If you could do it over again

In 2018, I started a new committed relationship.

No, not romantically – I’m happily married (hi, wife!) – but professionally, when Far West Capital merged with Advantage Business Capital, part of Central Bank.

As with any new relationship, there’s complications. We’ve had 10 years to build a close, family-oriented team culture here at Far West Capital. Central Bank has been in business for 60 years, since before I was born, before factoring became a common tool for businesses dependent on invoicing, before wellness plans and ping-pong tables became standard office features.

In business, as in life and relationships, some things are timeless. Central Bank’s values, vision, and emphasis on client relationships ring familiar for us; they, too, believe their employees – their team – are the most important part of their success.

So now you know my mindset, the morning I joined Central Bank’s first strategic planning process of 2019. And then the chairman spoke, and I was surprised.

Central Bank Chairman Kim Wheless is a classic Texas old-timer, a banker’s banker, a guy who instantly commands respect. But I didn’t expect his frankness, his honesty, his modernity.

He spoke, mostly, on complacency. This is someone who’s been doing what he does for 60 years, and doing quite well at it. He could be retiring, resting on his laurels, but instead he’s thinking about momentum, and what it means to be stuck, and what we can do to avoid it. He took questions and answered frankly, reflecting on the past, the future, and the classic question – what would you do if you could do it over again?

I took notes. I had to, it was golden stuff. Here’s a few of my takeaways.

Complacency is always a challenge.

First of all, if you’re meeting your core values, you likely aren’t complacent – because those values keep your momentum going. But complacency – or its opposite, momentum – requires focus and planning. Momentum implies long-term direction; long-term direction implies having the right people doing the right things to achieve the right goals.

You’ll know momentum when you see it. Chairman Wheless quoted Max de Pree, founder of storied design house Herman Miller: “Momentum in a great company is palpable.”

Strong internal management prepares you to face external issues.

“You’re looking for three things in a person,” Warren Buffett said, once. “Intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two.”

When asked what he’s learned, Chairman Wheless specifically talked about hiring; over his many years in business, recruiting and personnel management have been the #1 key for success. But it’s not enough to hire for the job description. Like Buffett, it helps if you approach hiring by looking at personality traits – and that doesn’t stop once they are hired and sit at a desk. You need to understand the personality traits of the people you work with. Not only will this help you put them in the right job, but knowing where someone is coming from at any particular time is huge – especially in a crisis.  

And when you face that crisis, you’ll have the right butts in the right seats doing right things, and you’ll know what – and who –  you can count on.

Character, honesty, and integrity are the most critical parts of lending – in every part of the business.

For Chairman Wheless, these were the most critical for his career – and for the trust he built up with everyone who worked for him or with him. At Far West Capital, we’ve long said a version of that, our brand promise: “Deliver success. Earn trust. No surprises.”

Every time we’ve failed as a company, it has been because one of those three things failed.

If trust and respect are established, change comes more easily.

The most important part of trust is listening. Whether you’re listening to a client, an employee, or a boss, seeking first to understand – to listen – is the most critical step toward trust.

And with trust, comes respect; with respect, change comes easier; with change, momentum continues.

If he could do it all over again…

I’ll quote the chairman:

“I would want to be less judgmental, less afraid of making mistakes. I would trust more, and micromanage less. I would also employ the Golden Rule more.” 

Kim Wheless, Chairman, Central Bank

What would you do if you could do it all over again? What would you change, or hold onto? What’s proven to be your most enduring value?

For me, it’s always been about the people. Our team, our family here at Far West Capital – and now our expanded family at Central Bank. Our clients, who invite us into their life’s work and share their passion.

It’s easy to stereotype banking as stodgy and complacent, but I’ve been lucky – it’s never felt that way, because the people around me have never been stodgy or complacent. Walking out of that strategic planning meeting, I knew we’d made the right decision in our new relationship. I’ve never felt more ready – or more excited –  for the future.

Cole Harmonson is the president of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.

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