First things first: you need to spend some time researching the market before you pick your banking partner. Don’t automatically choose the same bank that holds your current account or the one that has the best short-term deals – look into the accounts that offer the best long-term support for your business.
Your bank is an integral part of your business and you need to know that it will administer your finances efficiently and that there will be no nasty surprises once you have signed up for an account. Review sites and friend referrals are the best way to research the market initially.
Think from the bank’s point of view
Once you have started banking with your chosen partner, it’s important to establish a good working relationship early on. Imagine you are the bank manager; you have invested time and money setting up the account and now what you really want is to know that the account will be used properly. Wild swings in your bank balance, constant indebtedness and low deposits will all signal to your bank that the business is not being run in the best possible way. If you need to go overdrawn from time to time, let the bank know early so that you can arrange a debt facility.
Communication, communication, communication
The most critical aspect of a banking relationship is communication. By and large, banks are sympathetic to the needs of businesses and understand that sometimes cashflow is plentiful and sometimes it can be sparse.
If you don’t communicate regularly with the bank, the only information it has to go on is your balance. Much better, then, is to explain patterns in your turnover, including the requirement for loans or debt arrangements, before the need becomes real. Banks are risk averse and want to be able to anticipate shocks before they happen. An informed bank manager is therefore a happy bank manager.
When arranging to borrow money for growth, be realistic about what you will achieve with the money involved and about the rate at which you can feasibly pay it back. Bank managers appreciate honesty and don’t necessarily want to hear that you can turn £5,000 into £1million overnight – especially if it isn’t true.
Consider your incomings and outgoings carefully and be candid about what you can comfortably pay back over time. If you get these sums wrong you could impact cash flow adversely, or worse, you could be refused funding.
Professionalism is a plus
Bank managers are intelligent and experienced professionals. While they don’t expect you to attend meetings in a morning suit, professional presentation – i.e. clothing, attitude, a good understanding of your business and its figures – is essential if you want to earn respect.
When it comes to lending money, banks want to know that customers understand the cycles and numbers that make their businesses tick. If you fail to demonstrate that you have these to hand and know your business figures inside out, alarm bells will start ringing.
With these points in mind, you should be in a good position to enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with your bank.
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