Becoming a small business owner has unique challenges and rewards that aren’t right for everyone. You must be driven, disciplined and able to identify a product or service that people need — one that they will pay enough for to allow you to live comfortably. You have to develop marketing skills and be able to find your own work, because it won’t fall into your lap until after you’re well established. Business owners need to understand how to budget, keep records and handle small business taxes. They must familiarize themselves with employment laws if they want to hire staff. They also need a plan for protecting their business and everything that’s tied to it if something goes wrong. (For more, see Are You An Entrepreneur?)
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.
Whereas working for someone else alleviates these responsibilities, the startup owner takes on all these stresses themselves. Not only that, every country has different laws, regulations and requirements to get your business up and running. So, even if you’ve started a business in one country, you’ve still got to do a pile of research to make sure you do it properly in another.
Personal loans are widely available, but if you’re trying to borrow for a small business, you’ll find that the process is more difficult. If you’re thinking of borrowing to start or grow your business, get started and get organized long before you fill out an application. Lenders want to be sure that they’ll get repaid, which means they’re looking for several criteria:
- 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…
For the limited time beginning with applications dated July 9, 2018, and ending with applications dated on or before December 31, 2018, the interest rate on cash advances and purchases made on your Business Advantage Credit Line account approved for not less than $10,000 and not more than $100,000 is a fixed introductory interest rate of 2.99% for the first 12 billing cycles from the date your Credit Line account is opened. After that, the interest rate will be a market competitive variable interest rate, based on the Prime Rate, your creditworthiness, your business relationship with Bank of America, and the approved amount for your Credit Line account. Excludes secured loans and secured lines of credit, and unsecured term loans. Origination fee of $150. Annual fee of $150 is waived for the first year of your Credit Line account, and assessed annually thereafter. Enroll in Autopay to make payments on your Credit Line account within 90 days from date it is opened and get a $50 credit to your Credit Line account. The $50 credit will be applied to the account after the origination fee is posted. Other restrictions may apply. Subject to credit approval.
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?
In some instances the franchise itself will extend financing to you. Some companies, like 7- Eleven, actually build the store for new franchisees and lease the location to you, meaning you incur minimal startup costs and the transaction is handled directly between you and the franchisor. Others, like Subway may buy back locations from existing franchisees and then sell them to you as a new location, meaning you'll be handed an established store, sometimes with existing employees and inventory.
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.
Consider using a tenant broker. A good tenant broker can be invaluable and will represent your company’s best interests. He or she will educate you on the current market; locate spaces that meet your stated parameters; arrange tours and accompany you to view these available spaces; and then prepare offer letters and negotiate with landlords for all spaces that work best for your company.
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.
StumbleUpon recently published an excellent business plan guide; also consider reviewing startup information provided by the IRS. Help from experienced mentors is free through organizations such as SCORE, an organization of volunteer business mentors who provide specific advice and resources to newly created and growing businesses on a no-cost basis. There are many other organizations, such as your local chamber of commerce, that can also provide mentoring and guidance.
4. You get tax benefits. Oh yes. This even applies to freelancers. Depending on the type of business you register as, you could write off a number of your expenses including travel, telephone bills, food, portions of repayments on things like cars, and so on. And, depending on the business you start, there may also be various government incentives. If you’re unsure about what to do and how to register, I strongly advise speaking with your accountant about the tax benefits you could be eligible for.
A ROBS let’s you fund all, or part, of your new franchise with retirement savings (401k, IRA, 403b, etc) without paying early withdrawal penalties and taxes. If you have at least $50,000 in your eligible retirement account a ROBS can help you fund 100% of your franchise, be combined with seller financing, or be used as a downpayment for an SBA loan. Learn more by speaking with our recommended ROBS provider, Guidant, who offers an initial free consultation.
Create a logo that can help people easily identify your brand, and be consistent in using it across all of your platforms, including your all-important company website. Use social media to spread the word about your new business, perhaps as a promotional tool to offer coupons and discounts to followers once you launch. Be sure to also keep these digital assets up to date with relevant, interesting content about your business and industry.
Remember that a business is franchised for two reasons: to expand the business and to raise capital. So if you have a reasonably good credit record and pass all the financial requirements, most franchisors will bend over backwards to get you on the team. The help that franchisors provide to help you get financing usually includes assistance with business plans and introductions to lending sources. In many cases, franchisors serve as guarantors of loans you take out.
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