This past week, one of my clients met with a banker to develop a new banking relationship. He hands the banker the company’s financial statements, expecting the banker to look at the income statement. Instead, the banker flips to the back of the financial statements to look over the balance sheet. As the coach, I asked my client, “See what he just did?” Most financial leaders (and the owners of their businesses) are consumed with their income statement but the banks want to know are more interested in how leveraged their banking client is. Not surprisingly, there are a few key elements when seeking financing for companies to follow.
Key Elements When Seeking Financing
What is leverage? Financial leverage is the use of borrowing from the bank to offset the cost of sales. Many companies hope to borrow just enough to increase their capabilities to sell more. But if banks see that you are too highly-leveraged, it’s bad news!
As a key element when seeking financing, leverage is important to have as it provides credibility to your borrowing experience. A banker will see that you have maximized the potential of previous capital to increase sales. The “kicker” here is if you have failed to optimize the borrowed capital potential, then the bank is going to be more prone to backing out of (or not starting in the first place) a banking relationship with you.
We say it often and we say it loud… Cash is king. Without cash and/or liquid assets in your company, the bank is going to turn its nose up at you. Be sure to communicate the availability of cash in your company. For example, if a friend asked you for $250,000 but had no way of paying you back, you would be wary and decline the ask. This is because there is no hope that you will get the money back that you loaned. The bank acts in its best interest.
Not About Price
Oftentimes, business leaders think that the bank cares about the price of your product. They don’t. To the bank, price is the least important factor in their assessment of your company because money is a commodity to them. Price is immaterial.
When meeting with a banker, communicate the bottom line and what’s on the financial statements NOT how you price your product. The bank is not your business consultant. They have to make money off of you.
Creating a Banking Relationship
When seeking financing, it is essential to create a banking relationship. You wouldn’t get married to the person you passed by on the sidewalk, so why would you get into a banking relationship with someone you have zero connection with. There are a few things that you need to look for to have a successful banking relationship.
What to Look For
- How long is a typical relationship with your customers?
- What are the communication boundaries?
- What is the bank’s view of breaking debt covenants?
Relationship or Transaction
Another important question you need to ask yourself is: “is this bank looking for a relationship or a transaction?” If you answer the latter, then you are just commission to them. When times are rough, you’re going to get cut. But if the answer is a relationship, then you’re looking at a long healthy marriage.
Relationships are absolutely critical in business. Value these relationships and take care of people. It will reflect in your business.
How does the bank deal in times of crisis?
The Workout Group
Get in Line
To prevent being put into the “workout” group, it’s crucial to start out on the same page. Get an alignment of interests, philosophies, culture, and anything else that would impact your company.
Interest and Philosophies
If the bank is only interested in their bottom line, then it may not be a good fit. If the bank is truly invested in your company and is willing to help you out in any reasonable way, then it’s a perfect match.