Are you thinking about starting a small business, freelancing, or turning a hobby into a full-time job? Or perhaps you're already running your own business and need some inspiration to take it to the next level. Each week, join small business coach Dave Crenshaw for two short lessons that reveal the secrets of running a successful small business. This series covers topics such as getting started, writing a business plan, determining your most valuable product or service, hiring people, managing processes, documenting systems, bootstrapping, seeking funding, accounting, controlling costs and profit margins, marketing, creating culture, and more.
If you've always wanted to start your own business but have been afraid of the financial risk involved, opening a franchise might be the perfect solution for you. With a franchise, you get all of the independence, responsibility, and potential profit associated with owning your own business. Unlike starting a business from scratch, a franchise comes with a proven business model and a well-known brand, reducing your risk of failure dramatically. Lenders are well aware of the benefits associated with opening and operating a franchise and are more willing to approve franchise loans than a standard small business loan for a start-up.
Rent and rent escalations. Some landlords will give free rent for the first month or two of a lease. Fixed rent over longer-term leases is relatively rare. Sometimes landlords insist on annual increases based on the percentage increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If your landlord insists on rent escalations, try to arrange for a CPI rent increase that does not kick in for at least the first two years of the term. Then, try to get a cap on the amount of each year’s increase. If you have to live with a rent escalation clause, try to negotiate a predetermined fixed increase; for example, a rent of $5,000 a month the first year that would only increase to $5,200 a month the second year and $5,400 a month the third year.
For-profit lenders are reluctant to issue loans to anyone who does not have a strong credit report and financial history. That is not the case with government small business loans. Obviously, a decent credit report is important, and you will have to follow the guidelines regarding the repayment period and the interest rate set by the government, but usually the interest rates charged by government loans are lower than those you could expect in the private sector.
Microlenders: If your company is especially small, you may need to opt for a microlender. These are non-profits that typically lend short-term loans of less than $35,000. They also have a much higher APR than bank loans but may be useful by helping you bridge a temporary cash-flow gap. Microlenders require detailed business plans and financial statements, so be prepared for some serious paperwork.
The strength of your personal credit score has a direct correlation to the amount you are looking to borrow. The greater the amount, the more important the score will affect the decision by the lender. Because what does the credit score indicate? It shows the ability to keep an individuals finances tidy. There are extenuating circumstances, like health challenges or horrific student loan stories and some lenders may be willing to consider your personal credit challenges if you are up front and have all your documentation available backing up your story.
4. You get tax benefits. Oh yes. This even applies to freelancers. Depending on the type of business you register as, you could write off a number of your expenses including travel, telephone bills, food, portions of repayments on things like cars, and so on. And, depending on the business you start, there may also be various government incentives. If you’re unsure about what to do and how to register, I strongly advise speaking with your accountant about the tax benefits you could be eligible for.
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.”
Visuals – As Instagram is a visual platform, special attention has to be given to the visual aspect of your posts. As well as choosing a color scheme to match your brand, you should also use a consistent filter. Using the same filter for your posts will help users recognize your images. For instance, Madewell’s Instagram incorporates its color scheme for consistent images and branding.
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:
General purpose business loans. The most widely used SBA loans, SBA 7(a) general loans can greatly help if you’re investing in a franchise. Because SBA loans are guaranteed by the government, they’re easier to qualify for than traditional bank loans. The amount and rates that you can potentially qualify for may make them worth the extra time and documents needed to apply. Outside of the loan itself, the Small Business Administration offers free tools to help you plan for securing the loan and keep up on your new enterprise once you’ve become a franchisee.
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?)
Startups requiring a lot more funding up front may want to consider an investor. Investors usually provide several million dollars or more to a fledgling company, with the expectation that the backers will have a hands-on role in running your business. Alternatively, you could launch an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise smaller amounts of money from multiple backers.
An SBA loan has two major disadvantages for franchises. First, it takes a significant amount of time (30-90 days) to fund. Second, you can’t use the funds from an SBA loan to cover many startup costs, including franchise fees. Those will have to be paid as an out of pocket cost. However, if you can live with these two disadvantages, then SBA loan rates are typically the lowest you’ll find. You can use our SBA loan calculator to determine what your monthly payments might be.
There are many private lenders or financial institutions that would be willing to entertain your loan application with no collateral, provided you offer some personal guarantee. You may use a cosigner, offer some asset or real estate as security or any kind of infrastructure or commodity that is worthwhile. This option is not strictly unsecured but there is the option to use various kinds of assets or commodities as personal guarantee which may work for many business owners. The interest rates of private lenders would be quite high as such loans don’t have backing of the government.
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:
Many traditional lenders provide funding to franchisees, so this should be a top-line option for those looking for a loan. Each lender will have different eligibility requirements and loan products so examine documents in detail before signing on the dotted line. You will need a good credit rating, a solid application package, a down payment and some form of collateral.
Fundation (see our review) is another high-quality alternative lender that provides capital to franchise businesses. Fundation has some of the lowest rates and fees you can find outside of a bank or credit union, offering up to $500,000 deposited in your account within a couple weeks after applying. However, the borrower requirements are more stringent than those for other some online lenders, as you’ll need good credit, one year’s time in business, and at least three full-time employees.
More than anything, focus on consistent, repetitive branding. Many marketing professionals believe in the “rule of seven," which means people need to hear or see your message at least seven times before taking any action. In today’s world of constant connectivity, you must make sure you’re seen and heard. The most common reason that people do not buy your product is that they do not know about it yet.
While it can be tempting to pick a lower-priced option to lower your risk, it’s important to make sure you aren’t compromising too much based on finances. Instead, consider a loan or other method of financing that can help you get you started. Some franchising companies run their own franchise financing programs to help franchisees get in the door.
Many banks and credit unions offer financing for franchise purchases, so be sure to compare any franchisor lending rates and terms with these. When you approach a bank, be prepared to disclose all your financial information. While your credit rating is important, you’ll also need to provide a personal financial statement, copies of tax returns and information about the source of your down payment funds.
"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."
If the franchise you're considering doesn't offer equipment leasing, look into nonfranchise, nonbank companies that specialize in equipment leasing for franchises. These types of financing companies will often provide asset-based lending to finance franchisees' furniture, equipment, signs and fixtures, and will allow franchisees to purchase the equipment at the end of the lease. Keep in mind that you may lose some tax advantages under the current law if you lease that equipment.
Having liquid assets, valuable collateral and a good credit rating will go a long way to helping you get a franchise loan. According to The Wall Street Journal, most banks will be looking for around one-fifth or 20% of franchise startup costs to come from the owner before considering lending options, and without a good credit score, most lenders won't feel comfortable extending a loan even if the proposed franchise is known for long-standing success.
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SBA small business loans. Some banks offer attractive low-interest-rate loans for small businesses, backed and guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Because of the SBA guarantee, the interest rate and repayment terms are more favorable than most loans. Loan amounts range from $30,000 to as high as $5 million. However, the loan process is time consuming with strict requirements for eligible small businesses. Visit the SBA website to see a list of the 100 most active SBA lenders.
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