Community Banks—A Small Business Resource
Small Businesses have always been the backbone of the American economy. However, it seems more and more difficult, in recent years, for small businesses to get the funding or even the attention that they deserve from many of the big brand financial institutions. So what does a small business owner do – give up? No sir. Small businesses are defined by their perseverance and passion for their niche. My father always told me, “If it was easy, anyone could do it.” Being a small business person, and finding financing for your small business is truly not easy and not everyone can do it. But do not despair, there is help.
The first step in finding the financing you need in this difficult environment is to find a bank that wants to get to know you, to help you succeed and to become your bank forever, not just for the dollar attached to the current transaction. I’m not naïve enough to say that you will find a bank that will not charge you fees or make money from the relationship; after all, banks are businesses too. However, there are banks that are concerned about your success, about helping you grow. After all, if you grow & succeed and they are your bank, then they grow and succeed.
I’m sure you are thinking, ‘that’s all well and good, but how do I find that bank and how do I make them believe in my ability to grow and succeed?’ The key is knowing where to look and how to present yourself. Local, community banks are a great place to start. Like the community bank I work for, Holladay Bank & Trust, we are a little fish in a big pond. We understand what it’s like to be overlooked because we don’t have 15 branches and hundreds of employees – but, we know that we are still able to succeed and thrive, not in spite of, but because of our size. Because we know this about ourselves, we are able to see it in other small businesses. Community Banks typically have a more focused customer base which allows them to get to know their customers and build relationships with them. Look for a banker that wants to know about you and your business, not just what kind of account you want or what kind of a loan you need. When they ask questions and start to understand you and your business, then they will start to understand your needs. Perhaps they will know even better than you do what kind of loans or other products will serve your needs best and be able to guide you toward them. They should not be taking your financial ‘order’, rather, helping guide your plan toward success.
Even the most interested and genuine banker cannot understand your business and your plans by osmosis. You will need to be prepared to show them what you have to offer. Explain your vision for your company. Why do you do what you do? What are your goals for the business? How do you plan to get there? What are your challenges? So you are just starting or the last few years haven’t been so good. Show them what you expect your future to look like. You are the expert on your business. Prepare a business plan that explains your business and why it’s important. Create one, two and even three year projections including your expected sales, expenses, and profits. You don’t have to be a sophisticated businessperson to create these. There are many free, helpful tools online that can assist you in showing off your business, your plan and your capabilities – use them. (www.score.org , www.sba.gov, etc.)
The process may be a bit foreign to you and may seem difficult and daunting but “If it were easy, anyone could do it.”, and you are not just anyone! Take the time to seek out the bank and your find the help you need, not another obstacle to overcome.
Traci Flynn is currently the Assistant Vice-President at Holladay Bank & Trust in Holladay Utah. She has worked in the financial industry for the past 14 years in everything from big banks, to broker, to a community bank and from teller to Assistant Vice President. Traci holds a Master’s Degree in International Conflict Management from Norwich University in Vermont and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Utah.
Join us tomorrow for the Business Fuel podcast to hear more from a community banker anxious to help the small businesses in her community.