Ray Weamer tells his City National Bank clients that there's a very good reason why an automobile's windshield is a lot bigger than its rear-view mirror.
"You need to be looking ahead for what's happening for your business and what you're looking to do, to take in the big picture," said Weamer, a veteran of the financial services industry, vice president of City National Bank and its resident expert on Small Business Association (SBA) loans. "You want a banker who's looking down the road for you and can spot dangers ahead. So we have experts like myself that understand SBA lending and we really help (clients) find the right loan."
Being a trusted adviser in a relationship-based business is the key to success, according to Weamer, who started his financial services career with The Money Store – arguably the "grandfather" for SBA lending – more than two decades ago. Weamer said that many people have a misconception about what constitutes a "small business."
"I think people think of small business as being 'mom and pop,' but you can have a manufacturer that has 500 employees and they'd be eligible (for an SBA loan), potentially," Weamer explained. "As long as they're not publicly traded, most likely they;'re going to be eligible for some kind of (SBA) financing. Within my segment, within SBA, in California and in San Diego, about 95 percent of the businesses are eligible for SBA, so it's the vast majority of businesses."
Hundreds of businesses representing a broad spectrum of industries – from manufacturing to microbreweries – have been the beneficiaries of Weamer's expertise in navigating the SBA's complex waters. Weamer blends his thorough knowledge of SBA loans with his knowledge of a client's business to tailor unique lending packages.
"You need somebody with experience, really. I always like to say it's kind of like going to the doctor. If you don't have confidence in the diagnosis you're not going to have any confidence in the prescriptions given," said Weamer. "Many, many times, clients will come and they just want to talk about interest rate and interest rate is important, but there's so many other factors to consider when you're talking to somebody about an SBA loan of any type."
Weamer typically does not say "no" to his clients. Instead, he creates unique programs to show them what "yes" looks like.
"We recently helped a furniture manufacturer here in the region. They wanted to buy a new building and they were expanding and creating jobs. We structured a very unique loan to purchase the building and we were basically able to structure it so that it ended up being tax-exempt," said Weamer. "That really strengthened the client's relationship with the city, saved them money and, at the end of the day, this company's going to be better off down the road because they got a really unique loan tailored to meet their needs. And it preserved and created jobs for the economy here, so it's really a win-win for everybody."
City National offers 7(a) loans (traditional SBA loans), Express Loans of up to $350,000, the CapLine program (a line of credit up to $5 million), and a 504 loan, which is primarily used for owner-users or businesses that want to buy a building for their business. City National Bank has PLP (Preferred Lender Program) status with the SBA.
"They trust us. It's experience. You have to earn that designation from the SBA," said Weamer, adding that experienced bankers are one of the things that City National apart from its competition.
"That's why I came to this bank," said Weamer, who joined City National about a year-and-a-half ago. "It's the caliber of the bankers that I partner up with on lots of different things – not just loans – to help clients achieve their goals. Bankers have a lot of integrity here. We have a lot of pride. And we really, really value relationships. I think that's important for small businesses."
Weamer noted that a small business can become a big business pretty quickly.
"Microsoft, FedEx, Dell Computer...these were all SBA loans at one point," said Weamer, a huge advocate for small business in San Diego.
"I get to see so many types of businesses. It's really fun to see how many different ways people make money these days. We are seeing renewed confidence (in the local economy). We're blessed to live here in San Diego," said Weamer, a resident since 1960. "It's not the Bay Area or Los Angeles. We really are a small business town, with the exception of maybe Qualcomm. But, that's what San Diego's all about...small business."
Lovitt is a freelance writer based in La Jolla.
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