Improve Your Banking Relationship
Think your small business will need a line of credit or another type of loan in the future? You may want to cultivate a stronger relationship with your banker(s) now. Doing so can help you obtain more personal service, better terms, and preferential rates.
Here are a few tips for forging deeper connections.
Two key people at any bank are the branch manager and the business relationship manager. Sometimes they are one and the same. Whoever they are, it’s worthwhile to try to build personal (or at least close professional) relationships with these decision-makers.
One effective strategy is to have face-to-face conversations with them, perhaps by dropping by their desk or office whenever you visit the bank or by making the occasional appointment to discuss an important financial matter.
For example, if you haven’t already done so, you could go over your financials with them to determine whether it makes sense to move your personal accounts to your business bank. Or you could discuss how your business might use additional products and services, such as employee credit cards, online banking, or paperless banking.
In either case, your loyalty is likely to be rewarded later, when you seek to borrow to grow your business. Here’s why: When you show a willingness to bring new business to the bank, bank officers may become more interested in helping your company.
Many bank officers have specialized experience that they can share with you to help your business grow. Make it a practice to meet with them once a year or so to ask for their opinions about your business and how it can do better.
Consider making an appointment with the relationship manager and/or branch manager to deliver a formal briefing. Bring your senior team, if appropriate, and update bank personnel on what you’ve been doing, how well it’s working, and what you plan for the future.
After the meeting, solicit their feedback on your recent financial performance, as well as your company’s overall fiscal fitness and potential areas for business growth. Their external perspectives are likely to stimulate questions and concerns that your team can fruitfully address in months to come.
Ask for Ideas and Opportunities
Some banks will take the initiative in bringing you business ideas and opportunities. But if your bank’s officers don’t volunteer this kind of information, go ahead and ask for it.
Most bankers appreciate being treated as key business partners. They also understand the importance of solid collaboration between a bank and its clients. From a bank’s point of view, everybody wins when two customers get together in a mutually beneficial collaboration.
Show Interest in the Bank’s Future
Ask key bank personnel about its current activities and plans for the future. Ask about growth. Ask about new products and services. Ask about your bank’s policies and procedures for protecting your funds from fraud and mismanagement.
This not only shows you’re a smart business owner who’s careful about where you do your banking, but also helps the bankers recognize and appreciate that you are interested in their work.
To earn extra points, ask what your bank is doing to cultivate a better business climate in your community and your industry.
Whether you’re already looking for a loan or just thinking you may need one in the next year or two, working to strengthen your banking relationships now can help you obtain better service and more favorable terms.
Robert Moskowitz is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.