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 .
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.
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.
Becoming a small business owner has unique challenges and rewards that aren’t right for everyone. You must be driven, disciplined and able to identify a product or service that people need — one that they will pay enough for to allow you to live comfortably. You have to develop marketing skills and be able to find your own work, because it won’t fall into your lap until after you’re well established. Business owners need to understand how to budget, keep records and handle small business taxes. They must familiarize themselves with employment laws if they want to hire staff. They also need a plan for protecting their business and everything that’s tied to it if something goes wrong. (For more, see Are You An Entrepreneur?)
Repairs, improvements, and replacements. Be aware of a clause that says that at the end of the lease you must restore the premises to their original condition. Try to negotiate a clause that states the following: “The premises will be returned to the Landlord at the end of the tenancy in the same condition as at the beginning of the tenancy, excluding (1) ordinary wear and tear, (2) damage by fire and unavoidable casualty not the fault of the Tenant, and (3) alterations previously approved by the Landlord.”
Depending on the size of your loan, your financial statements and accounting records will be reviewed carefully by the lender. So make sure they are complete, correct, and thorough—including balance sheet, income and loss statements, and cash flow statements. The lender will analyze your cash flow, gross margin, debt-to-equity ratio, accounts payable, accounts receivable, EBITDA, and more, so be prepared to answer questions on those topics. Consider having your accountant look over your financial statements to anticipate issues a lender may raise.
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.
United Capital Source offers franchise business loans, or franchise financing, to help franchise owners invest in growth, open new locations, and stabilize revenue amid upcoming bills or deductions. We understand that franchises deal with an above average amount of weekly and monthly expenses. This is why our franchise business loans tend to carry repayment systems that are different from those assigned to an independently-owned business. Terms will be structured to ensure your deductions do not prevent you from paying your rent and employees at the end of the month.
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.
Small business line of credit. Under a small business line of credit, your business can access funds from the lender as needed. There will be a cap on the amount of funds accessible (e.g., $100,000) but a line of credit is useful for managing a company’s cash flow and unexpected expenses. There will typically be a fee for setting up the line of credit, but you don’t get charged interest until you actually draw down the funds. Interest is typically paid monthly and the principal drawn down on the line is often amortized over years. However, most lines of credit require renewal annually, which may require an additional fee. If the line is not renewed, you will be required to pay it in full at that time.
Although you’ll often need to make a specific financial commitment and meet certain regulations to open a franchise, there’s a lot you get in return. You’ll get the built-in name recognition that brings customers in, as well as guidance on everything from hiring to keeping local regulators happy. Before you get started, there are a few important things to know.
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).
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Guidant is our recommended ROBS provider. Guidant has helped over 10,000 businesses and facilitated over $3 billion in small business financing since 2003. They are also the only ROBS firm we know of which guarantees access to outside independent counsel during the ROBS setup process, which can help you objectively evaluate if ROBS is a good decision for the franchise you are buying.
Starting a small business doesn't have to require a lot of money, but it will involve some initial investment as well as the ability to cover ongoing expenses before you are turning a profit. Put together a spreadsheet that estimates the one-time startup costs for your business (licenses and permits, equipment, legal fees, insurance, branding, market research, inventory, trademarking, grand opening events, property leases, etc.), as well as what you anticipate you will need to keep your business running for at least 12 months (rent, utilities, marketing and advertising, production, supplies, travel expenses, employee salaries, your own salary, etc.).
Supporting both the operation and expansion of a growing small business often requires some additional financial support. Getting a small business loan or grant can help you bridge the gap when you need to make capital investments, increase your workforce, or move to a larger space. To help you decide which type of funding might be right for you, here are a few great small business-financing options:
Bank loan: You’ll need excellent business and personal credit to qualify for an SBA-backed bank loan. The U.S. Small Business Administration provides general small-business loans through banks with its 7(a) loan program. According to NerdWallet, the average SBA loan size is $371,000, although amounts can vary between $5,000 and $5 million. To qualify, you’ll need to provide:
The International Franchise Association maintains a directory of franchises that are approved by the SBA to receive SBA funding. Each franchisor in the directory is required to submit a Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) with information about its company to the SBA for approval. Working with a company that is pre-approved by the SBA will expenditure the process of obtaining an SBA loan for your franchise.
If you want to separate your personal liability from your company's liability, you may want to consider forming one of several types of corporations. This makes a business a separate entity apart from its owners, and therefore, corporations can own property, assume liability, pay taxes, enter into contracts, sue and be sued like any other individual. One of the most common structures for small businesses, however, is the limited liability corporation (LLC). This hybrid structure has the legal protections of a corporation while allowing for the tax benefits of a partnership.
If you have all of the answers above, and are still unsure of what to do then we suggest working with your franchisor to find the best option for your new business. This can be the best place to start when searching for franchise financing, because they’re very experienced with where other franchises like yours have gotten their financing from.The franchisor also has a vested interest in you being able to purchase the franchise and will often provide some kind of help.
Our course starts at the very beginning with setting up QuickBooks for your business. We cover how to record your income and expenses, how to manage bank and credit card transactions and how to run financial statements. There are a total of 39 tutorials in our QuickBooks course spanning seven lessons. Each lesson has been broken down into bite-sized tutorials. Each QuickBooks tutorial includes a video where we demonstrate the concepts presented in each lesson.
Whether you're starting an online business or a brick-and-mortar model, figuring out how to start a business takes time and research. Starting a business involves planning, making important financial decisions and completing a series of legal activities, such as choosing a business structure. Before you can decide how you want to structure your business, you need to know what your options are. Each business structure has advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right one depends on your unique situation. The most common ways to organize a business include, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, nonprofit corporation, partnership, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, and sole proprietorship. LLCs are a popular choice for small business owners because they offer personal liability protection with great tax and management flexibility, while incorporating a business protects your personal assets and is preferred by outside investors. LegalZoom has all the resources you need to start a business and maintain it. Whether you want to form an LLC or trademark a business name, LegalZoom offers services to help you get it done fast and affordably. LegalZoom can also help you obtain the necessary business licenses and permits for your new business. Get the peace of mind you need when starting a business by letting LegalZoom take care of the details while you focus on the parts of your business that matter to you the most.
Business financing options other than traditional loans or lines of credit include personal loans for business or business credit cards. A personal loan for business is a good option if your business is still young and you don’t qualify for traditional financing. Personal-loan providers look at your personal credit score and income instead of your business history.
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:
4. Set up and claim your business online. Whether you get on board or not, information about your business is and will be on the internet. Wouldn’t you rather proactively control what people read or see about your business when they Google it? Do a search on different browsers to see what information you see about your company and then claim or create a listing for your business.
There are plenty of resources that business owners can refer to when putting together their loan applications. The Small Business Administration, for example, provides a highly detailed loan application checklist for borrowers. Using these resources can decrease your likelihood of coming across as disorganized or unprepared. [See Related Story: Applying for a Small Business Loan? Here's What You'll Need]