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Access to capital is the lifeblood of franchise growth. Restricted lending policies of the past few years continue to be a challenge for franchisees, who need access to capital, whether to survive or expand. Lenders today are searching for solid franchisee organizations to do business with, but what exactly are they looking for? Learn what bankers, franchise lenders, private equity firms, and other capital sources want to see in a borrower - and make sure you are managing your organization in ways that make you attractive to lenders.

Learn more about the franchise finance and capital marketplace, and what factors are affecting your chances to borrow the capital you need to grow.

Feature Story:

The Lever Works Both Ways: Manage The Balance Sheet... And The Income Statement »

By Steve LeFever

Our next financial concept? OPM (other people's money).

As a former commercial banker, I've had the opportunity to see both sides of the "debt/leverage" issue. When you go to a bank for a business loan, your banker (whether they tell you or not) will quickly compute your debt-to-equity ratio. As bankers, we viewed debt as an equivalent of risk: the higher your ratio, the more debt you have in proportion to equity. Therefore, the higher your financial risk. Let me explain why this is so. It all goes back to the financial basics: Assets = Liabilities + Net Worth.

An asset is something you own, and you own assets to generate sales. But to own an asset, you must buy it, and someone must provide the money. Money is provided either by creditors or owners...

Feature Story:

History Matters: Learning The Lessons Of "The Lost Decade" »

By Carol Clark

On many occasions during the past year, I've seen and heard the past 10 years dubbed as "The Lost Decade." From a stock market perspective--with prices essentially flat between 2000 and 2010--it's not hard to understand why. Upon writing this article, the annualized return on the S&P 500 over the past 10 years was -0.68 percent, versus the average return of 6.28 percent since 1929 (according to FactSet Data Systems). Interestingly, over a similar time frame, aggregate corporate profits have doubled while total household net worth is about 50 percent higher.

While the stock market seems to say we've made no progress, economic statistics indicate otherwise. So why the disparity? For a better understanding, enter our lessons learned from the past decade...

Feature Story:

Roll Over: Investing In Yourself »

By Eddy Goldberg

Using retirement plans to fund growth

Refugees from corporate America seeking capital to open a franchise business are tapping into their retirement plans to fund their fledgling businesses. So are multi-unit franchisees seeking to expand.

Take Patricia Preztunik, a multi-unit franchisee in Northern New Jersey who signed on with BrightStar Healthcare in May 2009. With four territories today, she purchased two up front, then two more, one at a time.

Preztunik says she spent six to eight months doing research before starting her own business. "I'd been looking at doing something for a few years. I had friends who had, but I had not taken the plunge," she says.

She rolled over funds from her corporate 401(k) after speaking with a business attorney, who informed her of the possibility of using it as start-up capital to fund her new business...

Feature Story:

Building A Financial Road Map »

By Steve LeFever

Treat the causes, not the symptoms

Seat-of-the-pants management styles may be fine themes for business magazine articles and their Hollywood adaptations, but responding to the symptoms of problems instead of preventing problems in the first place is like taking aspirin to cure pneumonia.

In the financial world, we often see symptoms such as low cash, low net profits, or both. But those symptoms are caused by something--and that's where the "Road Map" (see diagram) becomes useful. It represents the financial skeleton of your business.

As you can see, it's a self-contained system, but, as with any system, it requires maintenance to function properly. It presents a "big picture" overview, and it also leads us through a process of analysis designed to pinpoint potential problem areas...

Feature Story:

Betting On American Ingenuity »

By Carol Clark

Entrepreneurial spirit will drive a slow recovery

Long ago, when I was a newly minted junior analyst at a local investment firm, a grizzled veteran noted that it was pointless to be in the investment business if you weren't a long-term optimist. To me, that time-worn piece of advice continues to ring true. Operating from this mantra, I've spent my entire career believing that whatever short-term morass the economy or the market found itself in could be fixed (eventually) by the drive and ingenuity of the American entrepreneurial spirit. I'm hopeful that this time will be no different--although I admittedly find my optimism being severely tested. In nearly 30 years in the business, I've never witnessed such a complex array of issues at play...

Feature Story:

Terms Of Endearment: Selecting The Best Lease Length »

By Dale Willerton

Often when I speak at franchise shows and conventions a tenant will ask me, "What is the best lease length?" The term, or length, of your commercial lease is an important part of your franchise business plan and ensuing lease negotiations. However, most franchise tenants do not take enough time to consider that one day they will eventually want to sell the franchise. Alternatively, they may want to expand/downsize, relocate, or close and so do not give the term of the lease the attention and consideration it truly deserves.

The industry standard lease term for a franchise tenant can be five, seven, or 10 years (but not shorter). For many of the more expensive franchise systems a 10-year amortization period is normally required on the initial term to justify that initial capital investment cost...

Feature Story:

Unit Management: Gulf Coast Multi-Unit Operator Talks Hard Numbers »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Greg Hamer, Sr., worked in the oilfield service industry for two decades before dipping his toe into franchising. He knows about hard work and about managing assets. Today, he is the largest Taco Bell franchisee in the state of Louisiana. Hamer has operated B&G Food Enterprises out of Morgan City, La., since opening that first Taco Bell unit in 1982. In the 1990's, the company added KFC and Pizza Hut units to the portfolio and most recently, Teriyaki Experience.

After nearly three decades in franchising, Hamer oversees an empire of 55 units stretching from Mississippi through Louisiana and into Texas. It's a large operation that generates $64 million annually and keeps a payroll of more than 1,400 employees.
Hamer, who serves as chief executive officer, says that prudent financial management and unit economics oversight plays a pivotal role in how he manages the operation...

Feature Story:

The Right Fit The Three "P's" Of Choosing A Money Manager »

By Carol Clark

As noted in the last issue, investing is not for the faint of heart. It takes time and an ability to integrate an expansive range of information--as well as a steady head and a strong stomach. This combination often means that seeking outside help makes the most sense. But how do you go about finding an investment manager that's the right "fit" for you?
Before interviewing your first prospective manager, make a list of questions that are important to your specific situation. You will quickly discover that you can listen to a multitude of well-honed and entirely different pitches--each of which sounds plausible. However, the long-run success of your financial relationship will be how perceptive your manager is at determining what inspires, scares, and motivates you...

Feature Story:

Calculating Success: Using Break-Even Analysis To Plan Growth »

By Steve LeFever

For many businesses, growth often means a physical expansion of an existing store or the opening of additional stores. Is it worth the cost? There are two parts to the answer: finance and marketing. The financial analysis answers the question, "What do we need?" The marketing analysis answers the question, "What will we get?" To get our arms around the analysis requires an extension of my "break-even" discussion in the previous issue.

Let's look at how the big guys do it. Suppose a large quick-serve franchise is looking at a new location. By knowing accurately their fixed and variable costs, they can calculate a break-even sales volume level. With thousands of existing outlets to use as models, they know their costs to the penny, exactly what they need to invest, and their target return on investment...

Feature Story:

Step 1: Break-Even: Fixed Costs Can Have A Surprising Effect On Your Profits! »

By Steve LeFever

In the previous issue, I outlined a seven-step process guaranteed to improve performance. We call this process Profit Mastery. My goal going forward is to give you more detail on each of the steps, a specific action plan for how to apply each to your own business, and how to incorporate the results into your strategic thinking.

Everyone knows their costs, right? This is a concept as old as Methuselah. Well, do you know yours? And do you know how those costs behave in your business? And can you answer the question: Why would anyone in their right mind care?

I firmly maintain that this information ought to be "walkin' around in your head" knowledge. Not only does the behavior of these costs have a significant impact on your profitability, it also impacts your marketing strategy...

Feature Story:

Unit Economics Rules!: How To Make Lenders Love You In 2010 »

By Eddy Goldberg

The way to a man's heart may be through his stomach, but the way to a banker's heart is through strong unit economics.

Entering 2010, the stars are in alignment for strong multi-unit operators seeking expansion opportunities, specifically:

Feature Story:

Measure For Measure: Unit Economics Plays A Leading Role On Today's Economic Stage »

By Kerry Pipes

The most fundamental business strategy calls for black numbers on the bottom line. In simplest terms, it's proof the business is generating more cash than it is spending.

All too often, though, entrepreneurs get involved in businesses without employing a proper system to help them keep a watchful eye on what they're earning and what they're spending. Managing day-to-day operations can be so time-consuming that it leaves little room for financial analysis. Or perhaps key individuals lack a basic understanding of how to read and interpret financial statements. Combine these factors with the down economy, and you'll likely wind up with a troubled business.

Today, more and more multi-unit franchisees are realizing the importance of keeping their eyes focused firmly on the bottom line, and they are putting in the time to understand and continually analyze their financial statements...

Feature Story:

Seven Steps To Fiscal Fitness: A "Fiscal Physical" Will Help Your Business Survive, Grow, And Prosper  »

By Steve LeFever

In the few minutes it takes you to read this article, 40 businesses across the nation will fail--and that statistic was before the economic downturn of the last 24 months. Tragic? Yes. Remarkable? Not at all. The road to business success is littered with the skeletons of companies whose owners--mostly brilliant and skilled individuals--failed to "take care of business" in the financial management of their enterprise.

Just a minute--am I saying that good ideas, technical skills, product knowledge, and sales ability don't guarantee success? You bet I am. Anyone in a position to provide capital will tell you: the ability to develop and control an organization financially is absolutely vital.

Consistent with the hundreds business classifications in the U...

Feature Story:

Predictions, The American Way: Give Me A Forecast, Or Give Me Death »

By Carol Clark

There's a year-end ritual I've always hated. No, it's not those standard resolutions to eat better, exercise more, and clean the piles off my desk. Worse. It's being asked to forecast where "X" will be in a year, "X" being the level of the Dow, the price of gold, the yield on short-term Treasuries, etc.

I've never understood the fascination with trying to predict exactly where something was going to be at "3:01 p.m. CST 365 days hence." Nor have I seen the relevance. Markets aren't predictable. Never have been and never will be.

As we've seen, particularly in recent years, a lot can happen in 12 months. If you had suggested in January 2009 that none of the major investment banks would survive independently, that the Dow would fall 23 percent in a single week, or that oil prices would go to $150 and then plunge more than 50 percent, you might have been escorted to a restrained ward far away from the public eye...

Feature Story:

Capital Access »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Gaining access to and securing capital is more important for franchisees today than ever. Every week we talk with multi-unit franchisees about how they are growing and the kind of financing it takes for them to achieve their goals and objectives. It's an important topic and sometimes we get some very candid responses.

Jeff Reetz got his first taste of franchising working in the corporate office for Pizza Hut back in the late '90s. But he saw the appeal of being a franchisee and couldn't resist the pull. Today, the 56-year-old is owner of 2JR Enterprises LLC, which operates 32 Pizza Huts and 12 co-branded WingStreets in Louisville, Kentucky, and southern Indiana. The company does about $32 million in revenue annually and Reetz shows no signs of slowing down...

Feature Story:

Picking And Choosing Franchises Out Of Bankruptcy Court (part 1) »

By Barry Kurtz and Nevin Sanli

Buying assets out of bankruptcy court is time-consuming but usually easy. But if your target is a franchisee and you get choosy - meaning, for example, that you want to buy only 10 outlets in a bankrupt 20-outlet franchise restaurant chain - things get dicey. Why? Because it's hard to determine a fair value for such assets, and if you fail to do so, you could find yourself back in court fighting angry creditors who think you've cheated them.

That can turn any effort to pluck diamonds out of bankruptcy court into a disaster, and the threat leads many would-be bargain hunters to look elsewhere for their gems. But it needn't do so, because there's a solution to the problem - a thorough-going legal due diligence campaign coupled with an appraisal designed specifically for bankruptcy court that factors out the earnings drag of unprofitable outlets in a franchised chain, not to mention the drag created by, say, a big recession...

Feature Story:

Overcoming Performance Anxiety, Part II »

By Carol Clark

Six ways we sabotage our investment success
Did you do your homework? In my last article, I discussed taking a broader look at the concept of "performance measurement."

Rather than allowing a simple percentage change (or even a percentage change relative to a broader index) drive how satisfied you feel with your portfolio's performance, I suggested thinking longer and harder about defining success on your own terms. After all, what good is a "good" performance number if it doesn't leave you with a portfolio that can help you achieve your goals?

I also asked you to pull together some thoughts regarding what you need your assets to do for you ("must haves")--and then spend some time thinking about what you'd like them to do ("nice to haves")...

Feature Story:

Capital Access »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Gaining access to and securing capital is more important for franchisees today than ever. Every week we talk with multi-unit franchisees about how they are growing and the kind of financing it takes for them to achieve their goals and objectives. It's an important topic and sometimes we get some very candid responses.

Jason Shifflett, 32, owns Shifflett Companies in Olive Branch, Miss. The company operates 30 Domino's Pizza stores and Shifflett hopes to add more soon. He sheds light on his management philosophy, "We want the best manager in every store," and believes in measuring growth by "Order count growth, sales growth, profit growth, and people growth." Shifflett plans to top 100 stores within the next 10 years.

How is this economic cycle affecting you, your employees, your customers? As costs go up, it becomes very challenging to maintain margins...

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