By Joe Davio
A lot of banks say they cater to small businesses. However, a quick review of their products and services will tell you if that is really true. Following the guide below, check to see if your bank is putting your needs first.
Tailored products and services
Many banks provide business checking and savings accounts. If your bank is working in your best interest, they'll also offer less traditional banking products that are designed especially for small businesses.
These products include a small business line of credit that will provide you fast, convenient access to financing by simply writing a check; a "sweep" account that automatically sweeps your unused checking account balances into an investment account to maximize your investment earnings; a low-cost checking account created especially for entrepreneurs; or cost-effective pension plans.
Prompt response to loan requests
Busy business owners don't have time to wait a week or longer to learn whether their loan request has been approved. If your bank doesn't have a streamlined application process for small business owners, you should consider a bank that does. A bank that places your needs first will tell you within two or three days if your request has been approved and will allow you to quickly close on that loan.
Staff focus on small businesses
Your bank should have lenders dedicated to serving only small businesses. If they're not, your needs may be secondary to the needs of the lenders' larger, corporate clients. Banks with small business banking departments become familiar with the unique needs of their customers and can provide them with creative financing solutions.
SBA "Preferred Lender" status
Is your bank a preferred U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) lender? If so, they will be able to provide faster turnaround time on your SBA loan application because SBA credit approvals will not be required prior to the bank's loan approval. And ask your lender if they use SBA or other government-sponsored loan programs, such as the Michigan Capital Access Program. The availability of a wide range of traditional and government loan programs allows a bank's lenders to be creative and flexible in responding to your firm's financing needs.
Helping you succeed
What educational and technical assistance programs does your bank make available to you? Look for a bank that hosts workshops and seminars to help you manage your business more successfully and profitably.
Another indicator of a bank's commitment to your success is its partnerships with other organizations dedicated to helping small businesses. Has the bank partnered with the SBA and its Small Business Development Centers? Has it produced workbooks to assist you with starting your business or financing your business? Has it developed programs with local business organizations?
If your bank doesn't offer the comprehensive services described above, consider switching to a bank that does. Comerica Bank is committed to helping its small business customers succeed. That commitment has enabled Comerica to become one of the nation's leading small business lenders.
Joe Davio is regional president of Comerica Bank in Grand Rapids. For more information, call (616) 456-9622.