There are more than 30 million small businesses (defined as 500 employees or less) in the United States, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), and a little over 5,000 community banks. Fortunately, these two groups are often next-door neighbors on Main Street USA, and many times friends. Small business and community banks share core values of ethics, honesty, trust and customer focus. When the two work together, this team manifests as the high-quality, personal relationship that ICB prides itself on sharing with our customers.

In the course of starting and operating your business, you’ve probably participated in your fair share of banking activities. From opening a business checking or savings account, applying for financing, or setting up remote deposit capture, you have likely relied on your banker to get you off and running. But it’s during the challenging times like the one we’re currently experiencing that you find out what sets community banks apart. It all comes down to personal relationships.

How Community Banks Help Small Businesses

Here are a few ways we actively work to build good client/banker relationships in both good times and in bad:

  • We’re an integral part of helping strategize ways to grow your business and reach your financial objectives. We can provide you with expert financial advice, provide you with business resources, answer your questions and help ease the concerns that keep you awake at night.
  • As business bankers, we’re proud members of our local communities. We network with a wide variety of professionals in all kinds of businesses and can be a valuable resource in connecting you with them. We can help you find prospective vendors and partners that align with your business.
  • In the same way that we can point you in the right direction to a vendor or service provider, we can also point potential customers or clients in YOUR direction. We can help you find new customers or break into a new market.
  • We keep tabs on local and regional economic forecasts and can make recommendations based on past trends and future predictions.
  • When you’ve developed a strong relationship with your business banker, it becomes easier to be approved for future financing. We can also often help during emergencies by providing a fast wire transfer or resolving an accidentally overdrawn account. Because we know you, your business and your financial history, it’s easier for us to help you out of a tight spot.
  • Finally, we promise to always “walk in your shoes.” We believe that we succeed when we listen to you and learn about your business aspirations. We want to know which issues are your most pressing, and we’re glad to brainstorm with you to help find answers.

Regardless of the situation, communication is vital in your banking relationship. Here are tips for keeping your business banker in the loop when it comes to your finances:

  • We want to hear from you! Please keep us informed of any major (or even minor) changes in your business; don’t be afraid to share the bad news as well as the good news. Let us know about significant moves like opening a new location, acquiring a new company or planning an expansion.
  • Be a good communicator. We know that life can get busy, but we promise to return your calls and emails within a reasonable amount of time. We can serve you best when you try to do the same.
  • Be a responsible asset manager. The balance sheet should grow proportionately as you build your business, and an improved debt/worth ratio should be evidence of your efforts. Plan your growth as much as is possible, so volume/revenue and profits grow in tandem; ideally, net worth will grow at the same pace.
  • Don’t be a stranger. As much as we want to join you in your company’s good times and celebrate your successes, we also want to support you during the challenges. We know that life as a small business owner can become solitary, especially during times of struggle, but your business banker is a partner always at your side. We’re glad to help you work through whatever roadblocks confront your business. We feel that’s our opportunity to show you our greatest value to your business, and we look forward to helping.

Managing the relationship with your business banker doesn’t have to be difficult. Check in regularly and commit to maintaining an open dialog. We’ll do the same! When you and your banker trust each other, everyone wins. And during these challenging times, keeping those lines of communication open is more crucial than ever. We’re here for you, we want you to succeed, and we’ll weather this and any future storms together.

Written by Mark Sterr

Mark is a Wisconsin native with over 35 years of experience in commercial banking. His deep connection with business owners allows him to consult on matters from expanding into new markets to adding buildings, all with the goal of helping companies grow.

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