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If you’re a small business owner, finding money to fund growth or operations is constantly on your mind. You’ve probably heard about online sources such as Fundbox or OnDeck that offer fast loans to small companies. Experts say online lending is here to stay and, to be sure, the alternative lending industry will continue to grow to fill what is a true need – credit and funding for small businesses.  But before signing up for one of these quick-but-potentially expensive options, why not consider options closer to home?

  • Community banks have long been a primary source of funding for small companies, and there are many reasons they are still a top choice for a small business.
  • The “community” aspect of community banking is one important reason. They understand the benefit of lending locally. “Community banks love to support the communities they serve by helping business grow within the community,” said Steve Williams, regional president – East Atlanta, United Community Bank.
  • At your community bank, decisions are made by bank officers who live and work in Gwinnett and understand the specific issues local entrepreneurs are facing. “We are a small business ourselves. We understand the client’s needs and what it takes to run a small business.
  • “Community banks develop relationships that help them tailor services to individual business customers,” said Richard Fairey, President and Chief Operating Officer, BrandBank. “When we know more about our customers through mutually beneficial relationships we can be more nimble and ready to meet our customer’s needs. We know our customers by name, we increasingly understand their business and look to grow with them.”
  • In other words, when you seek funding from the community bank where you have a business checking account, the banker is better able to structure a loan with a disbursement and repayment schedule that works for your particular business. Online algorithms, on the other hand, are very impersonal.
  • The anonymity of online lenders might also leave you in a bind when there’s a problem. With a community bank, there’s an office down the street or a call away, and the employees “are ready – sometimes at odd hours – to respond to a client’s need or request,” Williams said.
  • What can you do to better your chances of obtaining funding, no matter where you’re applying? “Understand your financials,” Fairey advised. Before asking for funding, know why you need a loan, how you will use the funds and how it will be repaid.