A bank that gives it away
Every once in
awhile I feel the need to assure readers of this column that everything I
write about truly happened. Even the characters are real people, their
names altered only because I donít want them to kill me.
The goal is to give the reader a
taste of the absurdities encountered in running a business. That can only
be done with real situations, with true circumstances.
The reason I mention this is because something happened
last week which I certainly wouldnít have ever believed Ė someone
offered me money to put into my business.
Believable? So far, yes. But
consider that I did not even have to beg and plead or tender my first-born
son as collateral. The offer came out of the blue, no strings attached.
Still not impressed? Ok, I saved the
best for last. Hereís the kicker Ė the offer came from (drum roll,
please) Ė a bank.
Whoa, you say. Banks donít do
that. Sure, theyíll give you a credit card, or a home equity line or a
car loan with only a minimum of pain involved, but Iím talking about a
Iíve had plenty of business
loans over the years, and not one of them came easily. Each request was
met with a huge sigh from the banker, giving me the unmistakable inference
that I was in big trouble if I couldnít run my business without having
to borrow money.
Iíd usually get the loans, but
it would take months of pleading, haggling, shuffling of unimportant
papers and, finally, threats that I would take my account elsewhere if
they didnít come through for me.
So when Freda, my banker, called
me last week, I assumed the account was overdrawn again. Little did I know
the credit crunch was over.
"Good morning," said
Freda, getting right to the point. "I just wanted to see if you
needed any funding."
"That big check must have
come in sooner than expected." I replied. "Weíll cover it
today before you close."
overdrawn," she said. "Iím calling to let you know the bank is
looking to grant you a commercial loan."
I began to feel light-headed.
"We want to give you some
My next question was pretty
"The bank wants to increase
their commercial loan portfolio so weíre offering financing to our good
I have been called many things by
my bank, none of which come close to "good customer." I was
"Weíre also aggressively
seeking new business accounts," continued Freda. "If you know
any business people who need financing, Iíd appreciate you sending them
I had nothing more to say. My
head was spinning. I thanked Freda profusely for thinking of me in her
time of munificence and told her I would get back to her soon.
I called Ralph, my general
manager, and asked him to come to my office. "You wonít believe
what just happened," I said when he arrived. "The bank just
"Are we overdrawn
"No," I replied.
"They want to give us a loan."
"Because weíre a good
Sometimes Ralph surprises me with
his instincts. After he got through laughing, he cut right to the bone.
"The only reason theyíre
offering you a loan," he said, still chuckling, "is because itís
the first time in 12 years of business that you donít need one."
He was right, of course. We would
need extensive financing for a planned expansion, but not until the end of
1993. And because of that commitment, we couldnít do anything else until
then, meaning it was one of those rare times financing could not be
That left one question Ė how
did they know? "Iím sorry, Freda," I said when I called her
back. "Weíll need plenty of financing next fall but we canít use
it right now. Can you hold it for us?"
It was her turn to chuckle.
"I donít know how long this window is going to be open. Are you
sure you donít need a loan for something?" Maybe she knew Iíd say
no Ė I donít care. All I know is Iím pretty sure I heard a note of
pleading in her voice.
And when Iím begging for
financing later this year, thatís all Iíll choose to remember. For
once, it was my turn to say no to the bankers.