YOUR SMALL business has just selected a bank with which to do business. Now what? Obviously, there was some thought about the bank’s location, hours and level of services offered. Those were the very basics. And it is quite possible that these initial decisions came from your own research or even a colleague’s referral. But what about the next level of factors that needed to be addressed? Oftentimes, individuals and small business operations fail to dig a little deeper in learning about the how the bank interacts with small business banking and lending customers. They may never even interview a bank officer about lending practices, decision-making on check-clearing processes, or the bank’s track record of success with other small businesses in the area. It is vital to consider these additional aspects before selecting a bank for your small business needs.

It’s Not Where You Start…But Where You Finish

Initially, your small business banking needs may be nothing more than having the establishment handling your deposits, withdrawals and debit cards.  Without question, this is a basis for a good foundation in developing more than just an account or two with the bank. However, developing a successful banking relationship goes well beyond these narrow parameters. In fact, when developed, and then later managed well, a banking relationship can actually help a company to thrive into the future.

And speaking of the future, small businesses that grow into large-scale corporations may at some point decide it’s in their best interest to use more than one bank. This may be done for several reasons. The biggest thing to remember, however, is that your organization will then need to manage multiple banking relationships.  At that point you may have one or more business accounts (or several) at one place or several banking institutions to handle the normal day-to-day financial transactions.  

Once your corporation becomes very large in scale, it may be deemed necessary to create additional relationships with investment banks as well.  Investment banks supports individuals, corporations and even governments with various needs such as foreign exchanges, mergers and acquisitions, mutual funds hedge funds and pension funds. Regardless of your needs, the scale or the corresponding timeline involved, creating and then managing your relationship with your bank(s) can be as significant as any other step you encounter on the path to success.

Communicate…and Win!

Research has indicated that a large percentage of business owners or operators have trepidation regarding their relationship with their chosen banker(s) and, as a result, experience a “disconnect” when interacting with them. This should never be the case.  Your bankers, if vetted properly for a perfect fit, will be key elements in your financial dealings. And if your communication with them is properly executed according to their requirements and guidelines, their service should be reciprocated. And speaking of communication; to say it is important may be a complete understatement in every way.  
There are really two keys to banking relationship success. They are simple and straightforward too. The first one, communication, was just mentioned as a top priority. The other key element is time. In some cases, both elements are combined for effective outcomes. Spending quality time and subsequently communicating with your banker, especially in the early stages of relationship development, works to establish their necessary understanding, trust and working knowledge of your organization’s operations inside and out. This fundamental process will also stabilize and reinforce the view your banker has developed about you personally and your accompanying business acumen.  
Meeting with your banker once a year or only when a problem arises just doesn’t cut it. If your company has just won an award or secured a big contract, your banker should know about it. And if you’ve set sales records, added more clients or even been featured in the local paper, your banker should be brought into the mix at that time too. This reinforcement of types helps the banker get a feeling of where you may be sitting in the local market against other similar businesses; and can augment the loan and/credit line process down the road when needed. This type of information is difficult to translate onto an application; which is all the more reason to keep the positive lines of communication open.
Make Time
We mentioned time as a key relationship factor a minute ago. Yes, all of these aforementioned efforts of communication take time to put into action. However, the positives always outweigh the time invested. Please know it also takes time to be thorough and organized. When it does come time for that application for credit or a loan of some sort, taking the time (and as much as is necessary) to do it right is an absolute must. This course of action includes providing the bank with every piece of documentation requested, no matter how trivial it may seem to you. In fact, you and your banker should review your bank statements, financials and other noteworthy documents together a few times a year so both sides continue operating on the same page for maximum communication effectiveness. Of course, this takes time and effort. But once again, it always represents the overall path of least resistance to the finish line of whatever banking goal you may have. 
What happens if things don’t go as planned for your business? Taking the time to communicate these things is just as important as the positives. What you and your banker are striving for is an overall body or work that tells a story over time. This is precise reason for staying in touch and providing any and all pieces of news, information and documentation that concerns your business. The banker will love this open line of communication. So, what would be the opposite of this approach? Surprises; and bankers hate surprises…unless they’re just jam-packed of great news. 
The lesson here is simple; take the time to properly establish a relationship with the best possible banker to fit your banking and lending needs. Grow that relationship by communicating effectively and by providing everything they may need to make educated decisions about helping you grow your business. Working closely together and always operating in a team environment, success for both you and the banker can be realized.