The greatest risk in working with any lender is that you will get the poorest and the most expensive loan available. Since it is hard to find out this information from the lender, you need to comparison shop your loan. Go to every lender in the phone book, if you can. Prepare a one-page summary of your company that explains in general terms what products and services you sell, how many employees you have, and general information about your company and personal financial condition. This way, you can talk about your company and its financial needs the same way with each lender.
While they interview you, be sure you also interview them and carefully consider if the lender is someone you want to do business with. You can, of course, read their Web sites before you interview them, but very often sitting down and talking with a loan officer in person will provide you with more information—particularly specifics about the loans—that may not be available to the casual visitor.
Small banks are often more friendly to small businesses in their neighborhood. Ask if they can help you with SBA loans, government grants (remember, there are local, state, and federal grant programs from many agencies), and other small business financial supports for which your business may qualify.
Unless you ask, you will not receive.
Marilyn J. Holt, CMC
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