If you’ve not yet experienced business banking, you might be wondering whether it’s an exaggeration to suggest that bankers and small business owners dwell in different worlds. Be assured, it’s not. Bankers live in a nine-to-five bureaucratic world of policies and procedures, conservative risk management, suits and silk blouses, plush carpeting and furnishings, a guaranteed cheque at the end of the month, and, with some luck, a fat bonus cheque at the end of the year. That’s Mars.
Small business owners live in a world of long days, risk taking, sleepless nights worrying about making payroll, staff problems, customer retention, late shipments, and overdue receivables. That’s Venus.
Under these circumstances, small business owners should not expect bankers to see their world as they see it. Lack of familiarity militates against proper understanding. I audited close to a hundred small businesses, some repeatedly over a period of years, and valued close to twenty during the public accounting and consulting part of my career. As a result, I can assure you that while I spent more time and effort trying to understand these small businesses than any banker ever would, it takes a lot more than an audit or a valuation to come close to understanding a particular small business as well as its owner. Anne Michaels, author of The Winter Vault, in commenting on another author’s work, wrote that “nothing is known until it is held: in our hands, in our mind, or in our heart.”
If it’s unreasonable to expect your banker to know your business as well as you do, it’s equally unreasonable to expect him or her to understand your challenges and needs as well as you do and, therefore, to be as optimistic as you. That might be why loan officers are not on many small business Christmas card lists.