Speed banking – maybe the beginning of a profitable relationship!


By Eloise Vitelli  Special to the Bangor Daily News

Would you like a chance to win a free Kindle Fire? How about a chance to meet the person who could help you grow your business? On April 25 at the Augusta Civic Center you have the chance to do both. A Meet the Lender ‘speed-banking’ event will bring together over 13 banks and community lenders with small business owners from around the state. Like similar speed-dating events, this one is designed to give lenders and businesses a chance to get to know each other through a series of short conversations.
Business owners get to meet face to face with up to three lenders, pitch their business plan, and learn what specific lenders are looking for in extending credit. Lending institutions get to hear directly about small business financing needs. “It is all about helping our small businesses grow and succeed,” according to Marilyn Geroux, Deputy District Director for the SBA, one of the event sponsors.
When John Trask decided to apply for a loan to purchase a key piece of equipment for his Mainely Promotions printing business, he shopped around looking at different interest rates.  While most of the lenders he talked with weren’t interested in his relatively new venture, he did learn what banks were looking for and what he needed to bring to the table. When he finally landed at his local bank, he found people he knew who were willing to work with him.  “Having already talked to others, I knew what {financial information} I could give them and I was prepared to move my accounts there”, he said.
According to Pam Bowerman, Vice President of commercial lending at Norway Savings Bank, roughly 60% of commercial loan applicants they see are ‘pretty well prepared’. She broke loan applicants into three categories: existing business customers who know the drill from past experience and come with documents in hand; businesses looking to change lenders or who are looking at a different level of financing have a general idea what to expect; and finally, the start-ups or shoe-string businesses ready to take a leap forward. “Only about half of these businesses have really done their homework. They come with lots of passion but often no plan and some definite misconceptions,” Pam explained.
Having a business plan is a huge help. It doesn’t have to be fancy. “It is really your thoughts put to paper: what you propose to do, how you are going to generate sales and market your business. It has to make sense”, Pam explained. She agrees that the numbers side of things can be the most intimidating and she is grateful for the resources available through organizations like SCORE, SBA, the Maine SBDC and others who can help loan applicants put together their cash flow statements, balance sheets and other financial documents as part of their overall application package.
John Trask acknowledged the importance of the help he got from Women, Work, and Community in preparing financials both for his initial loan and again when, as the economy went south a few years later, he went back to his bank to refinance. As he noted, “There is no security in any business, so it is really important to work with someone you can trust, who knows you and your business”.
From the lender’s side, Pam too stressed the value of good communication. “It really is a two-way street” she pointed out. The decision to extend credit relies heavily upon ‘the credibility of the owner.’
The speed-banking event paves the way for business and banker alike. Nearly a dozen agencies that offer resources to small businesses will also be on hand: the IRS, USDA Rural Development, Finance Authority of Maine, Department of Economic and Community Development, among others.
Jeanne Hulit, SBA Office of Capital Access, and Kenneth Willis, First Vice President of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston will be opening the afternoon with their perspectives on the economy, small businesses, and the availability of credit.
WWC and the Maine SBDC are offering ‘Getting Credit Ready’ workshops and individual assistance prior to the event. Classes are listed on www.womenworkandcommunity.org and www.mainebusinessworks.org  websites.
Other sponsors include the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Federal Home Loan Bank, the Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, SCORE, the Maine SBA, and Women, Work, and Community. For more information contact Sandra Fontaine at Sandra.fontaine@sba.gov or 207 622-8381.  To register go to http://www.bostonfed.org/bankinfo/firo/events/2012/business-opportunities-in-community-development-lending/augusta/index.htm
Oh, and about that Kindle, and two other door prizes, a Livescribe and Hand scanner – you have to be present to win!