When John Aggrey goes into the bank, he does more than deposit his company's checks. The Washington-based telecommunications entrepreneur usually stops to talk with the officers in Crestar's downtown branch about developments at his year-old firm, Equal Access of Washington.

Sharing details of the contracts the company has won or lost, its purchases and marketing strategies, Aggrey has aggressively pursued a healthy relationship with his bank in hopes of defusing some of the tension tougher regulations are creating between banks and their customers.

Aggrey decided to keep on the good side of his banker after hearing horror stories about borrowers whose loans have been called in early and lines of credit revoked.

As part of his campaign, Aggrey invited bankers to see his offices and meet members of his staff. In short, he has shown his bank a lot more about how his business operates than what shows up on the balance sheets. Proving the health of his company to the bank is a necessity, he said.

Because of the nature of his business -- his biggest customers are big companies that can take up to 90 days to pay him -- his accounts receivables look very old.

In an effort to appear an established and healthy company, Aggrey said he can never balk at such a slow schedule, even if it makes his cash flow look bad.

Sometimes when big checks are coming in, Aggrey said he is able to draw cash on them immediately because of his good rapport with bank workers and their understanding of his business operations.

Aggrey's vigilant attitude also is helpful from the point of view of David Banko, manager of Crestar's K Street branch in Northwest Washington. Aggrey often comes into the bank himself, Banko said, and chats with the people there. If there's something going on worth noting, they sit down and talk about it.

"It's nice to know what those ups and downs are so we feel more comfortable making decisions about the company," Banko said. " ... And by having that type of communication you can develop an understanding about what the banking needs of the company are."

Karen Robbins, president of Kershner & Company, an Alexandria advertising agency, also attributes the good relationship she had built with her bank to her ability to weather the current recession. She said constant communication about the growth of her business as well as its setbacks came in handy last year when she asked for an increase in the firm's line of credit. After Robbins mapped out the company's recent performance, her personal finances, and the company's needs in the coming year, the bank increased her credit.

Robbins always has been good about planning for the future and communicating with the bank, said Mari Turvey, vice president for commercial lending at Sovran Bank DC National. But even if Robbins hadn't approached the bank, Turvey said the bank would have initiated such communication.

"It's a good credit practice in a lending relationship," Turvey said. "If you've lent a customer money, it makes sense to continue to protect that asset."

Communication is smart for both the customer and the bank, said Ilene Morris, a financial planner with Robertson, Pressman & Morris, Ltd. in Arlington. "It's smart for the banker because customers are shopping around," she said. "Now, it's incumbent on the business owner to schmooze the banker... . Banks have board meetings and they make decisions like any business and they make decisions in favor of people they have good relationships with."

Still, when it comes to higher levels of service, small businesses are at a disadvantage, Aggrey said. Having good relationships with everybody in the branch still doesn't assure him of getting a large unsecured loan.

"I've put my trust in {the bank}," he said. "{It needs} to do more for me than act as a shoe box for me at 5 percent interest."