ARE YOU READY – TIPS FOR SMALL BUSINESS HONOUR
The news is filled with stories about a credit crunch and slowing economy. Some banks have put business lending on hold, and some businesses are having trouble getting the funds they need either to operate or to expand.
“Not us,” explains Mukesh Mike” Patel, chairman of Haven Trust Bank Florida. “We realize that entrepreneurs need a steady flow of cash and a dependable source of money.”
Typically, small locally-owned community banks are more flexible in their lending policies and procedures. For example, Haven Trust Bank Florida has expedited approval and simplified documentation for both SBA loans and conventional loans.
“We deal with people, not just paperwork,” adds Mike Patel. “We don’t ignore underwriting guidelines, but we are ignoring the doom-and-gloom headlines.
“There is still money to be made during tough economic times and good business operators will be the ones to make it. We’re here for those people.”
The message clearly is that business owners don’t have to be discouraged from expanding or from seeking credit. There are banks out there that will let you take your business where you want to go.
Some business owners want to choose a big bank because they have big plans for the future and intend to grow and grow and grow. Those plans are wonderful, but when you outgrow your bank, you can change banks. For now, you should select the bank that’s going to best meet your current needs.
Remember that community banks can adapt more easily and quickly than larger institutions – they can arrange their programs to fit your needs. You should be able to call your banker to explain what you need – and know that he or she can help you without having to consult a rigid bank policy or some faceless group of decision- makers in a far-away city.
For many small business owners, time is as valuable as money – when you’re ready to do a deal, you want to move quickly – so you need a quick decision from your bank. Haven Trust Bank Florida, for example, is locally-owned so most loan approvals take as little as 24 hours and closings can be held within a few weeks.
Work is hard — banking should be easy. So build your business with vision, with commitment, and with a great bank.
So shop around – go to at least three banks and meet with a senior executive or loan officer. Think of the discussion as a job interview with someone you want to hire and ask questions such as:
• Does the bank offer special accounts and loans for small businesses? For some banks, young entrepreneurial companies are an after-thought. By contrast, Haven Trust Bank Florida is among the leading lenders of government- backed SBA loans in the southeastern United States.
• How personalized is the service? Evaluate how enthusiastic and personable the bank representative is. You want a bank that asks how you are when you come in rather than who you are. Don’t underestimate compatibility – transactions always go more smoothly when people genuinely like each other.
• Are the fees reasonable? While most business accounts have some type of fees attached to them, be sure to do enough comparison shopping to get the best deal – and don’t be seduced by bank services that seem intriguing but actually are of little use to your business.
• Does the bank have experience with your type of business?
• Does the bank have up-to-date IT services such as online bill pay and account management?
• Is the bank conveniently located for your business?
• Is the bank well-known and respected in the community? The networking connections that come your way as a result of the bank’s reputation and client base can be a big bonus for a growing business. “Some business owners want to choose a big bank because they have big plans for the future and intend to grow and grow and grow. Those plans are wonderful, but when you outgrow your bank, you can change banks.”
CONSIDER THESE TIPS
Banks are very deliberate in their fact-finding before they grant a loan – and business owners should be just as thorough when they choose a bank.
• Match the bank with the size of your business and its needs. For example, small and mid-sized companies are more likely to get better support at small and mid-sized banks.
• Deal with the most senior officers possible – they have more decision-making authority and are less likely to change jobs.
• Your bank is only as good as the banker you work with. Establish a personal long-term partnership with one individual
so you can get financial advice, ideas, and support beyond routine day-to-day services.
• Community banks, such as Haven Trust Bank Florida, are known for superior customer service including faster decisions, simpler loan procedures, and more favorable, flexible terms. The most common mistake small business owners make is to select the first bank they find. That can be a problem if, for example, the bank is more interested in having big established
companies as clients rather than young up-and-coming businesses.