1. Strategic Plan. All of us have heard of a “back-of-the-napkin” story about how a small idea turned into a successful business—and these stories do happen. However, it is typically the basic concept that happens on the back of a napkin, not the actual plan to bring that concept to the market. The first step is to develop a well-thought-out business plan that addresses key success factors such as:
If you own an existing franchise and are looking for working capital financing, then you’ll likely have even more options than you had when you started your business. These loans can be used to fund any business activity, such as to make payroll or to make equipment purchases. The table below shows some of the best options for working capital franchise financing and who each might be a good fit for.
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Starting a small business doesn't have to require a lot of money, but it will involve some initial investment as well as the ability to cover ongoing expenses before you are turning a profit. Put together a spreadsheet that estimates the one-time startup costs for your business (licenses and permits, equipment, legal fees, insurance, branding, market research, inventory, trademarking, grand opening events, property leases, etc.), as well as what you anticipate you will need to keep your business running for at least 12 months (rent, utilities, marketing and advertising, production, supplies, travel expenses, employee salaries, your own salary, etc.).
“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.”
Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you're going to cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you're planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have some money put away to support yourself until you start making a profit? Find out how much you're going to need.
Our franchise clients have been recommended a variety of business funding programs such as merchant cash advances or short-term working capital loans. Both options can allow you to cover a massive upfront cost, increase staff, launch a local ad campaign or pay a series of coinciding bills. Since profit margins for restaurants and retailers are already on the low side, we can provide the means to make important payments ahead of schedule and lessen the blow from weekly deductions.
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.
Proof of ability to pay: As Ali told me, banks want to be sure you’re positioned to make the loan payment on time each month. You’ll need to present detailed financial statements showing that your income is at least 1.25 times your operating expenses, including the new repayment amount. For example, say your business makes $15,000 a month and your current expenses are $10,000. With the loan repayment added to your operating expenses, you need to be sure your income still exceeds the recommended 1.25 threshold.
We’ve touched on a lot of different topics, of course, and I’ve linked to more tutorials so that you can dig into the details in each area. I’d encourage you to read some of those tutorials to go deeper into the key subjects, and to subscribe to our newsletter (there’s a form down in the footer) to stay up to date with the latest business tutorials published here. We've got plenty more on the way!
The government-guaranteed SBA loan program works with banks to offer low interest rates and long-term repayment. But the process is time-consuming, and the requirements are strict. Only those with good personal credit (690 or higher, although some SBA lenders may have lower score requirements), strong business finances and the flexibility to wait for funding should apply.
Whitney Johnson is a leading thinker on driving innovation via personal disruption and cofounder of Clayton Christensen's investment firm. She is a regular contributor for Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn, and the author of Disrupt Yourself, which Publisher's Weekly called "superb, savvy, wise." Whitney also speaks and consults with Fortune 100 Companies. Recently, her work was recognized by the Thinkers50, which named her as a finalist for the 2013 Future Thinker Award. You can find her at whitneyjohnson.com.
If you can secure a credit card in your company name and make purchases and on-time payments, you can get financing and start building good business credit at the same time. Of course, the credit limit, interest rate, and terms of payment will vary, and each bank or credit union will have eligibility requirements, so this option will not work for everyone.
Equipment loans. Small businesses can buy equipment through an equipment loan. This typically requires a down payment of 20% of the purchase price of the equipment, and the loan is secured by the equipment. Interest on the loan is typically paid monthly and the principal is usually amortized over a two- to four-year period. The loans can be used to buy equipment, vehicles, and software. Loan amounts normally range from $5,000 to $500,000, and can accrue interest at either a fixed or variable rate. Equipment loans can also sometimes be structured as equipment leases.
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.
Drew entered the world of academia after a highly successful business career. He spent 17 years with Johnson & Johnson in marketing, mergers and acquisitions, and international development. Before Johnson & Johnson, Drew worked with United Airlines, in sales, marketing, and strategic planning. He was one of the early pioneers of strategic partnerships between airline carriers that led to the creation of the Star Alliance.
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.
Trademarks. A trademark right protects the symbolic value of a word, name, symbol, or device that the trademark owner uses to identify or distinguish its goods from those of others. Some well-known trademarks include the Coca-Cola trademark, American Express trademark, and IBM trademark. You obtain rights to a trademark by actually using the mark in commerce. You don’t need to register the mark to get rights to it, but federal registration does offer some advantages. You register a mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Type of loan. Many types of business loans need to be secured by collateral, whether that’s by your mortgage, investment accounts, vehicle, life insurance or other assets. You may find that while you still need to secure them, SBA loans come with better interest rates and requirements that aren’t as strict as other financing options. The fact that they’re guaranteed for up to 90% of their amount by the government gives lenders the confidence they need to make offers to customers who may be more risky borrowers.
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.
Business to business companies can usually access financing more easily than companies that deal with consumers directly. In this type of scenario, you can use your clients' invoices to obtain financing from lenders. The process of obtaining cash advances using your clients’ invoices is called factoring. The factor takes the role of collecting the full amount owed to you by your client, then deducts the amount advanced to you and any other fee then pays you the balance.
To ensure success for both entrepreneurs and investors, Plum Alley requires businesses that crowdfund to secure at least 30 percent of their goal during a one-week “private” campaign before opening the crowdfunding to the public. This ensures investors that the business already has some financing, making it more likely they will reach their goal since research indicates that businesses who get 30 percent of their funding goal within the first 48 hours of crowdfunding have the most success.
For-profit lenders are reluctant to issue loans to anyone who does not have a strong credit report and financial history. That is not the case with government small business loans. Obviously, a decent credit report is important, and you will have to follow the guidelines regarding the repayment period and the interest rate set by the government, but usually the interest rates charged by government loans are lower than those you could expect in the private sector.