I am well known for talking with clients (and anyone who will listen) on the subject of how business owners can do a better job of working with their bankers. I’ve done a monthly newsletter and podcast on the subject as well as covered it in my book. I feel like I have done my part on behalf of the banking community and frankly, deserve some recognition from the ABA (American Bankers Association).
But now, I am turning the tables. Bankers need to figure out what would be helpful to their clients and deliver it. I’m writing this after having asked a number of banks how their banking platform integrates with QuickBooks. While one can argue the strengths and weaknesses of QuickBooks, what one cannot argue is that it is the number one small business accounting platform. So, if you’re a bank who wants to deal with small businesses, my suggestion is that you figure out how to work with it. The typical response I got was that they don’t integrate with the platform but one can import cleared bank transactions into QuickBooks. When a company writes a check today it needs to record it into its general ledger today; not sometime in the future when it “clears” the bank. Using the import feature requires waiting too long for entries to be recorded in the general ledger.
The most efficient banking platforms allow one to simply “Pay Bills” in QuickBooks (the one that I have the most experience with is Direct Connect). The information is then transmitted electronically and the payee gets a check a few days later (or can opt for electronic deposit). There is no need for a “reverse download”. This is such an efficient system I’m shocked when banks don’t offer the service.
So, for all you bankers out there among my regular readership, below is my list of the top seven things you can do to better serve small business clients.
- Provide a banking platform that integrates with the most popular small business accounting software AND make sure your treasury management team is familiar with it (the last time I helped a client with this, I was more knowledgeable than treasury management). Such a platform will drive efficiency for your customer which is truly a value-add in a very commoditized industry.
- Don’t just stick the monthly borrowing base (or other reports) in a drawer, call the client and ask them a question or two. In addition to learning something about your client’s business, it will show them you are engaged and interested.
- Reach out to your client and keep them apprised of what’s going on in the financial markets or issues that your other clients are facing and how they’ve responded. Your client may be so focused on their own business that they are not as in tune as they should be with the financial markets or broader economic issues.
- Make introductions. Everyone is always trying to grow their business and you could be a good referral source for your clients. They might also return the favor.
- Don’t focus on just the CEO or business owner. Build multiple relationships and find a way to be helpful to the people who actually spend more time with banking issues than the CEO or owner. By the way, these people might have more influence over the relationship than meets the eye.
- Have a stable of “go-to-experts” that can help your clients. One of the ways that I help my clients is by having relationships with other experts who I know can solve problems. Bankers are in a great position to add value in this manner.
- Know your customer and how to relate to them. People who know me realize that I’m usually available for a morning coffee but by mid-day, I’m at a client’s office and am hard to get for a traditional lunch. They also know that I prefer short meetings where we can quickly get down to business; the faster we can agree upon next steps, the better.
If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to [email protected]