Tips for Business Success - Build a Relationship with Your Community Banker

By BJ North - Plumas Bank EVP and Chief Banking Officer September 28, 2020 Community banking

BJ North

You’re passionate — maybe even a little bit fanatical — about the potential of your small business. 

But you’re clear-headed enough to recognize that you’ll need the support of a good community bank to help you bring the full potential of your small business into reality.

The creation of a supportive relationship with your banker begins with your very first meeting, and you’ll want to prepare carefully to tell your story as well as you can.

For starters, you’ll want to have a firm grip on your company’s financial situation. It’s certainly acceptable to bring along your company’s financial specialist, whether it’s the chief financial officer or the trusted bookkeeper who’s been with you forever. But don’t rely entirely on the financial specialist. The banker will worry if you constantly defer to the bookkeeper or accountant for answers. 

You’ll want to understand, too, your company’s position in the market. What’s happening with competitors locally? Vendors in the global supply chain? Even more important, how do you see future trends?

Be ready to share your passion. Financials don’t tell the whole story. Explain how you saw the need for your business and how you built it from the ground up.  What’s the potential of this business? How is the business going to get to the next step? How can the bank help? If you want your community bank to be a partner in the growth of your company, be your own best cheerleader. Get the banker fired up about your vision.

Like any relationship, a successful relationship with your bank will be based on truth. Every business has tough times. Some businesses thrive. Others struggle. Some parts of a business do great things. Others don’t. Be open with your banker about the company’s struggles as well as its successes.

Be prepared, too, to talk about yourself as the business owner. Take pride in your entrepreneurial successes. Where are you in the journey of your business life? Might you be considering purchase of that building your company is leasing? Are you thinking about retirement? Bringing in partners? Your answers will help you and your banker shape the best solutions for today and the future.

In preparing for the meeting with your banker, think about the hard questions you’re likely to get. Then, during the meeting, provide the answers before the banker has a chance to ask the questions.

Remember this: Bankers really don’t like surprises. If they pull your credit report after your first meeting, will they find any surprises that you didn’t disclose? Instead, provide your banker with a clear picture of your situation and, in turn, they can offer you a realistic range of options to achieve your goals.

There are few things that a community banker loves more than a visit with someone who is bringing a new business to life, someone with confidence, someone who has put a lot of thought into goals and the path ahead. We get excited about our partnerships with those business owners.

We are less excited, frankly, by folks who come into the bank with an adversarial attitude. They arrive with preconceived notions about the role of a bank — sometimes inaccurate notions — and draw firm lines in the sand whenever we discuss alternatives. 

We find ourselves explaining patiently that a bank is not an investor. We cannot take big risks with our depositors’ money. Even if the borrower’s business proposal appears to be risk-free, we’re probably going to loan no more than 70 or 80 percent of the money the borrower needs. Banks want to know the borrower believes in the project enough to also have a personal financial stake in its success.  

We also find that most businesspeople want to learn about the range of financial products — not just loans — the bank can provide to help build their businesses succeed. They recognize that the best relationships are those in which everyone, the bank as well as the small business, comes away a winner.

Community bankers understand that the United States has been built on small businesses. Even the largest corporations started as small businesses. 

It’s the job of community bankers today to listen to the stories of small businesses, understand their possibilities and help hardworking business owners unlock every bit of that potential.

And it all begins with a successful first meeting.


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*Rates, fees and borrower information in this article were current at the time of publication and are provided for illustrative and educational purposes. Contact your Plumas Bank loan officer for today’s rates, fees and lending information. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.