The recession has made banks more hesitant to offer small business loans, so it is more important than ever to be prepared.
One of the ways you can increase your chances of obtaining a small business loan is to establish a positive relationship with your bank before you apply for the loan.
This may seem old-fashioned, but meeting with bank officers in person, instead of making phone calls and sending emails, can make a huge difference.
Rich Sloan, co-founder of StartUpNation, a small business consulting firm in San Francisco, says that, “The most important thing you have with your bank is not money: it’s the relationship you have with the bank.”
George Cloutier, chief executive of small business consulting firm American Management Services in Orlando, Florida, agrees: “It’s better to make your first meeting in person than on the phone. You’ll learn a lot from how you’re treated, even the banker’s body language.”
What to Talk About in a Meeting With Bank Officers
First, do your homework. Find out what kinds of loans the bank is known to give out. Some banks and bankers specialize in specific industries, types of businesses, or sizes of loans.
Also, remember that the meeting is more than a chance for you to tell the bank officer about your small business; you should also use the opportunity to find the right bank for you. What other services does the bank offer? Does the bank collect financial information on your industry? Does the bank have a financial advisor?
Of course, loan rates are a big part of the selection process — but remember that big banks that can afford to offer low rates might not be the best fit for your small business. Meeting with the bank officer in person can help you sort this out.
When you tell the bank officer about your business, focus on both your past successes, and your plans for the future. Make the bank officer familiar with your business, so that when the time comes to request a loan, the bank officer will already be familiar with (and ideally, excited about) your company.