If you're like many CEOs, you'd like to make communications between you and your lending institution a two-way street. Terry MacRae, cofounder and principal of Hornblower Yachts Inc., in San Francisco, has found a way: meet regularly with everyone from your loan officer to the bank president. Once a quarter the bankers get to see just what their loans are buying, and MacRae gets to check out how their portfolio's doing, what management changes are underfoot, and how their short- and long-term plans are coming along.

"When you ask what's new," says MacRae, "it's surprising what they'll tell you." He learned during one meeting that his bank would soon acquire another bank -- and he was able to plan an extra cushion of time to process his next loan application.

Don't be afraid to turn the tables and make requests of your bank. "They're selling a service, and you're paying for it," admonishes MacRae. "You have the right to ask for certain things without being bashful.'