This is the 10th in a continuing series of articles from Ron’s newest book, Getting To Yes With Your Banker, which includes 93 secrets you likely didn’t know about dealing with your banker. In a click and clack format, it is from an entrepreneur and a lenders perspective. It’s co-authored by Ron Sturgeon, a serial entrepreneur, and Greg Morse, Founder and president of Worthington National Bank with four locations in Tarrant County.
The book is packed with tips and advice on how to choose and get along with a banker, what they want to see, a must have guide for both start ups and existing business persons, featuring perspectives from both the banker and entrepreneur’s.
Courting Your Banker
Long before asking for money, customers need to begin building a relationship with their bank. They can start by opening a business checking account and getting to know everybody at the bank, but — particularly if it’s a new business — don’t simply walk into a bank with a business plan and try to borrow some money.
The first step is to decide where you’d like to take your business. Once you’ve identified the “who,” it’s time to work on meeting your banker and developing a relationship. If you’ve done your research, you’ll know that this bank is right for you and your business, and you’ll also know that the banker has the lending power and is friendly toward your type of business.
If a friend referred the banker to you, one of the best ways to move the relationship forward is to have your friend arrange a lunch meeting with the banker. While your first meeting with the banker should be on your “home turf,” a friendly introduction over lunch is an effective way to launch a lasting relationship.
“It’s a good idea just to swing by the bank, pick him up — make it easy on the banker,” Greg says. “Lunches are important to bankers. We’ve got to eat every day so we might as well make it count.”
And you can even get your banker to pick up the check.
Creating a Relationship with a Banker
Greg: People today really don’t put enough time and thought into picking their banker. Picking a banker is kind of like getting married and having kids together — the business owner has to have confidence that the banker is going to lend him or her money, and the bank has to have confidence that the owner is going to pay it back.
If I’m calling on you as a customer, I want my first call to be on your turf. I want to see what you have in your office that’s important to you. This way, I know a little bit about your background. In banking, one thing we look at is character. One of the first things I want to find out is what color hat you’re wearing — is it a white hat or a black hat?
Ron: I think it’s very important that the first meeting occurs at the customer’s place of business. I had one deal some years back where a fancy lender came to my place of business. When he got there, he wanted to walk all the way to the back. And I mean all the way to the back. I said, “I don’t understand,” and he said, “All the crap is in the back of the building.”
He explained that if he was going to finance a warehouse, the first place he’d want to look is in the back of the building, because that’s where they’re going to store or dump everything; and it’s the last place to be cleaned, but can be an indication of “business housekeeping”. So basically, it’s great that you cleaned the glass door and you have all your employees standing at attention, but he wants to go to the back, because that’s where you’re going to hide all your crap. Murphy’s Law says that if you clean it, the banker won’t go there. However, that’s strategic thinking on your part. And remember, no one likes Green Weenies.
Greg: Right. And, you want your banker to know and understand what you do because he or she might be able to help.
Ron: I call that meeting stage the champagne phase, and I always caution everybody because it really sucks. We clink our glasses and talk about how great this is going to be. The loan officer usually talks like, “This is the deal we’re going to do, we’re going to give you a great rate and this is going to be great!” You’ll come away from the meeting thinking that everything is going to be okay.
But usually it’s not okay; it’s just that the crap hasn’t hit the fan yet. Because the next thing you know, the bank’s going to want lots of stuff from you — lots of documentation you don’t have — and the banker’s going to ask you questions that you can’t answer. Before long, it’s going to get a lot harder, and it’s not going to be champagne anymore. By the way, you should have all of that stuff if you’re prepared. When I take consulting clients to the bank or get them ready to go, we provide the banker with virtually everything he could need in advance then we can forego all of the formalities of going through the plan – which is boring as heck. We send it via email a few days before (at least 24 hours), and then when we meet, we are just fielding the lender’s questions. It makes the meeting very productive.
Greg: I call that the “Quixotic phase.” It’s where everyone is looking at each other with stars in their eyes. Both sides are romantically idealistic. Everyone thinks they’re going to get what they want, however, that’s not going to last.
Meeting the Family
As with any courtship, it won’t be long until the relationship needs to involve more than the primary two participants. Meeting other important players at the bank is vital to a successful banking relationship.
A good banker will encourage customers to meet other employees at the bank, from the tellers to other officers. A good customer will take the initiative to build relationships with those employees. That’s one reason that most meetings with your banker should be face to face — and, with the exception of that initial meeting, they should be held in the banker’s office as often as possible. This gives the customer additional opportunities to establish relationships with a wide range of bank employees.
Another reason to do most of your banking in person? It’s a lot easier to tell someone “no” over the phone than it is to tell him or her face to face.
Remember only you can make business great!
Ron Sturgeon, business owner, consultant and peer bench marketing leader, combines over 35 years of entrepreneurship with an extensive resume in consulting, keynote speaking and business writing. Ron can be reached at 5940 Eden, Haltom City, TX 76117, 817-834-3625 or by email at rons@MrMissonPossible.com.