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Op-Ed: How community banks are empowering small business

COVID-19 has certainly exposed some opportunities for small business, irrespective of the industry in which you are employed. Whether we are discussing another round of PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) or the EIDL loans, which carry with them remarkably favorable rates and terms, the reality is that never in our recent history have we relied so heavily on the relationship offered by our banking partners. 

It is important to note that no two banks are the same. Be it a community bank regulated differently than, say, a Federal Credit Union, there are nuances that differentiate. And, considering the pandemic those nuances have been exploited and, to a certain degree, exposed. Some for the good, and some for the not-so-good. 

This piece is not about how our banking partners have provided our firm, and many like it, with the capital infusion to weather this storm of uncertainty. That is their job. Some do it better than others, but that is to be expected. Rather, this is about how specific banks have gone to the nth degree and exceeded our most flighty of expectations. One continues to move with us in concert to ensure that we are well-capitalized, poised for growth, receiving what we need from the PPP, and propping us up for a balanced financial infrastructure. 

I receive calls from different banks and lenders vying for my business. And, to some extent I appreciate their persistence and their pitch. Afterall, we are all working to achieve the same means, growth. However, I have learned, especially during this pandemic, that one specific bank (who absolutely knows who they are) knows no bounds when it comes to ensuring that their customers are making the right decisions… even if that means turning down a deal because another offer is better for my business. There’s humility in those actions. And that counts for something a little extra. 

In my role, it is my fiduciary responsibility to ensure solvency and optimized growth strategies. Every dollar we deploy to grow our business needs to have an ROI that is greater than the cash outlay. That takes wisdom and acumen. But it could not be done as well without the guidance of these types of partners. 

One partner has been ahead of the curve for the better part of the year. They are constantly up on the information flow and are quick to disseminate what they know to their clients. What is more is that they do it without being asked. It is not about the margin. Well, it is not all about the margin. The reality is that you cannot exist without a profit. But, for this specific organization, it is about the brand and how that brand touches the community and partners with us to ensure we are reaching as many as we can. 

Yes, part of the intent of this Op-Ed was to point out that there are differences in banking relationships that vacillate between transactional and relational. Our partner is most certainly the latter. The more meaningful part for me, however, is the simple way they engage us. It is not a duty. It is not a chore. It is a privilege. 

My advice for all small businesses is to truly evaluate the relationship with your financial institution. The dividends will push into perpetuity when fostered well. 

Brandon Rogers is chief financial officer for Verber Dental Group, in Camp Hill, Pa. His past experiences include roles at Giant, Highmark, and JPMorgan. 

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