4 Ways to Make Your Banker Your Best Friend

Cultivate a meaningful relationship with your small business banker, and you’ll gain a myriad of benefits—from sound financial and growth advice to potential referrals.

Visits to the local bank have become less necessary. “I check my balances online, make deposits via my smartphone, and occasionally get cash out from my local ATM,” notes David Nour, author of Relationship Economics and founder of The Nour Group, Inc., a global advisory group. But in this scenario, something is missing: the benefits that come from building a strong relationship with your banking representative.

“I invest time and effort to actually get to know my banker and his or her real strengths and to arm them with the ammunition they need to become an asset to my efforts,” says Nour. From delivering business and growth advice to providing insight into the local business community and players, your banking representative can be an important source of intelligence and contacts. Here’s how you can get the most from your relationship with your banker.

  1. Start the process early. Get to know your banker from the moment you open your account—if not sooner! He or she will become a valuable confidante—someone who has watched your business develop and can offer advice with both your history and business goals in mind.

    “When a business is just starting, the banking needs are small—perhaps just a checking and savings account. As the company prospers, banking needs expand to include business credit cards, lines of credit, loans for expansion, etc. Building banking relationships early establishes trust and enables your banker to be your internal advocate as banking needs increase,” advises Rick Coplin, former vice president of community partner ventures at Rev1Ventures, where he helps entrepreneurs build their start-ups.

  2. Meet regularly to share business updates. Meeting routinely will help you develop a personal rapport and help your banker better understand your business goals. Your banker may have ideas for growth and important insights into how regulations in your industry can impact your business, and this can help you make smarter decisions that can help you make smarter decisions. Dileep Rao, an entrepreneurial finance columnist, consultant, and former venture financier suggests small business owners “develop accurate financial statements on a regular basis, and meet with their banker even when they don’t need them to share these statements.” He also suggests building your business “using sound financial principles so the banker knows you are going to succeed.”
  3. Seek your banker’s advice. If you are facing a business challenge, ask your banker for input. Coplin suggests asking your banker to evaluate your business plan every quarter. “Bank managers and loan officers work with many more business plans than investors do, so your banker has a depth of experience which you can leverage,” he says.

    Your banker can provide sound financial guidance, general business insights, and introductions to relevant thought leaders that could help you navigate the challenges at hand. “The market is incredibly dynamic and evolves at a rapid pace. Your banker could be the ‘sherpa’ that leads you through the trends you need to understand and the changes you must make to evolve, through introductions to leaders in your community,” says Nour.

    Your banker may be able to facilitate meaningful introductions to potential clients and resources. The better he or she understands your business goals, the more aptly he or she can make relevant introductions.

  4. Discuss your lending needs. Cultivating a relationship with your banker will most likely make it easier to apply for and obtain a loan. He or she will have comprehensive knowledge of your business and will be able to provide the best advice on how to obtain the funds you need.

    “The role of internal advocate is key to small businesses’ success as the numbers seldom tell a complete story,” says Coplin. “If there is any question about your balance sheet or cash flows, or if your figures hint at weaknesses, the personal relationship you have with your banker could make the difference between getting the services you need and rejection.”

Remember, you get what you give. “The qualities you look for in a banker are the same ones they are looking for in you: Trustworthiness, reliability, experience, and connections,” says Coplin. “Be the person you want to do business with, and if your banker is doing the same, you should expect great service, and an individual who is in your corner and a good friend.”


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