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.
There are several loan programs aimed at helping first-time entrepreneurs set up their business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) operates the loan programs offered by the U.S. government. To qualify for the loan, your business must meet some criteria such as your business must operate in the United States, your business must qualify as a small business according to SBA guidelines, you must operate for profit and you should have a good credit score.
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.
Trademarks. A trademark right protects the symbolic value of a word, name, symbol, or device that the trademark owner uses to identify or distinguish its goods from those of others. Some well-known trademarks include the Coca-Cola trademark, American Express trademark, and IBM trademark. You obtain rights to a trademark by actually using the mark in commerce. You don’t need to register the mark to get rights to it, but federal registration does offer some advantages. You register a mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
There are probably understandable reasons for your bad credit. Most of us are still bouncing back from the recession, and some businesses were hit harder than others. Whether or not you decide to get a “bad-credit loan,” building up your credit is planning for the future of your company. Once you raise your credit score, it will be much easier to secure funding as your company grows.
- 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…
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.
It is important to protect your company’s intellectual property (IP). Ever wary of minimizing burn rate, startups may be tempted to defer investment in intellectual property protection. To those who have not tried to protect intellectual property, it feels complex and expensive. Too often, startups end up forfeiting intellectual property rights by neglecting to protect their ideas and inventions.
“Every person looking to invest into a franchiseneeds to do a comparison shop. You shop for a car, a tv, a house, and a phone. Why wouldn’t you shop for your business? It’s a larger investment and it is paramount that you need to do this. A lot of franchises don’t make it past 2-3 years, and a lot of that has to do with their comparison process, or lack of it, when they’re deciding which franchise to start.”
The second step is to be strategic about how and where you apply for a loan. Key targets for your loan application would be your own bank, local business lenders and national lenders. Within that group, it is also important to target lenders who may be familiar with the brand and have made loans to other franchisees. That said, don't use a shotgun approach and apply everywhere. This approach can lead to inefficient use of your time and money as the process can lead to several declines from lenders as you blindly submit applications. This process can take up to 120-190 days before you even get funded. Additionally, some lenders charge application fees so it can get expensive, but more importantly, a lender may do a "hard" credit pull on you when you apply. Multiple hard credit pulls within a timeframe will actually hurt your credit score and decrease your ability to get a loan. One alternative is to use a service like BoeFly, which puts you in the driver's seat. It allows lenders to evaluate your loan package and credit and engage with you directly without officially applying at the bank. Only once it seems like it may be a good match will the lender issue you a proposal or term sheet on the financing and then officially invite you to apply at the bank - thereby saving your credit score and time and money. Unlike other marketplaces and "connecting" websites, BoeFly can significantly reduce your time of origination by up to 75% as well as your costs.
Qualifying for an SBA loan as a new business isn’t easy. You generally need to have a strong credit score (ideally above 680), some collateral, and a 10-20% down payment. However, a large percentage of SBA loans go to franchises because lenders can easily access loan performance data for franchises and predict the franchise’s ability to pay back the loan.
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.
To get a good estimate of costs, the first thing we recommend doing is asking the franchisor for their Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) early on in the process. It’s a good idea to have an accountant and lawyer review the FDD with you before you sign any paperwork or hand over any money. A franchisor is legally required to give you the FDD at least 14 days before you buy a franchise.
Borrowers have multiple options for SBA-backed loans, including microloans with a six-year repayment term to allow new businesses to borrow up to $50,000; 7(a) loans that allow companies to borrow up to $5 million; and 504 loans, available for up to $5.5 million for smaller businesses with a net income under $5 million and a net worth below $15 million.
And don’t forget that unlike their independently-owned competitors, franchise owners don’t get to choose when to schedule expenses or which suppliers to work with. Their business model might have been passed down by the franchisor but it’s up to the franchise owner to figure out how to grow the business without endangering profits or failing to cover mandatory expenses.
When starting out, your product or service has to be at least good if not great. It must be differentiated in some meaningful and important way from the offerings of your competition. Everything else follows from this key principle. Don’t drag your feet on getting your product out to market, since early customer feedback is one of the best ways to help improve your product. Of course, you want a “minimum viable product” (MVP) to begin with, but even that product should be good and differentiated from the competition. Having a “beta” test product works for many startups as they work the bugs out from user reactions. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook has said, “Done is better than perfect.”
As with other small businesses, finding financing for a new franchise can be one of the biggest challenges owners face. Some financing options are unique to franchises, such as franchisor discounts on fees and online financing companies that cater to franchises. General business financing options such as traditional and Small Business Administration loans are also available to franchisees.
You can also offer to pay interest, which shows you are serious about making your business successful. Your family should charge at least the applicable federal rate, which you can find at the IRS website: https://apps.irs.gov/app/picklist/list/federalRates.html. However, if they want to charge more, make sure they don’t go over your state’s maximum interest rate, which you can find online.
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As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Kate Williams, Ph.D. believes everyone deserves easy access to accurate and comprehensive information on products and businesses before they make a purchase. She spends countless hours researching companies and industries before writing buyers guides to make sure consumers have all the information they need to make smart, informed buying decisions.
It’s natural to consider if these options are worth the possible bad effects down the road. Of course, for some business owners, not getting more financing as soon as possible could mean having to take drastic measures—even closing the business. The silver lining here is that most of the above will help recover your credit if you keep in good standing and make on time payments. There is a caveat: if you can’t make on time payments, these options will sink your business into debt and make matters worse.