General Business Advice from CEOs
“What we wish all businesses owners would do”

Now that the CEOs have provided their insights on how to go about seeking financing and tips on how to increase your chances of getting approved for a loan, they now provide general business advice, garnered from years of experience working with small businesses.
1. Pay attention to your financial statements; if you don’t have the experience of running a financial organization, hire someone who does
“Businesses must also understand that good bookkeeping is essential. You can easily speed up the process when meeting with a lender by simply being as prepared as possible with your business finances. If you don’t have the expertise to do it yourself, hire a bookkeeper or accountant to manage your business’ finances. Don’t just consult your CPA at year-end to prepare your taxes.”
- President and CEO of Gesa Credit Union, Christina Lethlean
“Take an active role in your business’ financial organization – be close to the information and pay attention to the numbers. Many small businesses are busy with operational issues, building the business and what not, and may not be creating and monitoring financial reports and cash flows very regularly. Two times a year is not enough – try to do it on a monthly basis at the very least.”
- President and CEO of San Francisco Federal Credit Union, Steven Stapp
2. Don’t be solely fixated on growing revenues – pay attention to expenses too
“Many business owners are focused almost exclusively on growing revenues and end up underestimating the impact that expenses have on their bottom line. $1 saved on expenses directly impacts the bottom line 1:1. On the other hand, $1 of incremental revenue, after maybe a 25% profit margin (which is pretty high), only gives you $0.25 to your bottom line. I often see business owners neglecting their expenses, whether it’s getting locked into providers with expensive contracts, or neglecting payroll and IT costs, spending too much on insurance and expensive policies.”
- CEO of Newtek Business Services, Barry Sloane
3. Values matter
“Operate their companies with a set of core values that all employees can rally around and that existing clients and prospects will observe are followed consistently when they interact with the company. No matter what the economic climate or what the competitive environment, they will be recognized and rewarded for being professional, honest, respectful, responsive, innovative and helpful, passionate about the business, positive and upbeat, and demonstrate high integrity and ethical standards. Assuming the business case for offering the products and services is sound, even in tough times, the company will prosper and stand tall against competitors if their values are clear, they resonate, and they are deeply rooted in the culture.”
- President and CEO of Community & Southern Bank, Patrick Frawley
4. Be goal oriented and think long term
“My overall advice is simple – it’s what I tell everyone, from my kids to my colleagues to people I meet regularly: keep your eye on the prize. Spending too much time on each small step in front of you will cause you to stumble. Running a business is difficult, and if you’re only focused on the minutiae, you’ll fail or give up. Allow yourself to believe in the long-term goal and keep in touch with the original passion you felt for the business. It will help you to get through the tough times such as seeking a loan.”
- President and CEO of Opportunity Finance Network, Mark Pinsky
5. Passion, passion, passion
“…maintaining a passion to do whatever it takes to see the business succeed. Knowing how to manage people is critical in the success of any business endeavor.”
- Vice Chairman and COO of Bank of the West, Cynthia L. Blankenship
“Lastly – be passionate. At the end of the day, being a business owner is really tough. You will face many challenges and it often feels like all the forces are against you. To survive, you really must be passionate about your business.”
- Chief Operating & Lending Officer, EVP of Craft3, Walt Postlewait
“Choose something you know well, are passionate about, and be prepared to spend a lot of long hours and sleepless nights for many years to come. Successful business owners typically work much harder than anyone, and consider their business their "baby."
- President and CEO of Corning Federal Credit Union, Gary Grinnell

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