When financing proposals get turned down, the natural tendency of most business owners is to lick their wounds and blame the myopic bankers or investors who can't see the potential. Partly out of embarrassment, few financing people will step forward with candid explanations of why the deal was rejected; and entrepreneurs are usually reluctant to ask.
But to let the whole matter slide is to miss an important opportunity, says George M. Dawson, a veteran banker and the author of Borrowing for Your Business: Winning the Battle for the Banker's "Yes" (Upstart Publishing, Dover, N.H., 1991). His advice: wait a day or two, then phone the banker to ask for a face-to-face meeting. Dawson, now an adviser to companies in San Antonio, says your chances of getting that meeting are "a little better than even." Here are some points that he recommends keeping in mind during the meeting:
* Assure the banker that you're not trying to change his or her mind and that you respect the bank's decision. Be calm and don't be critical, Dawson says, "even if it takes patience and self-control."
* Ask lots of questions. "Your goal is to learn what steps you need to take to make your company creditworthy. The best way to do that," he says, "is to ask questions and learn all you can about the credit weakness the bank sees in either your company or the presentation."
* Solicit the bankers' advice. "Lending is not scientifically accurate," notes Dawson. "You want to get the people who told you no to help you figure out what it will take to get a yes from someone else." If they can tell you how to rework your business plan or can offer specific suggestions (for example, lease a machine rather than buy it), you'll avoid a lot of needless head banging. -- Bruce G. Posner