One recent trend in franchise financing has franchisors entering into nonexclusive partnerships or alliances with finance companies. When Jana Sappenfield applied to open a Dallas franchise of Primrose School Franchise Co., a child-care chain based in Atlanta, she was given a list of lending sources, including banks and loan companies.
In search of $1.6 million of the $1.9 million required for her first franchise, Sappenfield checked out a local bank in Dallas as well as Newcourt/AT&T Capital, two of the lenders listed. "They offered the same interest rate," says Sappenfield, "but I felt I could work with the Newcourt/AT&T people a lot more easily. Our personalities matched. They offered more information, guidance and personal attention. They were also familiar with Primrose, so no time was wasted researching or approving the franchisor." At the end of 1998, Sappenfield purchased her second Primrose School franchise (this one in Tampa, Florida), and her loan application sailed through the Newcourt/AT&T approval process.
Like Newcourt/AT&T, which is an SBA-certified lender that has preferred relationships with about 25 franchise concepts, companies such as The Money Store, Commercial Capital Corp., International Franchise Capital, Business Capital Resources and Phoenix Financial are shoring up preferred-lender status with franchises nationwide.
"We're comfortable with the franchises we work with regularly; we know the leadership and have an understanding of their selection criteria," explains Gary Weiss, vice president of franchise finance at Newcourt/AT&T. "Consequently, when an approved loan application comes from a franchisee with a preferred system, we are certain the candidate is qualified. Of course, we still do our due diligence."