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.
As the saying goes: "The only certainties in life are death and taxes." Unfortunately, this is also true if you start a business in Australia - you absolutely must register for the correct taxes to avoid any potential legal implications. The taxes you must register for are dependent on the type of business you choose to start, with some applicable to every type and others only mandatory for certain types.
A Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS) lets you take retirement funds from a 401(k), traditional IRA, or other eligible retirement account and invest them in your franchise, without having to pay taxes or an early withdrawal penalty. You can fund all or part of your business through a ROBS. Funds from a ROBS can be used as a down payment on larger financing, like an SBA loan, or to bridge the gap between other piecemeal loan financing options, like equipment leases, etc. Funds from a ROBS can also be used for franchise fees, consulting fees, and other costs that traditional loans often can’t be used for.
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.
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.).
One type of financing you'll want to think twice about is a home equity loan. While you'll be personally responsible for repaying any loan your business takes out if you are a sole proprietor or a co-signer, a home equity loan carries a level of risk that unsecured debt doesn't. Your credit could be hurt if your business doesn't repay money you borrowed, but your house isn't at risk in most circumstances unless you've taken a home equity loan.
SBA.gov is the website for the Small Business Association. Founded in 1953, the SBA functions as an independent agency of the federal government whose mission, according to their website, is “to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” One way the SBA helps small businesses is by offering financial assistance through three programs: the guaranteed loan program, surety bonds program and venture capital program.
You do need to create a list of prospects before you reach out. This will help you focus on targeting the right areas and the right people. Do your research. If you’re selling a high-end product, you don’t want to target/cold-call customers in a low-income neighborhood. And, if you’re selling a product suited to children, should you really focus on the section of town that all the college students live in?
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.
A franchise ACH merchant cash advance is very similar to a MCA split in that they are both not considered “loans” but are instead the sale of the franchise’s future earnings. The difference between a MCA and an ACH is how the funder is repaid for providing financing to the franchise. As mentioned previously, a MCA lender will collect repayment by splitting merchant processing sales. With an ACH advance the repayment is made by having the funding company take a set amount from the franchise’s bank account each business day until the advance is repaid.
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.
Franchise businesses serve as the backbone of the restaurant and retail industry. A successful franchise often starts as a small local business that catches the eye of savvy investors. Starbucks, McDonald’s, Walmart and Whole Foods are just a few of the many corporations that started as small mom-and-pop operations and were later franchised into nationwide networks.
Bio – Your bio should describe your business and display your brand personality. You should also use the 150 characters to explain what users can expect from your Instagram profile. Try using emojis and hashtags in your bio to add personality and for users to find your brand. See how Target makes use of emojis and hashtags to highlight its competition.
In a misguided effort to save on expenses, startup businesses often hire inexperienced legal counsel. Rather than spending the money necessary to hire competent legal counsel, founders will often hire lawyers who are friends, relatives, or others who offer large fee discounts. In doing so, the founders deny themselves the advice of experienced legal counsel who could potentially help them avoid many serious legal problems.
For existing franchises looking for working capital, another form of alternative financing comes from monetizing the franchise’s balance sheet to obtain funding. Using the franchise’s commercial real estate, or by tapping into the franchise owner’s personal real estate, an asset based lender can collateralize the real estate and provide working capital up to 90% of the real estate’s equity.
For entrepreneurs interested in starting a business, a franchise can be a great way to begin at an advantage. You’ll have a recognizable name and the support that comes from being part of a larger organization, while still enjoying the independence of being in charge. With a little research on the front end, you can avoid unpleasant surprises and ensure you’re prepared.
Assignment and subletting. Startup companies should negotiate enough flexibility in the assignment and subletting clause to allow for mergers, reorganizations, and share ownership changes. Watch out for a clause that says a change in more than 50% of the company’s stock ownership will be deemed an assignment that is prohibited without the landlord’s prior approval. As your company grows and new people invest in it, this clause can be inadvertently triggered.
No business lender is perfect. A lot of them try (and get pretty close) but sometimes, the biggest advantages can lead to polarizing disadvantages. Take OnDeck Capital, for instance. This online business lender is widely-praised by all kinds of small business owners, and rightfully so. OnDeck’s application requires minimal paperwork, you can get funded in […]
You can also use assets such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds to secure a loan as long as they're not part of a qualified plan like an IRA profit-sharing plan. Also, if you are over age 59 and have a lot of money tied up in an IRA, you could use it for part of your financing requirements. Although you'll have to pay taxes on the amount used, not to mention suffer the loss of income from interest, it can be a good financing tool.
Branding, services, promotions, products, pricing, prints, blogs, advertising, research and social media -- all of this is marketing. With all the marketing options out there, it can be difficult for small businesses to know what to do. Marketing is a concentrated effort to do push your brand across a variety of platforms and hope that enough makes it through to your customer. Customers need to hear your message several times, so brand, brand, brand! Here are some simple steps to help you market your small business:
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.
Some things we like about StreetShares include its excellent customer service, easy application, competitive rates, and speedy time-to-funding. You don’t even need to put up any business collateral for a StreetShares loan (though you will need a business guarantor who is willing to essentially “co-sign” your loan). Another thing that makes StreetShares special is that franchise owners who are also veterans and/or who have an interesting business backstory are preferred. See our StreetShares review to learn more about this alternative lending leader.
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.
Franchises are consistently vulnerable to cash flow issues thanks to the many mandatory expenses they face all throughout the year. On top of operational expenses and growth-related investments, franchises must obey the fee guidelines of their parent company, or “Franchisor.” Royalty and advertising fees are deducted from weekly or monthly sales. Some franchise owners must pay for new employees to undergo special training programs. Certain upgrades might be required for specific dates, and the national marketing campaigns that come from the aforementioned deduction must usually be supplemented by local advertising.
Stock Option Plans are an extremely popular method of attracting, motivating, and retaining the best employees, especially when the company is unable to pay high salaries. A Stock Option Plan gives the company the flexibility to award stock options to employees, officers, directors, advisors, and consultants, allowing these people to buy stock in the company when they exercise the option.
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).
StreetShares (see our review) is a P2P lending service that brings together business owners and investors. StreetShares is especially geared toward veteran-owned businesses. Indeed, owning a franchise can be a good transition for veterans transitioning to civilian life. However, even if you’re not a veteran, you can still use this innovative loans marketplace to get an unsecured short-term business loan or line of credit of up to $100,000. You will need to have been in business a year, or in some cases only 6 months, in order to qualify.
Various financial aid programs help certain types of businesses and borrower start up franchises. For instance, some companies have programs designed to attract women and minority candidates. Many others offer discounts on franchise fees for veterans who are interested in franchising. You can find a list of options in the International Franchise Association’s VetFran Directory.
Funds cannot be used for lines of credit, owner-occupied housing, projects involving over $1 million and include relocating at least 50 jobs or agricultural production. Funds also cannot be used to fund certain businesses including golf courses, casinos/racetracks, churches or church-controlled businesses, fraternal organizations or lending/investment companies.
We’ve touched on a lot of different topics, of course, and I’ve linked to more tutorials so that you can dig into the details in each area. I’d encourage you to read some of those tutorials to go deeper into the key subjects, and to subscribe to our newsletter (there’s a form down in the footer) to stay up to date with the latest business tutorials published here. We've got plenty more on the way!
Richard D. Harroch is a Managing Director and Global Head of M&A at VantagePoint Capital Partners, a large venture capital fund in the San Francisco area. His focus is on Internet, digital media, and software companies, and he was the founder of several Internet companies. His articles have appeared online in Forbes, Fortune, MSN, Yahoo, FoxBusiness, and AllBusiness.com. Richard is the author of several books on startups and, co-author of Poker for Dummies and Mergers and Acquisitions of Privately Held Companies (Bloomberg), and a Wall Street Journal-bestselling book on small business. He was also a corporate and M&A partner at the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, with experience in startups, mergers and acquisitions, and venture capital. He has been involved in over 200 M&A transactions and 250 startup financings. He can be reached through LinkedIn.
Negotiate the startup and operating costs: When you buy a franchise, there is a pretty long list of things that you need to buy before you can open the doors to customers. The cost for such items will be noted in the Franchise Disclosure Document. If you negotiate, the franchisor may be willing to absorb the cost of some of these items for you, like discounting your franchise fee.
Your second option invokes the idea of a “warmup” period for your business. Instead of going straight into full-fledged business mode, you’ll start with just the basics. You might launch a blog and one niche service, reducing your scope, your audience and your profit, in order to get a head-start. If you can start as a self-employed individual, you'll avoid some of the biggest initial costs (and enjoy a simpler tax situation, too). A payment processing company, such as Due, can be a big help when you are struggling to invoice and follow up professionally.
A franchise is a business that sell the rights to use its logo, name and model to individual entrepreneurs or a group of individuals working in partnership. Franchisees are required to make an initial upfront payment to begin the business, and are typically expected to pay ongoing royalty payments to continue to use the business’s branding and benefit from its brand-wide marketing efforts.
Franchise business loans typically come with more attractive terms than you are likely to find for any other type of start-up business loan. This is because lenders consider the financial stability, business model, and previous success of the franchise parent company when reviewing a loan application. Banks and alternative lenders are finding franchises to be an increasingly attractive investment. In 2011, the SBA reported approval of $1.5 billion in 7(a) loans for franchises, up from approximately $826 million the previous fiscal year. The 7(a) loan-guarantee program is the SBA's most popular loan program.
Thousands of people have become millionaires through their stock options (Facebook being one famous example), making this form of benefit very appealing to prospective employees. The spectacular success of some Silicon Valley companies and the resulting economic riches of those employees who held stock options have made Stock Option Plans a powerful motivational tool for employees to work toward the company’s long-term success.
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.
Our franchise clients have been recommended a variety of business funding programs such as merchant cash advances or short-term working capital loans. Both options can allow you to cover a massive upfront cost, increase staff, launch a local ad campaign or pay a series of coinciding bills. Since profit margins for restaurants and retailers are already on the low side, we can provide the means to make important payments ahead of schedule and lessen the blow from weekly deductions.
5. Social Media: Depending on your type of business, you will want a social media presence. LinkedIn, with more than 380 million members, is regarded as the business site for connecting with other businesspeople and offers excellent posting features for articles and blogs. Facebook is more of a social friends site than a business-focused site, but it’s also an excellent tool for “getting your word out” to your friends and customers. Both Linkedin and Facebook allow you to set up a commercial page for your new business.
“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.”
Oral agreements often lead to misunderstandings. If you plan to hire a prospective employee, use a carefully drafted offer letter, which the employee should be encouraged to review carefully before signing. For senior executives, a more detailed employment agreement often makes sense. A good offer letter or employment agreement will address the following key items:
Opening up a franchise is a huge undertaking that takes no shortage of time and effort. Once you’ve done your homework to find a franchisor you want to work with, you’ll want to review the funding options available to get the ball rolling. When you’re taking out financing, be sure to work with a reputable lender, getting only the amount what you need.
If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure. If you are unable to take out a bank loan, you can apply for a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or an alternative lender. [See related story: Best Alternative Small Business Loans]
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.
Your business plan is essential to get approved for a loan. If you don’t have one yet, it’s time to create one. You need to show, with specific numbers, how you’ll earn money, how you’ll spend it, and your big-picture strategy. Explain who all of the players are in your business, especially management, marketing, and sales roles – those individuals will bring in new business that helps pay for the loan. It’s okay if you do all of those jobs – just explain why that is and your track record of success in those areas.
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.
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.
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.
Venture capitalists tend to start investing at $1,000,000, and they prefer to invest in high-growth and high-risk businesses. High-growth investment means the venture capital investor would see a return in 3-7 years by selling the company or going public. Venture capitalists tend to require a large amount of equity in your business, including a position on the board of directors.
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.