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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).
“My credit is very strong and I owned my house outright. So when I realized the SBA loan would take too long, I decided to go to my personal bank and apply for a HELOC. The whole process took less than two weeks, the interest rates were great, and I never looked back. I was even allowed to use the HELOC for my franchise fee, which other financing wouldn’t allow.”
2. Get a website. In today’s technology-based world, the first thing a potential customer or employee does is Google your business. You need a website to show you’re real and to offer information about your business to potential customers. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and be sure to ask for search engine optimization. Use Google Analytics to track the traffic to your website, but be leery of people who promise you top positions on search engines. While there are lots of things that can be done to increase your ranking on various search engines, unless the developer works for Google, I would be leery of a promise to get you to the top. Remember that you get what you pay for. There are a ton of do it yourself website services, but depending on the features you need on your site, some things are better left to the experts.
Outside of the typical startup costs, there are different costs that are unique to franchise businesses. First is the franchise fee, an upfront fee to the franchisor for the right to use the company’s branding and model. It can be paid in a lump sum or in installments, and varies widely by industry and company. It will likely to be at least $10,000 – sometimes substantially higher – and is typically nonrefundable. Franchisors are also likely to charge recurring royalty and marketing fees – usually arranged as a percentage of sales at the franchisee’s store – usually 4 to 8 percent for royalties and 2 to 4 percent for marketing.
Companies sometimes think that patent protection is the only way to protect themselves. Technology startups frequently ignore the value of non-patent intellectual property. While patents can be incredibly valuable, it does not necessarily ensure that a company’s product is a good product or that it will sell well. Trade secrets, cybersecurity policies, trademarks, and copyrights can all be forms of IP that can be protected.
The ROBS option allows you to use funds from your retirement savings to finance your franchise without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. This can be an attractive option for franchisees that struggle to get traditional loans and are comfortable with some amount of risk. Those with substantial retirement savings may feel most sanguine removing a portion of those funds for this purpose.
Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .