Wi10 Panel to Provide Expert Advice on Securing Small Business Loans

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Booksellers who attend the Winter Institute session “How to Work With Your Bank: What You Need to Know” will gain invaluable tips from financial experts on how to secure a small business loan. The panel discussion is one of many educational sessions on offer at the American Booksellers Association’s 10th annual event, to be held in Asheville, North Carolina, from February 8 – 11.

The panelists — a business financial consultant, a banker, and a credit union representative — will present different perspectives on what it takes to secure financing for a planned expansion or special project at a bookstore.

Joe Battle, co-founder and principal of Success360i in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, told BTW that he will use his time on the panel to review the three key steps business owners must go through before they approach a financial institution. First, he said, is understanding the potential funding options offered and the different types of loans available to them. Second is to understand how bankers evaluate loan applications. And third is the homework business owners need to do before meeting with a bank or credit union, such as making sure they know their credit score and preparing responses for lenders’ common questions.

“It’s all about anticipating their questions before you get there,” Battle said. “It seems really obvious, but you need a really good answer as to why you need the money, especially for what you’re going to spend it on…You would be surprised. A lot of people will just tell the bank they need money but cannot articulate how much they need.”

At Success360i, Battle helps business owners fill out their loan applications and perfect their financial portfolio and business plan before they approach a bank with their funding requests and cash flow projections.

“Business owners need to be more specific when articulating their needs to the bank and what they will use the loan for: to hire more people, or they need more money for inventory, or they need to buy more inventory right before the holiday season,” he said.

Battle previously worked with bookstores in his former position as a business counselor for the Small Business and Technology Development Center. He also has more than 20 years of experience in the sales, marketing, business development, account management, and IT fields, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and an MBA from Duke University.

With Battle on the panel will be personal banker Ezekiel Christopoulos of SunTrust Bank and Jane Hatley, Western North Carolina regional director at Self-Help Credit Union, both based in Asheville. Matthew Norcross, co-owner of McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan, will moderate the session.

Christopoulos said that his contribution as a panelist is to provide the bank’s perspective. “[Booksellers will learn] ways to best be prepared to have the discussions that they would have around any of their banking needs, from financing to day-to-day operations. There are services that banks offer to save them time and money that then can go toward their businesses,” he said.

Christopoulos said he will also discuss what business owners who are just starting out need to know about bank services that can help them build their businesses in more profitable ways, such as payroll services and different ways to address cash flow needs and payment processing. He added that small business owners should also know that banks will investigate an owner’s personal financial history — not just that of their store — when he or she comes in looking for a small business loan.

For her part, Hatley of Self-Help Credit Union will discuss alternative lenders. She said her talk will provide booksellers with common sense advice when it comes to securing a loan.

“Most lenders will be asking for the same things: they are all going to want two years of tax returns, they are all going to want to see some kind of business plan, they are all going to look at your credit, and they will all want the borrower to have some money to put into business,” she said.

“The important thing is that just because [a business owner] gets turned down by one bank doesn’t mean [that owner] can’t find financing. It’s just that every bank has very different lending criteria, so you have to go to the next level,” she said.

If getting a commercial loan at a large bank, which might have stricter lending criteria, doesn’t work out, business owners can go to a credit union, which can be willing to take on a bit more risk than banks. If that doesn’t work, they can go on to a community development financial institution (CDFI), Hatley said.

Self-Help is both a credit union and a CDFI, a type of financial institution created during the Clinton Administration that receives funding from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide credit and financial services to underserved markets and populations.

“My role on the panel is to kind of strip away some of the mist surrounding the whole process and get it down to the nuts and bolts: this is how it works, this is what you’ll need, and these are the kind of lenders you could go to,” Hatley said.

She also noted that there are preparative actions small business owners can take to save time in their quest for financing. For example, Hatley said, if a business owner knows beforehand that a financial institute won’t lend to startups, avoids lending to certain kinds of businesses, like bookstores, or has prohibitive credit criteria, they can rule them out right off the bat.

“How to Work With your Bank” will take place on Wednesday, February 11, from 4:30 p.m.to 5:45 p.m. in the Sammons Wing’s Heritage Ballroom at the Omni Grove Park Inn.

In addition to his participation in the panel, Success360i’s Battle will be available during the Consultation Station to talk to booksellers about his company’s consultation services for small and medium-sized businesses across the country. Battle works with businesses interested in securing capital, as well as on search engine optimization, website building, marketing, and business growth strategies.

The Consultation Station will be open on Tuesday, February 10, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Wednesday, February 11, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the Grove Park’s Skyline Room in the Sammons Wing.