Q: I recently approached a lender with a large regional bank about a line of credit to expand my business. At my presentation, the banker turned to his computer and asked, "What's your Web address?" He didn't look too impressed when he saw our site, which is still pretty rough. Is this a new requirement by lenders to judge companies' "financeability"?
A: Financeability? Maybe. Credibility? Definitely. Having a polished Web site can be the ultimate business card, and in my opinion is becoming a required marketing tool by which borrowers are judged.
Lenders today, especially those employed by large regional or national banks, take advantage of the latest technological advances and assume their clients do as well. Ross Mynatt of Wachovia Bank in Cartersville, Georgia, habitually asks for his clients' Web site addresses. "Having a Web site certainly isn't a loan requirement, but it does make my job easier," says Mynatt. "I can obtain write-up information about a customer's business quickly, and that allows me to expedite the loan request."
As an entrepreneur, I view Web sites as a way to level the playing field and compete with the big boys. As an ex-banker, I view it as a way to free up some of your time-in other words, your lender can log on to your site any time he or she needs information about your business-and you don't have to be available.
If you decide your Web site needs some polish, let an expert handle it for you-preferably one with a good technology base as well as business experience. Russell Spivey of Tallahassee, Florida-based Internet development company NetTechnologyGroup.com agrees: "Many of the Web builders out there, while technologically talented, don't have the business background to build a solid site that will attract and keep customers."
In conclusion, the best way to answer your question is with a question. If a medium exists that will allow you to more easily compete with the big boys and build a market presence, why not use it to the fullest?
Doug Hood is co-founder of Rainmaker Capital Corp., a capital acquisition consulting firm in Cartersville, Georgia. Co-founder Marilea S. Hood contributes to this column. Send questions or anecdotes via e-mail to email@example.com.