This article was originally published on Forbes BrandVoice.
Busy doing it all, many business owners don’t have much time to make plans, much less plan for bad days.
But planning is important, and more owners should be turning to their bank for help.
A recent survey showed that 81% of small and midsize business owners didn’t have a formal contingency plan for any highly disruptive event, whether a major recession, natural disaster or global pandemic. That’s where experts can offer guidance.
“The pandemic has helped businesses recognize the need for strategic planning so they can be prepared if something happens. We want to really provoke and promote that dialogue,” shared Chris Giamo, Head of Commercial Banking, TD Bank.
That dialogue is much richer if your banking partner understands the particulars of your industry, your geography and your experience. That’s the difference between just another business consultant and a trusted advisor, Giamo said.
“Many businesses of all sizes are entrepreneurial,” he said. “The owner is probably acting as CFO, chief revenue officer and -in other roles simultaneously. These business leaders need their bank to provide real financial advice. It's about viewing your bank not just as a commodity—a place to hold your company's cash or to get a loan—but as a strategic partner.”
Of course, great financial advice isn’t just about preparing for the worst; it’s also about preparing for growth. A TD Bank survey conducted in March found that while most business owners feel comfortable with day-to-day finances, they feel less confident about bigger decisions—like when to hire, when to seek financing and how to expand.
A financial institution that makes a point of learning about your business so they can offer suggestions customized to your needs and growth stage can provide expert guidance without the hefty fees that can come with hiring a consultant.
John Keller, the founder of Sequoia Supply outside Philadelphia, learned the value of this relationship when he first heard about TD Bank 13 years ago because a relationship manager entered his outdoor living supply store to make a purchase for his home.
Follow the timeline to learn more about John’s story and how he worked with TD Bank to finance the growth of his business.
1996: Contractor Sees An Opportunity
As the owner of a small construction company that primarily built decks and patios, John was frustrated by the lack of readily available supplies to complete his projects. He started warehousing the decking railings and other products for building decks and additions that he installed, and soon other deck contractors began to buy from him. In 1996, he founded Sequoia Supply and staffed it with existing employees of his construction company (which he eventually sold), creating a deck supply company run by deck builders.
2009: Sequoia Expands Amid The Great Recession
Soon, homeowners started visiting his warehouse. Some were building their own decks, while others were selecting materials for their contractors. The interest from consumers inspired John to open Sequoia Out Back, an expansive showroom with everything from decking products that Sequoia was currently selling to new products like outdoor furniture and fire pits. One day, a customer came in looking for a deck and started chatting with John about his business. The customer happened to be a local TD Bank relationship manager. The relationship manager demonstrated his industry expertise and deep knowledge of the local market. Soon after, John moved his business to TD Bank, which offered him a debt consolidation loan and a better rate on a line of credit.
“We have a unique structure that allows us to deliver big-bank products in a localized way," Giamo explained. "Our local leaders and relationship managers are fully embedded in their communities so they understand the challenges and opportunities of a growing business in that particular market.”
2013 to 2015: Property Purchase Gives Sequoia Room To Grow
As his business grew, John sought an even larger canvas. He bought an old gym and the 10 acres attached to it to build a new showroom and two new warehouses. Credit was tight in 2013, but pre-approval for a mortgage from TD Bank helped John secure a good deal for the property. “They knew my business,” John said. “Even though it was a large bank, it didn’t feel any different than the small banks I was used to dealing with.” Business remained solid during this period, leading John to finance the construction of a warehouse on the site in 2015.
One key to growing your business is understanding its worth and how to grow its value. Business owners can find out how much their company is worth through a valuation service. Valuations typically cost thousands of dollars but are provided at no cost for small and midsize business customers and prospects at TD Bank.
2020: PPP Loan Cushions COVID's Impact On Sales
John’s store closed when lockdowns began, and the business suffered a 30% drop in quarterly sales. TD Bank helped him obtain a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to bridge the gap. Fortunately, Sequoia Out Back reopened quickly, and John soon faced a new challenge—a DIY renovation boom had him scrambling for inventory.
“You’re never built for all your customers to need you at the same time," Giamo explained. "But that was the case during COVID… Early in the pandemic, we had employees working around the clock to process PPP loan applications because they were passionate about their customers and serving their communities.”
2021 AND BEYOND: Sequoia Looks Ahead, Considers E-Commerce
Buoyed by a line of credit with a low interest rate that is backed by Sequoia's business assets, John is eyeing an expansion into e-commerce, which he said isn’t offered by the major lumber yards that sell decking supplies. But with a warehouse custom-built for lumber delivery, John says he is well-positioned to turn around online orders quickly. “I have always been of the philosophy that if you don’t continue to grow, you start to go backwards,” he said.
“Some of our clients start as very small businesses with relatively simplistic needs, while other larger clients require more complex offerings. We have a comprehensive suite of products and relationship managers who know how to deliver these products as the business needs them, so we can support these businesses every step of the way,” Giamo said.
With all the volatility in virtually every industry today, a good plan can make the difference between fast growth and failure.
With their financial expertise and understanding of your business, the right banker will give you a jumpstart on those plans and the guidance you need to keep them moving forward.
Visit TD Bank's Small Business or Commercial Banking site to find out what a relationship with TD can do for the future of your business.