By Lorie Davis | Vice president, senior commercial relationship manager at Bankers Trust

Is anyone else reflecting on the first half of 2020 and asking, "What just happened?"

I know the answer is "yes" because I’ve had conversations about it with colleagues, clients and community members. The first six months of this year were unlike anything most of us have experienced in our personal and professional lives. And these new challenges have resulted in tough decisions and conversations.

The pandemic and its economic fallout have left many people hurting, vulnerable and scared for the future. Those feelings of discouragement and the difficulty of in-person meetings are complicating our ability to have meaningful conversations, even with those we work with and trust the most.

If you’re a business owner or leader, this is the time to make sure you’re keeping in constant contact with your professional network, including the bankers, attorneys, accountants and other key partners you and your business rely on. Through my experience working with clients for the past 35 years — including the unique experiences I’ve had over the last few months — I have a few pieces of advice I’d like to share.

  • No surprises. Share the whole picture and share it early. We can be most helpful to our clients when we have all the details upfront. No matter your role, you can add value by helping your clients overcome challenges that might not be easy for them to confront. Cultivate a welcoming environment that invites your clients to share in full.

  • Acknowledge not all conversations are going to be easy. Once you clearly define your expectations and intentions with your clients, you can begin an open, honest conversation. Allow vulnerability, whether it’s your own or your client’s.

  • Approach every situation as a partnership. We need to remind our clients of the purpose of our relationship and our desire to help them through our professional expertise. How can we work toward a solution together?

  • Overcome the limitations of digital/virtual communications. We can’t let the current state of the world be an excuse for not finding a way to take care of our clients. Communication barriers always exist; the pandemic has merely amplified them and presented us with additional challenges. Greater reliance on email communication requires extra diligence to ensure our content and tone are perceived as we intended. Even after careful preparation, people can interpret our written words differently, even if the email is read thoroughly. Approach each communication and interaction with thoughtfulness and care.

Open and honest communication reduces barriers, builds trust and better positions you for the long term. In these difficult times, we need to go the extra mile to show our clients support. How will you embrace these challenging times to better serve the needs of your clients?

Lorie Davis serves as vice president, senior commercial relationship manager for Bankers Trust and has over 35 years of banking experience. She is active on the boards for Black Hawk Economic Development and Goodwill Industries of Northeast Iowa.