By Robin Suomi, Founder, Startup to Growth, LLC.
I recently interviewed Debbie Cabala, Vice President, Business Development Officer of John Marshall Bank, asking her about her experience working with small business owners in Leesburg and the surrounding Loudoun County, Virginia area.

When I first met with Debbie, I was struck by her friendliness and savvy small business banking knowledge.  I knew I wanted to tap into that expertise, so I asked her to help me launch a project I was working on at that time, a series of blog posts titled, Ask the Experts.  She jumped right in.  Not that that surprised me, because all the bankers at John Marshall Bank have shown equal professionalism and enthusiasm in my interactions with them.  Read what Debbie says about how she works with small businesses and learn more about John Marshall Bank.  Don’t miss Debbie’s Top Tips to help you improve your business, and read her Top Mistakes so you’ll know what to avoid!

I’d love your help on this project, too.  In our Ask the Experts series we will also interview attorneys, accountants, marketing professionals, insurance brokers and other small business professionals to get their advice for entrepreneurs.  Is there someone you recommend we interview?  Do you have a specific subject or question you would like us to ask an expert about?  Great!  Please contact me at [email protected] so we can discuss it.

Finally, are you or a friend thinking about starting a business or re-energizing a company you started a while back that has been ho-humming along?  Look for our How to Start a Business: Your Successful Launch online course launching July 2017.  Make your summer count.

We’re all about small business here at  We love watching YOU start and grow YOUR business!

Happy blogging!
Robin Suomi


Q: Debbie, thank you for giving us your time to help educate small business owners about banking.  Let’s start by giving our readers your name and telling us a little bit about your company and how you work with small business owners. 

Debbie:  How many community banks can claim they are one of the Best Performing Banks in Virginia?  Or how about a local bank claiming a national “health” rating of an A+?  My name is Debbie Cabala, and I work at that bank – John Marshall Bank.

Our bank’s corporate culture puts the customer first, offering a hefty dose of personal attention while tailoring the latest banking products and services to meet your financial needs.  We are local bankers, at a local bank, working with small businesses to customize the right package of banking products to suit their unique needs.   I am interested in the business you run, and working closely with you, developing a banking plan that I am confident will kick-start your business to the next level.

Major points about John Marshall Bank:

  • A Northern Virginia-based community bank with assets of over $1B.
  • Corporate culture is “customer first.” Personal attention in all departments.
  • We have an A+ rating as one of the healthiest banks in the USA
  • As a community bank, our bankers live in, work in and enjoy the same community as you
  • Decisions are made locally and quickly, with all customers – no matter large or small – having easy access to top executives
  • We customized banking solutions to satisfy the needs of individual businesses and individuals
  • Our online and mobile banking products are robust and secure

Q. Thank you. Those are excellent points.  Now let’s talk about you.  List three words that best describe you and why. Yup, just three!

Debbie:  Persistent because I will not be content until my customer is satisfied with the products and services I have recommended;  Confident because I know our bank and my expertise will set us apart from any other bank in the area; Cordial because we will work together for the benefit of your business with a cordiality that will lead us to a long-term banking relationship.

Q. And to continue in that vein, tell me why you enjoy working with small businesses.

Debbie:  Small business, when supported by the right bank and other professionals like CPAs and lawyers, often grow into success stories.  I enjoy the challenge and the satisfaction of working towards that success with my customers.  There is nothing like participating in the success of a small business owner’s hard work and sacrifice.

Q. Great.  Let’s talk about the entrepreneurs you serve.  What is one entrepreneurial trait you like to see in clients you work with?

Debbie:  The ability to work together as a team to achieve a common goal.  I also like to see an entrepreneur who understands banking and the spreadsheets that bankers like to see as the business grows.  For those entrepreneurs who have a great idea and start their businesses, but don’t yet fully appreciate the importance of accurate bookwork, I enjoy the opportunity to work with them on their financial literacy goals.

Q. If you could give small business owners, specifically startups, your top three tips, what would they be?

Debbie:  First, get a banker you can relate to; one who gives you personal attention and who you can easily reach.  Your banker can be your best advocate and free consultant. Second,  though your banker can provide you with bank services, such as full reconciliation, hire a CPA, accountant or bookkeeper, who will keep your books straight and reconciled at least once per month.  This will benefit your business and your banking relationship, and you will have an easier time of it when April comes around.  Third, engage a lawyer and hope you never need to use their service.  In today’s litigious atmosphere, you just never know when you need to move fast, and it’s good to have a relationship already in place with a lawyer you’ve met and who understand you and your business.  A fourth tip is that I encourage companies to pay for adequate insurance with an umbrella policy that protects both your business and your personal assets.

Q. Conversely, will you share the top two mistakes you have seen startups make? We are hoping to save our readers a ton of pain!

Debbie:  Poor Bookkeeping/Cash Flow.  Poor cash flow management is the number one cause for depleted operating balances.  When balances drop and trigger overdraft lines to kick in, banks generally charge for non-sufficient funds.   By simply consulting with your banker, solutions to avoiding NSF fees can help businesses stay ahead of this asset drain and help to establish more reliable financial practices.

Hiring the wrong personnel.  I have seen fraud on business owners’ accounts by handing over full control of the bank accounts to an employee gone rogue.  Your banker can provide fraud prevention services to eliminate this risk.  However, the business owner should always stay involved in the finances.

Q. Debbie, I used to work as a court reporter and I can personally attest to your comments about fraud. Small business owners think it will never happen to them, but it certainly can.  I love your suggestion of getting your bank involved with fraud prevention services to eliminate this risk.  

Now, on a lighter side, what one book/blog would you recommend small business owners read?

Debbie:  Live Free or DIY by Justin Crawford.  This book is perfect for the small business owner pressed with too many things to do and faced with too little time.  Live Free or DIY reveals the obstacles small business owners face in every industry, and reveals how to overcome the challenges of entrepreneurship.  The book walks the reader through budgeting, time management, work-life balance, how to build a team and how to grow your business.

Q. Debbie, thank you again for sharing your time and expertise to help small business owners! If our readers would like to get in touch with you, please let them know the best way to reach you.

Debbie:  I can be reached on my cell or email, at 571-447-3919 or [email protected]. You may also visit the Business Banking website page for John Marshall Bank.