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.
Many companies, however, don't have established credit, so they cannot obtain a business loan without a guarantee from the owners. In other words, you'll probably have to "co-sign" for the company's loan, putting your own credit on the line. If you'll be applying for a loan and your credit matters, do all you can to boost your own score before applying. This means paying down debts so your credit utilization ratio is low, and always paying bills on time.
When you get a HELOC your personal home will be used as collateral. This means that if you fail to make payments in the future then you could lose your home. That is the risk that comes with the benefits of receiving access to low interest rate funds as you need them. With a HELOC you can borrow up to 80-90% of your home equity with an APR as low as 3%. You must have a credit score of at least 650 to qualify.
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.
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. SBA 7(a) loans have longer repayment terms and lower down-payments than most conventional bank loans, and can be used for the purchase of owner-occupied real estate, business acquisition, equipment, or working capital. Wells Fargo also offers the SBA 504 program for larger, fixed asset purchases or construction.
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.
Jeff White is a staff writer and financial analyst at Fit Small Business, specializing in Small Business Finance. As a JD/MBA, he has spent the majority of his career either operating small businesses (in the retail and management consulting spaces) or helping them through M&A transactions. When he is not helping small businesses, he spends his time teaching his five kids how to become entrepreneurs.
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.
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.
It turns out, he thought the process of starting a business was really complicated. "I don't want to go through all that stuff," he said, "unless I'm absolutely sure my idea is perfect." Like a lot of would-be entrepreneurs, he was stalling because he was intimidated by the apparent complexity of the administrative and legal tasks involved in starting a business.
There are plenty of resources that business owners can refer to when putting together their loan applications. The Small Business Administration, for example, provides a highly detailed loan application checklist for borrowers. Using these resources can decrease your likelihood of coming across as disorganized or unprepared. [See Related Story: Applying for a Small Business Loan? Here's What You'll Need]
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.
- 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…
It is important to protect your company’s intellectual property (IP). Ever wary of minimizing burn rate, startups may be tempted to defer investment in intellectual property protection. To those who have not tried to protect intellectual property, it feels complex and expensive. Too often, startups end up forfeiting intellectual property rights by neglecting to protect their ideas and inventions.
Microlenders: If your company is especially small, you may need to opt for a microlender. These are non-profits that typically lend short-term loans of less than $35,000. They also have a much higher APR than bank loans but may be useful by helping you bridge a temporary cash-flow gap. Microlenders require detailed business plans and financial statements, so be prepared for some serious paperwork.
3. Office Space. Even if 52% of all small businesses are home-based, that does not mean you need to look like you work from your home. Customers looking at an office address can usually tell the difference between a professional address and a home address. Also, if you’re meeting with clients, you’ll project a more professional image if you meet in an office setting versus a home office. For this reason, consider signing up with a fractional executive office service.
Type of loan. Many types of business loans need to be secured by collateral, whether that’s by your mortgage, investment accounts, vehicle, life insurance or other assets. You may find that while you still need to secure them, SBA loans come with better interest rates and requirements that aren’t as strict as other financing options. The fact that they’re guaranteed for up to 90% of their amount by the government gives lenders the confidence they need to make offers to customers who may be more risky borrowers.
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