The Business Plan with Bill Reagan: Strengthen banking ties before Metro shutdown

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Bill Reagan (Photo courtesy Alexandria Small Business Development Center)
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Savvy business owners are planning now for potential effects from the shutdown of all Alexandria Metro stations this summer. There are many considerations, including impacts on your employees and customers, but one of the most productive preparations you can undertake now is strengthening the relationship with your banker.

In the event that sales are impacted and cash flow becomes a problem, you want the ability to turn to your banker as a trusted partner who can work with you to manage your way through the rough patch and be part of your resilience when you come out on the other side of the shutdown.

The smartest owners build solid relationships with their banks and bank staffs from the very start and maintain contact to keep them informed of their progress. In good times and bad, your banker is part of your team, and the more acquainted they are with you, the easier it is for them to tailor their resources and services to your needs. Under circumstances you could be facing with the shutdown, banks might be able to help you weather the crunch with lines of credit, special credit cards or other arrangements that vary from bank to bank.

If you haven’t developed that quality of relationship yet, it’s not too late, but the shutdown is just a few months away and this is something that is best accomplished in advance.

This is an ideal time to schedule an appointment with Jack Parker, the business analyst at the Alexandria Small Business Development Center. As a retired banker, Parker knows how bankers operate and what they expect to see from the businesses they serve. Parker will review your financials with you and help you make the best presentation of your circumstances. If your financial records are lacking, he will advise you on what you need to do to bring them up to the standard that bankers expect. One of the biggest pitfalls in business-banking relationships is inaccurate or inadequate recordkeeping.

Consultations with Parker are conducted in confidence and without cost to businesses lo- cated in Alexandria city limits. These sessions resemble coaching before an interview, and are done before your discussions with your banker. Even those owners who feel they have a great rapport with their banker are well-served by candid and regular consultations with Parker.

A distinguishing characteristic of Alexandria’s SBDC is its banking expertise and long-term partnerships with local bankers. Those bankers often refer prospective borrowers to the center to obtain guidance and have found that center-assisted applicants are typically much better prepared and are therefore much better credit risks. That has enabled the SBDC to facilitate $80 million in capital investments over its history.

Whether a business owner needs financing, a line of credit or other assistance, it behooves them to have a strong and confidential partnership with their bank. The SBDC can help Alexandria business owners develop such relationships and better manage the financials of their businesses.

The writer is executive director of Alexandria’s Small Business Development Center. The SBDC can be reached at www. alexandriasbdc.org.

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