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3 Small Business Administration Loan Programs To Finance Your Franchise

Franchises are a simple and effortless way to jump right into the business world – to finally be your own boss.

Plus, franchises are probably the easiest businesses to get financed because they usually do not come with a lot of the start-up risk (unknown risk) that banks and other business lenders tend to shy away from. Since most franchises come with strong brand names, proven profitability and cash flow track records and tend to perform well in nearly any location (globally), these business models have the propensity to fly through the loan underwriting process and go from application to funding in no time flat.

In fact, the Small Business Administration (SBA), in hopes of speeding up their funding process and funding more franchise loans, have created a “SBA-approve franchise” list – a list of franchises that the SBA has already vetted through their underwriting process.

According to Jim D, a former moderator for the SBA.gov website;

“SBA-approved franchises are select business opportunities whose agreements have been accepted by the SBA. When it comes to securing an SBA-backed loan, those applying for an approved-franchise have it easier and quicker. Applicants for SBA-approved franchises benefit from a streamlined review process that expedites their loan application. Because the particular franchise is pre-approved, the loan review is less complex and focuses on specific aspects of that brand’s business plan.”

So, if the SBA likes franchises so much, what loan programs do they offer?

3 SBA Loan Programs For Franchises

First things first. The SBA does not directly provide loans to business or franchise owners. Thus, you will still have to take your loan request to a SBA lending bank or financial institution. However, these originations also know that the SBA likes proven franchise businesses and are more than willing to review and process your application.

When seeking a SBA loan for your franchise you should focus your specific financing needs and match them to the SBA’s loan program as follows:

SBA 7(a) Loan Program: This is the SBA’s flagship program designed to fund almost all aspects of a business.
According to the SBA, the 7(a) loan program can be used:

To provide long-term working capital to use to pay operational expenses, accounts payable and/or to purchase inventory
Short-term working capital needs, including seasonal financing, contract performance, construction financing and exporting
Revolving funds based on the value of existing inventory and receivables, under special conditions
To purchase equipment, machinery, furniture, fixtures, supplies or materials
To purchase real estate, including land and buildings
To construct a new building or renovate an existing building
To establish a new business or assist in the acquisition, operation or expansion of an existing business
To refinance existing business debt, under certain conditions
This program has a maximum loan amount of $5 million with the average, in 2012 – the last published figure, being around $337,730.

As most SBA loans come with longer loan terms making monthly payments even more affordable, loan maturities for real estate can go out to 25 years, up to ten years for equipment and up to seven years for working capital.

Now, all SBA loans are assumed to be fully collateralized by either business or personal assets. However, while the SBA expects this, they will not decline a loan based solely on the lack of adequate collateral.

Lastly, know that these loans do require that the borrower provide 20% or more as a down payment or their own equity in the deal. Thus, the SBA will only guarantee 80% of the needed amount.

As you should be able to see, this SBA program can cover almost all franchise financing needs from real estate purchase and development to business equipment to working capital needs. Thus, if that is what you need to buy or grow your franchise, start here.

CDC/504 Loan Program: The 504 loan program, like the 7(a) program, is great for franchises. However, this program is limited to real estate and equipment purchases only.
According to the SBA, the 504 loan program can be used for;

The purchase of land, including existing buildings
The purchase of improvements, including grading, street improvements, utilities, parking lots and landscaping
The construction of new facilities or modernizing, renovating or converting existing facilities
But, the real benefit with this loan program is that the equity portion or down payment required from the borrower is lower – usually around 10% – thus, requiring less out of pocket expense.

How this program works. This program was designed to help facilitate additional business growth and development within community areas. Thus, when a 504 loan is requested and approved, a local Community Development Corporation (CDC) – the community part of the loan – will fund and guarantee up to 40% of the loan request, a local SBA approved bank will fund 50% of the loan request leaving the remaining 10% from the borrower. Three partners all working for the same goal – the long-term success of your franchise.

This program can provide up to $5 million for businesses that can and will create jobs in the community, up to $5 million for businesses that provide stated public benefit such as energy reduction or alternative fuels as well as rural development businesses, minority, women or veteran businesses, export companies – just to name a few – these are stated goals that are known to have public benefit and as such the SBA wants to fund these companies. And, up to $4 million for small, job creating manufacturing firms.

Lastly, to make these loans and their resulting payments more affordable – ensuing the long-term success of the borrower – the SBA will allow loan terms of 10 and 20 years.

SBA Express Program: The SBA express program is like the little brother of the SBA’s 7(a) loan program with several benefits and restrictions.
First, this program offers a hastened review process. In fact, the SBA guarantees that your express loan application will receive a response in less than 36 hours. But, while you might receive a response, this does not mean you will receive an approval. It just means that you will know that the SBA has receive your application and they will usually ask for additional information from you at that time – but, at least you know it is being worked.

Second, the maximum loan amount under this program is only $350,000. Which is not a huge amount these days but might be enough to get you into the franchise of your dreams – especially when compared to the average loan amount of the full 7(a) program of around $337,730.

Third, the SBA will only guarantee up to 50% of the loan amount – meaning that more of the risk of the loan will fall back onto the bank or lender. Yet, if your deal is strong enough, this 50% guarantee might just be the difference between approval and denial.

Lastly, these loans offers loan terms up to 7 years only and can be used for nearly any business capital need.

What Is A Small Business?

Now, to qualify for a SBA loan, your franchise has to meet the SBA’s small business definition of:

Be for-profit.
Have up to 500 employees – up to 1,500 for manufacturing.
Have under $21 million in annual receipts – less for certain businesses or industries.
Which nearly all individual franchise businesses fit.

Conclusion

Franchising is a great way to jump into the business world with a proven, well known business model. Yet, like almost all businesses on the planet, financing that franchise either to get it started or to grow it is still a hard hurdle to overcome.

Yet, as stated and hopefully shown, franchises do tend to get more favorable approval rates when using government guaranteed funding programs like these SBA loans. And, it is not just that the SBA views these types of businesses in an encouraging light but so do banks and other business lenders – those other partners needed to get your SBA loan approved and funded.

However, just because your chosen franchise is or is not on a SBA-approved list and that your loan request and use of funds meets these criteria, does not mean that you will be automatically approved. The only way to know for sure if you and your franchise will be approved is to apply. And, since you have to apply no matter what option you chose, you might as well apply with a financial organization or business funder that already works with the SBA – it can only double your chances of getting the capital you need to fully realize your franchise dreams.

Capital LookUp – seeks to make your capital raising efforts easy. On our site, you can search for a myriad of different business loan products from financial institutions and business lenders in your local area, in your region, in your state or nationwide.

We seek to simply make your capital raising process an easy and productive venture – allowing you to quickly get back to focusing on what you do best, growing your business.

Can Finance Really Become a Strategic Partner to the Business?

Much has been written about how finance organizations can become strategic partners with the businesses they support. While purported experts point to a variety of frameworks, scorecards and key performance indicators, etc. as the keys to bridging the gap between finance and business, these trite ‘solutions’ have done little to make finance the strategic business partner it seeks to be. Worse yet, pursuing these ideas has put finance organizations on a treadmill where they expend energy and resources (e.g., money and time) ultimately to get nowhere while the issue persists. So if you are still looking for a silver bullet or quick fix to this seemingly incurable problem, stop reading now.

Given the time, money and effort spent, you may be a bit demoralized and even speculating that the finance-business chasm cannot be crossed. Paradoxically, the link between finance and the business has been under finance’s proverbial nose for some time – resource allocation. A serious concerted effort to optimize an organization’s resource allocation ultimately enables finance to develop the bridge between finance and strategy. This discipline known as corporate portfolio management works to actively manage the company’s resource allocation as a portfolio of discretionary investments. All companies allocate their resources – very few optimize their resource allocation. Finance is uniquely positioned to enable this because they sit at the nexus of information and data required to undertake a corporate portfolio management effort. (Note: Corporate portfolio management is often referred to by different terms so as a point of reference, terms such as IT portfolio management, enterprise portfolio management, product portfolio management, project portfolio management, resource allocation and investment optimization are similar. In fact, these all are slices or subsets of corporate portfolio management.)

From Resource Allocation to Strategy

First, it is worth understanding the tie between resource allocation and strategy – they are the same. Where you allocate your resources is your strategy. PowerPoint presentations, speeches by senior leadership, strategy bullets nicely framed on a wall, etc. are all interesting and potentially useful, but they are not your organization’s strategy. For instance, if your stated corporate strategy is to have the most engaged and loyal customers (this sounds good, right?), but you allocate all your investment dollars to acquiring new customers, your strategy is actually around customer acquisition. This is a very simple example but clearly demonstrates the dichotomy that can and often exists between a stated and real strategy.

A great article entitled “How Managers’ Everyday Decisions Create – or Destroy – Your Company’s Strategy” that recently appeared in the Harvard Business Review (February 2007) nicely articulated the connection between resource allocation and strategy and also pointed to the need for a corporate portfolio management discipline. “How business really gets done has little connection to the strategy developed at corporate headquarters. Rather, strategy is crafted, step by step, as managers at all levels of a company – be it a small firm or a large multinational – commit resources to policies, programs, people and facilities. Because this is true, senior management might consider focusing less attention on thinking through the company’s formal strategy and more attention on the processes by which the company allocates resources.”

The upshot of this is that if finance can enable the process to enable better resource allocation (which is strategy), they will have succeeded in becoming a de facto strategic partner to the business.

The Two Levers of Corporate Portfolio Management

So now the question turns to how to build a corporate portfolio management discipline and ensure its success. A successful corporate portfolio management effort is predicated on two dimensions.

1. Modern Portfolio Theory (aka the process) – This is what people generally think of when they think of corporate portfolio management. It is comprised of:

* Investment valuation – This includes defining what an investment is. It is worthwhile to take an expansive definition of what comprises an investment because this is not just capital expenditures (capex), but also should include operating expenses (opex). In general, 25-40% of an organization’s expenses are discretionary and hence are investments. Investment valuation also requires consistency of valuation methodology which necessitates using driver-based models to create projections and also looking at past NPVs and ROIs to consider strategy and other qualitative aspects that drive investment ‘value’.

* Portfolio allocation – This requires determining investment areas/themes and the associated allocations. Basically, what are my strategic priorities for investment and how much will go to each area? For example, 25% in customer acquisition, 20% in IT, 55% in customer retention. The allocation should also consider the risk profile of investments, e.g., 60% in low risk, 30% in medium risk and 10% in high risk.

* Portfolio optimization – This requires selecting the best investments to support the portfolio allocation and periodically rebalancing the portfolio to ensure consistency with desired portfolio allocations. The aim is to maximize strategic and financial return per unit of risk.

* Performance measurement – A key element of successful corporate portfolio management is capturing actual investment results to enable promise vs. performance. Doing this ultimately lets an organization improve ongoing investment valuation based on actual results and allows it to rebalance the portfolio based on performance achieved.

Most people with a finance background will recognize the above tenets of portfolio theory. The problem with most of the discussion of corporate portfolio management is that it assumes that people behave according to a theoretical/rational construct. While various experts like to offer platitudes saying things like, “Just manage your company’s investments like you manage your own investments,” they fail to realize that many individuals may not even manage their own personal portfolios as they should. They may know what they should do but emotions, intuition, and other external influences take them off this rational path. What often leads us astray in our personal portfolio is what leads us astray in an organizational setting – behavior. The challenge in an organization is magnified by the fact that it is hundreds or thousands of people whose behavior that needs to be considered. And so this is the second fundamental lever of corporate portfolio management – organizational behavior.

2. Organizational Behavior – In order to optimize one’s corporate portfolio, the behavioral elements must be understood with:

o A data-driven mindset – Organizations often make decibel- or intuition-led decisions and corporate portfolio management, like 6-Sigma, requires data and analytical decision making.

o Silos removed – Corporate portfolio management success requires people thinking about what is best for the organization and not just what is best for “my world” – silos and organizational dynasties need to be broken down.

o Incentive alignment – People should be motivated by similar short- and long-term incentives.

o Accountability & transparency – There should be a willingness to share information and effectively create a marketplace for investments.

Moving organizational behavior is the larger challenge and this takes time to change. At American Express, we have actively worked on changing organizational behavior and have made significant inroads over time, but it has not happened overnight. We have conducted cross unit investment reviews, sponsored an internal corporate portfolio management conference and even created a resource allocation simulation to visibly demonstrate the benefit of corporate portfolio management.

Bringing Corporate Portfolio Management to Your Organization If you think corporate portfolio management can be implemented in one month or one quarter, it is not for you. Corporate portfolio management is not a sprint and requires the will and heart of a marathoner. You will see benefits along the way, but it takes time to realize the full potential of a well developed corporate portfolio. But once defined and running, an actively managed corporate portfolio management discipline will pay immeasurable dividends. For American Express, we can point to stock price out-performance over our benchmark indices as well as our competition since adopting corporate portfolio management. Our resource allocation effectiveness also helps to drive our PE multiple (price to earnings multiple), which is significantly larger than our competitive peers.

Very tactically, the corporate portfolio management discipline has helped us understand what businesses we should exit and where we might want to invest more. It has enabled us to reallocate money across business segments for the first time which can be very challenging in large organizations. Most importantly, corporate portfolio management has become part of the DNA of the organization with finance and the business talking about their investments on an ongoing basis. Finance leads the corporate portfolio management effort but with significant and very direct input and interaction with the business. The chasm between finance and the business has been bridged by utilizing corporate portfolio management, and the benefits to the organization in terms of financial and strategic performance as well as employee engagement have been significant.

If you are serious about making finance a strategic partner with the business, and if you finally want to make some forward progress after being on the treadmill for so long, corporate portfolio management offers you a solution to this intractable problem. It requires effort and patience, but, as evidenced by American Express, it can close the finance and business gulf and ultimately generate outstanding performance.

How to Get Business Financing in a Tough Credit Market

The credit markets have been tightening for the last year and personal credit has become more and more elusive. Now, more than ever, we are starting to see a tightening on business credit and loans offered by banks. Banks are tightening their standards and dropping more liberal business loan programs as well.

Just a few months ago, BofA offered an express business line of credit program that even entrepreneurs in business just a month or two could qualify for with the right credit scores. They pulled the program in the last quarter. American Express for years has offered a Business Line of Credit program that entrepreneurs could apply for in addition to their American Express credit cards. The line of credit was competitive in the industry with interest rates and most small business owners with an American Express credit card were getting approved. The program was pulled in the last quarter.

The closing of great programs such as the BofA Express Line of Credit and Amex Business Line of Credit are signaling the need for small business owners to find alternative ways to finance their businesses. There are several unconventional methods that most entrepreneurs can use to build up access to capital they will need from time to time. Some of these methods include: merchant account cash advance programs, equipment leasing, equipment sale-lease back, A/R Factoring and trade credit (also known as corporate credit or business credit).

Trade credit is the single largest source of lending in the entire world. It is when one business sells services or products to another business on credit terms. For example, when Dell Computers sells a laptop to a small business owner, the business owner is given a choice: pay now with a Mastercard/Visa/Amex credit card, apply for a Dell Computer line of credit or apply for a Dell Computer Credit Card. When the small business owner chooses to apply for a Dell Credit Line or Credit Card they are using trade credit. Dell will then offer terms to the applicants who qualify. Terms may include no-interest for 30 days if paid in full, or an interest rate charged each month a balance is carried and a small monthly payment that must be made on the credit card.

If the business owner has structured their company properly before applying for the credit, they will likely receive an approval based solely on the business credit profile, business credit score and how compliant the company is with the business credit market. If the business is prepared and built some initial business credit before applying with Dell, they will likely get approved regardless of what the personal credit score of the owner looks like. This is True trade credit (corporate credit), when you rely completely on the business’ ability to obtain the credit and not just that of the individual owner or officer of the company. Every entrepreneur should have a business credit profile and score. That includes also being in compliant with the lending market.

A business credit profile and score need to be created with all the major business credit bureaus, not just one. D&B (Dun and Bradstreet) is the oldest business credit bureau, although Experian Business and Equifax Business have created very competitive products and services to compete directly with D&B over the last few years. Most credit bureaus create a business credit profile and score when companies report to the bureaus the payment history of their clients. The more companies reporting to a business credit profile, the better. Companies who purchase a business credit report for analysis to determine credit approvals, like to see when others have granted credit already. They would prefer to see several credit accounts with the business, whereas with an individual you may find it more difficult to obtain credit when you have a lot of credit accounts.

Most small business owners seeking financing are looking for the money to purchase a product or service. The majority of time the product or service can be found through a company offering credit terms. Trade credit is used by household supply stores, marketing companies, printers, graphic designers, internet marketing companies, gas stations, equipment companies, auto-dealers, shipping companies, office supply companies, furniture companies and many more.

In addition to trade credit as an alternative financing option there is merchant account cash advance programs. Although this type of financing can be expensive it is still a great option for some businesses. This type of financing is for businesses with a merchant account charging more than $10,000 per month on the account. Many merchant cash advance companies will advance up to three months charges on a merchant account with very little personal credit information required to obtain the loan. The loan is then paid back out of future merchant account activity as a percentage of the total amount charged that month.

Another alternative source of financing is A/R Factoring. If a company has accounts receivable with other businesses with decent history and credit scores, a factoring company will come in and buy the receivables for a discount on the future value. The business gets money now and the factoring company waits for the invoices to be paid. When they are paid by the customers of the business, the factoring company gets their share and repayment on the advance.

A company can also use leasing as an option to finance their business. A lot of equipment and even software can be leased. There is extremely beneficial to start-up companies and those looking for large equipment purchases. The company doesn’t have to pay up front for a large ticket item, which than conserves cash for the growth and day to day operations of the company.

The Best Car Insurance Rates

If your car insurance is due for renewal and you are considering buying another policy then this article will provide you with important facts that you should know about. Car insurance policies are getting increasingly expensive and you should do all that you can to reduce your costs. How much you have to pay for your car insurance is dictated by a variety of factors as they apply to you and your vehicle.

In this article we will examine coverage limits, your age, gender and marital status, your location and insuring other household members. All of these factors will have a great influence on how much you will have to pay for your policy.

Coverage limits are generally dictated by the price that you are willing to pay for your insurance. A higher level of coverage will generally result in higher premiums. The best way to find a good value policy is to comparison shop. Nowadays it is generally accepted that the best way to do this is by using a car insurance comparison website.

Your age, gender and marital status will have a great effect on the auto insurance rates that you are offered. Insurers rate drivers using a variety of criteria, if you are a young single male driver you will usually have to pay higher rates. If you are a middle-aged female married driver then your rates will be lower. Insurers calculate the best car insurance rates for you by comparing levels of risk. Those groups which are statistically more likely to be involved in an accident have to pay correspondingly higher rates.

Location plays an important part in deciding how much your premiums will cost. Drivers who live in an urban environment will usually pay more than those from a rural area. This is because drivers who live in cities and heavily populated areas are more likely to be involved in an accident, or to have their car stolen or vandalized. Insurers generally offer better rates if you’re able to demonstrate that you keep your vehicle in a garage at night. You may also be able to improve the security arrangements of your automobile by fitting an alarm, immobilizer and steering wheel lock.

Insuring other household members will have an influence on the cost of your policy and the best car insurance rates that you offered. If you have teenage family members living with you and they are added to your policy, then your costs will increase. This may still work out cheaper than if your teenage driver were to have a separate policy in their own name.

In conclusion, there are a variety of different factors which can affect your ability to be offered the best insurance rates. Some of these are coverage limits, how old you are, whether you are male or female and whether you are married or single. Your rates will also be affected by the area where you live and whether other household members are included in your policy.