A small business owner’s relationship with his or her banker is one of the most important business relationships. Why is this relationship so crucial? Because bankers play a vital role in helping businesses obtain financing, maximizing businesses’ funds and helping companies achieve their goals.

Just like any relationship, the banker-client relationship has many components. Here are some of the most important qualities to look for in a business banker and the benefits that a great relationship with a bank can provide.

Qualities of a Good Business Banker

The best bankers are great listeners. They need to understand their customers’ businesses and goals. They should take a consultative, thoughtful approach — especially when there is no simple solution to a problem. Business bankers need to be creative when searching for solutions to their customers’ needs and find ways to say “yes” to requests for financing.

Business owners have a lot on their plates. A good banker will lessen the load by making banking processes as easy as possible. Good bankers make processes efficient and help move things along quickly on behalf of their customer. Great bankers are always accessible and responsive; their customers can reach them in a business crisis or when last-minute financing is needed.

It’s also important that business bankers have the ear of their executive management team. If the lending officer has a way to influence decisions, s/he’ll be a stronger advocate for business owners throughout the lending process.

Benefits of the Relationship

Besides a business banker’s obvious role — helping customers get financing — a great banker can do much more. From setting up deposit accounts to helping businesses reach their quarterly growth goals, a great banker is always working as an advocate for clients and their businesses.

Bankers have experience working with all types of businesses and organizations that can help them solve challenges and even prevent future problems by giving advice based on what they’ve seen with other clients. The best bankers also are very familiar with the local economy and business environment, so they can provide crucial insight to help business owners make the best decisions for their companies.

Most importantly, once a good relationship is built, bankers will be focused on helping their customers succeed — not just trying to sell products and services. Good bankers go beyond their normal responsibilities to help business owners with many areas of their companies, including business plans and referrals.

Cultivating the Relationship

Developing a relationship with a business banker should not be a difficult process; it should be built like any other professional relationship. The most practical way to find a new business banker is to seek out referrals from trusted advisers and community members. It’s important to choose a banker with a good reputation and proven success. But a good fit is also key, so business owners should meet with several bankers before making a final decision.

After choosing a banker, a business owner must take the time to meet with the person and explain his or her company and business goals. It is important to have open communication from the get-go and be upfront about any challenges the company faces. Letting the banker know of any issues as soon as they arise will help the person align his or her goals with the business owner’s and understand the company. This will allow the banker to efficiently complete his or her responsibilities and to help customers make the best possible business decisions.

Even in well-established relationships, the lines of communication must sometimes be refreshed. Always keep communication flowing and share information in a timely manner. If the right relationship is built from the beginning, over time a business banker can become one of a business owner’s most valuable advisers.

There are many types of professional relationships, but none as important, or potentially business-altering, as business owner’s relationship with a business banker. Choosing the right business banker can be one of the best business decisions a business owner makes.

Emil Keller is senior vice president at Revere Bank. He can be reached at 443-274-1036 or [email protected].