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.
Chris Guillebeau is a writer, entrepreneur, and traveler. His latest book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, is now a New York Times bestseller. During a lifetime of self-employment and ventures ranging from online publishing to volunteer work in West Africa, he has visited nearly every country on earth before the age of 35. Host of the World Domination Summit, an international gathering of creative people, Chris is focused on encouraging individual quests while also “giving back.” His main website, ChrisGuillebeau.com, is visited by more than 300,000 people a month.
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.
1. Strategic Plan. All of us have heard of a “back-of-the-napkin” story about how a small idea turned into a successful business—and these stories do happen. However, it is typically the basic concept that happens on the back of a napkin, not the actual plan to bring that concept to the market. The first step is to develop a well-thought-out business plan that addresses key success factors such as:
“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.”
Approximately 75 to 100 franchisors are offering or working on offering creative financing programs for start-up franchise owners or those looking to expand. Programs range from zero-percent financing for a limited-term, lower license fees, reduced royalties and minority stake ownership by franchisors in multi-unit outlets. Each brand has its own offering, so down payments and collateral requirements will vary.
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.
Confidentiality Agreements. These are also referred to as Non-Disclosure Agreements or NDAs. The purpose of the agreement is to allow the holder of confidential information (such as a product or business idea) to share it with a third party. But then the third party is obligated to keep the information confidential and not use it whatsoever, unless allowed by the owner of the information. There are usually standard exceptions to the confidentiality obligations (such as if the information is already in the public domain). See The Key Elements of Non-Disclosure Agreements.
Trade Secrets. Trade secrets can be a great asset for startups. They are cost effective and last for as long as the trade secret maintains its confidential status and derives value through its secrecy. A trade secret right allows the owner of the right to take action against anyone who breaches an agreement or confidential relationship, or who steals or uses other improper means to obtain secret information. Trade secrets can range from computer programs to customer lists to the formula for Coca-Cola.
Most lenders will contact a credit bureau to look at your credit file. We suggest you do the same thing before you try to borrow. Under the law, credit bureaus are required to give you all the information they have on file about your credit history. Once you have this tool, you should correct any wrong information or at least make sure your side of the story is on record. For instance, a 90-day delinquency would look bad, but if that 90-day delinquency was caused by being laid off or by illness, then that should be taken into consideration.
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.
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.
If you're thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell, or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing, and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don't (or deliver the same thing, but faster and cheaper), you've got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.
Crowdfunding financing companies are platforms that raise money from both institutions and individuals, and they often lend it out to specific industries. Some focus on real estate, while others will focus specifically on small businesses or franchises. They typically bridge the gap between traditional business loans, like SBA loans, and alternative loans with much higher costs.
Banks and credit unions are traditional sources for small business loans, and they’re a good place to start. Especially with small institutions, you’ll be able to meet with a lender who can guide you through the process. Larger banks might take a more hands-off approach. To improve your chances of getting approved, ask about SBA loans, which reduce the bank’s risk and feature interest rate caps. The loan process at banks and credit unions can be slow, so be prepared for a long process and a thorough review from the bank.
It’s often easier to get started with a franchise compared to an independent business because a franchise comes with a proven concept, brand recognition, and customer base. Although the success rates of individual franchises vary widely, as a whole, franchises perform better than independent businesses in the long run. According to a report by the International Franchise Association, about 12,000 franchises open their doors every year!
There are infinite sources of financing available to help you launch the franchise of your dreams. However, operating a franchise with no reserves and blinding yourself to unexpected business problems can lead to disaster. A good rule to remember: Never invest more than 75 percent of your cash reserves. If you have $10,000, invest $7,500. If you have $25,000, invest $18,750.
Online lenders provide small-business loans and lines of credit from $500 to $500,000. The average APR on these loans ranges from 7% to 108%, depending on the lender, the type and size of the loan, the length of the repayment term, the borrower’s credit history and whether collateral is required. These lenders rarely can compete with traditional banks in terms of APR.