Small Talk: Citi exec works to improve small business status
Q. What do your bankers do to help a small business when it’s turned down for a loan?
A. I don’t use the words "turned down." What a banker should be saying to a business owner is, "here’s what we need to do to be able to lend you the money and help you grow." Before we say, "we can’t lend you the money now," we’ll see if there are alternative ways to finance — alternatives like Small Business Administration loans — and see if there’s a way we can partner with SBA to give that money. If that doesn’t work, then it becomes an advice discussion — let us advise you on what your business needs to look like to expand the way you’d like to. I don’t like to use "turn down" as much as I like to use "advice."
Q. What is your take on the state of small business today?
A. Slowly we’ve seen their confidence in the economy come back. I would say now that primarily they are confident that the economy is going to grow in the next few years. And they’re starting to act in that entrepreneurial spirit.
At the same time, we’re in a period of evolution, from a global standpoint and a technology standpoint. The world is shrinking and the competitive landscape, even for small businesses, is becoming more clouded by globalization and the technology advances. I think the way that small businesses have to think is changing.
Q. So, you’ve been a small business owner yourself. What was that like?
A. I owned a barber and beauty salon and it was a very interesting learning experience for me. When I was in college, I was a barber, so I bought something I knew. I didn’t cut hair in the salon, I just owned it. As a banker, I understood the balance sheet and the income statement. As an owner, truthfully, I rarely looked at the balance sheet and the income statement, because I spent my time on customers and employees.