In the business world, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many gaps in service and tested what we thought was true. The foundation of many businesses has felt the weight of the pandemic’s impact on our economy – and, unfortunately, in some cases collapsed under the pressure.
In financial services, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of strong relationships as much as a strong balance sheet. One of those relationships is between a small-business owner and her/his business banker.
When the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) launched in April 2020, it was small businesses that had a strong connection with their banker that were more quickly and easily able to apply for and receive the forgivable loans to help cover payroll expenses for three months.
Building this business banking relationship takes some work. It’s not as simple as opening an account with a bank in your neighborhood.
If you need to strengthen the relationship with your business banker, here are five things you can do to ensure your banker is there to help when times get tough.
Build your relationship between transactions
We encourage our customers to connect with their business banker regularly -- even when they don’t need banking support. I recommend meeting with your business banker twice a year to discuss your business’ recent successes and challenges. Doing so enables your banking team to become a true partner in your business -- better setting you up for success.
Connect your team of professionals
As a small-business owner, consider introducing your team of professional service providers to one another. Connect your business banker with your lawyer, CPA, insurance broker, and anyone else you deem important to your business, such as key employees. During uncertain times, it’s important for this team to be able to work together and share information to reach the best possible outcomes.
Create a network with your banker
As with any relationship, it’s always beneficial to help each other when you can. Your business banker likely has a number of connections that can support your business. Ask them for recommendations and insights when needed. Likewise, you should feel comfortable introducing your connections to your banking partner, maybe even providing referrals when appropriate. Business owners who do so often have the strongest relationships with their banker.
Move past ‘strictly business’
Trust me, your banker wants to foster a strong and genuine relationship with you. It’s not unusual for my colleagues to ask about their customers’ families, vacations, or important milestones coming up. Maybe you and your banker are both diehard fans of the same sports team or enjoy the same hobbies. Engaging with your banker on an authentic, human level allows you to maintain a strong relationship through tough times.
Get help identifying resources
Your business banker’s goals are aligned with yours. We want your business to succeed and are happy to support any way we can. In challenging times, ask your banker what other resources you might be able to take advantage of.
It’s important to keep the lines of communication with your business banker as open as possible. In a crisis situation your banker needs information as quickly as possible.
You also want to know that your banker will work for you when you need it most. Following these five tips will help ensure your email or phone call gets answered – in good times and bad.
Barney Hughes is M&T Bank’s Administrative Vice President, Business Banking Regional Manager for Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.