Most executives of small companies would rather spend a day at the dentist than 45 minutes negotiating a loan with a banker. "Loan officers speak a different language," says Joe Carlson, a consultant whose resume includes 13 years as a bank lending officer. Because of his background, Carlson now spends his time helping small companies prepare loan applications. Here is what he has to say about communicating with bankers.

"During the interview, you have a short time to state what you want. Remember that a banker looks at three key factors when an application is presented. First, the ability to service the debt; second, the potential growth of the company; and third, the credibility of the applicant . . . ." It's a good idea, says Carlson, to "point out, early, the negatives -- if, for example, the company is highly leveraged. But avoid sounding as if you have all the answers. You want the loan officer to ask questions. If he's not [asking questions], he isn't understanding what you're telling him.

"As a banker, there were two things I looked for from an applicant: secondary sources of repayment -- stocks, property, and savings -- and projected statements of income. If the applicant didn't know what projected statements meant, I knew he was wasting my time."