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:
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.
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.
According to Meme Moy, a spokesperson for FRANData, about 2,000 franchises are currently on the Registry. When a franchise is on the Registry, lenders can see its historical loan performance. About 55 % of lenders only lend to franchises that are on the franchise registry, so this an important step in choosing a franchise. By choosing a franchise that is on the Registry, you can get better and faster access to SBA funding. To check if your franchise is on the Registry, click here.
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:
SCORE.org conducted research in 2015 that studied business growth in the United States between 1997 and 2014. They found a 67.8 percent increase in the number of women-owned businesses, compared with a 34.4 percent increase in men-owned businesses. The study also found a huge growth in the number of businesses run by women of color, up an incredible 215.7 percent, with revenues increasing by 193 percent. Latino-run small businesses also saw a massive increase, with small business ownership growing at a rate of double the national average.
SmartBiz (see our review) is a viable online loan option for franchise owners that want the security and low-interest rates of an SBA-backed loan, but with the ease and speed of an online loan. SmartBiz is the #1 marketplace for SBA 7(a) small business loans online, offering an SBA/online loan hybrid with low interest rates and long-term repayment terms. However, this lender is only an option for established franchises — you’ll need at least 2 years’ time in business to get a working capital or debt refinancing loan, and 3 years to be eligible for a commercial real estate 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.
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.
Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you're going to cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you're planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have some money put away to support yourself until you start making a profit? Find out how much you're going to need.
Small business term loans. Term loans are typically for a set dollar amount (e.g., $250,000) and are used for business operations, capital expenditures, or expansion. Interest is paid monthly and the principal is usually repayable within 6 months to 3 years (which can be amortized over the term of the loan or have a balloon payment at the end). Term loans can be secured or unsecured, and the interest can be variable or fixed. They are good for small businesses that need capital for growth or for large, onetime expenditures.
The purpose of these checks is to make sure that the applicant will fit into the company’s culture and to ensure that they have been truthful and accurate in their resume and employment application. However, the process is carefully regulated by the federal government (through the Fair Credit Reporting Act) and the laws of many states; failure to follow the highly technical process can lead to class action lawsuits. Consider consulting legal counsel and, for general information, see the EEOC’s Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know.
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.
Patents. Patents are the best protection you can get for a new product. A patent gives its inventor the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the patented subject matter described in the patent’s claims. The key issues in determining whether you can get a patent are: (1) Only the concrete embodiment of an idea, formula, or product is patentable; (2) the invention must be new or novel; (3) the invention must not have been patented or described in a printed publication previously; and (4) the invention must have some useful purpose. In the United States you obtain a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but this process can take several years and be complicated. You typically need a patent lawyer to draw up the patent application for you. The downside of patents is that they can be expensive to obtain and take several years,
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Ideally, your business will operate long enough and become successful enough that the company will get its own credit score and be able to qualify for a loan on its own. Building a business credit score requires your company to establish its own identity, including having its own tax ID number or employer ID number, obtained from the IRS. You'll typically also need a business credit card in the organization's name that's always paid on time.
Dana is a founding partner of TechLaw, LLP, where his practice focuses on trademark prosecution and licensing, copyrights, and business transactions. He is also adjunct professor of law at the University of San Diego School of Law, where he has taught IP Survey, and helped launch the IP Law Clinic. His expertise includes a broad base of intellectual property law that covers copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret, and international intellectual property. Dana has filed, managed, and prosecuted thousands of trademarks over the course of his law practice career. He has represented clients in numerous trademark infringement actions, as well as cancellations, oppositions, and appeals before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
If you are using the web to help you acquire a loan, beware of "Free" services, sites not certified by TRUSTe or sites with poor Better Business Bureau ratings. These sites may just want your contact information which they then sell to brokers and lenders. It is not a very efficient way for you to get financing and may lead to wasted time, money and calls from unsavory and unqualified sources. Also, make sure there are no hidden fees that either you or the lender will need to make - or guarantees that you will receive a loan.
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