In the small business community, we always talk about networking, connections, and working with trusted partners. That has never been truer than when it comes to working with a lender, especially during the current climate.
When you are starting or expanding a business, having a good relationship with your lender can make or break a deal. Those lenders that are local where you can put a name to a face, where he or she is a part of your community and you can see the person at the grocery store, really is an important piece to your puzzle.
The Small Business Development Center at Onondaga Community College has a network of local lenders that we turn to for our clients’ needs, and those lenders turn to us for their clients’ needs. The relationship is an important piece to any deal that is being developed.
During this pandemic, lending has been stricter, harder, and more strained when it comes to obtaining funds but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. Businesses are still expanding, businesses are still growing even though we are in these challenging times. In December of 2020, Jamey Lloyd, Vice President, Senior Relationship Manager Business & Professional from M&T Bank contacted NYS Advanced Certified Business Advisor, Melissa Zomro Davis to help with financial projections on a building purchase for their client, Dr. Melissa Carman, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and the owner of Supportive Solutions Counseling and Consulting which has been established for ten years.
The financials are a huge portion of the loan application and the banks do turn to the SBDC for that assistance for their clients. Jamey Lloyd has made it a priority for his clients to seek the counseling of the Advisors at the SBDC by making that connection each and every time. “I know when I need certain pieces put together, I can turn to Melissa Zomro Davis, NYS Advanced Certified Business Advisor at SBDC, to get that done both professionally and timely. I never have to question anything, she knows what we need and how we need it presented” said Jamey Lloyd. “Our partnership has grown over the years and will continue to grow, I am a big fan which is why I put Dr. Carman and Melissa Zomro Davis in contact with one another”.
Over the past year, the demands of Dr. Carman’s counseling practice drastically increased, largely in part due to the distress brought about by the pandemic. Immediately before the pandemic struck, Dr. Carman agreed to supervise her first graduate student intern, Edie Brown, who has a master’s degree in counseling from NYU and was returning to Cazenovia College to complete necessary requirements for licensure in New York. Edie and Dr. Carman rallied to manage their clients’ mental health needs, all the while working through the obstacles of creating a master’s level internship. While the bulk of their business was conducted via telehealth sessions, they quickly figured out a way to safely see clients face-to-face in the waiting room of the office space that Dr. Carman was renting in Fayetteville.
With the additional support of her intern, Dr. Carman realized that she could grow a more sustainable and viable business, as well as better meet the increasing mental health needs in the community, if she had a larger office and was able to hire more counselors. There was also a partnership with David’s Refuge, a non-profit in Manlius centered on providing care for caregivers of children with special needs. Her business received a grant from the Ben Snow Foundation and the Boeheim Foundation to provide mental health counseling services to families with special needs children. These grants and the opportunity to have professional partnerships join forces to create this wellness center, contributed to Dr. Carman having the desire to jump into this ownership of a building.
Dr. Carman found a perfect building where Ben and Ben attorneys at law was located at in Manlius. With the purchase of the building, this would enable Dr. Carman to have tenants that all provided wellness as well as mental health associates that she could add to her practice due to the increased space, fully creating a wellness center she always dreamed of. The tenants will include Christine Roet, Certified Personal Trainer (she’s going to work with clients to develop at home/personal exercise programs) and Licensed Massage Therapist and Lisa Thomas, Registered Dietician. Thus, began the process of applying for a commercial mortgage for the new building.
As Dr. Carman and NYS Advanced Certified Business Advisor Melissa Zomro Davis connected and worked on the business’s financials it became clear to Dr. Carman that, "By working with Melissa at the SBDC, I was able to actually see my financial potential in a way that I have never been able to do on my own. She spent the time to go through all of the financial aspects of my business and helped me to realize that business expansion is not only viable but also financially wise. Her expertise is invaluable in the sense that I was able to feel confident in the purchase of my new building."
As the process continued and the approval was met, Dr. Carman was met with a road block with closing. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is working hard on pandemic relief and things are a bit backed up when it comes to lending right now. While the project had been approved, closing was not set. The owners of the building were getting a bit anxious and really wanted this deal to be closed, so while the SBA was not ready to close, M&T lender Jamey Lloyd worked tirelessly to make it happen and they were able to close on the building so that the new owner and the former owner were both satisfied. Jamey Lloyd stated, "Because we were persistent, diligent, and surrounded ourselves with a strong network, we were able to deliver on all objectives and overcome every obstacle that stood in our way. M&T Bank was honored to be a part of the team, which allowed Dr. Carman the opportunity to obtain this building. The brick and mortar will enable her to increase the level of programming to those that need mental health support, which is critical now more than ever. I personally believe our work not only matters to the clients that we serve, but more importantly the impact that it has on our community. This was truly an example of where collaboration benefited the greater good."
Without that personalized attention to the project, the deal might not have been able to happen. You want to make sure that the local relationships you build are going to be there for you when times get tough. Jamey stated to Dr. Carman, “I live and work in this community and I have to see my clients at the grocery store, so I want to do my best to ensure they are satisfied”. Your local lender will go to bat for you and work hard to make sure you are taken care of. Some larger banks do not have that personalized touch. It is important to make sure you are working with people who can help you and guide you as well as support you in your endeavors throughout the community.
If M&T Bank had not sent Dr. Carman to the Small Business Development Center, she might not have been able to complete her financials properly for the loan committee, making closing not even an option let alone an approval. If M&T Bank had not been able to push the closing on the purchase of the building, the owners might have pulled out of the sale. If Dr. Carman hadn’t secured the grants and partnership opportunities with the tenants, she might not have been able to realize it was time to expand. If Dr. Carman had not been connected with Melissa Zomro Davis to work on her financials, she might not have been thoroughly prepared for all the obstacles that arose during the process. All of these partnerships and connections helped pave the path for the success of the expansion during these challenging times.
Article published in the 'The Central New York Business Journal' on April 19, 2021
Melissa Zomro Davis is a NYS Advanced Certified Business Advisor at the Small Business Development Center located at Onondaga Community College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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