You've read the literature, done your due diligence, considered the statistics on success, and know a franchise is the way you want to get into business.
But before you sign on the dotted line, answer this question first: Where will you get the money to finance the franchise, royalty fees, inventory and working capital?
The first thing you want to do before approaching any lender is determine what your net worth is. To do this, use a personal balance sheet to list both your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe). Under assets, list all your holdings--cash on hand, checking accounts, savings accounts, real estate (current market value), automobiles (whether paid off or not), bonds, securities, insurance cash values and other assets--then total them up.
The second part of the balance sheet is liabilities. Follow the same steps. List your current bills, all your charges, your home mortgage, auto loans, finance company loans and so on. Subtract your liabilities from your assets. Once you've worked up this sheet, take a good look at your credit rating. There are three common ingredients that all potential lenders look for in a credit rating: stability, income and track record.
Most lenders are interested in how long you've been at a certain job or lived in the same location, and whether you have a record of finishing what you start. If your past record doesn't show a history of stability, then be prepared with good explanations. Not only is the amount of income you earn important but so is your ability to live within that income. Some people earn $100,000 a year and still can't pay their debts, while others budget nicely on $20,000 a year.
Most lending institutions look at your income and the way you live within that income for one very good reason. If you can't manage personal finances, the odds against you being able to manage your business finances are very good.
The third element lenders look for is your track record--how successful you've been in paying off past obligations. If you have a record of delinquent payments, repossessions and so on, you should get these squared away before asking for a loan.
Most lenders will contact a credit bureau to look at your credit file. We suggest you do the same thing before you try to borrow. Under the law, credit bureaus are required to give you all the information they have on file about your credit history. Once you have this tool, you should correct any wrong information or at least make sure your side of the story is on record. For instance, a 90-day delinquency would look bad, but if that 90-day delinquency was caused by being laid off or by illness, then that should be taken into consideration.