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  • Do You Have The Right Partners?

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    There was a book written in 1995 entitled The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do about It. The author premises that many businesses fail due to a lack of proper management of the company. This comes as a result of the owner being pulled in too many directions while trying to help his or her business truly succeed. At its core, the author suggests that more companies need someone who will work "on" the business instead of "in" the business.

    So, what does this look like?

    For many companies this means that the owner needs to find good partners to work with. Does the company have a trusted CPA advisor that he or she can turn to with accounting questions? Is there good legal advice that can help in situations whereby good counsel can ultimately save a company money through better contracts? And, does the company have a good relationship with a Business Banker?

    What can your Business Banker do for you?

    For starters, the Business Banker can provide a wealth of knowledge. Often, the lender has had experiences with others who may be in similar lines of business. As such, he or she can use the past to help the business owner by asking some tough questions. Tough questions, such as: 

    • How much more were your sales this year?
    • Help me understand the growth in your inventory category on your balance sheet.
    • Does that growth imply stale inventory, excess capacity or stocking up for incoming sales that are anticipated in the fourth quarter?

    Business Bankers have access to a variety of resources as well that can help the company owner understand how his or her company compares to others in the same industry throughout the country with the same sales volumes or history. This comparative data can help drive additional analysis of process, procedures, and sales tactics, all good discussions to be having with your banker.

    And that's not all your Business Banker can do for you. He or she can introduce you to other clients that might have synergistic opportunities. For example, if they have a body shop client, they might be able to introduce that client to all of their various insurance agents with whom they work. "I'd like to introduce you to Bob. He has a great body shop business and I know that he can help your clients with their car repair needs." The body shop client benefits, the insurance agent has another good source for taking care of his or her clients, and of course, the additional business ultimately benefits the bank's client which is good for the bank. When was the last time that you asked your Business Banker for a referral?

    Finally, the Business Banker ultimately has his or her clients' interest at heart. If the relationship (and I use the word "relationship" intentionally here) is not beneficial to both parties, then ultimately, it is not good for either. It is in the bank's and the client's best interests to have a "mutual admiration society" between each other. When a bank's client is happy and feels good about the service and advice he or she is getting from the bank's lenders, then they win. And if the bank's client wins, then ultimately, the bank wins as well. Both should feel this is a great relationship and that they are mutually looking out for one another's interests.

    So, as a business owner, do you have the right banking relationship to help you focus "on" and not "in" your business? If not, then ask the tough questions of your banker.

    This blog is brought to you by Senior Vice President and Business Banking Manager, Chris Caldwell.

  • Community Banking and Small Businesses

    Thursday, May 9, 2013

    Sometimes when I’m writing these blogs I find myself challenged with what to say.  Do I blather on about the importance of working with your CPA and attorney as you are making business decisions?  By the way, that is critically important so please, please, please . . . talk with your professional advisors to ensure that you are doing the right thing for your business.  Do I blather on about the importance of mentors?  If you haven’t read that blog I would encourage you to do so as I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having someone to mentor me throughout my career and the great opportunity you may have to do the same for someone coming up in your particular field or industry.

    No, today I’m taking proverbial pen in hand (okay keyboard) to talk about the importance of community banks to the small business lending arena.  I’m not going to spout all sorts of data as the Internet has given us a tool where we can pull any statistic that we want but to really understand the underlying numbers becomes almost impossible.  Instead, what I’d like to do is share some anecdotal kinds of things that I’ve been hearing lately.

    One small business owner told his lender that he truly appreciated all her help.  He was sure that it was going to be difficult doing business with MutualBank because it is difficult doing business with any bank. However, what he found was a lender and a bank that were easy to do business with.  As a point of example, he said “it was a nice experience to have somebody pick up the phone, talk to me and make it happen” when he called the bank’s help desk.

    Another client recently reported back to me that he found working with his lender to be one of the main reasons that he continues to do business with MutualBank.  His lender fully understands his company’s needs, accurately ascertains what is going on within the business, and asks the right questions to help his company succeed (and thus we helped him personally as well).  As he said, “you don’t get that with the big banks”.

    Am I biased; sure, I work for a community bank, and always have.  But, I will tell you that small business owners want and need a business advisor, not just an order taker.  When the business banker is asking the critical questions, it is aimed at helping the business succeed.  Does the bank need to make a profit, absolutely; it is our only way of surviving.  However, do we need to make a profit at the expense of the business because we didn’t do right by the company to whom we are lending money – absolutely not

    We are here to partner with every one of our business clients.  We want to help them with a vast array of products and services that will help them achieve their goals and dreams.  So, if you are feeling boxed in by your current bank, call MutualBank and talk with us, we want to help you grow your business the way you want, with our business bankers right there to help you all along the way.

     Feeling boxed in? See how MutualBank is different below:

    This blog is brought to you by Chris Caldwell, Senior Vice President and
    Business Banking Manager. 

  • The Mind of a Commercial Lender

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Have you ever wondered what it is that your banker is really looking for when they talk with you about a credit request?  Well, wonder no more, I invite you into the brain of a commercial lender (enter with caution as it is a scary place!) 

    1. Have you developed and maintained an ongoing business relationship with your banker?   Bankers need to have an ongoing dialogue with clients to best serve their needs.  We are here to provide money, certainly, but we are also here to establish a long term relationship whereby we can help our clients achieve their goals.  Whether it is remote deposit or online banking, ACH or wire transfers, your banker has the products and services that can help our customers grow.  But we cannot do that if we do not know what those goals are.
    2. Does your business need a loan -- or an equity infusion?  Banks are interested in making loans; they are not interested in being the owners of the business.  Equity is that device that helps a business weather a storm, loans are those tools that help a business grow and operate.  The two are mutually exclusive.  Banks are in business to make loans.  Equity funds should come from the business owners.
    3. Can you clearly explain your firm’s “value proposition?”  If you cannot explain why a business should do business with you then stop what you are doing, figure that out, and then resume whatever it was that you were doing.  Why should someone buy from you as opposed to your competition?  That question needs to be clearly (and concisely) articulated first!
    4. Do you have a plan that covers the good, the bad, and the ugly?  Things happen, and sometimes you have to figure out what that means for your business.  To always assume the “good” means that when the “bad,” or worse yet, the “ugly” happens the business isn’t prepared to handle the outcome.  So . . . what are you going to do in your company if it gets “ugly”?  If you can answer that question you will be in much better shape to help your banker help you.
    5. Have you developed at least two ways to repay the loan?  Bankers have an axiom that goes like this “only cash repays loans.”  There, that is our great big secret.  Now that you know that then you know how we view the primary source of repayment.  But how else can the loan be paid off if the cash isn’t being generated for some reason (see point #4 above).  If you can demonstrate how else the loan might be repaid you have helped the bank and they in turn can be more helpful to you. 

    So now that you have seen into the mind of a commercial lender I hope you will take away from this discussion that it isn’t too scary a thought process.  Indeed, the more certainty that the banker has that the loan will be paid “as agreed,” the more likely that you will not only receive a favorable loan decision, but also the best interest rate. 

    Your MutualBankers are here to help you accomplish your goal. Get started by contacting a MutualBanker near you!


    Chris Caldwell is Senior Vice President of Business Banking for MutualBank.

  • Small Business - Protect Against Account Takeover

    Monday, September 24, 2012

    Do you own a small business? Did you know that small business is one of the top targets for online fraud? According to Symantec's June 2012 Symantec Intelligence Report, 36 percent of all targeted attacks during the first half of 2012 were directed at businesses with 250 or fewer employees and they continue to increase at a minimum rate of 24 percent with an average of 151 targeted attacks being blocked each day during May and June.

    As a business owner you must take steps to protect yourself against online fraud such as corporate account takeover. The American Bankers Association defines corporate account takeover:

    What is Corporate Account Takeover?
    Corporate account takeover is a type of fraud where thieves gain access to a business' finances to make unauthorized transactions, including transferring funds from the company, creating and adding new fake employees to payroll, and stealing sensitive customer information that may not be recoverable.

    The American Bankers Association has created a resource for small business owners to access information about account takeover and steps to take to protect yourself and your business. Please go to the American Bankers Association website for more information regarding Corporate Account Takeover.

    Remember, you can call us anytime. Let us know if you have questions or concerns for your bank accounts. Call 800-382-8031 or email us at  

  • Are You Creating a Successful Business?

    Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    An important part of a successful business is meaningful, regular communication with your banker. This dialog centers around a budget and first quarter review. Why, you ask? Let me share a quick analogy.

    Picture this . . . its summer vacation.  A family heads off to French Lick (after all, they are good Hoosiers and want to keep their money here in the state!) to enjoy all that vacation has to offer them once they arrive.  As they begin the trip they realize that their primary route is closed due to construction.   The family has no GPS, no paper map, and due to a dead iPhone, they can’t even rely on that technology.  Without any of those tools, they are unsure how to handle the numerous detours, and unforeseen circumstances.  Businesses are just like this family; issues arise that may change the planned course or destination. Without a good map or GPS (a budget and a plan), the business may become unsteady or lose focus on how to reach their destination (business goal).

    What is the business’ plan?  As one of my colleagues says, those who are living off the bottom line will continue to succeed, those that are living off the top line . . .  well, it isn’t as pretty.  So, what can a business person do?   Consider the following steps:

    1. Put a good annual plan into place.
    2. Know where you want the business to go and figure out the mile makers with which you will measure progress
    3. Determine the resources needed to accomplish this plan
    4. Communicate with your CPA, attorney, insurance agent and business banker - help them understand your desired outcome. 

    At the end of the first quarter you may be saying, “Chris, it’s too late, we already are three plus months into the year, we can’t do that now.”  Or maybe the statement is “we put our budget in place, we are one-fourth of the way through the year and we are ‘knocking it out of the park’ we don’t need to worry.”  My response to the first statement is this - it is NEVER too late to budget and plan.  My reaction to the second statement is, “Congratulations! Now, what else can you do to enjoy your trip and ensure you remain on course?” 

    It is never too late to plan your trip and it is never too late to plan for unforeseen circumstances.  Is your trip a bottom line or a top line trip?  If it is the latter, now is the time to consider changing direction and switch to a bottom line perspective.  And if you have questions, make sure that you include your banker in that discussion.  We want to help you live a better life and succeed, because when our clients do well, MutualBank succeeds too.

  • What's Your Dream?

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    Got a dream? We’re here to listen!

    David Muir came to MutualBank with a dream of a better life. He started 2008 as an unemployed “victim” of the Great Recession but ended the year with a plan for a business of his own. Muir and his wife, Michelle, decided to open a winery. The Mutual team was there to help.

    Muir was referred to MutualBank by Alan Steele of the Small Business Development Corporation. Steele served as a mentor while Muir carefully assembled the components of his start-up plan. At the same time, Steele had been meeting with Client Relationship Manager, Vince Turner, to explore potential financing for innovative start-up businesses. The Muirs seemed to be a match.

    Not long after, Vince introduced the Muirs to Kathy Sears of the Business Banking department. Kathy recognized the Muirs as strong candidates for an SBA loan. Soon the process was under way. It was not long before the Muirs were breaking ground.

    As opening day approached, the partnership between the Muirs and Mutual continued to grow. Business checking accounts, merchant services, business debit cards - Mutual was there every step of the way.

    Earlier this year, when the Dunlap financial center, in Goshen, Indiana, hosted a customer appreciation event, Fruit Hills Winery was there to serve! The Muir’s shelves are now stocked with original labels and customers are arriving from three states away to sample their wares.

    Two years ago, Mutual told the Muirs to go ahead.
    Today, they are living a better life.

    Come share your dream with us. We want to hear it.


    Visit Fruit Hills Winery’s website to learn more! Or check out Fruit Hills Winery on Facebook!

  • Businesses: I'm Talking To You!

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    New Year’s Resolutions... nope, I don’t subscribe to them.  I also don’t subscribe to fad diets (although there are times when I should), the latest fashions, or much else that seem to be the latest topics, trends, or crazes.  However, what I do believe is necessary and appropriate is to use the calendar as a good benchmark for various aspects of life.  Spring and Fall time changes are good reminders to change the batteries in the smoke detector.  Anniversaries are a good time to reflect and make a special effort to thank that special person for putting up with me.  Well you get the idea...

    And, this is the time of year that I encourage our lending team to get out and talk to our clients and vice-versa.  Businesses traditionally are ramping up for the year and looking forward.  They are thinking about meeting with their CPA.  They are looking at the year ahead and trying to determine what sales goals are for the year.  And it is at this time of the year that bankers should be taking the time to visit with their clients.  Here is a list of conversation topics that your banker needs to be having with you (who initiates the conversation is not as important as having it).

    • How do you (the business owner) think 2011 will end up and why? (Did revenue go up, down or sideways?  What kind of bottom line do you expect and why? )
    • What are your 2012 expectations – where do you see this year differing from last and why?
    • Major acquisitions of fixed assets (equipment, real estate) on the horizon?  What will that do for the company (does it make sense to invest hard earned money into something – will it make the company more efficient?)
    • Any other potential changes on the horizon (staffing, ownership buy outs, possible acquisition of additional lines of business)?
    • Expectations of what you (the business owner) want from your banker (number of meetings each year, communications channels, etc.)

    You should expect your banker to be of assistance, giving you good guidance and advice.  If the banker can’t understand your business, it is difficult for him/her to be able to help you.  Meet with your banker, make sure he/she “get it”, and open up those communication channels for both of you to succeed.  The bank doesn’t do well unless its clients do well, and businesses don’t do well unless their bank is by their side helping them achieve the goals and aspirations of their companies.

    Go ahead and start these conversations today!

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