Tips on Dealing with Your Banker

I’ve been on both sides of that big banker’s desk. Early in my career I worked as a banker, which gave me invaluable experience on learning how the money guys think. We learned the things that would make us fire CEOs and shut down companies.

These were lessons that were invaluable to me during my entire career as the Turnaround Authority. I know what bankers, investors and other creditors are looking for when they analyze a business. I know what they want to hear from CEOs and business owners.

Businesses need money to operate. That means they generally need bankers and investors — the money guys. But many CEOs treat their bankers as the opposition, like Mr. Potter, “the richest and meanest man in the county” in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Having a good relationship with your banker is so important, I devoted an entire chapter to it in my book “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes,” which covers the 10 C’s of bank relationships for CEOS.

Here are just a few tips on how to have a good relationship with your banker. (For more info, you can always buy my book!)

1. Always keep your banker informed

Communication is one of the 10 C’s I discuss in my book and is the key to having a good relationship with your banker. We’ve all gone through difficult situations where we didn’t want to share bad news with someone, preferring to stick our head in the sand or hope the problem goes away. But not telling your banker when your company is having problems paying a vendor, collecting receivables or going through a cash flow crunch is the exact wrong thing to do. In fact, if your banker finds out you have not been disclosing crucial financial information, it can be the quickest path to having your bank loan called or to losing your financing.

2. Have contingency plans

Bankers and other money people like stability. They want to know you have a plan in place in the event that one of the 3 D’s happens — death, disability or disappearance. Yeah, I’ve had a few CEOs vanish on me. You can add that to the list of behaviors that won’t endear you to a banker.

While acting as CEO at one company I hosted a cookout with the employees. You’d be surprised what you learn while chatting around the grill. One employee mentioned excess inventory purchasing. Turned out it was a case of multi-million dollar fraud. The previous CEO knew something was wrong but didn’t deal with it. I found the problem and had four executives arrested. The CEO? Gone with the wind.

Do you know what will happen to your business if any of the three D’s occurs? Make a plan and show it to your banker.

3. Demonstrate good character

Do what you say you will do. Make your payments when they are due. Keep your banker informed. If you have and demonstrate good character your banker is more inclined to work with you, rather than against you.

The money people want to trust you — indeed, they are placing a great deal of trust in you when they close on that loan to your company. Make them happy they extended that trust.

A banker can be a powerful ally for your business. One of the best things you can do for your business is to have a good working relationship with your banker.

Look for me November 10 at 4:30 at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. I’ll be discussing my book,  “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me: Lessons Learned from CEOs’ Mistakes.” The event is free and open to the public. Click here for more information. Hope to see you there!

 

 

What Texas Hold ‘Em Can Teach You about Business

All business proceeds on beliefs, or judgement of probabilities, and not on certainties.

  • Charles W. Eliot

If that isn’t the truth, I don’t know what is. My business is driven by businesses that believe that business is certain.

Business is Not Certain

I won’t go so far as to say that business is a gamble, because business is no roulette wheel. Roulette is entirely a game of probability. And when you add 0 and 00 onto the wheel it becomes probability that’s stacked against you every time.

Business is more like poker. You know what’s in your hand (King-4 suited, let’s say), and that hand is playable.

As the game proceeds and cards come out, you have a better idea of the conditions, like your assets, customer base, and so forth.

However, there are also things you can’t affect – though you can make educated predictions – like what’s in your opponent’s hand. In business that would translate to prevailing market conditions, natural disasters that disrupt supply lines (can anyone say Japanese Tsunami?), and so on.

Beliefs, Judgments & Probabilities

People who play poker purely based on the mathematics believe that, if they look at and comprehend everything on the table and what their opponents could be holding, poker is a game of probability.

However those who play Hold ‘Em know that they also have to follow their guts and use their instincts, taking subtle clues from the situation around them. How long did their opponent take to check, bet or raise? What was that raise and how does it compare to the blinds and the pot? Did you perceive a tell and are you sure that is his tell? What’s the pot at? Is he bluffing? Should I bluff?

The answers to all of these questions are, to some degree, unknowns, and our opponents are thinking comparable things (remember, in the analogy, poker opponents aren’t our business competitors – they’re larger issues we don’t know a lot about).

It is due to these questions, our gut feelings about their combination of possibilities and effects, and sheer probability, that we make decisions and act, both in poker and in business.

The Illusion of Certainty

Nothing is certain because we don’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt what’s in another person’s hand.

When businesses make spreadsheets and predictions, they fail to understand that they haven’t accounted for everything. There are unknowns and spreadsheets are based on assumptions. Spreadsheets are almost always wrong. And try as we might to act based on spreadsheets and these assumptions, an opponent’s better hand is still going to beat us.

But if you’re a good player, and you consider as much as you can, and act in accord with what you’ve considered – and you face your harsh reality (i.e. what’s in your pocket and what comes out on the table as it comes) – then you can act intelligently.

If you lose a hand – and you will – that’s okay. As long as there are still chips in your stack – which we’ll call your contingency plans, something every business should have – you’ve made it to fight another day, and play another hand.

Summary

Remember, the business lesson to learn from Texas Hold ‘Em is that nothing is certain in business. As Charles Eliot says, everything is based on belief, judgment and probability. It’s understanding that fact, and acting based on it and those beliefs, judgments and probabilities, that will make you a good business leader.

And don’t forget, you only get knocked out of Texas Hold ‘Em when you go all in.

Do you play poker? How do you apply it’s lessons to business? What other games in life help you learn about business?