We’re all ready to move on from The Year That Shall Not Be Named. As we head into 2021 with optimism for the future, it’s important to acknowledge the lessons learned while we still experience the lasting effects of the pandemic. Chief Credit Officer Mark McGrory shares what his team has seen work to help businesses stay viable.
What are some things you’ve seen businesses do to stay relevant in this new environment?
The two biggest things I’ve noticed that have helped businesses are:
- Adapting day-to-day business operations
- Really noticing who your customer is and how to reach them.
When adapting your day-to-day operations, making sure you have a grasp of what the new business cycle (as in, the natural highs and lows of your income flow) will look like for you is essential – predict challenges and figure out how to address them.
Consider your needs and expenses (and find ways to limit those) and then work that information into a modified business model. In other words, understand how changes will affect your specific business process and what makes you unique in your industry.
Secondly, taking a step back to really make sure you understand your customer is so important as well. The more a business is able to say, “I know my customers. I know what they need and how they function. I know how to reach them to make sure they know I’m open and can still help them,” the more a business may be able to start finding ways to stay open or at least operate. For most businesses this past year, it meant making sure their technology was ready to connect with their customers, primarily by having an easy-to-use website (more on that later).
How can businesses take advantage of the relationship they have with a community banker at this time?
It’s always advantageous to maintain a good line of communication with your Commercial Banker. If you can schedule meetings, maybe over the phone or even a video conference, it’s great to keep them up to date on what’s going on with your business. Make sure they know the challenges you’re dealing with and any opportunities that might be beneficial to pursue. Your banker can help analyze those challenges and opportunities, as well as review different financial options.
Other than your banker, it’s always helpful to have good relationships with these professionals as well:
- An attorney
- An insurance professional
- A business mentor – someone who is doing well on a large scale in your field, someone you trust to provide honest guidance, with your best interests at heart.
As we see what 2021 brings, what will help businesses keep their footing?
After last year, it’s hard to say anything with certainty anymore. But something that has proven to be beneficial for businesses is to make sure your technology is up to date and user friendly for your customers – especially your website and how you take payments (our Treasury Management Services can help with that).
These are the three key things you want to make sure your technology can do:
- Help customers contact you
- Help you meet their needs
- Have easy ways for them to pay you
Making sure you have this fundamental business process down can help maintain cash flow and liquidity.
Any silver linings to be seen in retrospect?
Seeing our local economies and communities struggle is difficult, but we’ve been happy to see some success stories from our customers, and those really come from being able to look at a situation and see the opportunities.
The folks that have managed to stay viable have been keeping an open mind, thinking about how they can still help their customer and pursuing those opportunities, rather than letting the uncertainty and fear take over their mindset.
Our Commercial Bankers are always ready to discuss ideas, opportunities and options for your business. Give your local Merchants Bank a call – we’re ready to support your business as you embark on developing your 2021 business goals.