Taking the time to search for the right lender may mean the difference between borrowing success and failure. A business loan officer at your bank not only provides the short- and long-term financing your company needs, he or she is a great source for information on networking opportunities, contacts and professional advice.

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Unlike private investors or partners, a bank’s loan officer won’t interfere in your day-to-day business operations. While traditional lenders do expect to be repaid, banks don’t make company decisions in return for financing a new expansion initiative. They leave the business of managing the business to you – the company owner.

Start the Search for the Right Commercial Lender

When should you start looking for the right lender? Ideally, before you need one. When you need cash right now, there are fewer options, so start your research before you actually need a loan.

Here’s what to look for in a lender:

  • experience working with businesses like yours;
  • Transparency in the underwriting and decision-making process for your request;
  • numerous lending options – one of which suits your business needs;
  • lender participation in Small Business Administration (SBA) or other government-backed loan programs designed to boost local economies.

Look for a lender who wants to participate in your business’ success. Working with an unofficial partner always delivers the best outcomes over the long term.

Choosing the Right Commercial Lender

Make appointments to meet with various lenders and shop around. At this stage of the lending process you’re in complete control. You can walk away from any offer and take the better deal from the lender across the street so interview potential lenders.

During each interview, ask the same questions and collect the same data so you can compare apples to apples. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • With whom specifically will my company work: one individual, an associate or a group of decision makers? Decisions by committee always take longer so make sure you understand the timeline and what information will be needed.
  • What skills and experience does the lender bring to the table?
  • Will your relationship be transactional, or can you expect additional advice, guidance and support throughout the term of the loan?
  • What networking possibilities does the lending bank offer?
  • What is each lender’s approach to your company’s needs? Do you feel comfortable talking with the loan officer? If times get tough, do you feel you’ll be treated with courtesy, dignity and respect?

Grow the Lender-Borrower Relationship

Once you’ve made a decision, keep going! Help your banker provide better quality terms and services that benefit you and your company.

  • Provide a copy of your business plan. Ask for input and guidance. Ask what steps you should take to improve the creditworthiness of your company and improve your chances for loan approval in the future.
  • Contact your banker if you need assistance with your loan proposal. Ask for information with putting together – or improving – your proposal. This could help ensure a loan approval committee has the information it needs.
  • Ask about other products or services that grow your business. The lending bank you choose might offer special financing options, business credit cards, credit lines, bundled financial services and other tools to streamline routine business activity. In short, ask the lender to help your business succeed.

Remember, the right lender may be the difference in achieving your goals faster and more effectively.

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