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Also make sure you have a structured process for setting measurable objectives, reviewing your progress, and adjusting the objectives or setting new ones. A good way is to keep a simple monthly checklist of the most important items. All of this should be driven by your overall business plan (you do have a business plan, don’t you?), and you should use the data you collect to help you keep the plan constantly updated.
SmartBiz does not originate loans. Rather, it is a service that matches business owners with SBA-preferred banks. If you don’t qualify for an SBA loan, SmartBiz can match you with one of its non-SBA partners to secure a loan. While SBA loans have the lowest interest rates and longest repayment terms — up to 10 years for most loans — you might still be able to get a medium-term non-SBA loan with an interest rate as low as 7.99% through SmartBiz.
Get matched with a mentor who has experience building a business by visiting SCORE.org. SCORE is dedicated to helping small businesses develop and thrive through mentorship and training programs. SCORE mentors can help small business owners write a business plan, determine the type of lending they need, figure out the best bank(s) to approach for a loan and prepare to meet with a loan officer.
If you identify areas of weakness, you’ll need to make a plan for dealing with them. If you don’t have a head for figures, perhaps you could partner with someone who does. Or you could hire an accountant, or improve your own skills by checking out some of our super-simple accounting tutorials or doing other training. If you’re no good at designing websites, hire someone to do it for you.
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!
Paula is a New Jersey-based writer with a Bachelor's degree in English and a Master's degree in Education. She spent nearly a decade working in education, primarily as the director of a college's service-learning and community outreach center. Her prior experience includes stints in corporate communications, publishing, and public relations for non-profits. Reach her by email.
One way to minimize the risks of opening a business is to invest in a franchise concept, rather than starting a stand-alone business. Up to 80% of new businesses have failed after five years, while franchises offer support, proven business practices, and a recognizable brand name to draw sales. Owning a franchise provides a proven business model to follow, while still offering the the benefits of owning a your own business.  Banks like financing franchise startups for the reasons stated above.
While many business experts believe that you should get into a business you are passionate about, it is important that you consider the market’s demand as well as your target demographics. You can’t start a business about something you love and expect people to patronize your services or your products on the get go. The success of a franchise hinges on a lot of factors, but demand and the target market should top your list.
Depending on the size of your loan, your financial statements and accounting records will be reviewed carefully by the lender. So make sure they are complete, correct, and thorough—including balance sheet, income and loss statements, and cash flow statements. The lender will analyze your cash flow, gross margin, debt-to-equity ratio, accounts payable, accounts receivable, EBITDA, and more, so be prepared to answer questions on those topics. Consider having your accountant look over your financial statements to anticipate issues a lender may raise.

Shelton recommends meeting with a loan officer a few weeks to a month ahead of time to personally meet the loan officer and find out if the bank is currently interested in lending the type of loan you are looking for: “You want the loan officer to be on your side,” Shelton explains, because the loan officer usually doesn’t have the approval level to say yes to a 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.
SBA loans or loans that are backed by the Small Business Administration, a federal agency, do not typically need collateral.   Even startups can get business loans without collateral through the SBA. Technically, banks or lenders will not decline your business loan application if you have no collateral. However, there has to be some kind of security. You may extend a personal guarantee. There could be some assets, whatever form and shape, which may have some tangible value and that can be attached to the loan as security.
If you are under age 59 and your IRA is one of your largest assets, you still may be able to take advantage of this avenue without accruing the 10-percent penalty associated with early withdrawal. By taking Substantial Equal Periodic Payments spread over a minimum of five years, based on your life expectancy, and a set of annuity tables published by the IRS, you can eliminate the 10-percent penalty, although the money is still taxable.
Most people spent *some* amount of money, even if it was just the cost of a $50 business license or a $10 domain name. But far more important than money was the investment of sweat equity -- taking the time to make something meaningful. Brett Kelly wrote Evernote Essentials, a guide to the free Evernote software. His initial goal was that it would make $10,000 over the course of a year. One year later, it had made more than $100,000. Initial startup costs were essentially zero.
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.

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.

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.

ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian® Company ("CIC"), which operates websites such as FreeCreditReport.com, ProtectMyId.com, and other websites we may add from time to time, may share information about you and other customers collectively, but not specifically identifiable to you with our parent company, our affiliated companies, and with third parties. This information includes:
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