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:
Sometimes it makes sense to tap 401(k), Individual Retirement Account or other retirement funds rather than seek a loan. But rather than just taking an early withdrawal, which may be subject to taxation, you may want to consider setting up a C corporation that will own and operate the business. Then roll over money from your self-directed retirement account into that corporation’s profit-sharing plan and direct that those funds be invested into the franchised business. But this is a risky option: If the franchise fails, your retirement fund can be wiped out. Check with a professional on possible tax implications, and consider the tradeoffs carefully.
Bank loans unsecured by collateral are relatively rare, even for those with good credit. In addition to securing a loan with a mortgage on your home or other asset, be ready to be asked to put your own money into the deal, typically about 20% of the amount needed. Even with healthy businesses and solid collateral, most bank loans to new franchisees occur when a borrower has established relationships with a banker, or has previous experience, or is a figure in the community. If that’s not you, consider a loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
So what’s the catch? You must have an eligible retirement account (Roth IRAs are not eligible, but most tax-deferred retirement plans are), and generally speaking, you should have at least $50K in the account to rollover. This means that ROBS are often not an option for young franchisees who haven’t had sufficient time to save money in a retirement account. In addition, there is a risk to doing a ROBS. If the franchise fails, you could lose your retirement funds.
For these reasons, many franchise owners are turning to the alternative lending space for better financing options. Online lenders are generally more lenient in their borrower requirements and they also offer a much faster time to funding than traditional bank loans, often depositing funds in your account within a week of receiving your application.
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.
Personal Assets – Getting a traditional loan for a franchise can be difficult. The more personal resources you can bring to the table, such as retirement funds and personal savings, the easier it will be to buy a franchise. If you’re planning to get a bank loan or an SBA loan, then you at a minimum need a 10-20% down payment and some collateral (if the franchise involves the purchase of real estate, that can be used as collateral).
For existing franchises looking for working capital, another form of alternative financing comes from monetizing the franchise’s balance sheet to obtain funding. Using the franchise’s commercial real estate, or by tapping into the franchise owner’s personal real estate, an asset based lender can collateralize the real estate and provide working capital up to 90% of the real estate’s equity.
Register your business with the Vets First Verification Program to be eligible for special opportunities to do business with the government. Small businesses that are owned and controlled by veterans and service-disabled veterans, and verified through the program, may also be given priority when competing for federal contracts. Learn how to apply, and find out which documents you will need to submit. You can also find VA-certified business counselors in your state for free help.
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.
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.
And don’t forget that unlike their independently-owned competitors, franchise owners don’t get to choose when to schedule expenses or which suppliers to work with. Their business model might have been passed down by the franchisor but it’s up to the franchise owner to figure out how to grow the business without endangering profits or failing to cover mandatory expenses.
Guidant is our recommended ROBS provider. Guidant has helped over 10,000 businesses and facilitated over $3 billion in small business financing since 2003. They are also the only ROBS firm we know of which guarantees access to outside independent counsel during the ROBS setup process, which can help you objectively evaluate if ROBS is a good decision for the franchise you are buying.
He is president of Toister Performance Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm that helps companies improve customer service. Jeff has appeared on numerous lists of top customer service experts including Global Gurus' World's Top 30 Customer Service Professionals, ICMI's Top 50 Thought Leaders to Follow on Twitter, and HDI's Top 25 Thought Leaders in Technical Support and Service Management.