It’s tough to start your own business. Long hours, few vacations, ramping up for the company’s big selling season – there’s a lot to do. Just ask any small business owner. However, you don’t have to go it alone. Your bank can save your growing company time and money, while helping to increase the productivity of your staff.

Shop around for a business bank that’s interested in your company’s success – as interested as you are. Does the bank have employees who specialize in serving businesses like yours? Some banks maintain Business Centers where customers can find information to help with everything from preparing a business plan to understanding the unique aspects of a business’ service area. 

Before choosing a bank for your business, do a little research and ask a lot of questions.

Does your bank have local lending authority? A small business may have a hard time finding a bank willing to lend money to a company that lacks a long payment history. Small businesses are riskybut some banks are happy to lend to small businesses working and growing in their service region. Before choosing your business bank, determine if the local bank has lending authority. Many larger banks, with numerous branches spread across a wide stretch of geography, may be less inclined to loan money to a small business. Don’t choose a business bank just because there’s a branch just up the street.

When you meet with your bank representative, come prepared with a list of questions:

1. Are business loans approved at the local level, or does someone have to obtain approval from higher-ups at headquarters, which could be hundreds of miles from where you plan to set up shop?

2. If the local bank is empowered to approve commercial loans, what’s the largest amount they can approve at one time?

3. Does the bank you’re considering make quick decisions, or is there a long process for loan approval? What’s the typical wait time to obtain a loan?

4. Does the bank you’re considering work with the Small Business Administration to secure financing for small businesses with big plans? Has it been designated a Preferred Lender with the SBA? Some banks work closely with the federal government’s Small Business Administration to help obtain financing in the early stages of business growth.

A good commercial bank may even have SBA professionals on staff who understand the rules and regulations the SBA has in place. Some banks will help you plan your business strategy, and even help fill out the paperwork to help your small business secure a loan backed by the SBA. The SBA offers a number of different financing options: SBA 504, SBA 7(a) Business loan, SBA 7(a) Real Estate loan if you opt to purchase your workplace, and SBA Express loans when your business needs an infusion of capital fast.

5. Does the business bank you’re considering offer business credit cards at reasonable rates? Choose a bank that offers credit and debit cards you can rely on. Also, ask to take a look at a sample credit card statement to make sure it’s easy to understand. You know when your credit card payment is due, so choose a bank that can transfer funds from your business’ checking and money market savings accounts to cover expenses on the company credit card over the last billing cycle.

A bank that understands start-ups and small businesses can provide answers to questions you haven’t even asked yourself. Ask questions, expect answers you can understand, and expect sound business banking advice from the bank you choose to help manage your company’s cash.