As you start or grow a business, you will come across a few gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are bankers, business analysts and managers of government or other programs that might provide grants to your business. While they are responsible to protect their employers’ funds, they can also play an important role in making opportunities possible for entrepreneurs.
A gatekeeper’s first order of business will be to perform the due diligence necessary to determine if your business idea is viable. She will evaluate whether or not you can live up to all those amazing promises made in your business plan, before taking your proposal forth to run the gauntlet with her boss or the decision making committee. The experience can be daunting to a newbie, but it really shouldn’t be.
As you work with gatekeepers, they invariably help you build a stronger business plan. Often they are highly knowledgeable generalists who research and evaluate a broad range of businesses. They can usually recognize whether you’re off or on track, and can become tremendous allies in your business endeavors.
Here are nine tips for working effectively with gatekeepers:
1. Be curious, be a learner, and be coachable!
2. Prepare for your discussions and meetings; manage the time efficiently.
3. Be on time for appointments, return phone calls promptly and honour all the promises you make.
4. Know your business plan thoroughly but accept that you may not have all the answers. When asked questions for which you don’t have answers, commit to finding them and follow through with that commitment.
5. Without being a know-it-all, try to anticipate which questions the gatekeeper might ask and have your answers ready.
6. If she seems to be negative about your business plan, ask questions until you understand the problem and what you need to do to fix it.
7. If your application is declined, determine if the decision is final or whether you can fix the problems and reapply.
8. Whether you reapply or not, use the gatekeeper’s input to strengthen any weaknesses in your business plan.
9. Say thank you. Whether you get the loan or not, express your gratitude for the time invested and the feedback.
The gatekeeper who appears to be laying roadblocks in your path is assessing you and your business idea to determine the level of risk. If you meet her requirements, you might just win the loan or grant and with it, the opportunity to start or grow your business.