Fifth Third enjoys role in Five Keys

May 15, 2011
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Five Keys to Fiscal Fitness is in its third year of providing small-business owners with financial insights into how they can better secure loans for operations, expansions, or any other sound factor that will help them grow their companies.

The statewide program, which was launched in 2009, is a partnership between the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center and Fifth Third Bank. Last year, more than 225 business owners completed the program. The Business Journal asked Tim Doyle, senior vice president of the business banking group for Fifth Third Bank Western Michigan Affiliate, if it has been worthwhile for the bank to be part of the program.

“Absolutely. We feel that if you’re going to be a bank in whatever geographic area you’re in, from a business banking perspective, you have to be involved with the Small Business & Technology Development Centers here in the state of Michigan. We feel that if you’re good at business banking, you’ve got to be good in supporting these various organizations here in your markets,” said Doyle.

Doyle said Fifth Third Bank got involved in the Five Keys program because it saw an opportunity to use its talent to help companies during a time when the auto industry and others were contracting. In 2009, the bank decided to donate the expertise and time of its business banking group to the SBTDC to help those who lost their jobs and were looking to start new businesses, or had started businesses within the past few years. The purpose is to guide owners through the financial maze and lending process, and often on a face-to-face basis at the program’s workshops.

“We have a dedicated business banker that is part of the SBTDCs in all of the various markets through our region who are there to lend support, offer information and provide value to companies that are in existence or to those that are looking to start up,” said Doyle.

Fifth Third has eight members of its business banking group participating in the program throughout the bank’s extensive West Michigan presence, which includes Grand Rapids, Lansing, Saginaw, Bay City, Traverse City, Kalamazoo, the lakeshore and Midland. “We have a dedicated resource in each of those markets,” said Doyle. “The western Michigan affiliate covers a large portion of the state.”

The Five Keys program teaches business owners how to analyze their financial information and how to make healthy financial business decisions. Some of the topics covered at a workshop include how to use a balance sheet and income statement to manage a business, how to use breakeven analysis to improve decision making, how to find the source of a cash-flow problem, and how to increase cash flow. Another topic often discussed is how business owners can get bankers on their side.

Although the Five Keys program is open to every small business owner, the ideal participant should have two to three years of a financial track record. Those who attend a workshop should bring their financial statements with them so they can go over the documents with a Fifth Third business banker.

“What my bankers have done is they attend the seminars and are available for consultation through the SBTDC. They look at the packages and they give the business owners an idea of what they’re going to need to bring to their potential bank for them to look at their requests and put them in the best position to obtain financing,” said Doyle. “They’re going to give them those details at those meetings.”

The underlining idea behind the Five Keys program is to give business owners a leg up on how they can obtain financing before they talk to a loan officer, instead of walking into a bank cold. “The more prepared they are from these meetings and discussions, the more they are going to come across to that potential banker as being somebody that really is prepared to take on the next step of owning a company or moving their company forward,” said Doyle.

Business owners should also note that when they speak with a Fifth Third business banker at a SBTDC workshop, they aren’t required to seek financing from the bank.

“Absolutely not. In a lot of cases, some of these customers already have an existing bank that they’re working with,” said Doyle. “We’re there just to help them, and in some cases to put together a business plan and to help them understand what a pro forma, balance sheet and P&L should look like.”

Twenty-five workshops are planned statewide this year. The SBTDC expects to have about 300 small business owners participate in the 2011 program, more than were involved last year. The growing interest in the program makes Doyle think that Five Keys will be around for a while.

“Fifth Third Bank is very proud to be part of the SBTDC throughout the state of Michigan. We enjoy the opportunity to help small-business owners either start their companies or move their existing companies to the next step,” he said. “In Michigan, banks are lending money to new companies, and we are playing a very active role in making business loans to companies throughout the state.”

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