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Small and medium-size businesses need a bank with insights into your market — your competitors, customer base, economic conditions, growth opportunities, pricing strategies and more — in order to provide practical guidance as you make financial decisions.
Your banker should also understand how your business functions: what impacts your profitability, your competitive advantage, how your contracts are developed and executed, the type of workforce you need, and much more, including potential short- and long-term financial needs.
Decisions at some banks are often made outside of your market and without input from your banker. Your banker should have the localized authority and/or input to make decisions about a loan you’re applying for (or other need).
The most valuable bankers are those who view their relationships with customers as long-term and in doing so look to future challenges. This helps them identify the resources, strategies and solutions to meet these challenges — and reach your goals (both long- and short-term). This also means understanding what can cause downturns in your business and having the expertise to offer solutions to help minimize their effects.
Much of the value provided by a banker is related to his or her ability to offer insights and guidance in business matters that involve a financial component — like facility expansion plans and seasonal inventory purchases, for example. An experienced business banker should be ready and willing to discuss strategies and plans with you, regardless of whether your issue involves seeking a loan or other financial assistance.
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans can be a practical tool for many businesses in many different situations, and your banker should understand how each can be used and what circumstances are appropriate for seeking one.
As your business grows, its capital and banking needs also grow. Your bank should be keeping up with those needs, offering products and services that make banking simpler and more secure and that provide smart options.
The best, most valuable banking partners are always looking beyond today’s needs, with an eye on solutions that help you achieve goals and proactively address challenges you could face in the future. Those solutions should involve not just financial assistance, but insights gained from helping other businesses in similar situations, to help you navigate those challenges successfully.
Some businesses, like those with pronounced seasonality, have special cash requirements, relying on their banks to help finance inventory and other purchases and support daily operations when sales dip dramatically during off-peak times. Your banker should be knowledgeable about your industry norms and your business specifically, enough so that he or she is proactive in recommending steps that can help put you in the best cash situation at all points throughout the year.