Traditionally, the first place franchisees turn for financing is the franchisor. Almost all U.S. franchisors provide debt financing only. Some carry the entire loan or a fraction thereof through their own finance company. We found fractions of 15 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, all the way up to 75 percent of the total debt burden. The franchisors we talked to emphasized that these figures are simply guidelines and not hard and fast limits.
In addition, the loans made by the franchisor can be structured a number of ways. Some offer loans based on simple interest, no principal, and a balloon payment that's due five or 10 years down the road. Others offer loans with no payment due until after the first year.
Instead of financing the entire start-up cost, franchisors may offer financing for portions of the entire cost. They may have financing plans for equipment, the franchise fee, operational costs or any combination thereof.
In addition to financing a portion of the start-up cost, the franchisor usually has made arrangements with leasing companies to lease the franchisee the equipment necessary to run the franchise. This can be a significant part of the financing, since equipment often makes up between 25 and 75 percent of a franchise's total start-up costs.
If the franchise you're considering doesn't offer equipment leasing, look into nonfranchise, nonbank companies that specialize in equipment leasing for franchises. These types of financing companies will often provide asset-based lending to finance franchisees' furniture, equipment, signs and fixtures, and will allow franchisees to purchase the equipment at the end of the lease. Keep in mind that you may lose some tax advantages under the current law if you lease that equipment.
Remember that a business is franchised for two reasons: to expand the business and to raise capital. So if you have a reasonably good credit record and pass all the financial requirements, most franchisors will bend over backwards to get you on the team. The help that franchisors provide to help you get financing usually includes assistance with business plans and introductions to lending sources. In many cases, franchisors serve as guarantors of loans you take out.