When Kevin Clark set out to find a small-business loan, he resolved to leave no stone unturned. The president and co-owner of Edge Software Services, Warrenton, Va., called on no fewer than 10 banks to see what they could offer.

He ruled out one bank because it seemed too big, another because it was too small. Then there was the bank that had no branches nearby, and one that charged noticeably higher rates. Still another was oddly apologetic about its own lending record.

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