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Shut up and Listen…Part III.

Linda Gardner wrote a great article in the February 2007 RMA Journal on Understanding Your Middle-Market Customer. See my previous two posts; the first with a link to the full article and my take on her conversation openers and the second on questions about the business.

In her example, she was talking with an owner who had developed this business over a 30 year period. Here are her suggested questions to better understand this owner:

  • What are your financial objectives?
  • What is your financial philosophy?
  • Do you want to continue to work in the business?
  • How do your family-employee considerations affect your goals and objectives.
  • Would you be willing to share in the ownership of the company?
  • Do you have tax and estate objectives that need to be considered?

Once again, your questions are likely to spark thoughtful consideration on the part of the business owner. The owner’s time spent with you becomes high-level business planning instead of something she has to do to get the loan.

Consider starting a ‘question bank’…a list of questions and the best circumstances in which to ask them. For example, a question about retirement may not be as relevant when meeting with a 30-something in a start-up than a 60-something in a seasoned business. This is a great place to jot questions that your bank’s more successful lenders ask.

Keep adding to your question list and, when planning to meet with a new prospect, scan the list to decide on the best questions. If your colleagues do the same, you can trade lists from time-to-time to improve everyone’s question bank.

About the Author
Linda Keith CPA is an expert in credit risk readiness and credit analysis. She trains banks and credit unions throughout the United States, both in-house and in open-enrollment sessions, on Tax Return and Financial Statement Analysis. She is in the trenches with lenders, analysts and underwriters helping them say "yes" to good loans. Creator of the Tax Return Analysis Virtual Classroom at, she speaks at banking associations on risk management, lending and director finance topics.