From the June 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

It wasn't long ago that entrepreneurs thought of bankers as no less ominous a figure than big brother--you couldn't trust them, and they certainly weren't out to help you. Frustrated entrepreneurs often saw themselves as just a number in a long line of faceless small businesses that bankers turned away by the hundreds.

But not anymore.

Today, your loan officer not only knows your name, he or she may have even helped you write your business plan. And the relationships between entrepreneurs and bankers can only improve when the newest banks in your town are being started by people just like you: entrepreneurs.

"Over the past few years, we've seen mergers and consolidations, and that [has created] a pocket where service has been diminished," says Ann Grochala, director of bank operations for the Independent Bankers Association of America. "As a result, bankers have found opportunities to create new banks."

One such recent start-up is The Business Bank of Baton Rouge, started by former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report publisher Rolfe McCollister Jr. and banking veteran Pete Boone. In a unique effort to attract both customers and stockholders, Roemer visited local businesses and rounded up 291 shareholders (none investing more than $250,000) to create a truly local business bank.

"We wanted to be a real community bank and not be perceived as [being] owned by one or two people," says Boone. "We're going to cater to the business community. The people on our loan committees understand the needs of [small] businesses because they've been there."

At Missouri Bank & Trust in Kansas City, Missouri, bank president Grant Burcham and his staff are known for taking the risks and providing the services small businesses rely on. "Our advantage is our ability to know each of our customers [personally]," says Burcham, whose family purchased the bank in 1984. "We loan money to people, not just balance sheets and income statements. We sell ourselves as a value-added bank because we're also a small business and a resource for [business owners]."

We All Scream

Why ask about work experience and references when you can quiz prospective employees about their favorite flavor of ice cream? According to a recent study by the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, ice cream preference can reveal clues to an individual's personality. So slip that question into your job application . . . and don't forget to take your new hire out for a celebratory cone.

  • Vanilla: colorful, impulsive risk-takers who set high goals and have high expectations of themselves.
  • Chocolate: lively, creative, dramatic, charming, enthusiastic people considered the life of the party. Enjoy being the center of attention and may become bored with the usual routine.
  • Butter Pecan: orderly, careful, detail-oriented, conscientious, ethical, fiscally conservative perfectionists.
  • Banana: easygoing, well-adjusted, generous, honest, empathetic people.
  • Strawberries and Cream: shy yet emotionally robust, skeptical, detail-oriented, opinionated, self-critical introverts.
  • Chocolate Chip: generous, competitive, accomplished visionaries. Conquerors who are charming in social situations, ambitious, competent and intolerant of defeat.

Contact Sources

The Business Bank of Baton Rouge,http://www.bbbr.com

Missouri Bank & Trust, 1044 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64105, (816) 881-8200