all types of businesses, no matter what their credit history. Our clients’ franchise financing needs are addressed quickly, efficiently and with a personal touch, regardless of their credit score. Even an open tax lien will not disqualify an applicant.
If you are new to franchise ownership, be sure to do your research and due diligence about the franchise system you’re interested in. Study the Franchise Disclosure Document (required by law) and speak to other franchisees about the brand and the financing program on offer. Next, try to understand what your financial responsibilities as a franchise owner will be. This blog offers some pointers on this: Buying a Franchise – How to Determine What it’s Going to Cost You.
Part of the reason we spent a full day researching and figuring out location has to do with what it will cost you to start. If you’re working from home and not seeing clients, you may find your startup costs are limited to marketing, stationery, any supplies, and legal. If not, you’re going to need enough to set aside for at least the first months rent and utilities of the new space, including all the amenities to outfit your new office.
For existing franchises looking for working capital, another form of alternative financing comes from monetizing the franchise’s balance sheet to obtain funding. Using the franchise’s commercial real estate, or by tapping into the franchise owner’s personal real estate, an asset based lender can collateralize the real estate and provide working capital up to 90% of the real estate’s equity.
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.
That is why you should use an administrative service to manage your loan, and give you a professional platform to raise the money and make payments to. This can make it easier for people you know to lend money to your business, and you won’t have to worry about any of the paperwork or tax implications. It could also improve your chances at getting funded.
Online business lenders are a relatively new option, and they might provide more choice than you can find locally. You might also find it easier to get approved – these lenders are more interested in funding loans and growing than conservative banks and credit unions. Online lenders might also move faster than traditional lenders. That said, they’re not looking to lose money, so the loan still needs to make sense.
Work with the franchisor’s preferred lenders: Often times, franchisors will partner with preferred lenders that they refer you to for financing. They may also have relationships with leasing companies that can lease you essential equipment for your franchise. When possible you should look at working with these lenders, because they’re familiar with your franchise brand and business model.