Starting a small business typically involves a lot of moving parts. In fact, time management can quickly become a challenge for entrepreneurs who are digging into the business start-up process for the first time. I compiled a list of 10 of the most important steps involved in starting a business and broke them down into easy-to-follow tutorials. Use this guide to make sure you're focusing your attention on the most important stages of starting a business and find out what you need to know so you can streamline your work for each of those steps.
You should specifically start your search for a lender that has experience funding franchises. Some major banks such as Bank of America, HSBC, and PNC have specific programs targeting franchisees. Smaller institutions specialize in franchising in specific industries, such as restaurant franchise funding from Oak Street Capital, and hotel funding from Access Point Financial.
Eligible funds received through this program can be used for business conversion, repair or enlargement; the purchase and development of land or buildings; the purchase of equipment; debt refinancing as long as new jobs will be created as a result; and/or business and industrial acquisitions when the loan will save and/or create jobs and/or the loan will keep the business open.
SmartBiz (see our review) is a viable online loan option for franchise owners that want the security and low-interest rates of an SBA-backed loan, but with the ease and speed of an online loan. SmartBiz is the #1 marketplace for SBA 7(a) small business loans online, offering an SBA/online loan hybrid with low interest rates and long-term repayment terms. However, this lender is only an option for established franchises — you’ll need at least 2 years’ time in business to get a working capital or debt refinancing loan, and 3 years to be eligible for a commercial real estate loan.
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.
3. Leverage social media. Let’s face it, everyone is on social media these days, and the majority of traffic still occurs on Facebook. If you are not using Facebook for your business, create a page today. You are leaving an opportunity on the table if you don’t. There has been a shift the past few years with more and more retirees joining the social media world. I guess they realize that if they want to keep up with their kids, grandkids, friends and neighbors, they better get with the program. In fact, retirees are often my best brand ambassadors and help promote our events.
Stock Option Plans are an extremely popular method of attracting, motivating, and retaining the best employees, especially when the company is unable to pay high salaries. A Stock Option Plan gives the company the flexibility to award stock options to employees, officers, directors, advisors, and consultants, allowing these people to buy stock in the company when they exercise the option.
On the other hand, food trucks and vending machines are trends helping to mold the industry even though they are not new concepts. The consumer desire and such convenience have become overwhelming, thus inspiring a more innovative variety of food trucks and vending machines. Their market typically consists of business parks and buildings, transit areas, tourists spots, sporting, cultural, and other entertainment events, and tertiary education institutions. Thus, for example, the vending machine company named the Burrito Box, makes all their food off-site and franchises refill the contents daily. With this approach, consumers get the same quality of food that they would get out of fast-casual restaurants. As follows, the capital it would take to start up a company of this sort ranges from $50,000 to $250,000, but it all depends on how equipped the truck comes. Its also important to mention that since consumers have demanded more artisanal products, food businesses are investing in fresh and healthier ingredients and options. Which can be seen already with specialty sandwiches, locally sourced products, vending machines with healthier snacks, build your own concepts (assembly line formats, similar to Chipotle), and upscale versions of the basics. Either way, this model is becoming more popular, lucrative and assessable to entrepreneurs of all kinds.
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.
Franchise equipment leasing allows the franchisee to attain needed equipment and machinery to operate the franchise, without paying the full upfront costs. Once the franchise identifies a piece of equipment its looking to obtain, they will apply through a leasing company to purchase the equipment for the small business, and then the leasing company will provide a lease of the equipment for up to 10 years.
If you start your company with co-founders, you should agree early on about the details of your business relationship. Not doing so can potentially cause significant legal problems down the road (a good example of this is the infamous Zuckerberg/Winklevoss Facebook litigation). In a way, think of the founder agreement as a form of “pre-nuptial agreement.” Here are the key deal terms your written founder agreement needs to address:
Many traditional lenders provide funding to franchisees, so this should be a top-line option for those looking for a loan. Each lender will have different eligibility requirements and loan products so examine documents in detail before signing on the dotted line. You will need a good credit rating, a solid application package, a down payment and some form of collateral.
Work with the franchisor’s preferred lenders: Often times, franchisors will partner with preferred lenders that they refer you to for financing. They may also have relationships with leasing companies that can lease you essential equipment for your franchise. When possible you should look at working with these lenders, because they’re familiar with your franchise brand and business model.
In Canada, you can get a free credit report by contacting one of the two credit reporting agencies, TransUnion or EquiFax Canada. To receive your free credit report you will need to mail or fax one of these companies a request along with copies of two pieces of I.D. Note that you will not be able to get a free credit report through the website of either company; you will be charged a fee for an online report. CreditKarma provides free online credit reports through much of Canada.
Request a Regional Franchise Disclosure Document: According to Ronald Feldman at Apple Pie Capital, “In addition to the standard Financial Disclosure Document (FDD), I suggest new franchisees request a supplemental Item 19, which is required by law to be provided if available.” This can help you understand how the franchise performs in your own geographic location, which may be worse than the average performance nationwide.
Your business plan is essential to get approved for a loan. If you don’t have one yet, it’s time to create one. You need to show, with specific numbers, how you’ll earn money, how you’ll spend it, and your big-picture strategy. Explain who all of the players are in your business, especially management, marketing, and sales roles – those individuals will bring in new business that helps pay for the loan. It’s okay if you do all of those jobs – just explain why that is and your track record of success in those areas.
Rent and rent escalations. Some landlords will give free rent for the first month or two of a lease. Fixed rent over longer-term leases is relatively rare. Sometimes landlords insist on annual increases based on the percentage increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If your landlord insists on rent escalations, try to arrange for a CPI rent increase that does not kick in for at least the first two years of the term. Then, try to get a cap on the amount of each year’s increase. If you have to live with a rent escalation clause, try to negotiate a predetermined fixed increase; for example, a rent of $5,000 a month the first year that would only increase to $5,200 a month the second year and $5,400 a month the third year.
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