Every business should have a supportive and reliable bank that sufficiently fits its business needs.
For some, that will simply require a business checking account. For others, it may mean seeking out something a bit more complex, like a line of credit.
Regardless of the size of the business, here are a few characteristics to look for in a financial institution.
It’s 2010: your bank must have online services. These should both manage your cash and offer loan-application services. For those wanting additional online services, such as the ability to transfer money between banks or customize logos for invoices, many banks charge a small monthly fee.
Not all banks are created equal; or, really, not all banks cater to all industries. Depending on the regional branch, one bank might be stronger in helping a real estate, restaurant, fine art, or technology business more than another. One thing to consider: some banks excel better in certain sectors, and some handle small businesses better based on where they stand in the growth cycle.
With the advent of new technologies, small business owners have the flexibility to choose between using a large national or international bank, and a small regional bank. While most banks don’t get to be as liberal in their offerings as they once could, the small business sector still garners enough interest that both size banks have the liberty to give small businesses some pretty decent options.
Two questions to consider when deciding what size bank you should approach:
Does your business require more individual attention?
Small, regional banks can provide better customer service and the opportunity for more one-on-one time with a loan officer. In these small regional banks, well-cultivated and long-standing personal relationships are valuable. Given the opportunity for these relationships, there is more flexibility and less reliance simply on the numbers that appear on a credit report. In smaller banks, loan officers often have the power to make those final loan decisions themselves, and therefore push paperwork faster. They enjoy more autonomy than a larger bank because they don’t have to run everything past a corporate office for that ultimate stamp of approval.
Is obtaining a good rate the deciding factor for your banking needs?
For some businesses, a better rate outweighs the need for banking flexibility. A larger bank with national and international reach has a greater potential for giving your business a better rate. Of course, regardless of the bank size, you can always negotiate those fees. Keeping a high balance can help keep fees and rates down, as well as moving any personal banking accounts into the same bank. Also, larger banks tend to issue Small Business Administration (SBA) loans with a greater reliability and frequency than smaller banks. And larger banks typically have various amenities that they can throw in to help entice clients to these larger institutions. Note: These perks can often mean additional fees.
Make business friends.
Banking is all about relationships. You can’t negotiate those banking fees without a good interpersonal relationship with your bank rep. You and your small business should work to build solid relationships with the officers at a bank. Try to get to know the credit manager and the local branch manager before you actually ask for any money. Consider setting up a meeting with either or both of them, just for a general conversation about your business.
Like any business transaction, the personal connections are what can make or break how your financial needs are met.