Gatekeeper or Trusted Resource?
Early in my career as a commercial banker, I was surprised to learn that some businesses think of their banking relationship as a necessary evil. They need the bank for financial reporting and sometimes a loan or line of credit, but mainly they want their bank to leave them alone. "They'll let us know when they need us."
I was surprised, I think, because I know what goes on behind the scenes at our bank and the conversations that take place in sincere support of our customers. Our greatest asset as a bank is our customers. We only succeed if you succeed.
We Want You to Achieve Your Goals
I have learned over the years that when I explain the bank's point of view and reasoning for our interest in supporting your business through good times AND BAD TIMES that my relationship with business customers is much more open, productive, and successful.
If you are a business that wonders why your banker wants to keep in touch regularly, let me explain how a stronger and more open relationship with your bank can benefit you.
Think of Us as a Resource
As your business evolves and matures, it needs different resources at different stages. If we understand your situation, we can better serve your company in a variety of ways:
- Experience and Expertise. You are an expert in your industry and your business. We don't claim to have more expertise in your arena. However, we have had the pleasure to work with countless businesses over decades and may have encountered a similar snag or opportunity before. I, or one of my colleagues, may be able to point you toward a solution to consider based on our experience with lots of businesses in a variety of industries over the years. Why not take advantage of that knowledge base?
- Networking Connections. Thanks to our conversations with business owners throughout Dane County, we may know an influencer or another business that would make a great connection for you. We love introducing our customers to others with similar missions, complementary goals, or supportive mindsets. While we often suggest such introductions, don't be afraid to ask! Let us know there's a certain type of person or business you'd like to get in touch with; we might be able to help.
- Product Knowledge. If we understand your story and your business well, we might be able to recommend a non-traditional product that would work better for you. I have a coworker who has been working with a business owner for a long time and really understands the ins-and-outs of his company. My coworker recently suggested a different type of loan program that was specific to certain types of real estate. Participating in this program generated one extra piece of paperwork – one piece of paper! – but saved the business significant money. We might have options that are even better than what you're asking for.
Think of Us as an Advocate
It helps for us commercial bankers to really understand your goals and your plan or path for reaching those goals when going through the loan approval process.
When we bring your loan request to our loan approval committee for review, we have the opportunity to speak on your behalf.
If we have not been in touch for a year and I don't know your status beyond the paperwork in front of me, it's difficult to advocate for you other than present the numbers you submitted.
If we have been in regular conversation over the course of the last six months and I know you are aware of specific issues and how you are addressing those issues, I feel much more comfortable explaining your situation – your story – to the committee.
You might think you can tell us your story when the need arises, but a relationship of trust and understanding is built over time on both sides. And it can be challenging to grasp the complexity of a situation in a one-hour conversation when you need us to act quickly.
Think of Us as Your Sounding Board
Whether your business is just an idea that's growing legs or enjoys a maturity and track record that others envy, I encourage you to build a dialogue with your commercial banker that involves regular, transparent communication. It may feel uncomfortable to share the inner workings of your company at first, but I assure you that the benefits and impact on your business will be worth the effort.