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Franchising vs. Licensing: What’s the Difference?

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Franchises and licenses are both business agreements in which certain brand aspects are shared in exchange for a fee. However, a franchising agreement pertains to a business’s entire brand and operations, while a licensing agreement only applies to registered trademarks. Franchises typically work best for service-based businesses, while licenses are more conducive to product-based businesses. A licensee has more control over how they run their business compared to a franchisee, whose business will be dictated by the franchise owner (franchisor). However, a franchisee will also receive significant guidance and training from the franchisor.

If you’re considering expanding your business, you may be exploring how to franchise your business. In your research you may have also come across licensing and be wondering what the difference is between the two and which will best serve your expansion goals.

While franchising and licensing have some similarities, they are two very different agreements that mean different things for both you and your brand. In this franchising vs. licensing comparison, we’ll explain the differences between the two, as well as the pros and cons of each. Let’s get started.

What is franchising?

A franchise is a business agreement between a franchisor and a franchisee. The franchisor is the owner of a business. The franchisor sells the rights to their brand—including products and services, intellectual property, and more—to a franchisee who will open up a separate branch under that brand’s name, which is essentially a duplicate of the original business.

As part of the franchise agreement, the franchisee will pay fees to the franchisor to open a franchise, use their brand, and for advice and business support. The franchisor loans their brand for a fee and provides training, as well as expertise, to the franchisee.

Franchising is a deeper, more complicated business relationship and agreement than licensing. A franchisor retains control over how their brand is used and how each franchise under their name is operated. There is a lot of interdependence between the franchisee and franchisor in a franchise relationship.

Franchising examples

One of the most famous examples of a franchise is McDonald’s. From a modest start, the McDonald’s franchise now has more than 36,000 restaurants around the world.

Other famous franchise businesses include:

  • Burger King

  • Marriott International

  • Baskin-Robbins

  • Ace Hardware Corporation

  • The UPS Store

Many chain restaurants and other well-known businesses operate as franchises. The key with franchises is that no matter which one you visit, it will always look and feel the same, offer the same products and services, and more.

What is licensing?

Licensing, on the other hand, is a limited, legal business relationship where a specific party is granted rights to use certain registered trademarks of a brand. The business relationship is between the licensor (the one who owns the trademarks) and licensee (the one who is granted rights to use them).

To use the registered trademarks of another brand, the licensee pays the licensor an agreed-upon royalty fee.

Licensing examples

Two of the most famous brands that operate licensing agreements are Disney and Calvin Klein.

Calvin Klein works with a number of manufacturers under licensing agreements. This means that the Calvin Klein company has licensed, or loaned, its brand and trademarks to certain manufacturers who then use the brand to sell their products. Calvin Klein products such as underwear, perfume, and jeans are all produced and branded under licensing agreements.

Using a recognizable brand name like Calvin Klein under a licensing agreement can help a lesser-known brand get their well-made product to the market and trusted by consumers faster than they would if they had to build their own brand from scratch.

Another example of a brand that uses licensing agreements is Disney. When you purchase items emblazoned with Disney characters, it’s most likely that the product wasn’t actually manufactured by Disney. More often, Disney signs licensing agreements with certain producers to use their characters and images, which is why you find Disney characters on everything from soap to sleeping bags to T-shirts and clothing.

In general, licensing agreements are most often used by brands that are highly recognizable and marketable. For a licensing agreement to be beneficial to both parties, the business branding must already be successful and known by a large portion of buyers.

How franchising vs. licensing differ

If you’re looking into franchise vs. license agreements, it’s probably because you’re looking into either building your business into a franchise business or loaning your brand to another company for use. Knowing the differences between these two business agreements is key before jumping into a legally binding agreement.

While some business owners may look at licensing as an easier alternative to franchising, this would be misguided. These two types of agreements are legally very different and are appropriate in different scenarios. Businesses that would make for good franchises would not necessarily make for good licensing agreements, and vice versa. Let’s take a closer look at how licensing and franchising differ.

1. Limitations

One of the major differences when it comes to franchising vs. licensing is the limitation placed on licensing agreements. A license is much more limited than a franchise.

A license agreement allows for the use of registered trademarks, nothing more. Franchise agreements, on the other hand, allow for the use of trademarks, additional intellectual property, products, services, operating manual, and much more.

2. Control

Another difference between franchising vs. licensing is the amount of control that can be exerted by the seller over the buyer.

In a franchise agreement, the franchisor can lay out specific guidelines for how the franchisee markets the business, uses brand trademarks, where the business is located, and how the business is operated. In other words, the franchisor can exert a significant amount of control over the franchisee’s business and how it operates—because it is essentially an extension of their own business.

In comparison, a licensor has very little control over the business of a licensee. The licensor can make stipulations in how protected marks are used by the licensee, but they can’t control any other aspects of the licensee’s business.

3. Type of business

The type of business that grants a franchise is generally different than a business that operates with a license.

Most often, businesses that grant or purchase licenses deal with products. Licenses are great for adding a well-known brand or image to a product, such as clothing or other consumer goods.

On the other hand, franchises are generally service-based businesses. Most businesses that form a franchise operation are chain restaurants, hotels, cleaning services, auto repair shops, software repair companies, etc.

4. Legal regulations

In general, a franchise agreement is a much more stringent and complicated agreement. There are many moving parts within a franchise agreement, where a licensing agreement is a simple loan of certain protected marks or images.

In both instances, general contract law is followed for both licenses and franchises. In addition, there are specific federal regulations for franchises at the federal level and some additional requirements set down by certain states.

When starting a franchise, there are a lot more legal hurdles and regulatory requirements that must be followed than with a license agreement.

Pros and cons of franchising vs. licensing

Understanding the differences between franchises and licenses is only the first step in figuring out which is the right business model for you. It’s also beneficial to understand the benefits and drawbacks of both licenses and franchises.

Franchising pros

One of the pros of becoming a franchisee is all the benefits of being a self-employed business owner without the risks of starting a new business. Franchises come with the bonus that they’re already a proven business model with a pre-established customer base. Purchasing a franchise is often much less risky than starting a business from scratch, and while there can be significant fees involved, they may amount to a smaller investment than if you were to build your own company from scratch.

Franchising also has the benefit of a shared relationship. The franchisor gets to scale their business rapidly while minimizing some of the work, which is instead done by franchisees. Additionally, the franchisee works with the franchisor to manage the business and learn business skills that they may not know already.

In comparison to licensing, one of the big pros of franchising is the depth of the relationship between franchisee and franchisor. The franchise agreement may be complicated, but it also provides a wide-range of opportunities.

Franchising cons

One of the drawbacks for a franchisee is the loss of control. While it’s your business, most of the major business decisions will be made, or at least must be approved by, the franchisor. While this support can be beneficial while learning the ropes of the business, it can also feel like being micromanaged to experienced business owners. However, this control is a pro for the franchisor, as they can still dictate how their brand is used.

In comparison to a license, a franchise will seem much more expensive and complicated. Initial franchise fees can cost between $10,000 and $50,000—then there are the ongoing fees to keep in mind. This might seem exorbitant, but it’s important to remember that you’re getting access to an entire business. In comparison, a licensing agreement only gives you access to use specific trademarks in certain ways. So, a license will be cheaper and less complicated, but it also gives you access to a lot less.

Because of this cost discrepancy, business owners will sometimes opt for licensing agreements instead of franchising agreements; however, as we mentioned, these are not interchangeable and often do not work for the same types of businesses. Not to mention, you’re also putting yourself at legal risk by forming a licensing agreement for business operations that actually fall under the franchising category. If initial fees are prohibiting you from starting a franchise, you may want to check out these low-cost franchise options, or you can also seek out franchise financing to help you fund these expenses.

Licensing pros

One of the pros for licensing is the freedom for the licensee. In general, a license agreement happens between two established businesses. The licensee is purchasing the right to use protected marks that are already recognizable and appreciated by a built-in fan base. This makes licensing a secure investment and a great way to boost your business.

In comparison to franchises, another positive aspect of a license is the simplicity of the agreement. Because the license agreement covers the use of only one (or a few) protected marks, the agreement will be fairly simple and straightforward.

Licensing cons

The major con of licensing over franchising is the limitations. A license only gives access to use certain protected marks, nothing more. While this makes the agreement limited, that might be all your business needs. It’s also important when entering a licensing agreement to ensure you’ve taken these steps to protect your intellectual property.

Another con of licenses is that many people don’t understand their true purpose. There’s a lot of confusion over when to create a licensing agreement and when the licensing agreement is broaching the legal boundary of a franchise. Be sure to check with a knowledgeable lawyer before signing either a licensing or franchising agreement.

Is franchising or licensing right for your business?

When deciding what’s right for your business and evaluating franchising vs. licensing, you have to consider the needs and goals of your business.

If you’ll be the franchisor or licensor, it’s important to consider whether your brand is strong enough, widely recognized, and turning significant profits to the extent that it would do well either as multiple branches or emblazoned on products other than the ones you currently sell. If this is true and you run a service-based company, then franchising may be the right move. If it’s true and your company is product-based, licensing may be best. Either way, you’ll want to consult a trademark lawyer to protect your brand property, and then a business attorney to discuss the specifics of expanding your brand.

From the perspective of the franchisee or licensee, you need to think about where your business is within it’s journey. If you have a successful product-based business and are ready to grow, a license agreement with a recognizable brand could be an easy way to spur some quick growth. If you’re looking to start a business but prefer the lower level of risk an established brand offers, and are also looking for a hands-on mentor to guide you, a franchise is your best bet.

The final word

At first glance, licensing may seem like an abridged version of franchising—granting rights to only trademarks, instead of an entire business’s operations—however, the two are very separate agreements that should be used under different circumstances and for different types of businesses.

Both franchising and licensing are legitimate ways to grow your business, but you will first need to weigh several factors, take a look at where you are in your business journey, and decide what your goals are before deciding if franchising or licensing is the right choice for you.

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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4 Tips for Starting an Industrial Business

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The industrial sector is a broad category that covers businesses involved in the manufacturing, production, and distribution of goods. Small industrial companies are growing across the country and there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to get involved in this sector.

As with any type of business, there are certain things you need to do to set yourself up for success. Here are four tips for starting an industrial business:

photo credit: Pixabay

1. Do Your Research

Market research means figuring out who your target customers are and what they want or need. There are a number of different ways to do this, but some of the most common include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observation.

Surveys can give you a good overview of customer opinions while interviews or focus groups can help you to delve deeper into specific issues. Observing potential customers in their natural environment can also be helpful in understanding their behavior and needs.

2. Choose the Right Niche

When it comes to starting an industrial business, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the right niche. There are a number of factors to consider when making this choice, and it’s important to do your research before settling on a particular industry.

First, you’ll need to identify the needs of your potential customer base, such as the products or services they need. Once you have a good understanding of the market, you can then start to narrow down your options. Consider the competition in each niche and decide which one offers the best opportunity for success. When making your final decision, it’s essential to choose a niche that you’re passionate about.

3. Create a Business Plan

In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s more important than ever to choose the right niche for your industrial business. When you specialize in a specific industry or type of product, you can better meet the needs of your target market and stand out from the competition. How do you know what niche is right for your business? Here are a few things to consider:

First, think about your strengths. What does your company do better than anyone else? What unique skills or experience do you bring to the table? Use these strengths to narrow down your focus and choose a niche that you’re passionate about.

Next, consider your target market. Who are you trying to reach with your products or services? What needs do they have that you can address? When you choose a target market and understand their needs, you’ll be better able to choose a niche that meets their demands.

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment. Trying new things is essential for any business, so don’t be afraid to test out different niches to see what works best for you. By keeping these tips in mind, you can be sure to choose the right niche for your industrial business.

Engineers work with industrial printer

4. Optimize Your Processes

Through industrial control engineering, you will be able to identify opportunities for improvement and design solutions that achieve the desired results. In many cases, these solutions involve the use of automation and other advanced technologies.

By optimizing industrial business processes, industrial control engineers can help to improve efficiency and increase productivity. In addition, they can also help to improve safety conditions by reducing the potential for accidents. As industries continue to grow and become more complex, the demand for qualified industrial control engineers is likely to increase.

Endnote

With an increased demand for industrial operations and manufacturing, there has never been a better time to start an industrial business. By following these four tips, you can be sure to set your business up for success.

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How to Find the Right Business Coach — and Avoid the Wrong One

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At its best, business coaching can connect you with a mentor and supporter who helps you generate ideas, make plans and execute on them.

But at its worst, a business coaching offer can cost you time, energy and money — without much to show for it.

Here’s what to expect from a business coach, how to find a coach that suits you and how to spot red flags.

What a business coach can do

Business coaches draw on their professional experience to help you set and achieve your own business goals.

“I’m here to help you, and I’m here to raise your level of knowledge in whatever way I can,” says Gary Robinson, who chairs the Memphis, Tennessee, chapter of SCORE. SCORE offers free business mentoring for entrepreneurs nationwide.

Some ways a business coach or mentor might do this include:

  • Offering feedback on your ideas and suggesting new ones.

  • Giving you templates and other tools that help you make plans.

  • Connecting you with resources in your region or your industry.

  • Giving you deadlines and holding you accountable to them.

Some business coaches may also offer coursework or group training sessions on particular topics, like sales.

Working with a coach should help you identify opportunities you hadn’t seen before or develop new strategies for pursuing those opportunities, says Sophia Sunwoo, who coaches women and nonbinary entrepreneurs through Ascent Strategy, her New York City-based firm.

“[Coaches] don’t necessarily have to have all the answers,” Sunwoo says. “But they are the people that know how to maneuver and create a bunch of different thinking paths for their clients.”

What a business coach can’t do

A business coach isn’t the same as a consultant, whom you would hire to perform a specific task. A coach or mentor could look over your business plan, for example, but they wouldn’t write it for you.

“If you were to hire me as a consultant, you would expect me to roll up my sleeves and pitch in and work with you to get things done, and you would pay me for that,” Robinson says. Coaches, on the other hand, “try to show you how to do things so that you can do them [yourself].”

Business coaches are also not therapists, Sunwoo says. Entrepreneurship can be emotionally and mentally taxing, but it’s important that coaches refer clients to mental health professionals when necessary.

Business coaching red flags

If a business coaching opportunity “promises guaranteed income, large returns, or a ‘proven system,’ it’s likely a scam,” the Federal Trade Commission warned in a December 2020 notice.

In 2018, the FTC took legal action against My Online Business Education and Digital Altitude, which purported to help entrepreneurs start online businesses. The FTC alleged these companies charged participants more and more money to work through their programs, with few customers earning the promised returns.

In both cases, these operations paid settlements, and the FTC issued refunds to tens of thousands of their customers in 2021 and 2022.

To avoid offers like these, the FTC recommends that you:

  • Be wary of anyone who tries to upsell you right away or pressures you to make a quick decision.

  • Search for reviews of the person or organization online.

  • Research your coach’s background to see if they’ve accomplished as much as they say.

Sunwoo says to also be skeptical of one-size-fits-all solutions. A coach should customize their advice to your personality and skill set, not ask you to conform to theirs.

“The moment that a business coach pushes you to do something that is really not compatible with your personality or your beliefs or values,” Sunwoo says, “that’s a huge problem.”

How to find the right coach — maybe for free

Here’s how to find a coach that will be as helpful as possible.

Determine whether you need advice or to hire someone. A coach isn’t the right fit for every business owner. If you need hands-on help organizing your business finances, for instance, you may need a bookkeeping service or accountant. And take legal questions to an attorney.

Seek out the right expertise. A good coach should be aware of what they don’t know. If they’re not a good fit for your needs — whether that’s expertise in a particular industry or a specialized skill set, like marketing — they might be able to refer you to someone who’s a better fit.

Consider free options. There may be some in your city or region:

  • SCORE offers free in-person and virtual mentoring in all 50 states, plus Guam, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.

  • See if your city has a Small Business Development Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center or a Women’s Business Center. All are funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and offer free training and advising for entrepreneurs.

  • Do an online search for city- or state-specific programs. Philadelphia, for example, offers a business coaching program designed for entrepreneurs who want to qualify for particular business loan programs. Business incubators often offer courses or coaching.

Make sure your coach is invested in you. They should take the time to learn about you, your business and its unique needs, then leverage their own experiences and creativity to help you.

“I’m on your team now,” Robinson says of his clients. “Let’s do this together and make this a success.”

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Are There SBA Loans for the Self-Employed?

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Many of the same SBA loans are available to both self-employed people and more formally structured businesses, such as limited liability companies and corporations. However, self-employed individuals, like sole proprietors and independent contractors, might face a higher barrier to entry for having limited credit history, inconsistent revenue or no collateral. If they can’t qualify for an SBA loan, other business financing options are available.

Who qualifies as self-employed?

Sole proprietors, independent contractors and partnerships all fall under the self-employed category. In these cases, there is no legal distinction between the business owner and the business itself. Sole proprietors, for example, are solely responsible for their business’s gains and losses, while LLCs and corporations are legally distinct from their owners. This distinction helps protect the owners’ personal assets if their business runs into legal or financial issues.

Are self-employed SBA loans hard to get?

While a sole proprietorship is much easier to set up than an LLC or corporation, lenders may be more hesitant to finance them for a few reasons:

  • Self-employed business owners are legally responsible, as individuals, for any debt and liabilities that their businesses take on. If someone sues their business, for instance, their personal assets — not just their business — could be at stake. This makes it riskier for lenders to finance them.

  • Sole proprietorships and independent contracting businesses may have lower revenue or less collateral to offer since they’re often a business of one. This could make it more difficult for them to prove that they can pay back the loan, plus interest. And it may require more paperwork.

  • Some banks set lending minimums that surpass what a self-employed business owner is looking for, either because the business owner doesn’t need that much funding or doesn’t qualify for it.

  • Since there is no legal distinction between the self-employed business owner and their business, they may lack business credit history. To establish business credit, you’ll want to register the business, obtain an employer identification number and open a separate business bank account and credit card to keep your business and personal finances separate.

SBA loans for the self-employed

SBA microloan: Best for small loans and more lenient requirements

Applying for an SBA microloan is a great option for self-employed business owners, especially if they’ve been turned down by traditional banks and don’t need more than $50,000 in funding. In fact, the average SBA microloan is around $13,000, according to the SBA. SBA microloans are administered by nonprofit, community-based organizations that can also help train applicants in business practices and management. And because the loans are small, the application process may be easier — applicants may have limited credit history and typically don’t need as high of a credit score as they do for an SBA 7(a) loan.

SBA 7(a) small loan: May not require collateral

Funds from the SBA’s most popular 7(a) lending program can be used for a variety of business-related purposes, such as working capital or purchasing equipment. While the maximum SBA 7(a) loan amount is $5 million, SBA 7(a) small loan amounts don’t exceed $350,000. And if the 7(a) small loan is for $25,000 or less, the SBA doesn’t require lenders to take collateral.

SBA Express loan: Best for quicker application process

SBA Express loans are a type of 7(a) loan for businesses that need quick financing and no more than $500,000. The SBA responds to these loan applications within 36 hours as opposed to the standard five to 10 days, which may speed up the process for borrowers working with non-SBA-delegated lenders. Additionally, borrowers might not have to fill out as much paperwork — the SBA only requires Form 1919. Beyond that, lenders use their own forms and procedures.

SBA loan alternatives

Online lenders

Self-employed business owners turned down for SBA or traditional bank loans may be able to qualify for financing with an online lender. These lenders offer options such as term loans and lines of credit, and they often process applications faster and have more lenient requirements. However, applicants should expect to pay significantly more in interest than they would with an SBA loan.

Business credit cards

Not only can business credit cards help build your business credit history and pay for everyday business purchases, but they can also help finance larger purchases (within your approved credit limit). And if you qualify for a credit card with a 0% introductory APR offer, you’ll have multiple months to pay off the balance interest-free. Just make sure you’re able to pay off your purchase before the intro offer ends and a variable APR sets in.

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