Take a Banker to Lunch

It's tougher than ever to get credit from a bank. Banks are stuck in a crazy place where they've got gobs of cash, yet they won't put it to work.

It wasn't always this way. For the first 20 years of running my practice, I could walk into the bank, sign my name, and walk out with a very big check. I was always kind of surprised at how easily the bank trusted us. We made deals on a handshake, and everyone left happy.

Not anymore.

While lending has tightened up, our need for expansion capital hasn't. It's helpful to have access to equipment loans, credit lines, and a leasing facility.

Unfortunately, your banker may not have much latitude to help. Your banker is in a tight spot caught between banking regulators, his or her superiors, and you. Most of the bankers I know personally wish they could extend credit more easily. They're not happy with the current situation any more than we are. It's a mess.

While getting loans is harder today than in the past, it's not impossible. Banks still lend; they just do it much, much more carefully. Many things have changed, but the fundamentals remain the same.

One of the most important factors in obtaining credit is your relationship with your banker. A personal relationship goes a long way. Your relationship with your banker plays a big role in decisions related to your credit.

You need a strong personal connection to help motivate your banker to go to bat for you when the need arises.

Now is the perfect time to work on that relationship with your banker. There's no time like the present to bond with the people controlling the cash. In fact, this is a great time to get to know a bunch of bankers, not just one.

Build a connection to someone in a big national bank. Get to know someone in an established local bank. Spend time with a banker from the aggressive new bank (there's usually one in every community). The stronger your connections to these bankers, the more likely you are to get what you need when you need it. The more diverse your relationships, the better position you'll be in to drive a hard bargain on the terms of the deal.

Go to lunch with some bankers. Eventually, it will pay off.

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