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 Business Loan!
    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."
    "Youíre not 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. "Pardon me."
    "We want to give you some money."
    My next question was pretty obvious. "Why?"
    "The bank wants to increase their commercial loan portfolio so weíre offering financing to our good customers."
    I have been called many things by my bank, none of which come close to "good customer." I was still skeptical.
    "Weíre also aggressively seeking new business accounts," continued Freda. "If you know any business people who need financing, Iíd appreciate you sending them our way."
    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 called."
    "Are we overdrawn again?"
    "No," I replied. "They want to give us a loan."
    "Because weíre a good customer."
    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 presently utilized.
    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.


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