Originally published in the San Francisco Valley Business Journal

Of course, we all know in order to be successful in business, you need to have the right people in place, the right product or service, and the right price. Did you also know it’s essential to have the right strategic banking partnership?

Certainly, any bank can open accounts, accept deposits, and generate loans; however, it’s the banking partnership and holistic relationship that truly can have an impact on the long-term success of a business, especially those that are privately-held. In fact, a recent survey* indicated that business owners reported the highest level of satisfaction with client-focused banks and those that are deeply-rooted in the communities in which they serve. Within the survey, 80% chose a client-focused bank over the larger-scale banks (61%) and online lenders (46%). In business, relationships—including the one you have with your bank—do matter. Banks that also serve as trusted partners can (and do) offer more than mere funding.

Greg Hahn


As such a partner, I feel that dealing with all stages of business in a professional, proactive manner is critical to helping my clients succeed. For instance, a local, respected Certified Public Accountant (CPA) referred one of his new clients to First Bank. That client, privately held and self-financing for the past decade, was a growth business, with plans of taking their business to the next stage of middle market business. The CPA felt this growth company could use a credit facility to aid with vendor purchases. Given First Bank’s focus on privately held, growth oriented businesses, the CPA referred First Bank without hesitation. A partnership was established, a credit facility was provided to the business, and this resource now affords them the opportunity to increase revenue by as much as $10 million. First Bank was again referred to a colleague who was also seeking increased financing for the future growth of his company. Although they were already far along in working with another bank’s proposal, the referral knew it would serve his friend’s business well to have a trusted advisor and bank keenly focused on privately held, growth businesses. Within a few short days of that introduction, a meeting was scheduled, a term sheet was provided, and a long-term partnership for growth was created. It’s evident these two forward-thinking business leaders realized the importance of a strategic business partner, rather than just a bank.


A long-term client of First Bank learned that one of his colleagues wanted to expand his company’s reach with the purchase of another middle market business. This client immediately referred First Bank, due to our understanding of the dynamics of mergers and acquisitions as well as growth-oriented, middle market companies. Over a series of several months, we assisted this potential client in structuring his deal, advising him on areas to consider in the buy-sell arrangement, terms he should consider with competing banks, and pricing scenarios with loan amortization options to give him flexibility in cash flow he may not have otherwise considered.

Although this buyer may have chosen a competing bank for the financing, he understood the value of having a trusted partner like First Bank. Ultimately, we closed under the specified terms and within the desired timeframe.

When it’s time to choose a new banking partner, expand your business, or acquire new space, consider what your existing bank can offer your business. If it’s anything less than serving in a trusted advisory role to your business, you owe it to your organization to shop around. Speak to your circle of like-minded colleagues, get referrals, and ask questions. Finding a partner with an understanding of the industry, your privately-held business, and the community itself, is what makes a trusted banking partner your secret formula for long-term success. The most rewarding investment of all is a relationship. Let’s talk about ours.

Possessing over 30 years of experience, Karen Brown, Commercial Team Leader, is responsible for overseeing a team of relationship managers, while servicing her individual client portfolio and developing new business.

* Source:, Small Business Administration (SBA) Survey. Member FDIC