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?)
Most franchisees will have to get a business loan at some point. Fortunately, compared to independent small business owners, franchisees have traditionally had an easier time securing financing from banks — including loans backed by the SBA (Small Business Administration). But bank loans and SBA loans are still not easy to get even for franchise businesses, and the application and approval process can be prohibitively long for a lot of franchisees in need of quick capital. Some franchisors offer their own financing programs, but the practice is far from widespread, so you can’t necessarily depend on funding from your franchise brand.
After you register your business, you may need to get an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or simply to save yourself the trouble later on if you decide to hire someone else. The IRS has provided a checklist to determine whether you will require an EIN to run your business. If you do need an EIN, you can register online for free.
Bank loans are a great option, but before you go that route, make sure you’ve done your market research and can demonstrate that your business will do well in your area. If you haven’t had any luck getting loans from traditional lenders, look for a lender that offers SBA-backed loans, since they’re geared specifically to the needs of small businesses and are only open to those who can’t get funding elsewhere. Other financial options include online alternative lenders, which may be less restrictive in who they approve, but also tend to charge higher fees and rates.
Opening a franchise can be a smart choice for an aspiring entrepreneur. Becoming a franchise owner gives you the flexibility of owning your own business with the added security of being part of an established brand. However, as with owning any new business, start-up costs can be high and you may require infusions of capital if you encounter hard times. Franchisees must also pay a franchise fee when opening a new franchise, as well as ongoing royalty fees. You truly need a good business plan, healthy cash flow, and solid franchise financing to succeed.
James D. Stice, PhD, is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of Accounting in the School of Accountancy at BYU. Professor Stice has been at BYU since 1988. He has co-authored three accounting textbooks and published numerous professional and academic articles. In addition, Professor Stice has been involved in executive education for Ernst & Young, Bank of America Corporation, International Business Machines Corporation, RSM McGladrey, and AngloGold Limited and has taught at INSEAD (in both France and Singapore) and CEIBS (in China). He has been recognized for teaching excellence by his department, his college, and the university. Professor Stice currently serves on the board of directors of Nutraceutical International Corporation.
With the relatively low margins in the restaurant industry, many franchise owners are cash strapped and may even have a turbulent credit history. This is not a problem. National Business Capital considers the big picture so a low FICO score does not pose an immediate disqualification. In fact, the majority of our clients were denied franchise loans from traditional banks before contacting us. Know that National Business Capital offers franchise loans to small– medium- and large-sized businesses nationwide – and works with all types of businesses, no matter what their credit history. Our clients’ franchise financing needs are addressed quickly, efficiently and with a personal touch, regardless of their credit score. Even an open tax lien will not disqualify an applicant.
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:
Ideally, your Instagram profile picture should be an image of your logo and be the same one displayed on your website and other social media platforms. For the mobile app, your profile picture should be a minimum of 110 pixels width x 110 pixels height. Your picture will be shown in a circle, so your logo has to be clear when cropped. Have a look at how Deputy’s logo is clearly displayed on our Instagram account.
Lenders prefer financial statements that have been audited by a certified public accountant (CPA). But many small businesses don’t want to incur the costs of an audit, so one alternative is to have the financial statements “reviewed” by a CPA (which is cheaper and faster). However, some lenders may not require either audited or reviewed statements.
Part of the reason we spent a full day researching and figuring out location has to do with what it will cost you to start. If you’re working from home and not seeing clients, you may find your startup costs are limited to marketing, stationery, any supplies, and legal. If not, you’re going to need enough to set aside for at least the first months rent and utilities of the new space, including all the amenities to outfit your new office.
Traditionally, the first place franchisees turn for financing is the franchisor. Almost all U.S. franchisors provide debt financing only. Some carry the entire loan or a fraction thereof through their own finance company. We found fractions of 15 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, all the way up to 75 percent of the total debt burden. The franchisors we talked to emphasized that these figures are simply guidelines and not hard and fast limits.
Banks and credit unions are traditional sources for small business loans, and they’re a good place to start. Especially with small institutions, you’ll be able to meet with a lender who can guide you through the process. Larger banks might take a more hands-off approach. To improve your chances of getting approved, ask about SBA loans, which reduce the bank’s risk and feature interest rate caps. The loan process at banks and credit unions can be slow, so be prepared for a long process and a thorough review from the bank.
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.
To find out the best ways for new business owners to secure loans, I consulted with experts who have a wide range of experience with funding businesses including Jared Hecht, CEO of the online lending website Fundera, David J. Hall from the Small Business Association, Hal Shelton who is a SCORE mentor and author of The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan (Summit Valley Press 2014) and Larry Conley, Senior Vice President and Specialty Finance National Manager for Chase bank.
The key is to connect the work they love with something that other people also love. Not everything you love can be turned into a successful business. I used to play video games, and no matter how good I was at Halo, no one came along to give me a check. However, I later learned that there were *other* things I loved -- international travel, creative self-employment, writing -- that I could in fact monetize.
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.
For most business experts and established entrepreneurs, buying an existing franchise through franchise loans presents a lot of advantages not present if you opt to start your business from scratch. Purchasing a franchise, especially a popular one, enables you to start with a large and solid client base, a crucial element during the initial stages of a business venture. Another obvious benefit is that building up the brand does not take much effort in contrast to promoting a new business name.
Small businesses have a tougher time getting approved due to factors including lower sales volume and cash reserves; add to that bad personal credit or no collateral (such as real estate to secure a loan), and many small-business owners come up empty-handed. Getting funded takes longer than other options — typically two to six months — but banks are usually your lowest-APR option.