When thinking about exciting relationships in your life, unless you’re Scrooge McDuck I’m betting that the name of your banker is not at the top of your list. Ah, what a difference a global pandemic and enforced working from home can make. My banker is one of my favorite people right now and I have it on good authority that a number of folks are feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about theirs as well.
All joking aside, the current crisis has brought home to me how important it is for small business owners to have a strong relationship with their point person at their banking institution. Once my agency realized that we needed to send our staff home for the duration of New York State’s quarantine orders, we had a moment of panic. How would we deposit payments over a certain sum? (Sure, the mobile app was available, but there was a daily cap on the number and amount of deposits.) How were we going to pay our clients when we were not set up for printing physical checks remotely? And, most harrowing, how were we going to secure SBA assistance through the CARES program in the stampede that followed the federal government’s announcement of the stimulus package?
Our longtime banker stepped in, like a knight in a three-piece suit. He increased the limits on our deposits, worked with us on setting up ACH transfers for the bulk of our clients, and held our hand through the tortuous application process for our SBA loan.
Contrast that with stories I’ve also heard from other business owners who were caught off guard by the COVID-19 crisis, but who did not have an established relationship with a strong advocate at their banking institution. From avoiding delays in getting operational in the new business reality to understanding how crucial it was to file the SBA application as soon as possible (given that these loans were “first come, first serve”), having a banker you could reach out to and trust would have made a difficult, confusing time much easier to navigate.
The stereotype of the unfeeling money man is just that. During this difficult time, I’ve witnessed how hard our financial partners have worked (on call at all hours) to make sure our business runs smoothly and our clients continue to be well served. While you can’t fully prepare for the kind of crisis we find ourselves in, laying the groundwork of a good relationship with your banker is a crucial part of your business’s success narrative.
So, going forward, make it a point to meet with your bank point person. Remember to say thank you when they’ve helped you out of a sticky situation. Maybe even schedule a lunch date once a year to get to know each other better, not because you need something right then but because you never know when having someone you can call directly and ask for help might be the key to your business’s survival.