5 Big Challenges to Discuss With Your Relationship Manager

Want to weather storms facing your business and industry? Leaning on your banker’s insights can help.

Small and mid-sized businesses have been through a wild ride ever since the start of the pandemic. The challenges have been historic and far-reaching, from total business interruptions to supply chain disruptions to ongoing staffing shortages.

The early crisis days may be gone, but plenty of challenges remain. Businesses need to be at their best to survive and thrive. While there are no easy answers or quick fixes, there are some critically important steps you—and your colleagues—can take to improve your chances of coming out of these challenging or uncertain times healthy and stronger as a business. Much of this comes from working closely with your banking relationship manager, who has a vested interest in helping you succeed.

“Our goal is to always have local relationship managers that can provide industry experience for any and all issues that might come your way,” says J.D. Mealor, Market Executive and Commercial Banking Leader at Regions Bank in Atlanta.

Here are five challenges your relationship manager can help you overcome or navigate during times of uncertainty.

Challenge No. 1: Winning the War on Talent

It’s a worker’s labor market. “Finding and retaining top-quality talent is the most critical issue for every business leader these days,” says Mealor. A big part of attracting top talent is finding ways to show them you understand their value, whether that is offering remote or flex work or reviewing benefits options. You also must stay abreast of industry trends to know what your competitors are willing to pay.

“Make sure your entire compensation package is competitive,” Mealor says. That might mean providing pension plans or 401(k) options that offer an edge beyond what your competition is offering. If you aren’t attracting and retaining the best people, your business will always be at a disadvantage. Talk to your relationship manager for more.

Challenge No. 2: Managing Inflation and Rising Interest Rates

Efficient cost-conscious operations are critical amid rising costs and interest rates as is continued access to cash while earning competitive returns on savings and investments. Everyone needs to stay on their toes with managing costs and expenses.

While the current economic and financial climate is volatile and many economists anticipate an impending recession, Mealor refers to this as a “hashtag” crisis. “Many business owners feel like they should be in crisis mode based on all they hear and read,” he says. However, many of his clients are not panicking, but are instead being strategic. “They’re planning and trying to expand their team as they look ahead.”

Challenge No. 3: Bolstering Your Balance Sheet

Regions can help its commercial customers maintain or build strong cash reserves and improve their access to capital.

For example, its Integrated Payables Treasury Management service can help customers streamline their accounting by automating and consolidating all payment types into a single file. That makes it easier for businesses to manage and track payments to vendors and employees and to strengthen their balance sheet.

Challenge No. 4: Protecting Your Business Against Fraud

To stay afloat, you need to fend off the sharks. “About 60% of businesses we work with have been affected by fraud at some level,” Mealor says. “There are a variety of new and old strategies employed by the bad guys.”

Fraud comes in all forms––imposter fraud to mail fraud, email compromises and phishing escapades. Many fraudulent efforts succeed, perpetuating more attempts. With the frequency and sophistication of fraud––including cyber attacks––growing, businesses need to get all their employees on board in defending the company against the risks.

“Stop, call and confirm” is a critical message for all businesses to remember and practice. “If you believe any change to a vendor’s payment process is suspicious or out of the norm, stop what you’re doing, call the vendor and confirm that change with them,” Mealor advises. “We have to be healthily skeptical of any changes that seem out of the norm. It can save a lot of money and grief.”

Challenge No. 5: Setting Your Business Up for Long-Term Growth

No matter what industry you’re in, Regions can help you plan ahead thoughtfully, provide stability and solve problems.

“We build teams around our commercial banking customers based on their unique needs, from local universities that need to grow and manage their endowments to companies with international operations that face a variety of economic and financial obstacles,” Mealor says. “Our customers may not expect us to have all the answers, but they count on us to get the answers for them.”

Customers can help themselves by being transparent with their relationship manager. “Share the good, the bad and the ugly,” Mealor advises. “Don’t keep secrets from your banker. We are here to help.”

Three Things to Do

  1. Learn more about combatting fraud from inside your business.
  2. Read about what growing companies in the Southeast have in common.
  3. Listen to the latest episodes of our commercial podcast for more insights to bolster your business.