Ask most small business owners about who they think are their most trusted advisors and you may hear about their lawyer or accountant. However, one of the most valuable resources for any small business owner is a business banker.
Forging a strong relationship with a banker can be a huge benefit for entrepreneurs. Yet, not enough business owners do that early enough. Moreover, many don’t take full advantage of the relationship.
Here are four ways you will get more from building a relationship with a small business banker.
1. Go early
Many business owners wait to establish a relationship until they need debt capital, but this is a mistake. Creating a relationship with a business banker early will help your business before you have those capital needs.
First, your banker can provide introductions to key advisors, vendors or even potential customers that can help your business.
Second, your banker can get to know you and your business needs in your early stages so by the time you need them, you have already built a personal relationship.
Third, as most businesses need to have been in business for a couple of years and have revenue and key financial metrics to qualify for a small business loan, you may still have other capital needs. Your small business banker can point you in the direction of local equity sources or other potential early-stage sources of capital.
If you aren’t sure what other kinds of assistance your business banker can provide, just ask the question. You will find that your banker will likely become one of your most helpful and trusted advisors.
2. Get your information organized
When you are ready to discuss your business’s financial picture with a business banker, be prepared. There is nothing more horrifying to a banker than a business owner that pulls out a shoebox full of papers that haven’t been organized. You need to have a business plan, historical financial statements (such as an income statement and balance sheet) and depending on the size of your business, personal information if you need to personally secure the loan.
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Take the time to prepare so that you make the right impression when you finally are ready for a line of credit or other bank product. If you need more guidance on what to prepare, your business banker can provide you with a checklist, but make sure to do the work ahead of time.
3. Have a plan
As noted in the previous tip, you will need to have a business plan. I always say that if you fail to plan, plan to fail. Businesses that prepare business plans are statistically more successful than those that do not, so make sure that you take the time to prepare a thorough plan – and update the plan as your business changes.
Your business banker can help you make key strategic decisions by letting you know if having too much customer concentration, working in certain industries or other decisions could impact your business success and ability to attract capital.
Make sure the plan you bring to your banker has been updated and accurately reflects the current reality and projected state of your business.
One thing that many business owners don’t know is they have room to negotiate when it comes time to getting loans from their business banker. You can talk to your banker to set the amount of your borrowing, as well as interest rates, length of the loan and the basis on which interest will be calculated. Don’t be afraid of doing some wheeling and dealing to come up with the best terms for you and your business.
About Carol Roth
Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.
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