Directors of the nation's top lending programs offer the following suggestions to multi-unit franchisees seeking loans: Be organized.
Put together a professional presentation, including your business plan and what you plan to do with the money. Include detailed financial data. "Lenders want to be comfortable with your financial controls," said Bob Bielinski of CIT Corporate Finance.
Be prepared to sell yourself and your management team to a lender. "Convince the lender that you know your stuff. Tell them your story, from acquiring your first store until today," said Bill Wildman, president of Pinnacle Commercial Capital in Indianapolis. Offer to take bankers on a day in the field with you and your team.
Don't balk at personal guarantees, because even the largest deals often require them. "It's the foxhole effect," said Tim Shanahan, Chicago-based senior vice president of Citizens Financial Group. "If things go bad, the lenders wants to be sure you won't throw in the keys and disappear."
Don't even think of telling a lender that your rich uncle (or someone else equally as generous) will guarantee the deal. "Lenders want to repaid out of the business and nothing compensates for weak business fundamentals," Shanahan said.
If you have a choice, go after deals that include real estate. Community banks feel more comfortable making deals if land is involved, said Bielinski.
Research banks before you approach them. Commercial real estate values are falling and a lot of regional and community banks have balance sheets that are 40 to 50 percent commercial real estate loans. Avoid applying there, Shanahan said, "because they can't afford to loan out any more money."
Expand into contiguous territories. Bankers don't like deals that involve new franchises spread across wide areas. "That ups the risk level because it's difficult to manage operations that are spread far apart," said Sharon Soltero of First Franchise Capital.
If you are turned down by a lender, ask who else might take on your financing. "If a deal doesn't fit into our box, we can often refer you to someone who is lending into your sector," said Soltero.