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How to Choose the Right Bank for Your Small Business

Choosing the right small business bank is critical for your growing company. You must find one that you are comfortable with and that is reliable and established. No matter how limited your financial needs are now, start to establish a good working relationship with your bank so that you are in a better position later on to have access to the financial tools that you need.

Shop for Tomorrow's Needs Today

If you are just starting out, you may not need much more than a commercial checking account. As your business grows, however, it is almost certain that you will need more in terms of financial services. Whatever small business bank you choose to establish a relationship with, it should be able to meet your growing needs. This may include a small business loan to cover new office furniture, small-business computer software, a line of credit, financial advice, or even financial information about your industry. Look ahead to where you expect your business to be in five or ten years, and make your decision based on what you might need then.

Once you understand your present and future needs, you are ready to start comparing the features of several different small business banks. Although most small business loans are handled by local banks, you should also consider those banks that have a presence nationally and internationally. Schedule a meeting with one of the bankers, and be sure to come prepared with a list of items you need now or might need in the future. This might include free checking, rebates of foreign ATM fees, access to lines of credit, and any fees that banks might charge. Don't shy away from researching online banks, unless a face-to-face presence and easy access to a brick-and-mortar institution are very important to you.

In a down economy, or even in the years following an economic crisis, loans for small businesses can be difficult to find. In this situation, it is usually the small business banks that are willing to take the risk. In fact, small and midsize banks account for 22 percent of the country's banking assets. The Federal Deposit Insurance Company reports that, in 2009, it was responsible for a full 54 percent of small business loans. If you believe you might need to take advantage of a business loan or a line of credit down the road, you may want to focus on small- or medium-size local banks now. Unlike larger banks, small business banks are also often able to make exceptions to the rules much more quickly and easily should you find that what they are offering doesn't exactly fit what you need.

You Won't Know if You Don't Ask

The key to getting the answers you need is to ask the right questions. As you start your quest for a small business bank, you are in the driver's seat. Ask the banks what they offer, tell them what you need, and then select the one that is the best fit today and can grow with your company in the years ahead.

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