Five questions with… Tony George, Vice President Business Banking, Eastern Bank

With 15+ years of experience in the banking industry, Tony has developed extensive expertise in Small Businesstony george Banking, which includes commercial financing, deposit banking, and cash management. Prior to joining Eastern in 2013, Tony had successful stints at Citizens Bank and Santander Bank. Additionally, Tony was a Director of Consulting Services in Technology at Fidelity Investments.

Tony served as a panelist for the Publicity Club’s recent Masters’ Institute event covering the Financial Challenges of Growing a Small Business. Designed for seasoned corporate communications professionals, the discussion focused on what business leaders need to know in order to stay ahead in today’s rapidly changing environment.

Following the panel, Tony took a few moments to provide some insight into small businesses.

What are the biggest challenges facing small- and mid-sized businesses today?

Attracting and keeping talented employees, especially the younger generations, remains a significant challenge. In addition, the high costs that go along with running a small business – from leasing space to purchasing real estate.

How big a threat is complacency in running a business?

Businesses that fail to plan ahead, and fail to measure against the plan, run the risk of failing over the long term. How big of a threat is difficult to measure. But if you’re not looking to get ahead, you’re likely to fall behind, particularly in an industry like marketing that is changing so rapidly.

How should business owners balance mitigating and taking on risk, particularly when looking at growing your business?

Risk management is key to every decision in running a business. You must always understand and evaluate the best, worst, and most likely case for each decision.

Always be able to live with the worst case when taking on risk. Otherwise, move on…

What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see made today, in terms of running and/or growing a small business?

Financing plays a key role in helping most businesses grow. But the biggest mistake I see is taking on too much debt from alternative financing sources. If a commercial Bank says “no”, maybe you should too.

What do agencies need to understand about cash flow and the important role it plays?

You really need to understand the industry metrics, benchmarks, to measure against. Those that are relevant to your business. Take the time quarterly to measure against these benchmarks. And keep in mind that strong cash flow opens many, many doors.  And it keeps the doors open.