Starting a small business can be both exciting and intimidating for immigrant entrepreneurs. The business culture in the U.S. is unique, and even experienced business people will have challenges when starting over in this country.

Because immigrant business owners may be used to a different way of doing business, many may not be aware that banks and credit unions are more than just places to get a loan or keep money safe. The staff at a bank or credit union have the potential to become an immigrant entrepreneur’s best business partner. Building a personal banking relationship with a trusted lender can be the key to help a business become successful.

But how exactly should an immigrant small business owner choose a lending partner and build a relationship with them? “It’s really all about trust and communication,” said Julie Wagoner, senior vice president of community development and commercial lending at Bath Savings Bank. “Trust can first be built through a personal relationship with a banker as a depositor with a personal account. I would encourage business owners to seek bankers who seem interested in learning more about their business.”

Building a good banking relationship brings all kinds of benefits. Existing customers with a solid loan history and deposit balance are sometimes offered better rates on loans or lines of credit and higher interest rates on checking or savings accounts, and can receive assistance with critical financial paperwork that can be unexpected or confusing for immigrant business owners.
Open communication makes it possible to discuss the unique needs of small business owners with an international clientele, such as easy and secure international money transfers.

Long-term success for a small business depends upon having a solid financial plan for the future. Meeting with a loan officer or financial planner can help create a solid financial plan, and identify the services that will best support that plan. “Open communication allows the banker to build a true understanding of your business cycle and your needs to ensure your financing structure is appropriate and helpful,” Wagoner said. “This also allows the banker to learn more about your business and better help with your financial needs. … It may feel strange to have a banker ask all kinds of questions about your business cycle, your suppliers, your customers, and your competitors. However, the more interest the banker shows in these items, and knows about your business, means they will better understand your financial needs. Remember – everything you share with your banker or credit loan officer is confidential.”