Brief background of your business:
Community First Bank started 20 years ago and is the only locally-owned bank in the Tri-City market. We specialize in commercial, mortgage and construction lending, as well as banking for clients who desire a consultative relationship with their financial institution. HFG Trust was founded in 1982 and merged with Community First Bank in 2016. HFG is a wealth management and trust company that offers estate planning, investment advisory service, trust services and 401(k) plans to its clients all while serving as a fiduciary for their clients.
Number of employees you oversee: 95
How did you land your current role? How long have you been in it?
Prior to joining the company in 2006, I had a professional relationship with two of the banks’ directors who then encouraged me to look at joining the company. After meeting with the then CEO, Rich Emery, we mutually concluded it was a good fit and I came on board with the objective of becoming his successor. In 2009, I was named CEO and have served in that capacity ever since.
How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today?
It was kind of by accident. My dad had just retired from banking when I graduated from college. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, I decided to take a job at the bank he had retired from while I looked for a “real” job. I spent 13 years learning and growing with that company before coming to Community First and the rest is history.
Why should the Tri-Cities care about the banking industry?
Banking is a critical part of a thriving economy. Banks pool their depositors’ money and lend it back out into the community. These loans help businesses grow and prosper, homes and buildings to be constructed and individuals to achieve their goals. Having a bank headquartered in your community is especially important as the deposits are lent primarily back within the community from which they are taken. Local banks have a keen understanding of the needs of their community and can be very responsive in meeting those needs.
What is the biggest challenge facing bank managers today?
Evolving technology, rising interest rates, competition and regulation are the primary challenges facing our industry today.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
A positive attitude. Leaders must inspire those they lead with a message of optimism and excitement about the future.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position?
Be humble and regularly acknowledge that it is your team (not you) that delivers results.
What do you consider your leadership style to be?
I would describe myself as a team builder.
Who are your role models or mentors?
I have been fortunate to have a number of excellent role models and mentors. From a professional standpoint, it started with my dad who was also a banker and had a storied career in this industry. Even though he passed away 15 years ago, I still regularly reflect on what he would do as I stew over difficult decisions. I also have had the benefit of working with a number of amazing people and community leaders including those who were CEO at Community First Bank before me, our Board of Directors and a number of community leaders who have taken time to assist my career and offer advice.
How do you keep your employees motivated?
We strive to maintain a positive environment where employees feel appreciated and desire to succeed for the betterment of the team. I believe that motivation comes from within and employees are not motivated by management. But, management can de-motivate staff. So, we work to create a team-focused environment and we want employees to regularly assess whether or not they are engaged in their work and finding their role rewarding. If/when they are not engaged, we need to actively work to make changes to re-engage them.
How do you measure success in your workplace?
Our companies’ purpose is “to build a multi-generational legacy of success through remarkable relationships with our clients and our community,” and we strive to become our clients’ “financial partner for life.” Our success is measured against our ability to deliver on these goals. If we can connect with our clients to the point of becoming their financial partner for life, we will have done so because of the hard work and dedication of our employees. By doing so we will deliver growth and profit to our shareholders and we will be able to actively support our community. This circular relationship between all of our constituencies, if unbroken, is our measure of success.
What’s your best time management strategy?
I work best when there are hard deadlines.
How do you balance work and family life?
Family has to come first or it’s out of balance. By truly putting family first, when business becomes hectic, family is supportive, which allows me to draw strength from them rather than feeling guilty for not being with them.
What do you like to do when you are not at work?
I like to travel with my family, watch the kids’ sporting events, play golf and go boating.
Best tip to relieve stress?
I remind myself there are situations and/or problems facing others that are far worse than anything I may be dealing with. Obtaining this type of bigger perspective minimizes the cause of most stress.
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