The only audible sound was the occasional scribble of a ballpoint pen, and the shuffling of paper as my banker examined each document, making sure everything was complete and organized. A formality really, a process as an Agricultural Business Owner I had experienced a number of times, a financial statement from the previous year and renewal of the Master Note.
Still, always a moment of anxiety, usually I might try to break the tension with a little levity, though historically it had rarely garnered much more than a furrowed brow and a glance up from the paperwork over the rim of his black framed glasses. That day was different though, as I sat in near suspended animation with my 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter flanked on either side of me in black leather chairs, waiting.....
It wasn't the first time I had brought my children with me to the bank, nor the first occasion they had met the bank Vice President. It was, however, the first time they had sat in his office. They could see the family photos on the wall behind his desk, paintings of waterfowl on the wall to our left and hanging shelves of well-organized baseball memorabilia, which had seemingly entranced my son, on the opposite wall.
Any parent knows the best situation for infallible behavior from children is often a new environment, just the same, they had been instructed repeatedly prior to arrival to be quiet and sit still while we were in his office. They were doing exactly that, though I could sense their curiosity, and I knew there would be many questions later in the truck ride to lunch after we left.
He looked up from the paperwork in front of him, turned the documents around, and said: "So it all looks good, I'll just have your sign where I have noted, and we'll get everything processed". In my head, I'm thinking "Great! We're done, kids behaved well, I'll sign these papers and take them to lunch".
"Yes?" asks my Banker suddenly.
I look up shaking my head as if to say no and about to comment that I hadn't said anything when out of the corner of my eye I see my son with his hand raised.
"I would like to borrow some money; how can I do that today?" asked my son with a confidence he had never used in asking me for an allowance.
The man who had never shown the faintest sense of humor all the years he had been my banker responds "Well, do you have a Cash Flow Statement?”
I still hadn’t moved since my son raised his hand, and as I continued to glance over at him my thoughts are "Great, I’ll spend the rest of the day explaining to an 8 & 5-year-old what a cash flow statement is and why they would ever need one".
My son was unaverred in his quest for financial independence, and I could see in his eyes along with the big smile spreading across his face this wasn't over...
"You give ME the CASH, and I will make it FLOW" remarked my son, who was now beaming with conviction in the exchange.
At this point, sitting on the other side of me, my daughter is looking at her rival with a new respect and admiration. Usually, she would be the one to spout out the all-time-great-one-liner, but on this day, she took mental notes while her big brother schooled her and I on just how to speak with the loan officer.
Mr. No Sense of Humor wasn't finished though, he had another arrow in his quiver, he notched and fired "I look forward to working with you in the future young man, you seem to be much easier to get along with than your father" he quipped with a smirk.
I had just finished my signature on the last document and turned the papers back around on his desk. I knew he was being facetious, but at the same time we both knew every year we squabbled about interest rates, and about the challenges an agricultural business faces year to year due to markets and climate. There had been times in the past where conversations had been tense.
I leaned back, put my arm around the chair in which my daughter was sitting and slyly remarked "His sister will be majority shareholder" as I looked my Banker directly in the eyes.
Of course, not to be outwitted, and maybe because she had remained silent for a personal record amount of time, my daughter then leaned forward to look over at her big brother she had admired only just a few moments before and chimed in "See! I told you I was better at SHARING".
Predictably, at that moment my Banker had returned to his solemn self, "I'll get these filed, and see you folks out" he said dryly.
At least the paperwork was done, we were still in business for another year, and the banker got a snapshot of the challenges he might soon face doing business with my family in the years to come!
Conrad Smith is an Ag Retail Business Owner & Employee in Illinois with his family. He is a former farmer and the proud father of 2 children.