Most business owners have an attorney they trust with legal matters and a CPA they trust with financial matters. “But there are actually three essential relationships a business owner needs to succeed,” says Andrea Bone, CPA, founder and CEO of Accounting and Business Partners. “And most business owners only have two out of three.”
The third essential relationship is the one you have with your banker, says Bone. But many owners are still doing business with a bank that doesn’t know them – or their company – personally. Here is what a great banking partner should have:
A strong local presence with a dedicated account manager for your business. Bone says that owners of most small to mid-size companies underestimate their value to a local bank. “You deserve personal service,” she insists. “If your bank’s too big or too busy to come to you for a meeting, that’s a sign you should move on.”
Experience with the SBA loan process. Banks who specialize in working with the Small Business Administration understand how the process works and how crucial cash flow is to small business. You may not be looking for an SBA loan right now, but you should know that SBA loans are the gold standard of business loans. They offer high loan amounts, low-interest rates, and long repayment terms. Look for lenders who are part of the SBA’s Preferred Lender Program. This means the SBA has authorized these lenders to approve applications for SBA funding without submitting the application to the SBA first.
Knowledge of the local market and how your business is positioned in it. “If the loan decisions in your bank are being made in New York or Charlotte, they’re being made based on factors that don’t tell the full story,” Bone says. “You need someone who thinks like a local and does business with local companies.”
Bone cites the story of a client whose company was located in a high-traffic tourist community. He had the opportunity to buy up the lease on a location on the boardwalk, which would have an immediate impact on his business. He needed $250,000 for the deal, but his bank turned him down because of a lack of collateral.
That’s where your financial partner can provide value, says Bone. She took the proposal to a local banker who asked what she considered to be “the right questions – questions about the brand and your plans for it.”
Tell me about your company – how long have you been in business? What’s your background? What’s your plan? How will this location be different from your current location? “That’s what a business relationship is about; starting a conversation, not filling out a form.” The owner had a letter of intent in short order and closed the deal in a couple of weeks.
Bringing your CPA into the banking relationship can make a big difference. “Banks are much more comfortable working with a business that has qualified financial professionals on board and the right controls and systems in place,” she says. “There’s an old axiom in finance: borrow before you need the money. We can help you qualify for loans and lines of credit in advance. That means you can take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Because opportunity won’t wait for your banker to decide how credit-worthy you might be at this moment.”
Bone admits that changing banks can be painful: changing all the auto-pay transactions, moving accounts and credit cards – but it’s an investment of time and energy that will pay off when you’ve moved to a bank that understands what businesses need.
She says her relationship with Cogent Bank (a bank that has helped several of her clients) paid off when the pandemic lockdowns hit her community. “I called my contact at Cogent and asked for help processing the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) applications,” she says. “They delivered in a big way. We had a dedicated team that worked 24/7 to process and approve applications. And I mean 24/7 – I got approval calls and emails at 6:00 AM. Together, we processed 60 apps in six weeks, with a 100% approval rate,” she says. “We saved some of those businesses from closing down.”
If you’re not feeling appreciated by your current financial institution, Andrea Bone says you should ask your CPA to help you find a new one. The time you invest in making a change can transform your business. And you can take that to the bank.
About Andrea Bone:
Andrea Bone is the Founder & CEO of Accounting & Business Partners. As a hands-on controller in multiple businesses of various sizes from 1995 to 2020, She has been responsible for everything for the “back office” operations. Her firm manages accounting, payroll, human resources, taxes, banking, insurance, and legal work. Her favorite part in working with business owner clients is seeing them achieve their goals.
Andrea holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree from the University of Texas at Dallas, and a Masters degree in Business from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. She is a Certified Public Accountant and has over 25 years of experience running businesses as a financial controller and CFO.