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.
Williams 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. He 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.
Michael is an active leader within the community, volunteering and supporting organizations such as Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Autism Society and Special Olympics.
Connect with Michael on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- What economic factors are small business owners most concerned about
- How are entrepreneurs managing their business as a potential recession looms
- Labor shortages
- Implementing sustainable practices
- Concern over rising interest rates is growing for small business owners, and they’re split when evaluating how this will impact their decision to seek financing this year – how is Bank of America helping to ease those concerns as a potential lender
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. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor, Onpay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories. Today on Atlanta Business Radio, we have Michael Williams with Bank of America. Welcome, Michael.
Michael Williams: [00:00:43] Good morning. Thank you for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:45] Well, you are the senior vice president, small business banking manager, Atlanta North. And your firm has recently released a survey about small business. Can you share a little bit about some of the findings?
Michael Williams: [00:00:59] Yeah, it was. You know, we typically have a spring small business owner survey and we’re very excited about the results. One of the one of the key themes that came through is that despite the ever changing economic landscape, our small business owners have a positive business outlook. When you look at the data, two thirds believe that their revenue will increase over the next 12 months. So that’s pretty exciting to see. Our small business owners and entrepreneurs are still very bullish about the upcoming year.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:36] Now, how are you defining small business? Because a lot of different entities define it in a lot of different ways. And for the mom and pop person that’s running a store downtown versus, you know, a $50 Million business, $100 million business, sometimes that’s categorized as small business. Can you tell us how your firm defined it?
Michael Williams: [00:01:59] Yeah. So small business is defined as anyone with one employees to typically under 50 employees revenues no more than $5 Million. So what you’ll find is in our survey of a thousand small business owners, a good portion of those across the US would be defined as what we consider our mom and pop small businesses as well. So we’re well represented demographics here.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:29] Now, were there any surprises or is that a surprise to you to see that level of optimism? I talked to small business owners every day. So, I mean, it’s hard to be in a small business without being optimistic. So that didn’t shock me. But were there any surprises other than that for you?
Michael Williams: [00:02:46] What I think about surprises, no, that didn’t surprise me because, you know, our small business owners have success and they’re confident in their ability to manage their business. Right. And so that optimism comes from things that they can control. Right. Certain things within the business that they can control outweigh in some situations some of the challenges that they feel they’ll have to overcome, especially when you think about the last few years and having to really deal with a global health crisis as well as a rising interest rate environment. Small business owners have, you know. Come up with a new set of skills that allow them to quickly adapt and learn from situations and challenges within the environment. So I wasn’t surprised by that at all.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:41] Now, you mentioned some of the challenges that are facing small business like interest rates raising for credit. You know, there’s inflation. A lot of folks during the pandemic especially were dealing with supply chain. How does a small business owner kind of manage these large economic issues that are out of their control for the most part? Have you have you learned anything from that?
Michael Williams: [00:04:12] Yes. When it comes to, you know, things like inflation, you know, small business owners, you know, tell us that inflation and supply chain, as you mentioned, remain a challenge for the business owner as they adapt. 88% of small business owners say inflation is currently impacting their business, and that’s holding steady from what we saw last spring in the survey as well. And so this is forcing small business owners to increase prices. About 60% of the folks who had concerns about inflation shared that one of the ways they were dealing with it as they were increasing prices, another a little over 40% stated that they were reevaluating their business spending over the next year. And they’re also starting to reduce some business costs and a little over 25% even reported some sales being lost, you know, as the impact of inflation.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:22] Now, what are you hearing about kind of these issues regarding talent? Talent challenges are impacting businesses of all sizes. I would imagine that small businesses are no exception to this, as there’s a help wanted sign out. You know, if you go down the street, almost every business has one.
Michael Williams: [00:05:42] Yes, right. It’s a very competitive market when it comes to labor. And the labor shortage continues to be a concern across the country. And so small business owners recognize that overcoming this challenge and and the importance of remaining competitive in the marketplace requires listening to and acting based on the needs of their employees. Many say that they’re taking action to improve their labor outlook for the long term. For example, over the next 12 months, over half of the small business owners have implemented additional perks and benefits to attract new talent. Right? Starting with increasing base pay for new employees, allowing one of the things we learned from the health crisis, right, allowing remote and hybrid work environments, introducing new employee training programs, as well as providing additional health care benefits as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:51] Now, are you finding any interest for small businesses to lean on technology regarding automation or robotics? Even this chatgpt I’m seeing involved is in customer service and even order taking in some places. I recently was at a totally robotic automated pizza kiosk that exists now and is operational here in Atlanta, where you can buy a freshly made pizza through a vending machine. Are you seeing any of those kind of, you know, as that being part of the talent solution is to automate or create robotics around, you know, tasks that had been previously done by humans?
Michael Williams: [00:07:39] I definitely think so. What we’re seeing that, like you said, right in different, you know, pop up coffeehouses and things I think about around town as well. But it’s amazing how innovative the business owners are right there looking ahead to the future to find ways to implement new technologies that will help not only differentiate their business from competitors, but also find new ways to optimize their staffing and their overall strategy. So, you know, when I think about digital as well and just how technology’s going to impact their ability to take care of clients, 80% of small business owners have digitally optimized their business right. Most are using it not only to expand their profits, but also to reach out to new customers. So, you know, some of the things in the survey, 60% of small business owners have been able to accept more forms of. Cashless payment and 52% of conducted business banking online to add convenience as well. So we’re seeing that in our industry also.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:58] Now, are you finding that a larger and larger percentage of businesses are becoming cashless and that once you make that leap to cashless, that becomes another person you can automate away because you can have a kiosk, just deal with the transaction.
Michael Williams: [00:09:15] Yeah, you know, I don’t know if it’s necessarily about automating away. I do think there’s some benefit to being cashless when there’s a labor shortage, definitely 100%. But most of the businesses are, you know, from people I’m meeting with out in the field. And just the overall theme I’m hearing in the survey are just trying to find more convenient and safer ways to do business and allow clients their customer base to interface with them.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:50] Well, I mean, the the reality is the reality, right? So are more and more businesses cashless today than they were last year or five years ago?
Michael Williams: [00:10:01] Yeah, I would definitely say more are right. You know, going back to it, you know, 60% of the business owners have been able are now, you know. Accepting some form of cashless payment. So that definitely has increased even over the last 2 to 3 years.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:22] Now, is that when they say cashless, is that exclusively cashless? Because I’m finding more and more places exclusively cashless.
Michael Williams: [00:10:31] You know what? Our survey didn’t get that deep into it. But I would tell you that overall it was they’re doing some form of cashless. That 60% may not be, you know, strictly cashless, but they are doing more than they did a few years ago.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:50] Are you seeing in the places that have clients that want to use cash, these reverse ATMs where they you put cash in and like a gift card comes out to the store?
Michael Williams: [00:11:03] Yeah, definitely. Harry Clients look into that technology, work closely with different firms and IT areas to provide that option as well. So that’s definitely an increase that you’re seeing businesses go to.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:21] Also now having a partner like Bank of America banker that they can trust is to me, critical in the growth of any small business. You need to have somebody that’s out there paying attention to all these kind of macro events that are happening to see how they might impact you in a micro level. Can you talk about how Bank of America works with their small business clients to help them either leverage a new technology or just give them the heads up that, hey, pay attention to this because this is coming and it’s impacting a lot of folks and you might be next.
Michael Williams: [00:11:58] Yeah. Listen, we have an ad for 2023. We will continue to continue to partner with small businesses to provide tools and guidance on their path to growth as they’re starting up a business or even as we work through recovery. As we think about possible recession looming, we are always looking for ways to deepen relationships with our clients through enhanced offers and engagement. And to your point, our technology, right, our powerful technology tools are a part of that. Bank of America small business clients can manage their business effectively through customizable, customizable digital tools like our cash flow monitoring, our connected app, our mobile check deposits, as well as Zelle. So there’s this transactions can be more convenient. We’re also looking at different technology that will allow client business clients to have access to their business credit scores, right? So they’re able to monitor the credit health through free access to their business credit score via our Bank of America or Business Advantage 360 online banking. So being able to just leverage the tools for convenience, have someone there on a day to day basis locally giving you advice, and then also being able to monitor your overall credit Health will really help our clients as they look to expand over the next 12 months and beyond and also as they look to think about getting access to additional working capital. Billy, what I’ll tell you most I’m proud of is our small business specialists, right? At Bank of America. We have a small business team that’s ready and equipped to help our business owners with the unique challenges that they face day to day.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:06] So if you were advising a small business owner, how often would you have them meet with one of the Bank of America small business specialists and have a conversation about their business and, you know, just maybe just kind of develop that personal relationship so that when the time is needed, they are there for them to help them grow their business.
Michael Williams: [00:14:34] Yeah.
Michael Williams: [00:14:35] I would I would answer that question a couple of ways. Right. First, it depends on the needs of the business overall. Sometimes you may have unexpected events come up, and that’s why we’re so proud of the local presence we have and all of the communities we serve. We also have our small business resources through Bank of America, dotcom small business resources. But to directly answer your question, I would say at least every 90 days at the top end of that, maybe six months, but I would say about every 90 days is a good time to connect with a with your local small business specialist just to let him or her know a little bit more about what’s going on in your business so we can. Stay up to date on the business priorities. Any life priorities that may be going on, as well as keep the client up to date on technology advances and different offers and promotions that we may have available as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:41] Well, Michael, if somebody wants to learn more about your survey or connect with one of the small business specialists, what’s the website? What’s the best way to get ahold of somebody on your team?
Michael Williams: [00:15:52] Yeah, the best way to get a hold of someone on our team is Bank of america.com/small business. From there you’ll be able to make appointments. You’d also be able to get a link to our resource site and within that resource site is also the a lot of the data we’re referencing here as it relates to our small business owner report.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:18] Well, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Michael Williams: [00:16:23] Hey, I appreciate you as well. And I got to tell you, I really enjoyed one of your recent podcasts where you talked about the top three tips for overcoming sales objections.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:34] All right. Well, thank you for that. Michael Williams, Bank of America, Lee Kantor. This is it for Atlanta Business Radio for today. We will see you all next time.
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