Many business owners, however, are under the mistaken impression that they are completely protected from personal liability by filing a Certificate of Incorporation for a corporation. This is not true. The mere process of incorporating does not completely protect the business owners. To lessen the likelihood of such personal or shareholder liability, you should make sure to adhere to certain procedures:
A contract is, in essence, a written meeting of the minds. While it is typically drawn up by one party and favors the needs and requirements of that party, protecting them from most (if not all) liabilities, it should initially be thought of as a work in progress that changes and grows as each party contributes prior to signing, after which it becomes an official document. “Consideration,” whether it is monetary or a promise to do work or provide a service by a specified date, is at the root of a contract.
Most people spent *some* amount of money, even if it was just the cost of a $50 business license or a $10 domain name. But far more important than money was the investment of sweat equity -- taking the time to make something meaningful. Brett Kelly wrote Evernote Essentials, a guide to the free Evernote software. His initial goal was that it would make $10,000 over the course of a year. One year later, it had made more than $100,000. Initial startup costs were essentially zero.
"Accountants can be an important source of advice for small business owners. That's why Bizfi has partnered with the National Directory of Certified Public Accountants," says Stephen Sheinbaum, CEO of alternative lender Bizfi. "But there are many other places to find good people to talk to, such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), a free mentoring service that is supported by the Small Business Administration."
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.
Eligible funds received through this program can be used for business conversion, repair or enlargement; the purchase and development of land or buildings; the purchase of equipment; debt refinancing as long as new jobs will be created as a result; and/or business and industrial acquisitions when the loan will save and/or create jobs and/or the loan will keep the business open.
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.
StumbleUpon recently published an excellent business plan guide; also consider reviewing startup information provided by the IRS. Help from experienced mentors is free through organizations such as SCORE, an organization of volunteer business mentors who provide specific advice and resources to newly created and growing businesses on a no-cost basis. There are many other organizations, such as your local chamber of commerce, that can also provide mentoring and guidance.
Traditional loan: Banks and credit unions are a source of financing for all businesses, including franchises. New franchise owners are 15% more likely than other new business owners to use a commercial bank loan, according to the SBA. Lenders are more likely to finance franchises of an established brand that has proved successful in a variety of markets. However, you’ll still be subjected to the bank’s underwriting standards and lending policies, meaning it will review your net worth and credit history. You also may need to put up collateral, regardless of the brand you’re associated with.
Online lenders: While you may lack collateral, run a new business and need money quickly, you may find that an online lender is your best option. In general, online lenders should be a “last resort.” The average APR for online loans can be as high as 108 percent, making it difficult for small businesses to pay the money off before the debt balloons.
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.”
Small business credit cards. While some business owners may be wary of using them, small business credit cards can also act as short-term small business financing. Interest rates will vary depending on the credit card issuer, the amount available on the card, and the creditworthiness of the holder of the card. Many small business credit card issuers require the principal owner to be co-liable with the company. Issuers of small business credit cards include American Express, CapitalOne, Bank of America, and many others. Many credit cards offer promotional introductory rates of 0% for a short period of time (6-9 months). Cashback and rewards programs allow you to earn rewards from purchases on the credit card.
3. Office Space. Even if 52% of all small businesses are home-based, that does not mean you need to look like you work from your home. Customers looking at an office address can usually tell the difference between a professional address and a home address. Also, if you’re meeting with clients, you’ll project a more professional image if you meet in an office setting versus a home office. For this reason, consider signing up with a fractional executive office service.
Consider using a tenant broker. A good tenant broker can be invaluable and will represent your company’s best interests. He or she will educate you on the current market; locate spaces that meet your stated parameters; arrange tours and accompany you to view these available spaces; and then prepare offer letters and negotiate with landlords for all spaces that work best for your company.
Hiring costs – As a franchise owner, you are a business owner responsible for hiring, training, and retaining employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a retail worker was $10.60/hour in 2015, but that doesn’t include the time it takes to hire and train employees and the costs of employee benefits, health insurance, and business insurance.
I’d like to call your attention to a series of video tutorials I did not that long ago as a donation to this community. They are all here and I’d like you to be aware of them. They are organized into modules, 2-10 minutes each. You can pick and choose and jump around, or run through them in the original order. They are here as a resource for you. (Note: the text in bold here highlights links to the videos)
Over 99 percent of all business entities in the US are small businesses, according to The SBA Loan Book: The Complete Guide to Getting Financial Help Through the Small Business Administration. These businesses represent over half of the private workforce and the private-sector output and over 40 percent of all private commercial sales in the United States.
Congress passed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 to ensure that drivers of commercial motor vehicles are qualified to operate those vehicles. States have the right to issue a driver's license, but they must meet minimum national standards when issuing a commercial driver's license. The Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Program places requirements on the commercial motor vehicle driver, the employing motor carrier, and the states.
“For many individuals, funding a business may involve taking on significant business or personal debt. With most loans, you would need to start making payments right away. This makes it difficult for your business to grow in its early stages, when you’re trying to build revenue and generate profits. With ROBS funding, you avoid having principal or interest payments, which can greatly impede your cash flow, especially in the early years of business. Using retirement funds can also help your business reach profitability faster. And because you’re investing your own money in your own business, there’s no need to provide collateral, like your personal home.”
6. Create local awareness and establish a network. Join chambers, business associations, community groups, etc. Find ways to get involved. Networking is a great way to capture business leads as long as you don’t come on too strong. It allows you to meet new contacts and create more brand awareness and new referrals. Sponsor sporting events, nonprofit events or anything that is for a good cause. Get your name out there while also being a good community steward. Give away SWAG (promotional items with your business name, logo and contact info on them). T-shirts are a great example of free walking advertisements for your business.
There are a few companies that specialize in helping franchise businesses find funding, usually by matching franchisees with financing options. Considering the overwhelming options for franchising and the intimidating array of options for financing your endeavor, referring to or working with one of these matchmaker-advisers can be a good idea, especially for those who don’t have a clear idea of what type of franchise they are most interested in.
In addition to building a relationship with the loan officer, you want to find out what exactly they need to see in your business plan. Go in with your plan already written and numbers in your head so you can confidently and intelligently discuss your business model, and ask the loan officer what specifically they want to see from a business plan. Take the time to revise your current business plan to match what the loan officer wants before you go back to the bank for your actual pitch.
But even if you’re not an internet startup or these techniques don’t feel right to you, you can still take steps to get money coming in quickly. If you run a service-based business, you can structure contracts so that clients have to pay a certain amount up front or at agreed milestones, instead of all at the end. With long-running projects, this can make a big difference to your cash flow. You can also offer special discounts and limited-time offers for people who sign up as early customers.
SBA loans or loans that are backed by the Small Business Administration, a federal agency, do not typically need collateral. Even startups can get business loans without collateral through the SBA. Technically, banks or lenders will not decline your business loan application if you have no collateral. However, there has to be some kind of security. You may extend a personal guarantee. There could be some assets, whatever form and shape, which may have some tangible value and that can be attached to the loan as security.
The idea here is to get clear about what’s important to you, where exactly your passion lies, and what the point of the whole venture is. As a small business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of paying bills, writing the website copy, changing the website copy several dozen times, filling out tax forms, and so on. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.
Plum Alley was founded by Deborah Jackson, who had over two decades of experience raising capital for businesses, in 2012 as a crowdfunding platform for women-run businesses that needed extra funding. In 2015, Plum Alley Investors emerged as a way to connect women-owned businesses with investors who want to invest specifically in women-run businesses. Plum Alley is unique in that their investors are dedicated to investing in women-centric businesses, and they help women gain access to the capital they need.
At the early stages of your startup, you will likely want to have a small employee team to minimize expenses. A good way to fill in for specialized expertise is to use freelancers or consultants. That way, you avoid taking on employee costs and benefits payments. And there are a variety of sites that can help you access freelancers, such as Freelancer.com, Guru.com, and Upwork.com.
- Let's talk a little bit about the future. At some point your business is going to near the final stages of being a small business and start to evolve into a medium, or even a large-sized business. The question is: who is going to lead this business at that point? Before we talked about the org chart and the difference between the founder and the president. Odds are, you have been filling both roles. The founder is the visionary, and the president is the person who makes the business run. But, when it comes time to transition into that medium-sized business, really it's time for you exit one or both of these positions. Why is that? Well, you have learned certain skills that have helped you succeed as a small business owner, but, a different set of skills is required for a large or medium-sized business, and there are people out there who have those skills. They have that expertise, and it's much better to hire someone else, rather than you put this burden on yourself. I've often seen…
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.
“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.”
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.
Dana has worked on domain name disputes, beginning with complex multiparty cybersquatting actions in 1999 prior to the adoption of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. Dana's trademark work has included the brands of many Las Vegas resorts, such as Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Wynn, Palms, Treasure Island, Station Casinos, Golden Nugget, and Stratosphere. Dana has also worked on hundreds of trademarks for noncasino clients, including Sunbelt Communications, Teligence Communications, University of Nevada–Las Vegas, HyLoft, iGolf.com, and many others.
Government small business loans help put your own business within reach. First there’s the quest for a decent location, then comes building a customer base, followed by all the initial hiccups of generating a cash flow before your business grows roots and gains momentum. The beginning of a business is crucial because it’s when you gain or lose market credibility. If you disappoint your customers, they may not give you a second chance. If your business gets off to a rocky start (most do), and you believe you can recover but need further financing to make this happen, you can apply for government small business loans.