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.
It’s useful to come up with a business plan to think through what you want to do for the development of the product or service, marketing, financial projections, and more. And you should then get input from trusted business and finance advisors. But don’t go overboard with a 50-page business plan. In reality, many startups have to deviate from their plan as the business develops.
To get a good estimate of costs, the first thing we recommend doing is asking the franchisor for their Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) early on in the process. It’s a good idea to have an accountant and lawyer review the FDD with you before you sign any paperwork or hand over any money. A franchisor is legally required to give you the FDD at least 14 days before you buy a franchise.
Often, banks that aren't willing to work with you based on your financial profile become more amenable if you suggest working with an SBA loan guarantee; these loans are guaranteed up to 90 percent by the SBA. Small businesses simply submit a loan application to the lender for initial review, and if the lender finds the application acceptable, it forwards the application and its credit analysis to the nearest SBA office. After SBA approval, the lender closes the loan and disburses the funds; the borrower makes loan payments to the lender.
He has been on the full-time faculty at Rice University, the University of Arizona, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). He has also been an Executive MBA lecturer at HKUST, SKOLKOVO (Moscow School of Management), China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), the University of Illinois (US), and INSEAD (Singapore and Paris). Professor Kay Stice has received awards for high-quality teaching at Arizona, Rice, and Brigham Young University, and he was twice selected as one of the top ten lecturers at HKUST.
The good news is both traditional and alternative lenders are making more loans. A strong economy and record low unemployment rates in 2018 are making all this possible. But a good credit score still carries great value, and if your score happens to be on the low side, here are some lenders you can take a look at when it’s time for getting a small business loan.
Alternative lenders: Once you have your franchise up and running, you’ll need funding to work through seasonal ups and downs, purchase new equipment and possibly open another location. If you’re still having a hard time finding traditional funding, alternative lenders may help fill the gap. They tend to be quicker than traditional loan providers — some even fund within a day — and have looser qualification standards. However, annual percentage rates for alternative lenders typically are higher, so make sure you review your total cost of borrowing before deciding on a loan.
Small business credit cards. While some business owners may be wary of using them, small business credit cards can also act as short-term small business financing. Interest rates will vary depending on the credit card issuer, the amount available on the card, and the creditworthiness of the holder of the card. Many small business credit card issuers require the principal owner to be co-liable with the company. Issuers of small business credit cards include American Express, CapitalOne, Bank of America, and many others. Many credit cards offer promotional introductory rates of 0% for a short period of time (6-9 months). Cashback and rewards programs allow you to earn rewards from purchases on the credit card.
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.
Shelton advises entrepreneurs to apply for a larger loan once they have the numbers to prove that they are growing: “What you’re hoping to get from these smaller loans is traction,” which you can use to “pitch [your story] as a growth story” when you apply for a larger traditional loan from a bank. Proving that you have experience growing your business from someone else’s money will help you convince the bank that you can do the same with their loan.
You can also use assets such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds to secure a loan as long as they're not part of a qualified plan like an IRA profit-sharing plan. Also, if you are over age 59 and have a lot of money tied up in an IRA, you could use it for part of your financing requirements. Although you'll have to pay taxes on the amount used, not to mention suffer the loss of income from interest, it can be a good financing tool.
Thousands of people have become millionaires through their stock options (Facebook being one famous example), making this form of benefit very appealing to prospective employees. The spectacular success of some Silicon Valley companies and the resulting economic riches of those employees who held stock options have made Stock Option Plans a powerful motivational tool for employees to work toward the company’s long-term success.
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 Small Business Administration (SBA) is committed to helping small business owners get the funding they need to successfully start and run their business. The SBA is not a direct lender but rather sets guidelines for loans made by their partners. The SBA guarantees loans for select businesses, meaning they agree to pay the loan off if the owner defaults, which makes it easier for entrepreneurs to get funding.
Despite the relatively easier access to capital that a franchise owner enjoys, there are many different elements to think about before purchasing a franchise. Each franchise is operated differently and will come with its own set of operating and start-up costs. When considering pursuing franchise business financing, here are a few things for you to think about:
Tenant improvements. Your new space may need some improvements or alterations (a new paint job, new carpeting, a reconfiguration of the space). Which party will pay for these improvements depends on how tight the commercial office space market is in your city. Most form leases stipulate that the tenant can’t make any alterations or improvements without the landlord’s consent. Ask for a clause that says you can make alterations or improvements with the landlord’s consent, and that the consent won’t be unreasonably withheld, delayed, or conditioned. Often, you are able to negotiate a “tenant improvement allowance,” which is an agreed-upon sum of money that the landlord will provide for the improvements and alterations you would like to make.
1. Get organized. Getting an organized plan is the first step in any marketing effort. Make one. Start with brainstorming, create themes and transfer action items to a calendar or to-do list. Start small, and try to get a good ROI for everything you do. Create an elevator pitch: What can you tell people about your business, products and services in 30 seconds or less that keeps them interested and wanting more? Get customer input early -- if you are opening a storefront or restaurant, try hosting a soft opening or invitation-only event to get your kinks worked out and your mishaps and mistakes out of the way. Whatever you do, make a good first impression.
Length of lease term. Landlords are typically willing to make concessions for longer-term leases. However, your company’s needs may change and you could find yourself locked into a lease for an office space that is too small, too big, or with rent that is above-market if demand for space subsequently declines. Try to negotiate a shorter-term lease with renewal options—a two-year lease with a two-year renewal option, for instance, rather than a four-year lease.
"Your product is built by people," Zawadski said. "Identifying your founding team, understanding what gaps exist, and [determining] how and when you will address them should be top priority. Figuring out how the team will work together ... is equally important. Defining roles and responsibility, division of labor, how to give feedback, or how to work together when not everyone is in the same room will save you a lot of headaches down the line."
Repairs, improvements, and replacements. Be aware of a clause that says that at the end of the lease you must restore the premises to their original condition. Try to negotiate a clause that states the following: “The premises will be returned to the Landlord at the end of the tenancy in the same condition as at the beginning of the tenancy, excluding (1) ordinary wear and tear, (2) damage by fire and unavoidable casualty not the fault of the Tenant, and (3) alterations previously approved by the Landlord.”