The relationship that you have with your banker is among the most important ones to the success of your business. So it makes sense to ensure the relationship is smooth and productive. To help you get better service and funding from your financial institution, we asked two of Canada’s top women bankers about the dos and don’ts of building a strong banker relationship. Here’s what they told us.
BUILD THEIR CONFIDENCE IN YOU: “Start by presenting your personal background in a concise format, being factual, highlighting all your qualifications and successes,” says Patricia Lovett-Reid, senior vice president at TD Waterhouse Canada in Toronto. This is often something women are often hesitant to do, she says. Don’t forget to discuss how you’ve handled difficult situations: “You can always change a failure into an opportunity.” By sharing your history, “your banker starts to feel confident and comfortable with you not only as a person, but also with your skills and abilities.”
GATHER YOUR TEAM: “Entrepreneurs who succeed and get off the ground fast are people who have assembled a group of mentors, contacts and advisors,” says Kris Depencier, head of small business, client strategy, at RBC Royal Bank in Toronto. While having a great team behind you isn’t an official prerequisite for funding approval, she says, it does contribute to a banker’s overall impression that you’re prepared, focused, and more likely to succeed.
PRESENT A BUSINESS PLAN: A solid business plan not only helps win your banker’s favour, it helps you focus your goals and priorities, and helps you figure out how to close any gaps, says Depencier. “The outcome is that you become an entrepreneur who is very confident, who’s actually done a bit of risk mitigation just by virtue of going through this process.” This will help your banker believe in you. A good plan should avoid jargon, include realistic numbers, and help your banker understand your industry, adds Lovett-Reid.
SHARE YOUR PERSONAL GOALS: Sharing your personal goals and objectives can help your banker see you as an individual, not just a business owner. You’ll save time, money and risk with a holistic plan that stretches from today’s mortgage payments to retirement, says Depencier. “We’re really there to make sure you’re achieving both your personal and business needs.”
LISTEN: Don’t just talk at your banker, keep your ears open for suggestions and opportunities to explore, says Lovett-Reid. For example, they may present tips on saving interest costs and fees, suggest appropriate maturity and payment schedules, or offer economic or financial reports related to your industry. Remember, “your bank isn’t just a source for borrowing.”
BE PARTNERS: Enter with a spirit of teamwork. “We’re in the same camp; we’re not on opposing teams here. Our success is your success,” says Lovett-Reid. For bankers, working with women entrepreneurs “is big business and it’s good business,” she says. “Your banker will be very lucky to get you as a client. You shouldn’t go in thinking that you’re going to be really lucky to get the financing.”
CHECK YOUR EMOTIONS: “Bankers want to lend money to the most viable projects. They’re not looking for a lot of emotion or intuitiveness in the lending process,” says Lovett-Reid. While showing emotion reveals your commitment and helps get others excited in your venture, “it’s not as high on the agenda as a well-thought-out business plan.”
FIND YOUR FIT: If for any reason you’re unhappy with your banker, request a new account manager. “A woman should deal with the financial institution of her choice and the person that’s most respectful of her goals and her dreams,” says Lovett-Reid. If you aren’t satisfied with your banker, “that doesn’t mean you have to write off the institution, it may mean you need to ask to speak with someone else.”
The good news is that a poor fit is less likely to be the result of gender bias from male bankers against women entrepreneurs than in past decades, agrees Lovett-Reid and Depencier. In Canada, unlike many other developed and emerging nations, says Depencier, “the [gender] challenges that women entrepreneurs might have faced a couple of decades ago have been largely overshadowed by the opportunity that bankers see with women entrepreneurs in general.”