Does your bank satisfy all your company's needs -- with responsive service at a reasonable cost? If you're like many entrepreneurs, you may not know the answer.
Time out. Evaluating the quality of your banking relationship is too important a task to ignore. Kenneth M. Lipke, a vice-president at Bank Leumi Trust Co. of New York, based in New York City, suggests an annual "relationship checkup."
Lipke recommends some parameters: "You should spend a few hours away from the office -- and its distractions -- to discuss the answers to a series of questions. Don't be shy or afraid of irritating your banker with complaints. Look for ways to make the relationship even better."
And here are some questions to focus on:
· Which bank services and products does your company currently use? How do you evaluate their cost and effectiveness?
· Where do you see problems -- either with specific products or with corporate needs that you feel the bank isn't meeting?
· How about your company's loans? Are fees, interest rates, and credit limits acceptable?
· What is your 12-month business projection, and how should it affect your banking needs?
· Are you having problems with any internal financial systems -- collecting accounts receivable, for example, or managing tax payments? (Although those aren't banking problems per se, a proactive banker might be able to suggest some solutions.)
If your banker balks over an annual relationship checkup, consider switching banks. What you want is a banker who's willing to schedule both the checkup and a follow-up meeting several weeks later to discuss solutions to existing problems and ways to meet projected needs.