Why Choosing The RIGHT Lender and Business Development Officer Matters

Man Bending Over Backwards_Small_iStock_000003282133LargeWhy Choosing the RIGHT Lender and Business Development Officer Matters!

By:  Christy Lester, SVP – SBA Lending at Celtic Bank

Brokers or borrowers often say the same thing during an initial phone call, “I’ve been trying to get my SBA loan closed for months”, or, “I’ve heard that it is a really long and difficult process to get a SBA loan approved and closed”.  My response is always the same, “You have been working with the wrong lender!”

An SBA loan should not be any harder to get approved and closed than a conventional loan.  The key is working with a lender who has years of experience and is focused on SBA lending!  A specialized SBA Business Development Officer (BDO) can walk a borrower or broker thru the complete process, anticipate any road blocks and navigate around them.   It is important to find a BDO that has experience in all phases of the SBA lending process, not just sales.  Having prior experience as a loan processor or underwriter gives a BDO the necessary skills to ask questions at the beginning of the process to help avoid potential issues down the road.

The most important step in the process is at the beginning, when the borrower and lender spend time talking about two key ideas – 1) what the borrower is trying to accomplish; and 2) what the borrower’s end goals are.  These factors drive the rest of the loan process including eligibility, loan structure, and processing time.

Come prepared for the initial discussion with your BDO.  For example:

  • What are your goals and vision for your company 5, 10, and 25 years down the road?
  • Have your financial house in order.  You will need to provide 3 years of business and personal tax returns, a YTD interim business financial statement, and a personal financial statement.
  • Have your paperwork ready.  If you are purchasing real estate, a business, or equipment, have the purchase contract or purchase order available for review.  If you are looking to restructure existing debt, have the debt or lease notes ready to review.

You should come away from the initial call with a clear vision of what needs to happen next.  If not, you are working with the wrong lender!  For example:

  • What additional items are needed from you?
  • What is the deadline you must meet to stay on track with the bank’s loan approval process and closing process?  Once the BDO understands your needs, the BDO can guide you through the timeline of events, including what is needed and when.
  • What does the road to loan closing look like?

Ultimately, the key to having a successful and efficient loan closing is choosing the RIGHT lender and an experienced SBA Business Development Officer!

About the Author:
Christy Lester has 18 years of SBA lending experience.   Her broad SBA background includes time spent as a loan processor, managing an SBA closing department, and being a successful SBA Business Development Officer.



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3 Ways To Make A Good Impression At Meetings

shutterstock_54360715In corporate America, the impression you leave during meetings has the power to make or break your career. Whether you are interviewing for a job, meeting to discuss partnership possibilities, making a sales call, or meeting with the boss, a few simple tips can help you stand out and put your career into high speed.

  1. Speak Up and Ask Questions.  The best way to get noticed is to speak up! Ask challenging questions to grab everyone’s attention and get them thinking.
  2. Keep It Simple but Interesting.   Clearly convey your thoughts and ideas while showing that you are passionate about your work. People will appreciate you more when they see you actually care about what you do. If you represent your company with passion, you will earn the respect of others and be easily remembered.
  3. Use Graphics and Animation.  Leave a positive impression by being graphic and animated about your ideas. Painting a picture for your clients or coworkers will help them see and understand your vision better.

The impressions you make during meetings can steer your career in many directions. Remember to walk into every meeting with confidence, and the conviction that your ideas and passion will leave a positive impression!

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SBA – Cash Flow Counseling vs. Financing

Cash FlowThe Small Business Administration (SBA) recently received a new head, Maria Contreras-Sweet.  Contreras-Sweet was once a small business owner herself, having owned a lending institution in Los Angeles, and she is well aware that what small business owners often need isn’t necessarily financing.  Though the recent upturn in small business lending has helped many small businesses, funding isn’t always the right solution.  In fact, Contreras-Sweet recommends that small business owners take advantage of all of the resources the SBA has to offer beyond loan guarantees.  The SBA has a slew of resources available to help small business owners with marketing, taxes, growth, partnerships, and most importantly, counseling opportunities.

Before looking into any financing options, Contreras-Sweet recommends that small business owners review all aspects of their business to understand why they need financing in the first place. She relates to when she was working at the bank in Los Angeles and business owners would come in asking for a loan.  In many cases, she could quickly see that a loan was not what they needed, that their business would grow and thrive without financing if they just learned how to manage their cash-flow more effectively.

As the head of the Small Business Administration, Contreras-Sweet recommends that all lending institutions offer resources and counseling opportunities to teach small business owners how to manage their capital more effectively.  In the long run, this type of relationship would be beneficial to both lending institutions and small business owners since fewer loans would go into default if small business owners knew how to manage their cash flow more effectively.  Contreras-Sweet believes that counseling programs are essential to small business success, and by teaching small business owners how to manage their lines of credit more effectively, it would dramatically improve the success of small businesses and improve the overall economy.

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How To Sell More and Market Less

Competitive businessMarketing is important, and good marketing tactics contribute to the overall success of your business, but there is no substitution for being a good salesperson.  Everyone is in sales; whether selling a product, an idea, or even themselves. Below are simple tips to help you increase sales with minimal marketing expense.

Focus Your Lead Search
Focus your time and attention on a few leads, rather than hundreds. Refining your lead searches can also help you identify prospects that are more likely to buy whatever it is you are selling.

Seek Referrals
Build relationships with customers by staying in frequent contact with them.  Seek their feedback to make sure they are happy with your products or solutions. Building relationships like this with your customers will make them feel valued.  Once you have established a relationship with your customers, ask them for referrals.  If they value your business, they will be happy to refer friends, family, and colleagues to you.

Gain Influence
Gain influence and credibility by reaching out to bloggers and social media influencers in your industry.  If you can show them the value of the service or product you offer, they will be more inclined to share that information with their followers!

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Content Marketing

Content Marketing Small_iStock_000032265550LargeDoes your small business have a content marketing strategy? Content marketing is an inexpensive and simple way to engage with your customers and gain their trust while also branding your business. Content marketing involves blogging and search engine optimization to grow your businesses online presence organically. The best content is enriching and informing for your target demographic while also being creative and eye-catching. Your content should drive connection, action and most importantly to you, conversion and revenue. To create content that achieves your goals you must combine creativity with data so that your content actually matters. One of the most important things to remember about content is that it is KING! Unique content that only your business provides will instantly crank up your website traffic.

Below are a few tips for effectively creating content for your website and blog:

  1. Combine Creative and Analytical
    The best content informs readers and keeps them captivated. Put a creative spin on a newsworthy story, or turn a story about your business into a data point for small businesses everywhere.
  2. Communicate Clearly
    Whatever story you decide to tell, make sure you know the whole story and you communicate it in an effective and clear manner. Link to all of your sources for credibility, and always give multiple points of view for your story to gain your readers trust.
  3. Proofread!
    Before posting anything to your website, proofread it multiple times. Nothing is more embarrassing than a misprint or spelling error that you have to go back and fix because someone has pointed it out in the comments section! Ideally, have multiple people read, and re-read your posts beforehand.
  4. Spice It Up with Images
    Clear, effective writing is key, but you are likely to get readers to stay on your page longer if you add images and space your writing out to make it easier to read and understand. People are attracted to eye-grabbing images; videos engage readers and draw them in. Infographics are a great supplement to any data driven article as well.
  5. Write To Your Audience
    Keep in mind who your target audience is and write to them. If you are targeting a younger crowd, keep pop culture references in mind.  If you are targeting an older crowd, provide more empirical evidence.
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