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.
Despite these indicators, financing remains a problem for potential franchise owners. According to Entrepreneur magazine (January 2013), there’s still an 18 percent lending shortfall in the franchising industry. In a bid to boost franchise ownership, many franchisors are taking matters into their own hands and offering financing programs of their own. Meineke, The UPS Store, Gold’s Gym, Masasge Envy and Instant Imprints are just a few examples of franchisors now offering financing to qualifying first-time and multi-store franchise owners.
The first thing you want to do before approaching any lender is determine what your net worth is. To do this, use a personal balance sheet to list both your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe). Under assets, list all your holdings--cash on hand, checking accounts, savings accounts, real estate (current market value), automobiles (whether paid off or not), bonds, securities, insurance cash values and other assets--then total them up.
So it pays to have a comfortable cushion, just in case things don’t pan out as expected. And it’s much easier and cheaper to arrange funding when times are good than it is when you’re desperate. Of course, you don’t want to be paying interest on unnecessary debt either, but there are funding options, like lines of credit, that you only pay for when you activate them. In any case, it’s worth researching your options early on.
Some franchisors report being approached by financial brokers--historically more interested in big deals--to put together large pools of money using SBA and private funds. These funds would be available to franchisees through the franchisors like a trust fund. Groups of smaller banks with funds to invest would contribute to the fund from all over the country.
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.
In most cases, maintaining a good business credit report is enough to qualify. In addition, it instills confidence not only in the lender, but also in you. There is at least one SBA office in every state in America. If you contact them regarding the startup status of your business model and plan, you can get started on a government small business loan that will give you the financing to make your dreams a reality.
Instead of spending hours playing with accounting software, dreaming up potential expense and income categories, and creating fancy reports with no data, spend that time generating revenue. As long as you record everything you do now, creating a more formal system later will be fairly easy. It will also be more fun, because then you'll have real data to enter.
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.
You should approach small-business-loan shopping just as you would shopping for a car, says Suzanne Darden, a business consultant at the Alabama Small Business Development Center. Once you determine which type of lender and financing vehicle are right for you, compare two or three similar options based on annual percentage rate (total borrowing cost) and terms. Of the loans you qualify for, choose the one with the lowest APR, as long as you are able to handle the loan’s regular payments.