School’s (NOT OUT) for Summer: A Message from President & CEO Bryan Doxford
This week, my family celebrates a milestone. The New York school year is ending, and not a minute too soon! My wife and I have been moonlighting as teachers for months. Many of you have been in the same position in your own homes, though you’ve likely handled the opportunity with far more grace and patience than we have. Despite frustrations and challenges we kept at it, knowing our daughters’ education is critical for their long-term successes.
I can’t help but draw a parallel between my COVID-prompted career move to education and our work as small business lenders. In my experience, the best small business lenders are also teachers, imparting essential knowledge to clients to ensure their businesses are successful in the long run. Good lenders help their clients acquire a baseline level of financial knowledge and competence. Great lenders equip their clients to solve financial problems by giving them the right tools. So, what problems are your small business clients trying to solve and how will you help solve them?
Historically, summer is often slower for most sectors of finance. But this year will be different. We will all be working diligently to help borrowers return to profitability in a safe, responsible, and sustainable manner. What will you be doing to provide your clients with education that will help them navigate their economic futures?
Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
• Embrace technology. Remote learning capabilities are the new standard, even for classrooms that never expected or wanted to be online. The more your institution can recreate personal interaction via web-based initiatives, the more you will reach your broad base of constituents. Provide training webinars on relevant topics such as marketing, use of technology and loan options. Offer the option of video consults where an in-person meeting would normally be helpful.
• Localize and personalize your content and message. Local lenders have a clear advantage in knowing the pulse of the market and personalizing your content will help you keep a human connection with clients. Showcase that knowledge by partnering with local, external companies on content. Law, accounting, and consulting firms that share your values and provide the same standard of work as your institution can add significant value to the teaching tools that you create for clients. These partnerships can also help you introduce your message and products to new audiences.
• Encourage small business clients to prepare projections for their futures and offer one-on-one consultations (remote or otherwise) to discuss their plans and opportunities. Recent surveys have shown that 55% of small business owners report revenue losses due to COVID-19, 90% of businesses expect an economic slowdown, and 58% say they plan to apply for a loan. It’s clear that businesses must prepare for scenarios outside of their status quo, and many will need support to successfully do that.
• Solicit feedback from your clients. Work to really understand what their challenges are so that you can present solutions that work. Survey, listen, and respond.
• As an institution, determine the following: What is your call to action? What is your plan for SBA lending going forward?
Here is a helpful prediction: SBA 7(a) lending will quickly become the go-to loan program for many lenders due to the credit enhancement provided by the SBA. The 7(a) is specifically designed to serve small business borrowers who fall through the cracks or lack access to conventional capital. It’s an ideal substitute when conventional lending is not an option—which will be the reality for many business borrowers as they regroup and recover.
Lastly, I encourage you to embrace your role as a teacher for your small business customers. In doing so, you will deepen authentic relationships that add value for your institution and set these critical members of our communities up for success. If there is anything I can do to support you in this endeavor, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Be safe. Stay healthy!
President & CEO