If you're thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell, or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing, and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don't (or deliver the same thing, but faster and cheaper), you've got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.
Working capital loans. A working capital loan is a debt borrowing vehicle used by the company to finance its daily operations. Companies use such loans to manage fluctuations in revenues and expenses due to seasonality or other circumstances in their business. Some working capital loans are unsecured, but companies that have little or no credit history will have to pledge collateral for the loan or provide a personal guarantee. Working capital loans tend to be short-term loans of 30 days to 1 year. Such loans typically vary from $5,000 to $100,000 for small businesses.
Congress passed the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 to ensure that drivers of commercial motor vehicles are qualified to operate those vehicles. States have the right to issue a driver's license, but they must meet minimum national standards when issuing a commercial driver's license. The Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Program places requirements on the commercial motor vehicle driver, the employing motor carrier, and the states.
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.
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.
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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]
“Not all businesses meet business loan eligibility requirements,” was Ali's initial comment on this topic. “Most banks have an income eligibility threshold of 1.25 times your expenses, including the repayment amount. [So] even if you do meet the requirements, think carefully before taking on the loan, and be sure you can service the repayment terms.”
If you do decide you’re going to need space, consider the number of employees you’re going to need and the equipment that will fill the space—chairs, photocopying machines, a fridge, a coffee machine, a reception area, a meeting room, and so on. Furthermore, how quickly do you expect to grow? If rapid growth is in the books, rent a space where there is room for growth and so that you don’t have to change your business address.
Market research is important because it will help you figure out whether or not there is demand for the service you’re offering or the product you’re selling. It will also help you when it comes time to write your business plan, especially if you’re pitching an angel investor or a venture capital firm. They will want to see there’s a market for your idea, otherwise, it won’t scale as rapidly as they need it to in order to make a return on their investment.
Why start a small business? Some people want to spend more time with family, and starting a business allows them to do that. Some find it exhausting to be outside the house all day, dealing with traffic, co-workers, meetings and interruptions. Some people hate answering to a boss all the time — needing permission to schedule a dentist appointment or take the day off when they’re sick. Some people are unmotivated by the security of a regular paycheck and prefer the challenge of the direct rewards or losses that entrepreneurs see from their efforts.
There is no one right answer to the question of how equity should be divided among a company’s co-founders. But everyone involved should discuss this issue and come to an agreement up front to avoid misunderstandings later on. If you are the original founder and brains behind the idea, a good argument can be made for more than 50% ownership. The split should take into account the following:
Patents. Patents are the best protection you can get for a new product. A patent gives its inventor the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the patented subject matter described in the patent’s claims. The key issues in determining whether you can get a patent are: (1) Only the concrete embodiment of an idea, formula, or product is patentable; (2) the invention must be new or novel; (3) the invention must not have been patented or described in a printed publication previously; and (4) the invention must have some useful purpose. In the United States you obtain a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but this process can take several years and be complicated. You typically need a patent lawyer to draw up the patent application for you. The downside of patents is that they can be expensive to obtain and take several years,
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.
Companies sometimes think that patent protection is the only way to protect themselves. Technology startups frequently ignore the value of non-patent intellectual property. While patents can be incredibly valuable, it does not necessarily ensure that a company’s product is a good product or that it will sell well. Trade secrets, cybersecurity policies, trademarks, and copyrights can all be forms of IP that can be protected.
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.
The first step in applying for a franchise loan is making sure you are well-prepared before you connect with a lender. This means that you should have identified the franchise you wish to pursue, and should have your supporting documents and loan package organized and available when you engage with lenders. The goal is to make a solid first impression to show that you are prepared and will successfully put the lender's money to good use and can be trusted to repay the loan. Accessing capital to start your business is perhaps the most difficult step in the start-up process. An online service like BoeFly.com, (we specialize in franchise finance - see what franchise brands have to say about BoeFly) or working with a financial adviser can help prepare you to address any deficiencies within your loan package. Loan brokers will typically cost you a $2000 packaging fee or more, and they may charge the lender a fee of 1-2% of the loan amount, which may come back to you as a hidden cost in the closing costs or in increased interest rates. In contrast, BoeFly has several plans available starting at just $249 to help fully guide you through the process of building a professional, lender ready package and connect you with over 5,000 lenders.
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.