Forge Small Business Relationships: Five Strategies

Engage business owners in robust dialogue around small-business drivers.

October 28, 2010
KEYWORDS benefits , business , loans , owner
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The banking industry’s turmoil and tighter lending standards are presenting incredible opportunities for credit unions. For instance, small-business owners who previously received loans from banks are finding it difficult today to get the same funding and are turning to credit unions for assistance.

Savvy institutions will seize these opportunities to gain valuable, profitable members from the small-business community. They will gain business owners’ trust and long-term commitment by meeting all their business needs with targeted solutions and the highest quality service.

Any successful small-business owner will tell you that relationships are the key to their success. To form relationships with business owners, credit unions need to demonstrate that they offer significant advantages over banks.

Here are five strategies to help institutions earn the loyalty of small businesses:

1. Understand what they need

It’s not enough for credit union professionals to be knowledgeable about their organizations’ products and services. Small-business owners want to view credit union representatives as experts who can answer all their financial questions.

For example, consider the owner of a small business who previously obtained loans from a particular bank until the lending guidelines became more stringent. While the business owner knew the credit union was an alternative resource for loans, the owner was new to credit unions and wanted to be reassured that the employees are truly professionals who understand the business's goals.

An effective strategy, therefore, is to engage the owner in a robust dialogue around small-business drivers, business cycles, and the company’s specific industry.

In that way, a credit union professional, confident about the institution’s products and services, can learn about the small company’s goals and needs, and add value by meeting them most effectively with the institution’s unique offerings.

2. Take an enterprise approach

This approach is demonstrated when credit union professionals work as partners across all lines of business, allowing the business owner to see the credit union as one entity.

When credit unions use this total team approach in assisting small businesses, owners view the institution as a single, powerful entity assisting them with all their goals, both personal and business.

To do so, employees from all lines of business need to be equipped with the skills to communicate the credit union’s value proposition so the business owner sees that the organization is thinking holistically.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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