Question: When I started my company, I opened a business account at the branch where I do my personal banking. But every time I have a question or a problem, they tell me to call customer service. I know my business is pretty small right now, but how can I find a bank that won't treat me like just a number?
Answer: Most startups have a horror story about a bank that gave them the runaround--failing to return calls, taking months to approve (or decline) their loan application, even refusing to let them withdraw their own money. That's because for all the millions of dollars banks spend on advertising to attract entrepreneurs, it's all too easy for startups to get tangled up in the complex web of a large bank's policies and procedures. The best way to cut through the red tape is to build a relationship with a bank officer at your local branch so you'll have a real person to call on for all your banking needs. Back in 1995, when my partner and I moved our web design startup to New York, we opened an account at the Citibank branch in our neighborhood. As our company grew, the bank officer who helped us open the account also assisted us in obtaining a $100,000 credit line, which grew to a $1 million credit line and a $1 million equipment lease by the time we took our company public in 1999. She also came to the rescue when our bookkeeper filled out the wrong deposit slip and almost caused our payroll checks to bounce. And unlike other bankers who work 9 to 5, she was available by cell phone and e-mail on nights and weekends when we needed her. The lesson learned: Plenty of good banks can lend you money. It's more important to find a good banker who will go the extra mile to help your company grow.
Rosalind Resnick is founder and CEO of Axxess Business Consulting, a New York City consulting firm that advises startups and small businesses.