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Small Business Loans: Acing the Interview

Our business lending team lives to write loans that strengthen small businesses in Maine, and the interview is a key part of the business loan process. Here is what you need to know to get your business request moving forward.

Machias Savings Bank has written loans for Maine small businesses for over 150 years. Our personal bankers have sat down at their desks or met at the business location with farmers and fishermen, builders and brewers, manufacturers, marketers, and more through boom times and bad times—and we are proud of how frequently our personal bankers find a way to make small business financing work.

One of the reasons for our small business loan success is our approach to the applicant interview.

Maine small business loans are as varied and vibrant as the companies they support but the core small business loan requirements are the same across all industries. Our personal bankers need to know you have a good track record, a sound business plan, and adequate assets. The paperwork you provide may not paint a complete picture of potential pitfalls—or of your small business’s true potential.

Your interview for an entrepreneur loan or business loan financing will feel very much like a job interview. After all, we don’t just write you a tailored business loan—we plan on working closely with you during your entire loan term to help your business thrive. It is important that everyone gets to know each other one-on-one to explore all the available options and find the best way forward.

KNOW HOW SMALL BUSINESS LOANS WORK

Machias Savings Bank offers many different kinds of Maine business loans. Whether you need a small business startup loan, a Small Business Administration (SBA)-backed loan, a business line of credit, equipment loans, a cash advance, or even a boat loan, we will have a way to make it happen. Each one of those small business loan types will have different advantages and your personal banker can help you choose the perfect business loan financing for you.

The main components of small business startup loans are the amount of money you will borrow, how long you will take to pay it back, and the assets you will put down to secure the loan in case things do not go as planned. While all this information will be included in the paperwork you submit, don’t panic if our personal bankers ask you for more details.

If you had help assembling your small business loan application materials, review them with your business advisor or accountant prior to the interview. Our personal bankers understand that the intricacies of financing, regulations, or tax laws may not be your specialty. We aren’t going to test you, but we do like to see a basic grasp of the fundamentals behind your small business plan.

“We may want to know more about how you arrived at your proposed loan amount or loan term,” says Chris Fitzpatrick, EVP Business Banking. “Be ready to show past accounts payable history or income statements or any other research you may have done to make your projections.”

“We aren’t asking to test your knowledge or try to trip you up,” he adds. “So be as honest and open with us as you can. For instance, Machias Savings Bank has flexible or staggered payment options that may end up being better for your business’s cash flow. The interview is an opportunity for all of us to consider key ways to customize your Maine small business loan in ways that can significantly increase your chances for success.”

KNOW YOUR BUSINESS PLAN

“The first thing we are going to ask you is why you want or need business loan financing—and what your Maine small business plans to do with that money,” explains Sean Daye, VP Business Banking, “The paperwork tells a big part of that story, sure. But we want to hear the details of your business plan from you.”

The more fluently and passionately you can converse about your small business startup or expansion plans the more confidence our personal bankers tend to feel about sharing the risk. “If you see an opportunity ahead, help us see it, too,” advises Daye. “Tell us why a small business loan is the best way for you to take advantage of it.”

“And if you need your Maine business loan to navigate a challenging time or a tough business cycle, don’t try to hide it,” adds Chris Fitzpatrick. “Maine has many small and seasonal businesses. We are used to seeing ups and downs. Most small businesses will struggle at some point. If you can show us a strong business plan, we have loan products and repayment options designed to help you scrap through slow seasons or rough quarters.”

Offering specifics makes your Maine small business plan stronger. If you are developing a new product, can you share a prototype and a cost per unit? If you are adding a new service line, how many new people will you need to hire and train? If you are expanding into a new geographic area, how are you forecasting demand? If you need to purchase new equipment, how quickly can you earn back that expense?

Walk into the interview ready to talk about the big picture—what your business does and why it matters—and be ready to describe your plan for your small business loan funds in more detail.

Not sure there is a Maine small business loan that fits your business? Think again. We offer a wide range of specialized business financing options designed for key Maine industries, from commercial fishing to blueberry farming.

KNOW YOUR BACKUP PLAN

Most small business loans for new business have best-case scenario forecasts for future outcomes. Entrepreneurs are enthusiastic about their work and believe passionately in what they do. If your personal loan officer asks you what you plan to do if things don’t work out the way you expect, don’t see the question as a lack of confidence in your business plan—or in you.

“Our loan officers have seen almost everything,” says Larry Barker, President and CEO of Machias Savings Bank. “No matter how well you plan or prepare, things happen you can’t anticipate—like the COVID-19 shutdown this spring. We know that the most successful business owners are strategic and flexible. They don’t panic in a crisis. They prepare contingency plans. They pivot when circumstances change.”

If you are getting a loan to rework your production line around a new piece of equipment, your personal loan officer may press you on what you will do if it breaks down. If you are borrowing to build a new facility, your loan officer may ask if you have sufficient cash reserves to stay afloat if construction is delayed. Show up at the interview with strategies for how to make it work, no matter what.

“The first thing I tell a logger after they sign a loan for a new to them harvester or skidder is that I hope it breaks down on them sooner rather than later,” admits Chris Fitzpatrick, EVP Business Banking, with a laugh. “That always takes them aback a bit. I explain that I don’t say that because I want them to fail. Quite the opposite! I know from personal experience on my own potato farm that once you see a key piece of machinery break down in the middle of a harvest you will never forget the importance for having a plan to fix it—fast.”

KNOW WE ARE ON YOUR SIDE

Some small business owners and entrepreneurs worry about securing small business loans for new businesses because they have some blemish on their financial or business history. They arrive at their personal interview anxious about being asked to explain a rough earnings quarter for their Maine small business or a long-ago late payment on a personal credit card.

“Good business owners learn from their mistakes,” advises Sean Daye. “Small business loan application materials do not offer a way to truly tell a complex story of personal or professional development. The interview is your chance to tell us what happened, what you learned from the experience, and how you plan to prevent it from happening in the future.”

One of the great advantages to working with a community bank focused exclusively on the state of Maine is that you get a chance to really say your piece and make your case. Rather than trying to fit your professional journey into an online form, you can fill out the nuances and details for us right there at the loan desk.

Sit down with a Machias Savings Bank business banker, share the challenges your business faces, and let us show you how a Maine small business loan can help.

LOANS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IN MAINE?

Not sure how to get a small business loan? If you live or work in Maine, start with Machias Savings Bank. Approving affordable, flexible, fast small business bank loans for our friends and neighbors.
Business Banking that Moves Maine Forward.

OUR FOCUS

As a customer of Machias Savings Bank, the focus is on you. We will enhance your banking relationship by working with you to discover your banking needs. We will be there when you need us.

 

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