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Small-Business Nation

It helps if you speak the language.

Small-business banking "is not a happy place to be," says Ray Graber, principal at Graber Associates (Natick, Mass.). "All the hype of maybe a year-and-a-half ago - 'We forgot about small business, they're our new best friends'-I don't think the banks as a whole have followed through on that."

Leaving the small-business owners behind would be a mistake in 2004, Graber says. "People are going to be looking to use their money in product development, sales and marketing-not in the day-to-day workings of the business."

Adds Graber, "It's up to the banks, then, to step up to the plate and provide those applications."Certainly, there are plenty of ways that banks can help. But in order to succeed, bankers first have to speak the language of small business. In other words, don't give business owners a choice between "wire transfer" and "ACH," but instead between the options of "Send money today for $15" and "Send it in two days for $0.49," advises Graber.

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