So what does a long term customer look like? Can you spot one from afar? Is it possible that you could even walk past one?
I’m traveling through my hometown of Princeton, Kentucky today reminiscing about stories and situations that I remember from my childhood. One of those situations occurred at Farmers Bank and Trust Company here in Princeton. I was a recent college graduate with a freshly minted degree in hand. But I had a dream. And my dream was to be a professional baseball umpire. Now, I know that that wasn’t the traditional approach that recent college graduates would take, but that’s what I wanted to do. The only problem was I didn’t have any money. And I certainly wasn’t going to ask my mom and dad for money to go to umpire school when I had just finished college.
So I walked down to Farmers Bank and Trust Company. And with the boldness that comes with inexperience, I walked up to a loan officer — a guy by the name of Bob Hayes. I sat down and I asked this question. “Mr. Hayes, can I borrow some money?”
Well, like any loan officer in any situation in a bank, this conversation ensued, “What do you want the money for? How are you going to use it? How much money do you need?” And I started to tell Bob Hayes my story.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that Mr. Hayes took a great interest in young people. He took a great interest in me. He took a great interest in my dream to be a professional baseball umpire.
As the conversation continued, he asked me, “How much money do you need, Phil?”
I said, “Eight hundred dollars.”
Now, I’ll be honest with you. Eight hundred dollars was a princely sum for me back in the late ’70s, but that’s what I needed. He looked at me and he said, “Phil, absolutely. I’d be happy to loan you eight hundred dollars to go to this professional umpiring school.”
I was thrilled! But then he added, “All you need to do is get your dad or mom to come in and sign for you.”
Well, as far as I was concerned, that was a deal breaker. You see, I wasn’t going to ask my mom and dad for the money. Whether they had it or not, I don’t know, but I wasn’t going to ask. And I certainly wasn’t going to ask them to sign for me. I looked at Mr. Hayes, and I said, “Mr. Hayes, if my college degree and the potential that it represents for the future isn’t worth eight hundred dollars, then I don’t really believe that we have a business relationship at all.”
Bob Hayes looked at me and smiled and said, “You’re right.” And he loaned me eight hundred dollars on my signature — without a job, without any collateral, without anybody signing or co-signing for me. He gave me the money. I went off to be a professional baseball umpire.
But it didn’t work out quite that way. I didn’t make it to the professional umpiring ranks. However, I did come back and I pay off that loan in a few months. And I never forgot that particular situation. In fact, twenty years later, when I moved back to my hometown, any idea where I chose to do my banking? That’s right. I went straight to Farmers Bank and Trust Company.
Why did I do that? I did that because I remembered someone who believed in me and believed in my dreams. Today, I serve as a director for Farmers Bank and Trust Company. Why? Because I believe that dreams can still come true and we can establish a relationship with customers that will last a lifetime.
So what about you? Are there potential customers out there that doesn’t look so profitable to you at first glance? Have you discounted or disregarded their potential because their goals don’t sound so traditional? Have you mentally given up on them inspite of their total package of preparation, ingenuity and imagination?
Customers come in all shapes and sizes and they may not look too profitable in the early stages, but if we are willing to invest in those relationships over time, you never know what the potential might be. It’s something worth considering — something that people like you and me ought to know.