Michael Williams holds the corporate title of Senior Vice President and a Small Business Banker Manager for Bank of America. He is responsible for leading 13 Small Business Bankers across Greater Atlanta. This team is responsible for delivering the full capabilities of our company to small business owners.
He joined Bank of America in July of 2011 as a Consumer Market Manager in Augusta, Georgia. During his 12 years, he has held multiple leadership roles in different markets and segments across our consumer, advance client solutions and small business enterprise prior to his current assignment.
He has championed various region and divisional initiatives and takes pride in being a change agent. Prior to joining Bank of America, he successfully held such positions as Regional Service Director, District Manager and Community Bank President during his ten-year career with another Top 5 Financial Services Institution.
During this time he received a great deal recognition for his success in sales, service, operations and team member development. He is committed to building high performing teams through the coaching and development of others by consistently and effectively executing trend based and real time coaching sessions with direct reports.
Michael defines success by his ability to make himself available to all team members as a sounding board as well as mentor, coach and to provide career developmental advance. He is an active leader within the community, volunteering and supporting organizations such as Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Autism Society and Special Olympics.
Connect with Michael in LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- What’s driving business owners’ positive outlook towards revenue expectations despite the threat of inflation
- The economic factors small business owners are most concerned about
- How women business owners’ recent experiences over the past 12 months have differed from those of male business owners
- How women business owners have fared gaining access to capital
- Factors that can create additional challenges unique to women business owners
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by On pay. Atlanta’s new standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:24] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, and this is going to be a good one. Today on the show, we have Michael Williams. He is the senior vice president, small business banking manager, Atlanta with Bank of America. Welcome, Michael.
Michael Williams: [00:00:42] Good afternoon and thanks for having me. Good to be here with you again.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:45] I am so excited to get caught up with you regarding some of the things that are happening in the business world here in Atlanta, and you have kind of a unique lens to all of the activity. Can you talk a little bit about your role?
Michael Williams: [00:00:58] Yes. Well, my role as a small business banking manager is I lead a team of small business bankers who are active in our local community, out in the field meeting with business owners, entrepreneurs, making sure that we’re providing access to capital, finding ways to help simplify their business, streamline productivity, as well as optimize overall cash flow.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:27] Now in your career, you’ve worked in a variety of roles in banking, including some work with community banks. Can you share a little bit about how a small business person should choose their banking partner? Like, what are some of the trade offs of going with a large enterprise bank like Bank of America versus a community bank?
Michael Williams: [00:01:48] Yeah. Listen, I will tell you that banking, just like anything else in life, is about connections, right? You want to get a team of good people around you. And so my personal recommendation is, you know, almost like an interview process, get to know your local bankers, whether that be through networking events, whether that be through Chamber of Commerce or just going in to some of your local institutions and, and really find out who’s listening to you and providing advice based on where you’re looking to take your organization and some of the specific challenges you may be facing.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:24] So what are some of the questions that small business owners should be asking of that banker?
Michael Williams: [00:02:30] You know, it’s always good to know a little bit about person’s professional background, the different programs and services that the institution provides. But I would tell you, it’s probably more about having someone who’s very interested in you and your business. How did your business get started? Right? Why are you passionate about what you do and what are some of the challenges you faced? And where do you want to take your business in the next 12 months, 3 to 5 years? So I would tell you more so than, you know, someone giving you their credentials. From a banking solutions perspective, it’s good to be with a true advisor, someone who’s going to take the time to understand your priorities, where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re looking to take your organization.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:19] So if you’re not getting that kind of relationship with your banker, you should probably shop around a little bit then.
Michael Williams: [00:03:27] Yeah. Or let the person know also. Right. Hey listen, feedback is a is a gift. And so, you know, if I’m in a situation where, you know, I’m not getting exactly what I need or I don’t feel heard, I think one of the first things to do, especially if you vote both both parties have invested time in those relationships, is the first. Share that feedback. But definitely there’s nothing wrong with getting a second opinion.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:54] Now, because you do work for one of the largest banking institutions in the country, probably, probably in the world. I would think you have an interesting kind of lens into the small business community, and you’ve done a lot of work with surveys and and a lot of communication with a lot of people in the market here in Atlanta. What are you kind of sensing from the business community here in Atlanta?
Michael Williams: [00:04:22] Yeah, I will tell you, some of our recent surveys have shown that business owners overall are still very optimistic about the next 12 months. They are expecting revenues to increase. That’s down slightly from our last survey. But overall they’re expecting revenues to increase. And a number of businesses are expecting to expand and continue to hire.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:53] Now is it something just because entrepreneurs and business owners tend to be optimistic and look at the glass as half full? You know a lot, if not most of the time. Is it a function of that, or is there really kind of a true belief that, hey, that things aren’t as bad as maybe some of the headlines are saying they are?
Michael Williams: [00:05:14] Yeah, I would tell you that to your point, right? Small business owners, entrepreneurs are typically very optimistic. They’re courageous group. And so that’s a part of it. But the other part is listen, we’ve gone through some some major events. When you think about a global health crisis and being able to manage through that, and those things are also bleeding into the confidence that our small business owners are feeling as well. When you think about 67% of those business owners overall say they expect revenues to increase over the next 12 months.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:54] Now, is there anything that you’re seeing when you kind of parse through the data, like maybe break it down between male business owners versus female business owners, or maybe a minority business owners versus non minority business owners? Or is this just across the board.
Michael Williams: [00:06:12] It is across the board. But there are some things that are unique based on different factors. Right. So for example women entrepreneurs, business owners that were surveyed 63% of them expect revenues to increase. When you look at their male counterparts, the males are about 70%. If you go into some of the ethnic groups as well, Hispanic Latino business owners, 91% say they expect revenues to either increase or remain flat, with 63% of those surveyed saying they expect revenues to increase. Right. And you’re seeing that also increase in the African-American community as well, with 86% of black business owners saying they expect revenues to increase and three of four expecting to expand their business. And I’ll give you some examples of those just here locally. I think about we just helped a. A woman dentist opened up her practice, right? She’s been in the industry for quite a few years, has a great brand within the local community, and we were able to work with our Practice Solutions team that specializes in doctors, dentists, vets and help with accessing gaining access to capital to. Identify and open up a facility, as well as get the equipment she needed, and also cash flow for the staffing until the business can start generating enough revenue to sustain itself in a few months.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:02] Now we do hear a Business RadioX. We do a lot of work with women owned business businesses and the organizations that serve them. A lot of times you hear women business owners have a harder time accessing capital. Is that something that’s changing? Is there some tips you can recommend for a women business owner to get access to some of that needed capital?
Michael Williams: [00:08:31] When you think about women, business owners and access to capital of about 78%, right? Say that they. Plan to obtain financing. 1 in 3. Still feel like it’s very difficult for women to obtain access to to capital. Um, and so a lot of that has to do with, you know, access to advice. So once again, you know, having a relationship with a lender, right? 42% of women owned businesses said they didn’t have a relationship with the lender. So that would be one of the steps, right? Making sure that like we spoke about earlier, you develop a relationship with a local business advisor who understands what your business priorities are and can be a part of advising and helping you build a roadmap to get that access to capital. And then 31% felt they didn’t have the proper information or qualifications that made them feel confident. Would applying for access to capital. So, you know, really having your financials in order, right, 2 to 3 years of business and personal tax returns, being able to speak to your personal and business debts, having an advisor and an accountant or a CPA who understands what your long term goals are for the business. And taking that into consideration as they’re working on your financial documents as well, and advising you. But I would say the number one thing, there was an access or relationship with a lender.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:18] Now, in any business relationship with an advisor, are you and especially when it comes to banking, is it reasonable to ask of the banker for advice for, hey, what do you think I should do? Or is it something that you’re just presenting the banker with information like, here’s my tax returns, here’s my, you know, the bookkeeping information, and you know, you’re telling me, okay, maybe you could get a loan here, or if you did this, that would, you know, help you maybe make more money next year. Like, where is the consulting line as opposed to just, hey, we have access to capital. And if you bring me these documents, I check I have a checklist here and I check them all off and I have that. Then I can present this and then I can help you get a loan or, or help you kind of grow your business. Like where is consulting, advising? How do you kind of discern all of this?
Michael Williams: [00:11:21] Yeah. Listen, I will tell you, I think back to Hispanic and Latino business owners, and 84% of them who surveyed said they wish they had more educational resources, right, centered around their small business. And so, to your point, you know, um, a banking financial professional is a part of that. But sometimes it’s also about access to resources, educational resources, whether it be online or in person or courses or different websites. At Bank of America, we have our Bank of America forward slash small business site, and there are a lot of resources on there, including feedback and and best practices from other business owners. And so, you know, I would start leveraging additional resources. Your advisor is there to provide some level of direction and support. But at the end of the day, you are the quarterback of your business, right? Nobody’s going to care as much about that business as the owners and the people who are putting their blood, sweat and tears into it every day. And so just continue to do your research. Definitely leverage your banking professional. Right. But they can’t discourage you, nor should they discourage you from applying and leverage your different educational resources, whether it be through our site that has a multitude or some other resources out there, and then make sure you do your homework to make sure you’re aware of the different government programs and resources that are available as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:04] Right. But when you’re like most business owners obviously aren’t as knowledgeable about finance as a banker. Like this is what bankers do every day. This is all they’re thinking about 24 over seven, where a business owner comes in and they might be good at, you know, cutting hair, or they could be good at fixing a car, or they could be good at, you know, marketing programs. But to have somebody in your corner that’s kind of watching your back and then guiding you a little bit or encouraging you to to proceed, like you said, with government, there might be government money available, but you don’t even know what you don’t know. But the banker might see 50 applications of this in a week, and then they can say, hey, have you considered this? Is that reasonable?
Michael Williams: [00:13:52] That is reasonable to expect your banker to provide at, you know, point you in the right direction of different resources that you may be able to take advantage of, even things like community development programs as well, that that may be available that a lot of banks support. Bank of America, number one is a is a big supporter of community development, financial support that’s out there. So but everything is about having a team of advisors, right. No one person is the the keeper of of all answers. But between your team of advisors, I would say to any business owner, you know, get a team, a good team of advisors, who’s your banker? Um, who’s your your CPA or accountant, who’s your trusted person in the industry or mentor that you can work with as well? So I definitely agree with you. You should be able to lean on all of your advisors to make you aware of different resources that they’ve come in contact with, with their years of experience or resources that are available through that organization.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:06] Well, I think that that’s at the heart of what a good, trusted advisor is, because if. Are not helping you grow your business in tangible ways, not just executing whatever their job is. If they’re not kind of watching your back and letting you know, hey, there’s an opportunity here. Or, hey, you should meet this person here that I just met. Like, if they’re not actively helping you grow, then you better find a different trusted advisor because they’re not. It’s too hard to do this on your own. And you can’t just have vendors or service providers like bankers. Just do the minimum of just, you know, putting deposits in the bank and, you know, sending you a statement every month.
Michael Williams: [00:15:51] Yeah, exactly. We got to be thinking, like, as I said earlier, how do we help you streamline your business? How do we help you simplify your business, if you can, or how do we allow you to hold on to cash longer so you can invest in other areas? I met with a client earlier this year who was really right, starting to have a few issues when it comes to labor, right? And so they were thinking about ways that they can run their business more efficiently. And we were all able to get together and they connected with some folks and research and development, and we were able to help them finance a new piece of equipment that did not take jobs away. It actually allowed them to be more efficient with the staff that they had, and to invest in those employees in a way that they were able to build a different and even more complex skill set, which would serve them better in the future as far as higher wages. But all that started from a tour of her plant, right? And understanding the different challenges and where the business was growing and some of the challenges that the business was facing when it comes to talent, access to talent as a resource. Right.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:16] And that’s not an obvious place where a banker would help. But it was critical in the growth of this company. And that’s that’s a true trusted advisor.
Michael Williams: [00:17:25] Yes, sir.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:27] So if somebody wants to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on your team, what is the coordinates?
Michael Williams: [00:17:35] Um, go to Bank of America, backslash small business. That’ll be our resource site, which also allows you to set appointments with your local small business specialists, either in the financial center or one of our small business bankers that could come out to your place of business as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:56] And then when you have a banker and you are working with somebody, a Bank of America, is it something you should check in with them in person every quarter, every six months, every year? How often do you recommend having these kind of human to human conversations?
Michael Williams: [00:18:12] Yeah. Listen, I would definitely say at a minimum, um, every six months, but ideally about every 90 days. I was looking at one of our prior surveys, and it said that over 80% of the business owners had an action plan and were looking to adjust or revisit their action plan on a monthly, quarterly or semiannually basis. So a lot of business owners are starting to see the value of not only having an advisor, but to your point, meeting with them on a regular basis. So definitely every six months and ideally at least once a quarter, even if it’s just a touch base, um, to make sure things are still the same and folks move, right, folks? Folks get promoted or they go and follow other passions. And so you want to make sure that you and your advisor are still connected.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:10] Good stuff. Well, Michael, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Michael Williams: [00:19:16] Oh, thanks for having me. And you guys do a wonderful job informing and advising the local community as well. So keep up the great work.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:25] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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