Finally, find your fit. Many financial institutions can fund a loan, but it’s key to work with a specific banker who truly knows your business. Your banker should be a trusted advisor and a resource year-round, not just when your loan or line is up for renewal. Establishing and maintaining a strong relationship with your banker is invaluable – think of it as anytime access to free expertise.

I believe the best litmus test is if you’re on a first-name basis with your banker. A good banker should know why you’re so passionate about your product or service and what sets you apart from your competitors. In fact, I think they should be the loudest voice in your cheering section, rooting you on as you achieve your financial goals.

It is equally important for you to pick the best. Choose a business banker with the credit expertise to understand your financials and who is involved in the entire process. You are best served when the person you’re talking with is the same one writing up and structuring your deal.

Working closely with local businesses and helping them achieve success is why I’ve built an entire career in banking. It’s exciting to play a small role in moving our economy forward. That’s why I’m at AmericanWest Bank.

As a business-focused community bank, we’re fully committed to local businesses. Our team is comprised of highly-experienced bankers who understand the importance of taking a “hands-on” approach to lending. By this I mean a Relationship Manager works one-on-one with every customer and prospect. We get to know that business – from understanding their short and long-term goals to knowing how they bring their product to market. Only then do we tailor our lending, depository and treasury management products to suit their specific needs. This approach is a difference-maker in my mind because every business is unique and should be treated as such.

Outside Forces. I’m optimistic with what we’ve seen already and that our state economic recovery will continue to pick up steam as we move through 2012. Of course, it’s wise to keep our eye on those remaining economic risks that are beyond our control, but I’m convinced our key growth drivers will keep California moving forward. And as we all know: this is a great place to live and work, and we’re excited about what we see businesses achieving throughout the region.